SBM, Cooley expand pilot program

September 5, 2009
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More than 100 Michigan attorneys and judges guided and mentored nearly 1,000 future lawyers in the largest outreach of its kind last week, when the State Bar of Michigan and Cooley Law School partnered to expand a successful pilot program on ethics and professionalism.

As part of their orientation to law school, all incoming Cooley students at each of the four campuses in Lansing, Grand Rapids, Auburn Hills and Ann Arbor engaged in small group discussions Friday with veteran attorneys and judges on real-world ethical dilemmas and professional conduct. 

A pilot program in May, initiated by State Bar of Michigan President Edward Pappas and offered to approximately 50 students at Cooley’s Auburn Hills campus, received high marks from all participants.

“The success of the pilot prompted us to extend this program to the entire incoming fall class,” Pappas said in a news release. “The focus on ethics and professionalism is central to our legal culture, and in the future we would like to see incoming students at all Michigan schools participate in this unique program, which is the first of its kind in the state.”

Materials for the program were patterned after those developed by the Louisiana State Bar and were edited for Michigan by Joan Vestrand, dean of Cooley’s Ann Arbor campus. "Cooley takes pride in its commitment to integrating ethics and professionalism into the fabric of its curriculum,” said Vestrand. “We believe that professionalism and ethics are every bit as important as a lawyer’s legal knowledge and skills."

Cooley was selected for this partnership because of its statewide leadership in professionalism programs, Pappas said. Cooley received the American Bar Association’s E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award in 2006, the only law school in Michigan to receive this honor.

Pappas led Friday’s program at Cooley’s Lansing campus. Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly was the keynote speaker. SBM Secretary Julie Fershtman moderated at the Ann Arbor campus; SBM Vice President Anthony Jenkins led at the Auburn Hills campus, and SBM Treasurer Bruce Courtade moderated the program at the Grand Rapids campus.

“There’s no more powerful or persuasive way to teach new law students about the importance of professionalism in the practice of law than delivering the message through practicing attorneys and judges,” said Amy Timmer, associate dean of students and professionalism and chair of Cooley’s professionalism department. “We are so grateful to the many Michigan attorneys who agreed to share their message with our incoming class of nearly 1,000 students.”

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