Cooley Law, WMU sign affiliation accord

Officials, alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends of Western Michigan University and Thomas M. Cooley Law School met on the WMU campus Tuesday to witness the formal signing of an affiliation agreement between the schools and celebrate a range of initiatives expected to grow out of the move.

About 200 people, including leaders in the legal community from central and southwest Michigan, attended the ceremony.

The agreement won the approval of both schools' governing boards earlier this year, and it paves the way for Cooley to become the Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

“This move is good for our entire university community and good for our colleagues and the students, alumni and and communities that Cooley serves,” said  WMU President John M. Dunn. “The energy and cross-disciplinary advances that may result could benefit many of our academic offerings and allow us to have a greater positive impact on the professional and legal environments of our state and nation.”

Cooley's board of directors voted to support the move early this year. WMU's trustees gave their full support at their most recent formal meeting in July. Since then, a growing number of the faculty and staff from both schools have met a number of times to begin the process of identifying areas of potential in which an affiliation could have the biggest impact.

"I've been tremendously excited about the possibilities of this affiliation from the start," said Don LeDuc, president and dean of Cooley. "As our faculty and staff members have begun to meet and get to know each other, we've seen a growing realization on both sides that, together, we can develop the nation's most comprehensive integration of law and other disciplines as well as integrate some of the marquee specialties of both institutions."

Preliminary discussions have revealed a number of mutual interests that could develop into future joint programs, officials said.

Faculty and administrators will conduct further exploration into potential WMU-Cooley initiatives in areas such as professional ethics, intellectual property rights; health care, life science, environmental law, entrepreneurship and a 3+3 program that would allow WMU students to earn both a bachelor's and law degree in less time and at lower cost.

No plans are in place to build a law school facility on the WMU campus, officials said, although some law school classes could be offered on the Kalamazoo campus with future planning.

Before any of the items under discussion can be fully decided upon and planned, school officials said, there must be a review of the agreement by the schools' principal accrediting agencies, the American Bar Association and the Higher Learning Commission.

That review is now underway and expected to be completed this fall.

Cooley and WMU already offer joint degree programs leading to a:

• J.D./MPA (Master of Public Administration),

• J.D./MBA (Master of Business Administration) and

• J.D./MSW (Master of Social Work).

Cooley has Michigan campuses in Lansing, Grand Rapids, Auburn Hills and Ann Arbor, and the name change outlined in the agreement extends to those campuses.

Changing the name of Cooley's fifth Cooley campus in Tampa Bay, Fla., is subject to the additional approval of the Florida Commission on Independent Education.

WMU has regional facilities in Lansing, Grand Rapids Muskegon, metropolitan Detroit, Benton Harbor and Traverse City. The two campuses are also discussing use of each other's facilities in locations where both do not already have a presence.


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