Cooley WMU Move Forward

December 13, 2002
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — After last week’s announcement that Thomas M. Cooley Law School and Western Michigan University would form a partnership to bring Cooley Law to Grand Rapids, some were not pleased.

At the same time Lansing’s Cooley announced its move to Grand Rapids, so did GVSU, Michigan State University and MSU-DCL College of Law — and that caused some ruffled feathers from GVSU officials.

“We think the WMU/Cooley program is unnecessary and, at this time of state budget difficulties, unwarranted,” said Matt McLogan, Grand Valley State University’s vice president of university relations.

In addition, a statement from the university stated that WMU and Cooley announced the program to “duplicate the law program in Grand Rapids,” a program the school stated was a result of “collaboration between the three schools that has been underway since 1999.”

“In reaction, all I can say is that I am disappointed,” said Don LeDuc, president and dean of Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

He added that Cooley and WMU’s program had not been created to duplicate GVSU’s program and was really quite different. The Cooley/WMU plan is to bring a satellite campus, and eventually a full-blown branch campus, of the law school to Grand Rapids. Classes will begin in January at WMU’s East Beltline Graduate Center, and eventually occupy buildings on the corner of Oakes Street and Commerce Avenue, as well as part of 121 Commerce Ave.

In the case of GVSU, Michigan State and MSU-DCL Law School, the plan is to offer several law courses, also starting in January, at the DeVos Center on the university’s Pew Campus.

Together with the Grand Rapid Bar Association, the three education institutions have created the Legal Education Institute of West Michigan, a consortium to offer courses for JD students, for members of the bar who already are in practice and for corporate executives needing to broaden their legal background.

According to GVSU, the law courses are the next step in the three schools’ partnership, which began with a dual JD-MBA program and an accelerated program for GVSU’s Seidman School of Business students who are planning to enter law schools, a plan that President Mark Murray said has been in the works since 1999.

However, LeDuc noted that when the idea was proposed to the Bar Association to receive its impression about a year ago, no mention of any law school or law classes in the works were ever mentioned.

“Back in the ’80s the two presidents (Cooley’s and GVSU’s) had discussed the notion of working together on something, but it was left as just that — talk,” said LeDuc. “Since then we were never contacted by Grand Valley to work on anything with them.”

“However,” he added, “they are going to do what they are going to do, and we plan on proceeding as planned.”

His surprise was echoed by Jim Schultz, regional director for WMU Grand Rapids, who took issue with the state budget jab. He said the WMU/Cooley venture is a public-private partnership and there really aren’t any tax dollars involved.

“There had been sentiment that this was not a wise use of taxpayer dollars and that is not the case at all. Tax dollars aren’t being used,” said Schultz. “This is a lease arrangement and then it’s Cooley funds for the rest.

“More than anything else we made a commitment when we moved downtown to really help that area and this is just going to take it leaps and bounds from where anyone ever thought it would be in five years. And that whole arena district and Cherry Street Landing district will be affected by that.”

In the end, both LeDuc and Schultz added that if anything, by having the two schools, the area will be helped and can serve a much larger market.

“We are looking to serve recent graduates and into older adults who are looking to continue their education,” Schultz explained.

“And from what we understand GVSU is looking more to serve their MBA students who have been accepted into a joint degree program, as well as the law and corporate community who are looking for further education. If we can serve the JD community and they can serve the legal community, that would really be great for the area.”  

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