Monthly Archives: February 2016

Joey Trowbridge: My Foreign Study Experience Blog

Joey Trowbridge

Joey Trowbridge

” Spending time in Fiji will be my first ‘real’ vacation since I started law school two years ago; shocking since I used to travel outside the U.S. twice a year before I started law school. It’s still hard for me to believe that my law school journey will be complete in December, I suppose now is an ideal time to reflect on how far I have come and prepare myself for the exciting adventures that are yet to come!” – Law school is life changing, and so is living and studying in another country. Here’s a snippet from WMU-Cooley Study Abroad student Joey Trowbridge’s Blog! Keep up with her adventures and legal studies in Australia on her Legally Abroad Blog page.

WMU-Cooley Down Under law student Joey Trowbridge

Checked into the Hilton Denarau Island Resort and was pleasantly surprised when they upgraded me to Diamond status for this stay. Oceanfront 1-bedroom condo, free breakfast and dinner, I’ll take that! Enjoyed a real Fijian breakfast; the waitstaff sang local folklore-like songs to the guests in the dining room, it was spectacular. Afterwards I relaxed by the pool, read and soaked up the sun and incredible sea breezes.

This afternoon I took a boat over to Mana Island for snorkeling, shelling and a bit more relaxation. I snorkeled around a coral reef, spent some time in the salt water pool and just relaxed. The Mana Resort was amazing as well.

The tour guide mentioned that they will be filming a movie on the island very soon. They have carpenters onsite building the sets already – the entire island will be closed to the public for six months. They were interviewing the crew for the film while I was there; I probably should have applied – I could get used to living here!

Anyway, while having lunch, a guide asked if he could join me. We chatted about how he had lived in the U.S. for a few years when he played rugby on a sports and entertainment visa. Since I am seriously considering immigration, this was all very interesting to me. I spoke about my desire to get out of the U.S. and he spoke of his desire to go back to the U.S. While I don’t have a plan right now to make my dream happen, he has a well thought out plan to make his happen. I will be praying for him as he has an appointment with the U.S. Embassy next week in order to get a visa. He has inspired me to work on my plan.

What struck me about these islands is how friendly all of the people are and they seem genuine; there are a lot of smiles and laughing; you cannot walk by another without being greeted with “Bula,” Fijian hello. I suppose waking up everyday feeling the sun on your skin and taking in this spectacular beauty would put a smile on my face too; this is a place I can see myself living long term – time to start working on my plan!

Having traveled throughout the Caribbean extensively, Fiji really is superior in every way.

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Filed under Student Experiences, study abroad, The Value of a Legal Education, Uncategorized

The Significance of Justice Scalia’s Absence from the Court Cannot Be Overstated

Blog author, Constitutional Law expert and WMU-Cooley Professor Brendan Beery explains the impact and significance of Justice Scalia’s death, and his absence from the United States Supreme Court, both jurisprudentially and politically. Professor Beery, a summa cum laude graduate of the law school, teaches Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, and Criminal Procedure at WMU-Cooley Law School, and is a frequent legal expert in the media (Watch Professor Beery’s Bay News 9 in depth story below).

The death of Justice Antonin Scalia is sad news for those of us who teach Constitutional Law and who value a good debate. That isn’t to say that he was always (or even usually) right, but rather that he served as either the ideal hero or the ideal foil, depending on one’s perspective. He perfectly illustrated the points he wanted to make, and he always sharpened the issues that were the subject of debate before the United States Supreme Court.

The significance of Justice Scalia’s absence from the Court cannot be overstated, either jurisprudentially or politically. Jurisprudentially, his departure marks a turn away from “originalism” and narrow textualism. Justice Scalia believed that constitutional provisions mean now what they meant (or, more precisely, were reasonably believed by readers to have meant) when they were drafted. The Court is now likely to turn more noticeably in the direction of “the living Constitution” – the view that the Constitution, written in general and vague terms, was meant to change with the times. Textually, Justice Scalia tended to shy away from probing too deeply about the purpose animating constitutional provisions, relying instead on the surficial (which is not to say superficial) meaning of words. The Court will likely now tend toward a more searching (and some would say unmoored) approach as to the meanings of the Constitution’s words.

Politically, Justice Scalia’s death has put the Court in the middle of a firestorm. Most obviously, Justice Scalia’s replacement will move the court in one ideological direction or the other. A Democratic appointee would shift the balance of the Court away from rigid interpretive modalities and toward a more contemporary and literal interpretation of words like liberty and equality – moving the Court to recognize more freedom from governmental involvement in decisions around marriage and reproduction and religious doctrine and also moving the Court to strike down more laws as denying equality to disfavored groups like the LGBT community, immigrants, and ethnic minorities. A Republican appointee would freeze the Court where it is and mean likely defeat for progressives on issues ranging from affirmative action to voting rights for ethnic minorities to the deportation of “Dreamers” to the clean-air standards enunciated in President Obama’s recent executive orders.

Perhaps less obviously (but more immediately), Justice Scalia’s death raises questions about the authority of the President and the role of the Senate in appointing Supreme Court justices. As has largely been overlooked by those arguing that the President should abdicate his position as appointer-in-chief, Article II of the Constitution does not say that the President may appoint someone when a Supreme Court vacancy materializes, but that the President shall appoint judges of the Supreme Court. It seems an unremarkable (and hopefully uncontroversial) proposition that the word shall, as used in the law, connotes not just authority, but duty. So those who argue that this President, unlike any before him, would behave in a way that is ultra vires (or that he is any more illegitimate or unsuited to the job) were he to nominate a replacement for Justice Scalia, are on shaky constitutional ground, to say the least.

As to the wisdom of any Senate stonewalling, that is constitutionally left to the Senate. Should the President’s opponents choose to drive this issue into the heart of a contentious political campaign (and should they choose to roll the dice by passing up a potentially moderate nominee on the assumption that somebody like Hillary Clinton will not win the White House and nominate somebody more liberal), the fates will have to sort themselves out.

Professor Brendan Beery: Michigan’s BIG Show with Michael Patrick Shiels

Professor Brendan Beery: WKZO interview


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Saying Good-bye to the Land of the Long White Cloud

“We are half-way through our law school DownUnder program, and preparing to leave Aotearoa, New Zealand (Land of the Long White Cloud). We have experienced a special place in this beautiful country. This is a land filled with mountains, beaches, fern trees and birds. It is filled with friendly people who won’t hesitate to offer a helping hand or go the extra mile.” – WMU-Cooley Professor Kimberly O’Leary

Coromandel Peninsula and Cathedral Cove, New Zealand

Coromandel Peninsula and Cathedral Cove, New Zealand

It is a language rich with Maori names (Kirrikirriroa, also known as Hamilton), Maori greetings (Kia ora, or hello), Maori words for plants (kauri, giant, tall trees that grow for hundreds of years) and animals (tuatara, a native NZ reptile which co-existed with dinosaurs and is still here in NZ.)

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It is a land of cultural engagement, seen in the Powhiri, a traditional custom that defines important meetings by explaining a group’s ancestry and why they wish to meet, and in the Hongi, where foreheads and noses press to share the breath of life. Kiwi English offers its own delights. You can be keen to have a yarn with your mates about how bad the mozzies are while sharing some lovely lollies, biscuits, and confectionary.

You can have a glass of bubbles and a handful of nibbles before having a proper tea in the evening. You can choose whether to wear togs and jandles, track pants and trainers, or look brilliant in smart casual attire. If you get yourself sorted, you might head to the grocery and load up the trundler, making sure to buy some hokey-pokey, then take the lift to your flat.

If you’ve had a tough day, you might have a grizzle with a mate, but then realize everything is spot on, and end the day with “No worries!” Most of us are looking forward to Melbourne, but a piece of our hearts will remain in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

 Kimberly E. O'Leary

Kimberly E. O’Leary

WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Kimberly E. O’Leary is directing the law school’s foreign study program in New Zealand and Australia. She and her students are sharing their experiences throughout the Hilary 2016 semester.


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Military Feature John Pickens: Man of faith believes there is no higher profession than public service

WMU-Cooley, as a Military friendly and designated Yellow Ribbon School, talks to its military students, faculty and graduates about their journey from the military to law school and about their career goals. This month we feature WMU-Cooley law student John Pickens who is a former Staff Sergeant with the United States Air Force.

Military rank and title: (Prior) Staff Sergeant (E-5), United States Air Force

Why did you decide to go to law school and why did you choose WMU-Cooley: I have wanted to make a difference by helping everyday people from day one. I chose WMU-Cooley Tampa Bay over Barry School of Law and Florida A&M due its practical legal skills approach as opposed to legal theory or academia approaches. Although accepted to all three law schools, location and practical legal skills were my primary concerns and most important in my law school decision. My desire to learn the law was inspired during my service in Air Force Security Forces. Completing an honorable six-year enlistment with the Air Force provided the foundation and discipline I would need for law school.


As a man of faith, I have always believed there is no higher profession than public service. I firmly believe that, in the end, it’s how I served during my life matters and not how much wealth I have accumulated. Since higher education was highly valued and continually emphasized throughout my childhood, I faced a new challenge and question after serving in the military – how could these core beliefs coexist? There is a scripture that goes “He will make our crooked paths straight.” With that, the answer to my dilemma would soon become clear. For years, I have had hidden interests in the courts, politics, sciences and our socio-economic beginnings as a whole. All of these entities are touched and woven into our nation’s fabric of law. I soon would recognize that a legal education could be used to effectuate much change in my community and nation, just as did my military service. Continuing my education with the end goal of public service would be realized and pursed at WMU-Cooley Law School.

Career Description: As an Air Force Security Forces member, your mission is to protect all personnel and property assigned. During my six years of active duty service spanning from 2002-2008, I conducted law enforcement, installation security, air base defense and detainee operations. In support of missions both overseas and stateside, I secured aircraft, satellite and nuclear weapon systems valued at millions of dollars. As Staff Sergeant, I was also responsible for providing supervison of newer security forces, airmen securing protection level resources and government property. In Security Forces, I trained and qualified in various weapons systems, including the M-9 beretta, M-4 carbine rifle and M-249. I was stationed to a variety of Air Force Bases including Kirtland New Mexico, Thule Greenland, MacDill Tampa, with a deployment to Bagram Afghanistan. Now a full-time law student student and veteran, I often reflect on my military service and experience. It was truly an honor to serve. All of my assignments have been challenging yet rewarding as they shaped who I am today.


Career goals: There are a multitude of career opportunities a law degree from WMU-Cooley grants, but commissioning as an Air Force JAG is my top goal. Serving in Air Force Security Forces gave me the opportunity to serve my fellow airman and represent the nation. As an Air Force JAG, I will continue to serve, only this time as a legal advocate. During my second year of law school, I applied for and was offered an externship opportunity with the 6th Air Force Judge Advocate unit on MacDill Air Force Base. I cannot say enough great things about the entire staff at WMU-Cooley and the Air Force. They both worked in a collaborative fashion to assist me throughout the entire externship process. The externship experience has been a great blessing and honor. I could not have asked for a better law school and would advise anyone considering WMU-Cooley to look no further.


Tell us a little about you: Graduating from law school and performing great service in the community and nation with my legal education remains my number one goal. As for a little about myself, I was born in Boynton Beach, Florida. I am one of three siblings; two older sisters and a younger brother. Our family believes in keeping God first, so staying involved with faith-based activities is extremely important to me. My other personal passions include; hiking nature trails, playing the drums, reading, kickboxing and staying up-to-date with political issues of the day. I look forward to having a family of my own one day, but remain grateful for where I am, what I have, and where I am going.

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So, What Are You Afraid Of?

Professor Gary Bauer

Professor Gary Bauer

Professor Gary Bauer has been a member of the full-time faculty at WMU-Cooley Law School since 1998. He now teaches Estate Planning to third-year law students and a directed study class he created called Solo By Design. Professor Bauer’s blog, found at, provides law students, recent solo practitioners, and seasoned professionals who wish to go solo, with information and resources to be successful in the legal business. This blog was originally published in January 2015.

off-the-dockWhat will I find off the end of the dock?

I have heard, from someone who has experienced tremendous success in solo practice, that the greatest obstacle to your success or failure as an attorney in solo practice is your fear of failure. As I tell students, “You can’t fall off the floor. . . .”

“I am not afraid; I want to work for someone else to get experience before I go solo.” This is a common response. The truth is that your experience will be hard earned. It will not come easily when you are struggling to bill the minimum hours for your employer. Do you really think the experienced principals in your office will be sitting by your side teaching you how to practice law step by step? They are billing at $300 an hour and you are billing at $100 an hour. How much time do you think they will devote at the $100 rate tutoring you? while missing out on their own billables? They can’t double bill. The new reality, even in the large and well financed law firms, is that they are looking for “practice ready” lawyers to populate those firms. Sure, the real large firms will invest time and money in you – but are you graduating in the top of your class and do you think you will land the $160,000 first year job? If not, take a lesson from those who have been down a different road.

This is the new norm – first day for the new associate after being escorted around the office to find the coffee-maker and restroom; “We have a hearing scheduled next week on a motion to dismiss. Here is the file, prepare a response.” So you ask the paralegal for assistance – “Sorry, I am too busy, and I have minimum billables to produce just like you.” You ask for assistance from another junior associate – “Sorry, I have enough trouble meeting my required billables, and besides, I don’t have any more experience than you. Go figure it out.” (To herself, “besides, I am competing against you why should I help you?”) So, you figure it out and do your best and present your work to your superior who proceeds to chew you out. He tells you that, “we got deadlines to meet, get it done and done properly, do it over . . .” You soon find out that you will learn a great deal by osmosis and observing about the culture of the firm. But the substantive law, for the most part, will be gleaned from the practice manuals and research that you do on your own. And once you have a steady paycheck, you begin to acquire a car payment, a house payment, marry and have dependents who need medical insurance. Four years out when you have finally established yourself as a family law attorney with a good reputation and understanding of that area of practice, you are too far in debt to quit and go out on your own.  So you look for someone on the outside to partner with you to help you restart and break free of the “rat race” so that you can have time with your family. Let’s hope that your new partner will feel the same work ethic as you and won’t be on the golf course on Friday afternoons when you are completing the brief that is on deadline.

Here is another scenario which I want you to think about. Go solo right out of law school. Keep your overhead low and establish a business plan before you leave law school. I can help you do that in a way that will help you to succeed in the business end of this profession. You will also find out that there is help out there to get you acclimated to the practice principles and tools that you will need to be confident that your lack of experience will not hurt you at all. I call it Solo Lawyer By Design.  It is a Blog for law students and recent grads who are going solo. This is a resource for materials, guidance and information from experts and lessons from those who failed so you know what not to do.  It may surprise you, but in today’s law firms, you are a solo. If you can’t work independently and develop business contacts, you will not be retained. So if your feet will be held to that fire in a firm, why not fan a fire of your own? Go solo!

But I really believe that you don’t fear failure – you fear success. As I heard Sarah Ostahowski,, a recent very successful graduate say, “It is your fear that if you are successful and bring in a lot of clients – what do you do with all of them?” And she was right. When a client asks a question and you don’t know the answer – what will you do? Follow my posts and the answer to that question will be made clear.

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A swearing in ceremony for a family to remember 

From left: State Bar of Michigan President-Elect Larry Nolan, Justice Stephen J. Markman, newly admitted Martin Fisher, and Martin’s parents, Julie and Professor Gerald Fisher.

From left: State Bar of Michigan President-Elect Larry Nolan, Justice Stephen J. Markman, newly admitted Martin Fisher, and Martin’s parents, Julie and Professor Gerald Fisher.

Law school graduation and passing the Bar Exam are milestones every law school graduate treasures. For one particular graduate of the WMU-Cooley Law School, the swearing-in ceremony also continues to resonate as a stand-out memory.

Martin Fisher, son of WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Gerald Fisher was officially sworn into the Bar by none other than Michigan Supreme Court Justice Stephen Markman.

It was “a swearing-in ceremony for a family to remember,” Professor Fisher characterized the November 16, 2015 prestigious event with his son, Martin Fisher.

Professor Fisher noted that “Justice Markman was very kind to take the time to convene proceedings in the court’s Hall of Justice courtroom to give Martin a most meaningful beginning as a newly admitted attorney.”

Most lawyers have a special memory of their swearing in, Professor Fisher said, adding that  “these proceedings were memorable for our entire family, heightened by the presence of both Justice Markman and State Bar President-Elect Larry Nolan.”

Martin Fisher is pursuing a career in elder care.


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Filed under Achievements, Alumni Stories and News

The Boat Left the Dock and You Were Left Behind

WMU-Cooley Professor Gary Bauer

WMU-Cooley Professor Gary Bauer

Professor Gary Bauer has been a member of the full-time faculty at WMU-Cooley Law School since 1998. He now teaches Estate Planning to third-year law students and a directed study class he created called Solo By Design. Professor Bauer’s blog, found at, provides law students, recent solo practitioners, and seasoned professionals who wish to go solo, with information and resources to be successful in the legal business. This blog post was first published on June 5, 2015.

Are you looking for business in all the wrong places? Sometimes you are doing a great disservice to your clients if you aren’t offering a maintenance agreement in conjunction with their estate planning services.

A True Story

A number of years ago while I was working as a regional sales manager for a Japanese company, it was necessary for me to travel extensively often exceeding 100,000 miles a year on the road.  I wore out a lot of vehicles. In 1979, while driving a brand new Buick Century on one of my calls, the radio quit working. Since it was under warranty, I took it to the nearest dealer for a repair.

Now, at that time, credit cards were not being used as much as they are today. You couldn’t charge your meal at a drive thru like you can today. So, it was necessary to carry a lot of cash on me.  Waving too much money around was a major concern.  Hiding money in a place that would allow me to access funds without carrying large sums of cash in my wallet necessitated covert action. The Buick Century had a panel on the lower surface of the dash that was flush and could be easily removed. Four, one hundred dollar bills fit neatly within that compartment where no one would ever discover it.

Back to the repairs at the Buick dealership. I was told to wait in the customer lounge while a mechanic made the necessary repairs provided under warranty. Within a short period of time, my name was called and told that the repair had been made and that it was only a blown fuse. There was no charge for the repair. So, once again, I was on my way.

About 10 miles down the road it hit me! A fuse! Checking under the panel where the money was hidden uncovered only fuses. Now what? Call the police and have them investigate? It was my word against the mechanic. What proof did I have that there was money in there in the first place? Back at the dealership the owner listened to my concerns and expressed doubt that his mechanic would be a thief. We met with the mechanic that did the repairs. He denied seeing any money under that panel. This was a very expensive lesson for me. I didn’t have the time to fool around contacting the sheriff and seeking a warrant for this man’s theft. Besides, he seemed shaken and nervous about the turn of events.

I said, “Perhaps the money slipped down below that panel where we couldn’t see it. Would it be possible for him to remove the lower panel and check it out? In the meantime, the owner and I would go up front and get a cup of coffee while we waited. Soon the mechanic came to the lounge and said, “I found it! Just as you suspected, the money had slipped below the panel and here it is.” I thanked him for his assistance and never placed money in that location again. I also learned a valuable lesson about allowing someone to save face. It wasn’t that he was a bad person. The temptation was just too much and when confronted, he felt the pangs of guilt and regret and the possible consequences of discovery. I found a way to allow him to walk through the door that gave him permission to undo the damage and save face. It was a win for both of us. Afterwards, I investigated further and there was no way for the money to slip below the fuse box due to the design of that panel. Had the sheriff been called, it could have had serious repercussions in that mechanic’s life. I didn’t want that.

Keep your eyes open to the possibility of a win, win for you and your clients. Particularly in estate planning, it is easy to loose sight of ways that you can enhance your client’s position and at the same time, help your bottom line. Don’t write off a client who walks out the door after your services have been rendered. Look for a creative way to maintain that relationship at a higher level.

We often look outside our client base for business. But how often do we miss the mark and fail to encourage a continued relationship with our existing clients? If you do estate planning for a client, how many of you have an additional service maintenance plan that you offer your clients? For an agreed upon amount, say $500, you offer to do an annual review of your client’s documents with consideration for changes in the law and their circumstances. That fee could cover 5 years of review and each year you could charge $100 against your trust account for those services as earned fees each year providing you with a continued and predictable stream of income.

If upon your review, you found it necessary to make changes, those services would be in addition to the fees paid for the annual review. In addition to an annual review, your client’s would be entitled to subscribe to your monthly or quarterly newsletter to help alert them to changes in the law that might affect them. This keeps your firm’s services fresh and on a continuum. You can tailor this program in any way you wish consistent with the rules of your jurisdiction. This type of program helps meet their goals and ensures that their estate plans are properly funded and kept current. The cost for them is reasonable and predictable. For you, it is a continuous and predictable revenue streams as well.

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