School's advisory committee sets course for next decade

By Debra Talcott
Legal News

For the past 10 years, the professionalism programming at Cooley Law School has been inspired and guided by the Professionalism Plan adopted in 2002. That plan, which earned the Gambrell Professionalism Award from the American Bar Association in 2006, called for Cooley to establish its Professionalism Advisory Committee to guide future programming. The group of legal and higher education leaders who comprise that committee will help shape the next decade of the law school’s professionalism efforts.

Amy Timmer, associate dean of Students and Professionalism, says the combined experience and expertise of committee members will help Cooley Law School set a course for continuing to graduate students with well-developed professional identities, excellent character, and commitment to service.

“Preceding its inaugural meeting on July 13, committee members identified the issues they believe are affecting the legal profession, law school, and higher education in the area of professionalism,” says Timmer.  “At the meeting, we came together to get know one another, share thoughts about those identified issues, and devise approaches Cooley Law School can take to positively impact the professionalism of our graduates.”

Former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer was the keynote speaker at the first meeting, which was attended by 43 of its 57 members, along with six Cooley Law School students.  An attorney since graduating from Detroit College of Law in 1970, Archer has spoken publicly on the need for diversity in the legal profession—one of the six major issue areas identified by Professionalism Advisory Committee members.

“Mr. Archer addressed the diversity issue as well as the need for more lawyers, generally, especially those willing to take on the legal needs of the lower economic classes who cannot afford high-priced legal help,” says Timmer.

Historic Lovett Hall and the Ginger Meyer Garden at the Henry Ford provided an inspirational setting for the kickoff event, chosen for their proximity to Metropolitan Airport and the beautiful Dearborn Inn.  Tickets for the popular Titanic Exhibit were provided for attendees who wanted to tour the museum.

“Some of the committee members are nationally-recognized leaders in lawyer professionalism and were flying in from around the country, so we wanted a venue that is near the airport, has a hotel within walking distance, and offers entertainment that showcases Michigan’s rich history,” says Timmer.

The new Professional Advisory Committee is chaired by Edward Pappas, chairman of Dickinson Wright, former president of the State Bar of Michigan, and a member of Cooley’s Board of Directors.

“Mr. Pappas had dedicated his term as president of the SBM to improving lawyer professionalism.  When Cooley Dean and President Don LeDuc asked him to chair this committee, he gladly accepted,” explains Timmer.

In his welcome letter to committee members, Pappas acknowledged Cooley Law School’s significant emphasis on professionalism and ethics, saying, “After studying and appreciating Cooley’s substantial efforts to positively impact the hearts and minds of its students, I was pleased to join Cooley Law School’s Board of Directors.  I am equally pleased to Chair Cooley’s newly established Professionalism Advisory Committee.  I hope to learn from all of you what the professionalism issues are that Cooley should anticipate its applicants will bring from their undergraduate education, and what professionalism challenges its graduates will encounter as they leave law school and enter the work force.”

Members of the Professionalism Advisory Committee include: Robert Agacinski, grievance administrator for the Michigan Supreme Court; James Alexander, judge for Oakland County Circuit Court; John Allen, partner at Varnum; Steven Andrews, retired judge of the Oakland Circuit Court; Dennis Archer, chairman and CEO of Dennis W. Archer PLLC; John Berry, director of the Florida Bar Legal Division; Terry Blakely, executive director of Foster Swift Collins & Smith; Scott Brinkmeyer, Of Counsel for Mika Meyers Beckett & Jones; Karen Chaney, Olivet College associate dean for Academic Affairs and Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Ethics; Patrick Conlin, associate and shareholder at Keusch, Flintoft & Conlin; Timothy Connors, Washtenaw County Trial Court judge; Julian Cook, judge, U.S. District Court; Bruce Courtade, shareholder at Rhoades McKee; Nancy Diehl, attorney; John Dunn, president of Western Michigan University; Eric Eggan, partner at Honigman Miller Schwartz & Cohn; Elias Escobedo, attorney; Dawn Evans, SBM director of Professionalism Standards; Peter Falkenstein, partner at Jaffe Raitt Heuer & Weiss; Joseph Farah, judge, 7th Circuit Court; Art Garwin, deputy director, ABA Center for Professional Responsibility; Jennifer Grieco, attorney at Neuman Anderson; Douglas Hampton, attorney at Douglas D. Hampton, PC; Michael Hartmann, CEO of Miller Canfield; Carol Isaacs, Michigan Chief Deputy Attorney General; Mark Jane, attorney; Anthony Jenkins, chief diversity Officer for Dickinson Wright; E. Christopher Johnson, Cooley professor and director of the LL.M. in Corporate Law and Finance; Nkrumah Johnson-Wynn, SBM Professional Standards Service counsel; Susan Keener, attorney; Katherine Smith Kennedy, Attorney at PSFK Law; Justin Klimko, President of Butzel Long; Brent Knight, President of Lansing Community College; Don LeDuc, President and Dean of Thomas M. Cooley Law School; John Logie, Of Counsel for Warner Norcross & Judd; Neil McCallum, Attorney at Collins Einhorn; David Maquera, general counsel for DTE Energy and president of the Hispanic Bar Association of Michigan; Susan Martin, President of Eastern Michigan University; Kathleen McCann, chief judge for 16th District Court; Michael McDaniel, director of Homeland Security LL.M. and associate professor at Cooley Law School; Janene McIntyre, attorney at Foster Swift Collins & Smith and president of the Davis Dunnings Bar Association; Thaddeus Morgan, president of Fraser Trebilcock; Virinder Moudgil, president of Lawrence Technological University; Cheryl Niro, principal at Robinson Niro; Daniel O’Brien, judge, Oakland County Circuit Court; Dean Pacific, partner at Warner Norcross & Judd LLP; Gail Pamukov-Miller, attorney; Edward Pappas, chairman of Dickinson Wright; Richard Pappas, president of Davenport University; Anthony Patti, partner at Hooper Hathaway; Michael Riordan, judge, Michigan Court of Appeals; Richard Suhrheinrich, senior judge, U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit; Daniel Swanson, senior shareholder and Board of Directors for Sommers Schwartz; Amy Timmer, Cooley Law School Professor and Dean of Students and Professionalism; Charles Turnbull, shareholder at O’Reilly Rancilio; Carl Ver Beek, Of Counsel for Varnum; Douglas Wagner, partner at Warner Norcross & Judd; Melvin Wright, executive director, North Carolina Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism; and Paul Zelenski, Cooley Law School associate dean of Enrollment and Student Services.

The Professional Advisory Committee will support Cooley Law School in its mission to prepare graduates for entry into the legal profession through an integrated program with practical legal scholarship as its guiding principle and focus.  Cooley takes pride in providing broad access to those who seek the opportunity to study law while simultaneously requiring that students who are afforded this opportunity meet rigorous academic standards, according to Timmer.

“To be prepared for practice,” says Timmer, quoting Cooley’s Strategic Plan, “Cooley graduates must, first, master the fundamentals and basic skills required for the competent practice of law and representation of clients; second, demonstrate the substantive knowledge and skills required for passage of the bar examination and admission to the bar; and, third, understand and embrace the legal, moral, ethical, and professional responsibility of lawyers.”

Timmer says Cooley finds itself at a critical time in its continuing commitment to professionalism, and she embraces the challenge to turn out lawyers with the right combination of skills and ethics.

“We must fashion plans for the future steps we can take to cement the progress we have already made and to reach beyond our current grasp to continue to graduate the most professional and ethical lawyers in the country.  We are grateful that these prominent leaders in law and higher education committed their time, energy, and great ideas to help Cooley continue to graduate ethical lawyers committed to helping serve all who need legal service.”