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Thomas M. Cooley Law School

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Thomas M. Cooley Law School
Location Lansing, MI, US
Faculty (See List)
Annual tuition
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Thomas M. Cooley Law School is located in Lansing, MI

Thomas M. Cooley Law School, located in Lansing, Michigan, is the biggest law school in the United States. Cooley is a private law school unaffiliated with a university.


Named to honor the contribution and memory of Thomas M. Cooley, a nineteenth-century jurist and Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court who was prominent both within and outside of Michigan, the law school was established in 1972 by former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Thomas E. Brennan.

American Bar Association Accreditation

The law school was fully accredited in 1978 to the American Bar Association. In July 2006 the American Bar Association granted Cooley's request to offer full J.D. programs at each of its branch campuses, making it the only law school in the country to offer full J.D. programs at three distinct campuses.

Degree Programs

While most students study toward earning the degree of Juris Doctor (J.D.), Cooley also confers a Master of Laws degree (LL.M.) in Tax or in Intellectual Property, and cooperates in offering a joint-degree J.D./Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.) program. Cooley operates programs allowing ABA-approved foreign study credit in Toronto, Canada and Australia and New Zealand. In addition, students may select from several approved "concentrations" or areas of specialized legal study, such as general practice, litigation specialist, administrative law specialist, or commercial transactions specialist.

To earn a Juris Doctor students must complete 90 credit hours at the law school. To graduate, students must take 21 required courses which encompass 63 of the 90 required credit hours for graduation. Required courses include traditional first year courses such as Torts, Contracts, Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Property, and Research & Writing. Students also must complete required courses in Taxation, Secured Transactions, Evidence, Business Organizations, Advanced Research & Writing, and other courses. Additionally, students must complete a 3-10 credit unpaid externship in a legal office under the supervision of an experienced attorney.

Attempts to make Satellite Campuses

Cooley has satellite campuses in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Rochester, Michigan. While the median GPA as ABA reports indicate is 3.05, Cooley's median LSAT is 149.

Clinical Programs

The law school offers clinical programs such as the Cooley Innocence Project, one of several Innocence Projects that are nationally recognized in the U.S. for the help such programs provide to innocent, incarcerated persons in obtaining DNA evidence and legal advocacy to overturn wrongful convictions. Cooley also offers an Elder law clinic, Sixty Plus, Inc., which provides free legal services to area senior citizens.

Nontraditional students

Cooley was the first ABA-accredited law school in the nation to have an officially-recognized weekend program--allowing students to earn a law degree by attending class on Saturdays and Sundays only. The law school is currently the only accredited law school in the U.S. that does not require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree as a prerequisite to admission. The law school has developed a formula and methodology for those wanting to apply without a bachelor’s degree [1].

"In corde hominem est anima legis"

The law school's Latin motto was written during the 1970s by former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Thomas E. Brennan with the help of his pastor at the time. Judge Brennan originally described the meaning as "The spirit of the law is in the heart of man". Women in a newly-formed female organization called the Cooley Action Team (CAT) brought to his attention that the motto should also refer to "the hearts of women". Justice Brennan responded that based on his Latin experience from high school, the Latin word for men and humankind were identical. [2] Judge Brennan's formulation of the motto remains in place today.

Notable current and former faculty

Notable alumni

Rankings and Reputation

"Judging the Law Schools," lists Cooley as the eighteenth best law school in the nation, superior to Stanford Law School and the University of Chicago Law School, among others.[4] (It should be noted that "Judging the Law Schools" is compiled by Cooley Law School.) By way of contrast, Cooley has consistently been ranked as a "Tier 4" law school by U.S. News and World Report, the lowest-rated tier.[5]. The methodology employed in formulating the ranking is very controversial. Many factors are taken into consideration such as "square footage of the law library," and "absolute number of applicants." Although LSAT scores and GPAs are one of the factors, they receive equal weight as the more trivial factors mentioned above. According to the school's website, the guiding principle for the ranking is "bigger the better."

Thomas M. Cooley Law School was recently selected the 2006 winner of the E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award as selected by the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Professionalism, for Cooley's program "Creating a Culture of Professionalism in Law School: The Thomas M. Cooley Law School Experience." [6]


  • President: Don LeDuc
  • Accredited to the American Bar Association
  • Accredited to the Higher Learning Commission
  • Accredited to the Michigan Department of Education
  • Accredited to the Michigan Board of Law Examiners
  • Motto: In corde hominem est anima legis ("The spirit of the law is in the human heart.")
  • Alumni: over 11,000
  • Acceptance rate: 60.8% [7]
  • Median Accepted Student GPA: 3.01 [8]
  • Median Accepted Student LSAT: 147 [9]
  • Student-to-faculty ratio: 23.6 to 1
  • Attrition Rate: 1st Year - 23.1%; 2nd Year - 11.4% [10]
  • Employment placement rate: 82%, 2005 graduates
  • Number of states in which graduates are employed: 33
  • Michigan bar exam passage rate: 55%[11]
  • 64% of the law school's student body are from outside Michigan
  • Average starting salary: $49,000
  • Tuition: $25,950, full time; $15,570, part time
  • Percentage of Students Receiving Grants: 55.8%
  • 2004-2005 Enrollment: 475, full time; 2,393, part time
  • Enrollment by gender: Men: 59%, full time, 50%, part time; Women: 41%, full time, 50% part time
  • The average indebtedness of graduates who incurred law school debt is estimated at $75,700

External links