Cooley Dean Takes On New Job Duties

April 28, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS — Nelson Miller is entering a new position as associate dean of Cooley Law School’s Grand Rapids campus.

Miller’s interest in law came well before he started college. In his early 20s, he managed a stable where he trained horses. One of the horses he trained belonged to a lawyer who became a mentor to Miller, urging him to pursue a life beyond the stable.

“I knew from the moment I met him that he was articulate, that he had a strong sense of purpose, that he also had a strong sense of compassion, and I wanted to understand how he had become those things,” said Miller. “Lawyers have a certain mindset, and he exhibited the best of that.”

Miller enrolled at Indiana University and went to night classes at the Fort Wayne campus. Despite working full time at the stable and, at one point, missing a month of school, Miller was able to finish his undergrad courses in two years. He then enrolled at the University of Michigan to attain his degree in law.

He worked civil litigation for the next 17 years — two spent on the east side of the state with the rest in West Michigan — and racked up several hours of pro bono work. He joined Cooley in January 2004. One year later he was promoted from professor to assistant dean.

“I long wanted to teach and loved practice — wasn’t trying to escape practice in any sense, but really wanted to be more of a mentor,” said Miller. “After achieving some of your career goals, the opportunity to give back, in a sense to be a positive influence to the profession and to young lawyers, is very attractive, and that was a substantial part of my motivation. When the opportunity came to do that in West Michigan with the great new Grand Rapids campus — that was a great opportunity.”

Miller acknowledged the overwhelming support and insight from Cooley faculty and staff.

“It’s a really special role. I never really imagined I would have the opportunity to serve in the way this new role gives me,” said Miller.

Miller has been married to his wife, Anne, for 31 years; their daughter, Sarah, is studying elementary education.

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