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An independent, private, non-profit educational institution affiliated with Western Michigan University. The Law School, as an independent institution, is solely responsible for its academic program. Accredited by the American Bar Association and the Higher Learning Commission. Cooley Law School was founded in 1972 by a group of lawyers and judges led by the then Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, Thomas E. Brennan. The school was named for Thomas McIntyre Cooley, a legal scholar and practicing attorney of the 19th century. Cooley Law School teaches students the knowledge, skills, and ethics needed to be a success in the law and a valuable member of society. Cooley has developed a legal education curriculum and program designed to prepare its students for the practice of law through experienced-based teaching of lawyer skills. Students learn to apply legal theory to situations they may encounter as practicing attorneys. As part of Cooley's Professionalism Plan, Cooley students are also taught the Professionalism Principles adopted by the Thomas M. Cooley Law School community. Cooley Law School is also committed to providing a legal education to people from all walks of life. Cooley is proud of its diverse national and international student body where students, through fair and objective admission policies, have the opportunity to learn the law. Cooley Law School is the largest law school in the nation. Founded in 1972, the private, non-profit law school operates its Juris Doctor (J.D.) program, Joint Degree programs, and Master of Laws (LL.M.) programs across Michigan in Lansing, Auburn Hills, Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor. Cooley recently announced a new Tampa Bay, Florida-area campus, with courses beginning in May 2012. Cooley has more than 15,000 graduates across the nation and worldwide and offers enrollment three times a year; in January, May and September. Cooley is an independent law school, accredited by the American Bar Association and the Higher Learning Commission. Degrees Awarded: Juris Doctor JD/LL.M. JD/MPA; JD/MBA LL.M. - Corporate Law and Finance LL.M. - Insurance Law LL.M. - Intellectual Property Law LL.M. - Self-Directed LL.M. - Tax Law LL.M. – U.S. Legal Studies for Foreign Attorneys

WMU-Cooley Patent Law Team Place High in U.S. Patent & Trademark Office Competition

“Team Joyce Hill and Christopher DeLucenay truly demonstrated an initiative and work ethic that one usually only finds in seasoned Patent attorneys,” declared WMU-Cooley Professor and Coach Gerald Tschura after his two Intellectual Property students brought home the overall third place trophy in the Midwest Regional International Patent Drafting Competition. “I was impressed by their creativity and competitive spirit. Joyce and Chris exemplify exactly that caliber and high degree of competency you need to to succeed as patent attorneys today.”

WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Gerald Tschura, Me, Joyce Hill, Chris DeLucenay, Dr. Christal Sheppard

WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Gerald Tschura, Me, Joyce Hill, Chris DeLucenay, Dr. Christal Sheppard

For the second consecutive year, WMU-Cooley students performed exceptionally well during the Midwest Region International Patent Drafting Competition.  The competition is hosted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

“Joyce and Christopher worked extremely hard, beginning in December, to conduct a thorough patent search and to prepare and submit a patent application based on a hypothetical invention provided by the competition,” explained Tschura. “Our submission, along with all the other competing schools, were then scored by a select panel of judges. Teams were then selected to orally present and explain their applications before two separate distinguished panels of judges and examiners from the USPTO as well as leading practitioners in patent law.”

“The team did an outstanding job and represented their school with distinction,” punctuated Tschura. “This second year of the competition saw a significant increase in the number of competing schools which made the competitive arena that much stiffer. After all written submissions were completed in mid-January, the field whittled down to nine schools that orally presented in February and defended their cases to panels of judges in at the USPTO office in Detroit. Competing teams were identified only by number for all submissions and during the presentations to assure anonymity in judging.”

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Professor Tschura went on to explain that “after the final round, the judges announced that only one point separated the top three teams. We finished in third, but only slightly behind St. Louis University and York University (Toronto).  I like to note that WMU-Cooley was the only law school of the four in Michigan to finish in the top three at the competition, and the only law school to have placed in the top three twice!”

Professor Tschura had only kudos for his team, and they for him. “Many thanks go to Joyce and Chris for their effort and hard work and for making WMU-Cooley proud.  Future inventors and clients will be very lucky to have either of these two outstanding future lawyers as their patent attorney!”

Joyce Hill was also pleased with how the team did in the competition, but also enjoyed her time at the competition. “I thought it was a great learning experience,” stated Hill. “I have so many to thank, but especially Professor Tschura for all of his help and guidance in making the competition such a success.  There is nothing like practicing what you have learned in school.”

The competition, hosted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), is now an annual event, with ambitions of including competitions at each of the USPTO regional satellite offices across the country.

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Frequent Flyer: Student flew from Seattle to Detroit for weekend classes at WMU-Cooley

A recent graduate of WMU-Cooley Law School who commuted to weekend classes from Seattle from Seattle, Mel Matias is a CPA and auditor with Boeing and is pictured in the cockpit of a Boeing 787 for delivery. Photo courtesy of Mel Matias.

A recent graduate of WMU-Cooley Law School who commuted to weekend classes from Seattle, Mel Matias is a CPA and auditor with Boeing and is pictured in the cockpit of a Boeing 787 for delivery. Photo courtesy of Mel Matias.

This article about WMU-Cooley Military Feature, Weekend Program student and recent graduate Melchor Matias was written by Legal News writer Sheila Pursglove and was originally published by the Legal News on Feb. 10, 2017. It is reprinted here with permission of The Detroit Legal News. WMU-Cooley is a military friendly and designated Yellow Ribbon School. We are proud of all our military students, faculty and graduates. Melchor is a retired Chief Personnelman from the U.S. Navy and traveled far and wide in his service to country and others. Beyond the United States, he served in the Philippines, Japan, Puerto Rico, Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong, and various places in Europe.

Melchor Matias flew from Seattle to Detroit every weekend to study for his J.D. at WMU-Cooley Law School-and graduated in January.

A CPA at Boeing in Seattle, Matias did licensing audits on royalty and technology contracts, and designed audit programs. His interaction with the lawyers of Fortune 100 companies sparked his interest in earning a law degree.

Because of his heavy travel assignments, a regular law school schedule was out of the question. But during a stopover in Detroit on a flight back from an audit in the United Kingdom, Matias spotted an item about Cooley Law School and its ABA-approved J.D. program on weekends.

“Because of the time difference and non-stop Delta flights between Seattle and DTW, it was a perfect plan,” he says. “Although my employer didn’t cover any tuition and travel, I had miles saved up from prior travels to kick start my commute. ”

Matias booked flights 3 to 6 months out each semester, to save costs. He had sufficient hotel points to kick start weekend stays, and car rental points.

“It all boiled down to planning ahead and all my work-related travel loyalty programs helped,” he says.

He was more than pleased with his experience at the Auburn Hills campus.

“Cooley has the most diverse group of students and the faculty members are very experienced and accommodating,” he says.

Beyond the rigorous legal studies and travel, Matias’s law school years were a personal struggle. In his first year, his mother was diagnosed with liver cancer, dying a month before his finals and he had to request special accommodation to take the exams. His father died the following year. Both parents had helped Matias, a single father, to raise his sons, Andy and Michael.

A year later, Michael was diagnosed with brain cancer a month before starting law school. Matias and Andy, who was in law school, each had to take a term break to be with Michael during his final 6 months.

“Had he survived, all three of us would be taking the bar exams this year,” Matias says. “Now, Andy and I are taking them this year-with all the thoughts and dedication for Michael.

“All these deaths followed one year after the other. It’s such a painful struggle, but life has to go on.”

Matias’s goal is to do an LLM in tax or corporate business and compliance, and he hopes to continue working in the legal business environment. He currently is working on applications for the LLM programs while studying for the bar exam.

“I’ve also been teaching at City University of Seattle, on and off for over 5 years, and would love to be in the academia and teach,” he says.

A native of Manila in the Philippines, Matias holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, and an MBA from Columbia College of Missouri at the campus in Marysville, Wash.

“I’ve always been fascinated with money-who isn’t! When I was 6, we had lots of fruit trees in our home in provincial Philippines. I would pedal around town with baskets full of avocados and mangoes and make enough money for my snacks the entire school year,” he says.

Matias previously served in the U.S. Navy, retiring as a Chief Personnelman. He traveled far and wide, with posts at Subic Bay in the Philippines; Okinawa, Yokosuka, and Sasebo in Japan; and Roosevelt Roads in Puerto Rico, as well as deployments and port visits to Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong, and various places in Europe.

In the United States he was stationed in San Diego; San Francisco; Port Hueneme in California; Meridian, Miss., Florida; and Denver, where he was a recruiter-“The most fun job I had in the Navy next to the SeaBees,” he says. He was deployed on the USS Sterett-and named his son Andrewsterett after the ship-and with the NMCB 5 (SeaBees).

During his Navy service, Matias provided tax assistance to military members and their families and the elderly through the volunteer income tax assistance (VITA) program-and once he passes the Washington state bar exam in July, vows to continue giving back to his community by providing affordable and/or pro-bono legal advice and assistance to the disenfranchised-“Including but not limited to the elderly, the military, the poor, the LGBQT community, single parents like me, students, and anyone struggling to be able to afford legal advise and representation to assert their rights,” he says.

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Bill Gets Some Love on Valentine’s Day

On Feb. 14, Gov. Rick Snyder will sign two new laws which support Michigan citizens who have been wrongfully convicted. I am honored to be invited to attend the ceremonial signing, scheduled at 3:00 P.M. on Valentine’s Day. Exonerees and supporters from across the state will attend. I look forward to attending the ceremony with WMU-Cooley Innocence Project exonerees Kenneth Wyniemko, Nathaniel Hatchett, and Donya Davis.

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For over a decade, state Senator Steve Bieda sponsored legislation to compensate Michigan citizens, wrongfully convicted at the hands of the state. Senate Bill 291, sponsored by Bieda, provides $50,000 for each year of incarceration to individuals convicted and imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. House Bill 5815, sponsored by state Representative Stephanie Chang, provides for reentry services. The bills, now Public Acts 343 and 344 of 2016, will take effect on March 29, 2017. Michigan joins 31 states, the District of Columbia and the federal government in providing compensation to the wrongfully convicted.

No amount of money can make up for all that is lost from a wrongful conviction. Kenneth Wyniemko lost his father during his wrongful imprisonment and Donya Davis lost time with his children. Nathaniel Hatchett was still in high school when he went to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Hearts are broken and slow to mend. True criminal justice reform comes from laws, policies and practices that prevent a wrongful conviction from happening in the first place.

Public Acts 343 and 344 will provide Michigan exonerees with needed services and financial compensation for years lost to a system that failed them. On Valentine’s Day, let search our hearts for how we can do more.


marla-mitchell-cichon-editThe author, Marla Mitchell-Cichon, is the director of WMU-Cooley Law School’s Innocence Project.  She was honored in fall 2016 with the State Bar of Michigan’s Champion of Justice Award, Michigan Lawyers Weekly 30 Leaders in the Law, and Ingham County Bar Association’s Leo A. Farhat Outstanding Lawyer Award. She led the efforts for the release of WMU-Cooley Innocence Project’s client Donya Davis. Davis was wrongfully convicted of carjacking, armed robbery and rape in 2007. Davis was exonerated in 2014, and is the third client exonerated by the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project. The Project is currently working on 15 promising cases and screening approximately 200 cases for factual innocence.


The WMU-Cooley Law School Innocence Project will host a reception for exonerees and their supporters at the law school on Feb. 14, 2017 from 1:00-2:00 p.m. Media inquiries should be directed to innocence@cooley.edu or a WMU-Cooley News & Media contact:

Tyler Lecceadone, SeyferthPR, lecceadone@seyferthpr.com
 1-800-435-9539

Terry Carella, Director of Communications, carellat@cooley.edu
517- 371-5140, ext. 2916

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Professor Marjorie Gell: Proud of my French Huguenot Ancestors

My ancestors were refugees. This is a mural hanging in Borough Hall, Staten Island. The man holding the hat is Pierre Billiou, my 8th great-grandfather, a French Huguenot who fled religious persecution in France. He arrived in New Amsterdam (New York) on August 6, 1661 on the ship St. Jan Baptiste as the leader of nineteen Huguenot refugee families who later established the first European settlement of Staten Island (Old Town, now South Beach). The baby shown here, held by my 8th great-grandmother Francoise DuBois Billiou, is Issac Billiou, my 7th great-grandfather, born at sea right before the ship landed in 1661.

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Pierre was a judicial officer of the first local district court established on January 1, 1664, a delegate to the General Assembly in Manhattan elected on April 10, 1664, appointed a Lieutenant of the militia on May 14, 1669, and elected Schout and Scllepen (sheriff and magistrate) on August 25, 1673 during the Dutch re-occupation of Staten Island.

The Pierre and Francoise Billiou house still stands and is owned by the Staten Island Historical Society.

I’m very proud that my French Huguenot ancestors held on to their identity and beliefs and kept going. They landed here and helped create a country that was premised on tolerance of differing viewpoints (religious and otherwise), basic human rights protected by written laws, and democratic processes of government.

gell_marjorieBlog author Professor Marjorie Gell, outside of her keen interest in heritage and genealogy, is also a WMU-Cooley tax professor. She is the co-editor of the Guidebook to Michigan Taxes 2017 (CCH/Wolters Kluwer), as well as Past Chair of the Taxation Section of the State Bar of Michigan.

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Law Students Go One More Step: Teach Access, Not Just How To Fish

nelson millerBlog author Nelson Miller, associate dean and professor at WMU-Cooley’s Grand Rapids campus, gives high marks to law students and area entrepreneurs for bringing business and law together during a Poverty Relief/Entrepreneurial Law workshop. Participants and legal experts worked together to generate creative ideas, along with business solutions.

The old saying goes, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” This is true, but lawyers can go one more step by giving the poor the access to the fish market. Poverty remains a real concern in the United States, and a real concern worldwide. Many poverty-relief efforts focus on the importance of charitable giving.

Grand Rapids Organization for Women Executive Director Bonnie Nawara

Grand Rapids Organization for Women Executive Director Bonnie Nawara asks for a show of hands.

Yet the poor need, indeed want more than a handout. While charitable donations provide critical support, many poor may benefit more from the opportunity to provide for themselves, putting to work their own skills. What they really need is access to the markets that produce the goods and services that others so generously offer.

Law can provide access. A legal knowledge ensures that ambitious individuals can put to work their creative energies to not only earn an income but protect their hard-earned capital for themselves and others. Yet, the law can also create obstacles. Sometimes law unduly complicate and obstruct people and their business by stealing and harming capital capacity.

Founder of Painting by Jeff, employing commercial and residential painters, makes concluding remarks.

Founder of Painting by Jeff, employing commercial and residential painters

In an effort to generate solutions, WMU-Cooley law school students are working with community entrepreneurs in several workshops. The Poverty Relief/Entrepreneurial Law workshops were designed to investigate how to help area citizens, especially populations of African American, Hispanic Latino, and women, gain access to market opportunities.

Community leaders and business owners spoke in inspiring testimony to both the opportunities and challenges of capitalizing on one’s own creative energies. The businesses included barbers, painters, designers, inventors, caterers, drivers, therapists, consultants, and professionals. From their testimony, workshop participants listed 20 steps, from entity formation through contract development, property lease or purchase, and first employees, to dispute resolution, mergers and acquisitions, and succession, where lawyers provide critical help to business owners. A team of WMU-Cooley students are working do develop a checklist and educational brochure to help participants along their way.

Inspiring Hispanic-Latino entrepreneurs join Varnum partner Luis Avila.

Inspiring Hispanic-Latino entrepreneurs join Varnum partner Luis Avila.

The workshop also illustrated the great service opportunities for lawyers. Lawyers are makers, creators, and economic drivers. Watching law students and small-business owners working together, and imagining success and opportunity shows the world a new way to attack poverty. Welcome to the fish market!

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Presidential Executive Orders – Can He Do That??

Professor Brendan Beery

Professor Brendan Beery

Blog author, Constitutional Law expert and WMU-Cooley Professor Brendan Beery, clarifies a complicated concept in today’s political arena. 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.

An Executive Power Primer for the Trump Era

Executive orders are coming fast and furious: people from seven predominantly Muslim nations barred from entering the United States; “sanctuary cities” targeted; federal employees muzzled; deportations accelerated; pipelines approved; reproductive counseling overseas banned. And a single question echoes through the land: can a president do this?

There are dozens of legal considerations that go into answering that question, but let’s start with the fundamentals. The leading Supreme Court case about presidential authority is Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer from 1952. That case arose from President Harry Truman’s attempted seizure of privately owned domestic steel mills to stop the mills from closing down over a labor dispute during the Korean War. Justice Robert Jackson laid out a three-tiered test for determining the constitutionality of an executive order.

Article II of the Constitution makes the president the chief executive of the United States, so the president’s job is to execute the laws. Those laws, in turn, are made by Congress, so the president’s power is tied to Congress. As Jackson put it, when the president is acting in a way that has been explicitly or implicitly authorized by Congress, the president is operating in “zone one” and his power is at its maximum. Conversely, congressional disapproval (i.e. a statute, resolution, or other evidence that Congress does not want the president doing whatever it is that he’s doing) puts the president in “zone three,” where his power is at its minimum.

That leaves what Jackson famously called a “zone of twilight,” or “zone two.” The president acts in zone two when Congress is silent as to whatever matter the president is addressing. When that happens, courts look to history to determine whether such matters have been addressed by the president alone in the past with little or no controversy or pushback.

Critically, courts also look to whether the president is setting domestic policy or addressing external concerns. Remember: the president is supposed to be executing the laws, not making law. And setting domestic policy is the quintessence of the lawmaking function. When it comes to foreign or external affairs, on the other hand, courts have long said that the president is the sole face and voice of the United States. The question whether the president is setting domestic or external policy is especially important when the president is operating in zone two. (Under this approach, Truman’s executive order was deemed unconstitutional because Congress had not authorized it and it involved the seizure of domestic industrial facilities.)

As with so many constitutional questions, resolving whether a president’s executive order is an abuse of the president’s constitutional authority is not as easy as it might seem.  Take, for example, Trump’s recent executive order barring the entry into the United States of people from seven predominantly Muslim nations. The order clearly and expressly discriminates against visa applicants on the basis of their nationality (country of origin). Is Trump operating in zone one, two, or three? As you’ll see, Congress is not silent, so zone two is out.

Congress enacted a law in 1952 that provides as follows:

Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate. (8 USC 1182.)

Trump’s lawyers will argue that this law puts him in zone one, and they have a point. This law seems to give the president virtually unfettered discretion to exclude whatever class of non-citizens he wants to from the United States.

But in 1965, Congress passed another law designed to address the widespread practice up until then of excluding people from entering the United States on the basis of irrational prejudices against certain ethnic groups – especially Asians. President Lyndon Johnson signed the law, saying it represented the end of shamefully discriminatory decision-making as to immigration. That law provides as follows:

Except as specifically provided in [other sections of the U.S. Code irrelevant here], no person shall receive any preference or priority or be discriminated against in the issuance of an immigrant visa because of the person’s race, sex, nationality, place of birth, or place of residence. (8 USC 1151.)

This law seems to put Trump squarely in zone three; Congress has expressly prohibited that which he has clearly attempted to do (discriminate on the basis of nationality).

See why we need lawyers and judges? One law puts Trump in zone one, and another puts him in zone three. (Since more specific laws typically trump less specific laws and new laws typically trump older laws, he’s more likely in zone three, but not every judge would agree). To complicate matters, immigration arguably is a matter of external and foreign affairs, which usually means the president gets more leeway, so even if Trump is in zone three, he still has one leg to stand on.

And we haven’t even touched on the issues whether the order violates the Establishment Clause by indulging preferences for Christian minorities over Muslim majorities in the affected countries; the Equal Protection Clause by targeting a suspect classification (religious minorities); or the Due Process Clause by diminishing certain liberty interests (especially as to non-citizens who already have visas and “green cards”) without any notice or hearing.

Incidentally, this is why yet another constitutional principle comes into play: the “political question doctrine,” which I discussed in an earlier post about the Emoluments Clause. A federal court could look at all this mess and decide to punt, and it could do so by saying that the whole immigration issue is constitutionally committed to the two political branches: Congress and the president (so let them fight it out). If a court says that, then it will refuse even to entertain any claim as to the constitutionality of the immigration order.

At any rate, now you know the two questions to consider when someone asks, “Can a president do that?” First, has Congress authorized the president to do it? Second, which does it involve – domestic or foreign policy? Here’s a handy way to address the constitutionality of the president’s actions:

  • If Congress authorizes the president’s action and it relates to external affairs, the president is a constitutional Dirty Harry: he can do whatever he wants.
  • If Congress authorizes the president’s action and it relates to domestic affairs, the president is good to go.
  • If Congress is silent and the president’s action relates to foreign affairs, the president is probably good to go.
  • If Congress is silent and the president’s action relates to domestic affairs, the president is on shaky ground; a court will look to how such actions have been handled historically.
  • If Congress appears to stand in opposition to the president and the president’s action relates to foreign affairs, the president is on shaky ground and a court will likely look for other violations (like equal protection or due process), but a court could still defer to the president as to external affairs.
  • If Congress appears to stand in opposition to the president and the president’s action relates to domestic affairs, the president’s action is most likely unconstitutional.

Put on your judge hat and consider these questions again. Do the laws quoted above put Trump in zone one or zone three? And is Trump addressing domestic policy or foreign policy? What is your ruling?

All of this presumes that the order does not violate some other constitutional provision, like the Establishment Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, or the Due Process Clause. Congress may not authorize the president to do something unconstitutional any more than it may do something unconstitutional itself. As of this writing, at least one federal judge has partially halted Trump’s order banning travel from Muslim nations on the basis that it likely violates the equal-protection and due-process principles mentioned above.

There will be many more legal decisions in coming days, weeks, months, and years.

 

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WMU-Cooley Graduation Keynote Larry Nolan: The Wonderful Beauty of the Law is Change

The Tampa Bay campus of Western Michigan University Cooley Law School honored 43 graduates during a commencement ceremony held at University of South Florida’s Marshall Center on January 8, 2017.  Students received their diplomas during the ceremony for earning their juris doctor degrees. WMU-Cooley 1976 graduate, Board Chair, and State Bar of Michigan President Lawrence P. Nolan was the keynote speaker. Below is his speech and advice to the newly minted attorneys.

Four months ago, as President Don LeDuc mentioned, I was sworn in by the Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, Justice Robert Young. The Chief Justice prefaced his remarks prior to swearing me in by stating that I would be the last State Bar President that he would be swearing in. He didn’t elaborate.

The official news hasn’t hit the streets yet, but I suspect that you will be reading very shortly that a new justice will be elected as Chief Justice of the Court. It signifies to me that every journey started eventually comes to an end. We are constantly reminded that nothing lasts forever. It seems like my journey as a lawyer is always just a beginning, as an old chapter is laid to rest. I recall sitting where you are sitting here today.

I found the joy in graduating from law school in the first class at Cooley in Lansing, Michigan, back in January of 1976. But the joy was not in just getting law school over with, but rather in reaching my goal to become an attorney. Becoming an attorney was a goal that I had set early in my childhood, maybe not unlike many of you. Congratulations! You have now succeeded in so many ways to reach your goal. You have sacrificed a lot to get here.

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Remember, however, it’s not about just reaching a goal. The journey continues. You will continue to be challenged. The bar examination is next. Winning your first trial may be just around the corner. Writing your first brief, your first appeal, your first complaint, are all first encounters along the journey. The joy of being a lawyer is that the journey really never ends. It just continues to change along the way.

The only one thing constant in being a lawyer I can tell you is change. Adaptability is the key to survival. Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” The wonderful beauty of the law is change. You will always be challenged to think, and to use the foundational building blocks that you leave law school with to be thoroughly analytical.

As you already heard, I was admitted to the first class of Cooley Law School back in January of 1973. It was a night class. Everyone had eight to five jobs during the day. I had the good fortune of getting a job as a law clerk working for the only minority law firm in Lansing. A year or so later, I was able to get a job as a security officer in the Michigan Court of Appeals. I never lost sight of the big prize. I was focused. I was determined and I was happy. I felt like I had never learned so much, especially after my first semester. Then again, after my second semester and then I realized that going to law school and being a lawyer was a continuum of learning. That, my graduates, is the journey.

After graduating in January 1976, I went into practice on my own immediately. Much has changed from that date, now more than 41 years ago. I was appointed to the Thomas M. Cooley Board of Directors in 1984. I have served continuously for the past 33 years. I was elected Vice Chair and then Chair of the Board approximately six years ago. I always considered it a privilege and a gift to serve. I am, and have always been, a big proponent of access to legal education. Cooley’s admission policy allows that mission to exist and be flexible enough to meet the individual student needs.

I got involved in my local Bar Association politics and then eventually in State Bar Association politics. I felt like I had a duty to let people know that Cooley Law School produced lawyers with a legal education second to none. I was on a mission. Nobody was going to talk about Cooley Law School not being as good as the other law schools in the state or the country.

But enough about me. This is not about me. This is not my day. My day in the lights was four months ago. It’s now time for me to carry out the most sacred goals of this great profession at, not only the state, but also at the national stage. Today is your day. No one else’s. Today is special, for you have reached a goal in your journey of becoming a lawyer. In just a few moments you will receive a paper called a degree. President LeDuc and I have signed that piece of paper certifying to the world that you have become an attorney. Enjoy it. Bask in the bright lights. Go out for dinner with family and friends, for tomorrow comes only too quickly.

Tomorrow it is time for you to go to work. It’s time on the continuum of becoming a lawyer to your journey of studying for the Bar exam. You cannot over-study for the Bar. There is no such thing. And you cannot begin to continue this journey too soon. Someone once said “The nicest thing about the future is that it always starts tomorrow.” Your future is tomorrow. You owe it to yourself and everyone, including me, President Don LeDuc, and this distinguished faculty, to pass the Bar exam on your first attempt.

My father was one of 13 children growing up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in the early 1900s. They had no I-Pads. They had no cell phones, knew nothing about blogging, tweeting, Facebook, YouTube, match.com, or instant messaging. He immigrated to Quebec at 14, then to Montreal, then Windsor, and eventually the United States. Nothing was easy for him or my mom. He was not formally educated with degrees, diplomas, and the like.

He did have, however, several sayings that stuck with me through my life. One of my favorites was “Keep your nose to the grindstone” and “Don’t get mixed up with no rubby dubs!”

For years, my siblings and I debated the true definition of a “rubby dub,” only to ultimately conclude that it meant someone who couldn’t comprehend or appreciate what you were doing. In essence, work hard to attain your goal, and don’t get sidetracked. Another one of my favorite sayings is, when he would tell me that, “When the circus comes to town, don’t let the man with the balloons go by.” Think of that. So when you have struggled and sacrificed, and have reached your goal, take advantage of the preparation and excitement of being at the circus because one the balloon man goes by, the next time that you see him again is when he is all out of balloons. Seize the opportunity. It is here. It is now.

My dad never graduated from high school, but he always was prepared for the time that opportunity presented itself. Nothing, and I mean nothing – not talent, not intelligence, not high LSAT scores or GPA, not money or influence, will ever take a higher place in your life than preparation. Preparation, yes preparation, will allow you to pass the Bar exam. There is no substitute. It will serve you well through life to be better prepared in knowing the facts, in knowing the law, and in knowing and understanding people.

Secondly, “When you get there, remember where you came from.” Third, a Winston Churchill quote that’s one of my favorites, “Never, never, never give up!” Giving up is not an option for you. I said, giving up is not an option for you. You have come too far. You have sacrificed too much. You leave here with a special degree. Make those who supported you all these years proud.

More importantly, make yourself proud of who you are now, what you have become, and know that you are in a special place. Congratulations, and good luck. You are the future of this great profession. I’m very proud of all of you. Good bye. Do good and great things, and accomplishments will be your personal and professional reward.

God speed, and may the words of an old Irish blessing be always with you.

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine warmly upon your face.

And the rains fall softly upon your fields,

And until we meeting again,

May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

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