Directory

Thomas M. Cooley Law School

Thomas M. Cooley Law School
300 South Capitol Avenue
P.O. Box 13038
Lansing, MI 48901
www.cooley.edu

Law School Pro Bono Programs

Contact Information

Heather Spielmaker
Director, Center for Ethics, Service, and Professionalism
Thomas M. Cooley Law School
300 S. Capital Ave.
Lansing, MI 48901
P: (517) 371-5140 extension 4112
E-mail

Category Type

Formal Voluntary Pro Bono Program with referral system and coordinator.

Description of Programs

Cooley Volunteer Corps (CVC). CVC is a program that matches organizations with law students who seek substantive volunteer experience. It is designed to foster law student community service and to encourage future lawyers to incorporate public service work into their careers. Any law student who has completed 9 credits, and is in good academic standing is eligible to participate.

Disaster Legal Relief. Since 2007, over 200 Cooley students have traveled to New Orleans during their term break to partner with legal agencies involved with disaster relief work. Students work on probate issues involving homes in the lower Ninth Ward helping clients clear title to devastated homes, public defender cases in criminal courts, clearing the backlog of divorce cases from the hurricane, helping people obtain and maintain public benefits, helping people stay in their homes, and related cases.

Professionalism Portfolio. Every student at Cooley is offered the opportunity to create a professionalism portfolio through participation in a structured plan offered by The Center for Ethics, Service, and Professionalism. The program requires self-reflection and training in personal responsibility, ethics, and service. A variety of volunteering, public service, and pro bono opportunities are offered. Students are encouraged to participate and their work is documented and reflected upon. The finished portfolio highlights the student's professional development, personal code of conduct, and offers employers insight into an applicant's knowledge, skills, ethics, and character.

Non-Profit Incorporation Project . Cooley's Center for Ethics, Service, and Professionalism, and the Cooley Volunteer Corps, offer start-up legal services to charitable nonprofit corporations at Cooley's Grand Rapids campus through the Nonprofit Incorporation Project. The Project has served well over 30 organizations that offer such a variety of charitable works as taking disabled children hunting and fishing, showing inner-city children the path to become pilots, rehabilitating properties in decaying inner-city locations to anchor redevelopment, providing transitional services to Somali refugees, and providing education to the children of Niger.

Service to Soldiers. Michigan soldiers on active duty and returning from war receive free legal service through this Cooley referral program. Students, faculty and staff work to match soldiers with Cooley Law School alumni and other attorneys who offer their specialized legal training to U.S. military personnel.

Liberian Law Institute and University of Liberia School of Law. Cooley students collect, sort, and ship law school texts to replace texts burned during Liberia's civil war.

Wills & Trust Kit Seminars.The State Bar of Michigan, AARP, the Michigan Attorney General's office, the Office of Financial & Insurance Services, and Cooley partner to provide information to older adults about the dangers of falling victim to "will and trust kit" providers.

Land Conservancies. Professor Gerald Fisher provides counsel on negotiating, drafting and enforcing conservation easements, and on presenting and approving millages to purchase land for conservation; and he has served on Senate ad hoc committees, assisted in drafting the Wetlands Act and model ordinance provisions, and presented seminars on local wetland regulation and on conservation easements. Professor Frank Aiello oversees efforts to revise the model form of Conservation Easement used by land conservancies in Michigan, and has provided hundreds of pro bono hours in land acquisition transactions, including some currently in development. Each semester, one or two Cooley students assist Professor Aiello with each transaction. Examples of transactions include helping land conservancies acquire land and conservation easements against donated greenspace and other natural and undeveloped areas.

Alliances and Partnerships. Partnering with many state and local entities enables Cooley to serve the communities in which our campuses are located and the state as a whole. Cooley Law School has over 13,000 graduates worldwide so pro bono and volunteer opportunities are also available through the vast alumni network.

Lansing - Cooley students, faculty and staff offer assistance at Cristo Rey Community Center, Advent House Ministries, The People's Law School, Loaves and Fishes, Beekman Therapeutic Riding Center, Lansing Area AIDS Network, Habitat for Humanity, Lansing Food Bank, Lansing Teen Court, Volunteers of America Homeless Shelter, Open Door Ministries, and Lansing area schools. Cooley students also volunteer with the Ingham County Prosecutor's office and the PPO office at the Ingham County courthouse to assist victims of domestic violence as victim advocates. As needs arise in the greater Lansing area our community partners look to Cooley for assistance and can count on our willingness to serve those less fortunate.

Grand Rapids - Cooley students and faculty volunteer to offer legal advice and direct assistance to clients of Dégagé Ministries, Mel Trotter Ministries, Hispanic Center of West Michigan, Ferguson Apartments (residents were once homeless and are living with mental illness), West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the Legal Assistance Center. The Grand Rapids campus also raises money, organizes food and clothing drives, and puts together teams to serve dinners for St. John's Home, God's Kitchen, and other area shelters.

Auburn Hills - Cooley students, faculty and staff serve at Oakland County Abuse and Neglect Council's CARE House, prepare tax returns for indigent Pontiac residents through a program with Lighthouse of Oakland County, and work with Pontiac Northern High School to bring character education and direct assistance to the schools. Cooley's Family Law Assistance Program (FLAP) coordinates with the Oakland County Bar Association and Lakeshore Legal Aid to offer pro bono services to indigent domestic violence and family law clients in Oakland County. Opportunities are abundant throughout the year to provide clothing to area shelters and to donate to food to area pantries and families.

Location of Programs

Each campus of Thomas M. Cooley Law School offers equivalent pro bono, volunteer and public service opportunities to students through the Career and Professional Development Office, and the Center for Ethics, Service, and Professionalism. Alliance and partnership programs are administered by, and can be accessed through these on-campus offices.

Lansing Campus
300 S. Capital Ave.
Lansing, MI 48901
P: (517) 371-5140

Grand Rapids Campus
111 Commerce Ave., S.W.
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
P: (616) 301-6800

Auburn Hills Campus
2630 Featherstone
Auburn Hills, MI 48326
P: (248) 751-7800

Staffing/Management/Oversight

Career and Professionalism Development
- Cooley Volunteer Corps (CVC)

Charles Toy, Associate Dean of Career and Professional Development
E-mail
P: (517) 371-5140

Lansing Campus
Jamie Stone
E-mail
P: (517) 371-5140

Grand Rapids Campus
Kaleena Kowalkowski
E-mail
P: (616) 301-6800

Auburn Hills Campus
Jennifer Kirby
E-mail
P: (248) 751-7800

The Center for Ethics, Service, and Professionalism
- Professionalism Portfolio

Heather Spielmaker, Director
Lansing Campus
E-mail
P: (517) 371-5140

Karen Rowlader, Assistant Director
Grand Rapids Campus
E-mail
P: (616) 301-6800

Jacquelynn Kuhn, Assistant Director
Auburn Hills Campus
E-mail
(248) 751-7800

Enrollment and Student Services
- Student Organization Activities

Christopher Lewis, Dean of Enrollment Programs & Student Services
Lansing Campus
lE-mail
P: (517) 371-5140

Joan Rosema-David, Deputy Director
Grand Rapids Campus
E-mail
P: (616) 301-6800

Audra Foster, Director
Auburn Hills Campus
E-mail
P: (248) 751-7800

Funding

Program funding is through individual department, office, and administrative unit budgets. Fund raising events, grants, and individual donations also support projects and programs.

Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects

Cooley student organizations, working with faculty and community professionals, coordinate many volunteer, public service, and pro bono projects.

Cooley students have been the catalysts for introducing elementary and high school peer-mediation projects across the state. Student groups volunteer to be trained in mediation and conflict resolution skills and then to bring those skills into the classroom. They have even used the training to teach conflict resolution to undergraduate students from Michigan State University's College of Education.

Students active in Cooley's Tax Law Society have become certified volunteers through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program and offer free tax help to low- to moderate-income individuals who cannot prepare their own tax returns.

Chapters of The Disaster Relief Legal Association were formed by students in Lansing and Grand Rapids. They coordinate pro bono opportunities for Cooley students by working with organizations assisting victims of disasters facing legal issues. Most of their work is done during term breaks when trips are made to areas of need.

Lansing, Auburn Hills, and Grand Rapids chapters of the Student Bar Association organized and conducted "Operation Hurricane Hope" to provide monetary assistance, pro bono services and physical rebuilding aid to those affected by storms in the southern United States.

Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono

Cooley faculty and staff are encouraged to initiate volunteer, public service, and pro bono activities. In doing so, they are consistent models and mentors to students for becoming involved in the community and for doing public service work. "Cooley Cares" is an effort by the Center for Ethics, Service, and Professionalism to encourage Cooley staff and faculty to serve the community. The Center helps them in their endeavors, in part, by matching them to work they find meaningful, and by assisting in whatever other ways they can.

Formal expectations for faculty pro bono and community service work are addressed through the promotion and tenure requirements and committee oversight. Applicants for promotion and tenure must document significant organizational participation and public service. Every faculty member has engaged in their own service to the community, the School, and the Bar, and with full-time faculty numbering over 100, those projects are just too numerous to list.

Awards/Recognition

The Great Deeds Award - Each year, at each campus, Cooley's Center for Ethics, Service, and Professionalism presents this award to a faculty or staff member who has exhibited an outstanding dedication to community service throughout the year. Nominations are received from students, staff, faculty, community leaders, and people whose lives have been touched by a member of the Cooley family. Winners are selected by a committee composed of previous winners and members of Cooley's Center for Ethics, Service, and Professionalism. The recognition is planned to extend to a student and alumnus in the coming year.

Community Service

Community service opportunities are plentiful and have been described and identified in other categories.

Law School Public Interest Programs

Contact Information

Career and Professional Development
Charles Toy, Associate Dean
Lansing Campus
E-mail
P: (517) 371-5140

Planning, Programs and Assessment
Ann Miller, Associate Dean
Lansing Campus
E-mail
P: (517) 371-5140

Certificate/Curriculum Programs

Cooley Law School offers four concentration options including a concentration in public and international law. Students who wish to become public interest lawyers can take courses in the areas of civil rights, civil liberties, anti-discrimination law, and advanced constitutional law. Students who elect the concentration are required to take certain core courses and then choose from selected electives in the area. Successful completion of the concentration results in a notation on the student's transcript.

Public Interest Centers

Cooley's Center for Ethics, Service, and Professionalism is committed to creating a culture of professionalism and responsibility in the law school and works to foster the highest caliber of relationships between the Cooley community and the legal and local communities. The Center offers a wide variety of programs including, but not limited to, an ethics speaker's bureau, professionalism library, the "Integrity in Our Communities" speaker series, and the community partnerships that provide pro bono assistance mentioned in an earlier section.

Public Interest Clinics

Cooley believes students immersed in a dynamic, hands on learning environment study and understand the law more fully and are better prepared to serve their clients. Cooley requires each student to complete an intense clinical or externship experience. The requirement can be met by participating in an in-house legal clinic or at an approved off campus externship site. Students may apply for clinic courses once they have accumulated 40 credit hours.

The Innocence Project is a statutorily-authorized law school clinic having the dual mission to identify, provide legal assistance to, and secure the release of persons who are wrongfully imprisoned for crimes they did not commit and to provide its students with an excellent learning experience. It is the only such project in the state of Michigan. Its funding is provided by the law school.

The Sixty-Plus Elderlaw Clinic is a live-client clinic serving the indigent and near-indigent elderly in the preparation of wills, powers of attorney, medical health directives; public benefit issues including social security, Medicare, and Medicaid; cases of personal rights including divorce and grandparent visitation; property issues including landlord/tenant disputes and real estate transactions; consumer rights issues including consumer contracts, fraudulent acts, and debt collection prosecution or defense; probate matters including guardianships and conservatorships and probating of decedent's estate. Its funding is provided by the law school and by the City of East Lansing, Ingham County, and the Tri-County Office on Aging.

Cooley has Estate Planning Clinics at both the Lansing and Auburn Hills campuses. Students work with elderly clients on wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and health care directives for persons with small to moderate estates. The Lansing clinic partners with the Sixty-Plus Elderlaw Clinic and the Auburn Hills campus partners with Lakeshore Legal Aid.

In the Public Defenders Clinic students work on a variety of criminal cases (misdemeanors and felonies) in the Washtenaw County District and Circuit Courts and juvenile cases (delinquency, abuse, and neglect) in the Washtenaw County Probate Court, and participate in a contemporaneous seminar class.

The Family Law Assistance Project (FLAP), a collaboration between Cooley and Lakeshore Legal Aid. Students in the clinic work with FLAP's staff attorneys representing low-income people in family law and domestic violence matters in Oakland County Circuit Court under Michigan Court Rule 8.120. In the clinic, students have the chance to practice family law and represent low-income people in a "hands-on" environment.

The Access to Justice Clinic is partnered with the Legal Assistance Center at the Kent County Courthouse in Grand Rapids. The students in the clinic, under the supervision of the clinical faculty, advise and represent low-income residents in Kent County in general civil cases, primarily in the area of family and consumer law.

Cooley's Public Sector Law Clinic with its Kent County partner addresses access to justice in the greater Grand Rapids area. Kent County refers legal matters involving systemic governmental issues to the Public Sector Law Clinic, a one-of-a-kind program in which a Cooley faculty member director, staff attorney, and law students explore ways to improve access to courts and other government services. Together, these two clinics at Cooley's Grand Rapids campus ensure that more individuals have greater opportunity to improve their lives through the orderly administration of law and government.

A related effort at the Grand Rapids campus involves Cooley's partnership with the Grand Rapids Bar Association and Kent County to operate the Legal Assistance Center, which has helped over 50,000 unrepresented persons obtain the legal forms and information to navigate the courts. Over one thousand patrons visit the Kent County Courthouse-based Center every month, where they are served by a Cooley staff attorney and students, other volunteers, and a full-time paralegal staff. Spanish-speaking staff is available. Most of the Center's assistance is for family-law matters, but the Center also assists with landlord-tenant matters, expunging criminal convictions, consumer disputes, and a host of other legal matters commonly experienced by low-income residents who cannot afford an attorney.

Externships/Internships

Cooley Law School offers over 2,000 externship sites around the country, many of them in public interest fields such as disability law, environmental law, family violence, immigration law, Indian law, legal services, and in judicial, legislative, prosecutor, and public defender offices. The heart of an externship is the hands-on experience students receive as they work closely with an experienced lawyer. Cooley requires each student to complete an intense clinical or externship experience. An extern works at a field placement for a minimum of four hours a week for every hour of credit given for the entire term. Placements average 6.5 credit hours per term, although students may earn up to 10 credits working 40 hours per week. In addition to the valuable relationship between the student and field supervisor, externs work directly with a Cooley faculty supervisor, who is responsible for monitoring the placement, visiting the site, and facilitating the extern's learning by communicating regularly with the student.

Classes with a Public Service Component

Thomas M. Cooley Law School offers many classes having a public service component. Required courses include Constitutional Law I and II (instructional) and Professional Responsibility. Cooley Professional Responsibility classes and classes in other subjects frequently adopt class service projects assisting families and non-profit organizations in need. Elective courses having a public service component include Advanced Appellate Techniques (Ethics), Advanced Professional Ethics, Advanced Skills-Mediation Training, Alternate Dispute Resolution, Negotiation and Confrontation, Asian-Americans and the Law, Child Abuse and Neglect, Children and the Law, Civil Rights Litigation Seminar, Constitutional Law and Civil Rights Seminar, Death Penalty Seminar, Defending Battered Women, Disabilities Law, Education Law, Environmental Law, Family Violence Practice, Federal Indian Law and Seminar, Interviewing and Counseling, Immigration and Naturalization Law, International Human Rights Law, Public Resources and Endangered Species, and Workplace and Employment Discrimination Law

Public Interest Journals

Cooley's public interest journal is the Journal of Practical and Clinical Law. Cooley's Center for Ethics, Service, and Professionalism also maintains its own website focusing on its programs and opportunities: www.cooley.edu/ethics/.

PI Career Support Center

Cooley's Career and Professional Development Office provides planning and assistance to students and alumni at all stages of their career development. The Career and Professional Development Office provides substantial public interest career support.

Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)

None listed

Post-Graduate Fellowships/Awards

Law School Funded:

None listed

Graduate Student Funded:

None listed

Other Funding Sources:

None listed

Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships

Law School Funded:

Honors Scholarship

Graduate Student Funded:

None listed

Other Funding Sources:

None listed

Summer Fellowships

Law School Funded:

None listed

Graduate Student Funded:

None listed

Other Funding Sources:

None listed

Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs

The Center for Ethics, Service, and Professionalism, the Career and Professionalism Development Office, and several student organizations offer lunch time and evening lectures on topics that focus on public interest. Topics and issues have included, but are not limited to: child abuse, domestic violence, civil rights, discrimination, endangered species, death penalty, human rights, and disability law.

Student Public Interest Groups

Cooley student organizations having public interest initiatives include the ABA Law Student Division, the Student Bar Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, the Asian Pacific American Student Association, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, the Black Law Student Association, the Christian Legal Society, the Federalist Society, the Human Rights Alliance, the Jewish Law Students Association, the Native American Law Students Association, the St. Thomas More Society, and the Women's Law Alliance. Students are encouraged to become involved in an area that interests them. If a chartered organization does not exist in a student's area of interest they are able to initiate one by obtaining a faculty sponsor and organizing.

August 7, 2018