Author Archives: S.N. Matchette

Maximizing Career Potential – Job Fair Comes to WMU-Cooley Law School

Remember that old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know?” While knowing your subject matter is obviously important — especially in professional disciplines like the law — the “Who” factor of getting to know people in the legal profession is extraordinarily important when it comes to finding or launching a career as an attorney.

WMU-Cooley law students at all levels, along with alumni, have an opportunity to get to know working professionals in the law on Thursday, Feb. 9, when the school hosts its third annual Job and Career Fair from 4-6 p.m. in the lobby of the school’s Lansing campus Cooley Center.

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Karen Poole

Why job AND career fair? Because, explained WMU-Cooley Career and Professional Development Coordinator Karen Poole, employers have a variety of reasons for participating in an employment event. Some are looking to hire entry level attorneys, others are collecting résumés for future jobs, and still others are looking to hire interns, externs, and law clerks.

With that variety of employment options, Poole said there is something for everyone at the event and encouraged students from first-termers to graduating seniors to attend. In addition to the networking possibilities, students gain confidence with helpful real-life interview experience with practicing professionals.

“Planning for your future begins your first term of law school,” Poole noted. “All students should start building their legal résumé right away.”

WMU-Cooley Professor Gary Bauer, who founded Solo By Design, agrees that students benefit from exploring options and creating plans well before they get to their final term. He will be attending to acquaint students with the tools they need before they graduate.

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Gary Bauer

“Solo By Design is a plan of action with coaching that provides tools to help you create an environment which fosters your professional and financial success,” Bauer explained, adding that the tools are useful whether students choose to work for someone else or set up their own practice.

Including Bauer and Solo By Design, the fair will feature 34 employers and organizations, including eight local law firms, two county prosecutors’ offices, five state of Michigan departments, some metro Detroit-area law firms, the FBI, and several non-profit organizations. Employers specifically looking to hire attorneys are Elder Law of Michigan, the FBI, First National Bank of America in East Lansing, Legal Services of South Central Michigan-Lansing, and Shiners and Cooke PC of Saginaw.

Job hunting and networking just doesn’t get any easier than this. Put on your business attire, print 30 copies of your résumé, and show up ready to meet, greet, and listen!

What would YOU like to see in career and job fairs? Let us know!

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Award-winning senior shows how to rise above life’s challenges

If you looked up “resilient” in the dictionary, it would be fitting to find an image of Heather Spielmaker. The WMU-Cooley Law School graduating senior is the poster child for rising above life’s challenges with grace, strength, and even more options than she began with.

Heather Spielmaker

Heather Spielmaker

A mom at 19, Spielmaker had to trade in a fledgling college career to support herself and her son. When a subsequent marriage ended in divorce, she again found herself struggling to make ends meet for herself, her son, and her daughter.

Spielmaker, 43, didn’t give up. Instead, she not only survived the curves life threw at her, she thrived, and has taken it up another notch, making it her life’s mission to give to others she knows are facing the same challenges she’s gone through.

She’s gone on to graduate with high honors from Lansing Community College, and with honors from Michigan State University. And she’s about to earn her J.D. degree — with honors — from WMU-Cooley Law School.

For nearly nine years, Spielmaker was also the director of the school’s Center for Ethics, Service and Professionalism. In this role, she earned the Ingham County Bar Association’s highest honor for non-lawyers — the Liberty Bell Award — for her work in helping members of the military receive legal assistance through the school’s Service to Soldiers program.

Recently, Spielmaker earned another prestigious accolade when the National Association of Women Lawyers presented her with the Outstanding Law Student Award. The honor is given to a graduating law student who has demonstrated academic achievement; shown motivation, tenacity, and enthusiasm; and contributed to the advancement of women in society and the legal profession.

Giving back to the community is an integral part of Spielmaker’s makeup. She served on the Charlotte, Michigan, City Council, was a volunteer coordinator for Ingham Regional Medical Center, and became a charter member of the Capital Region Community Foundation Legacy Society. With that, she established the Heather Spielmaker Testamentary Fund with the foundation to support assistance for single parents and homeowners and programs that help emancipated minors.

 

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WMU-Cooley Constitution Day Speakers Impress Upon Law Students That the Constitution is the Law

We learn about the U.S. Constitution back in grade school, with teachers covering such historical subjects as the founders, the Bill of Rights, and fun facts about the times. As we go through life though, we often lose sight of the cornerstone document of our country in the pressures of daily life. 

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Each September comes a reminder of our heritage in the form of a celebration called Constitution Day where schools across the country, from elementary classrooms on up through high schools and universities, take some time to reflect on the Constitution, citizenship, and other related topics. Law schools, with their obvious connection to the topic, are happy to get in on the celebration.

At Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, speakers brought history alive at all four campuses and touched on a variety of aspects of the Constitution.

In Lansing, the Cooley Center lobby was filled with people who came to hear Jonathan Sacks, the first executive director of the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission. The commission was created as a result of efforts to improve legal representation for indigent criminal defendants. Sacks said the commission has been working to propose minimum standards for attorneys representing indigent defendants in Michigan.

In Lansing, the Cooley Center lobby was filled with people eager to hear constitutional expert Jonathan Sacks talk about the right to defense counsel.

In Lansing, the Cooley Center lobby was filled with people eager to hear constitutional expert Jonathan Sacks talk about the right to defense counsel.

In Tampa, students, faculty and staff learned about the role of courts in society in the context of landmark decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court. A panel consisting of campus Associate Dean Jeff Martlew, and professors Jeffrey Swartz, Paul Carrier, and Brendan Beery, brought the concepts of constitutionalism clearly into focus for over 60 attendees.

Professor Jeffrey Swartz, Dean Jeffrey Martlew, event moderator Brianne Myers, Professor Paul Carrier, and Professor Brendan Beery, presented Constitution Day in Tampa.

Professor Jeffrey Swartz, Dean Jeffrey Martlew, event moderator Brianne Myers, Professor Paul Carrier, and Professor Brendan Beery, presented Constitution Day in Tampa.

“What too many people don’t understand,” Beery said, “is that the Constitution is law.  So it won’t do to say that a person has done something unconstitutional, but not illegal.  If it’s unconstitutional, it’s illegal. When the Supreme Court issues a judgment on a federal question, there is not a state employee in the United States who is not bound by that judgment.”

In Grand Rapids, the relevance of the U.S. Constitution in today’s political and social climate was brought to life by Warner Norcross & Judd LLP attorney Matt Nelson. Nelson made the argument that the majority of political decisions should be made by the people acting through their representatives, and not by a non-elected court. He suggested that the Court’s role should be limited to striking down laws that are contrary to the plain dictates of the Constitution.

In Grand Rapids, a crowd gathered to hear constitutional law expert Matt Nelson talk about the proper role of an un-elected court in a government dedicated to self-rule.

In Grand Rapids, a crowd gathered to hear constitutional law expert Matt Nelson talk about the proper role of an non-elected court in a government dedicated to self-rule.

In Auburn Hills, the 800th anniversary of England’s Magna Carta prompted a discussion of that document, and how it compares to the U.S. Bill of Rights, by speaker Ronald J. Rychlak, a professor at the University of Mississippi School of Law. He also gave an overview of the Bill of Rights and how it was was interpreted during the Civil Rights era.

From left, Federalists Society Co-President Krystal Yalldo, Assistant Dean Lisa Halushka, Professor Ronald Rychiak, the Hon. Michael Warren, Federalist Society Co-President Joseph Falzon, and SBA President Michael Ruso.

From left, Federalists Society Co-President Krystal Yalldo, Assistant Dean Lisa Halushka, Professor Ronald Rychlak, the Hon. Michael Warren, Federalist Society Co-President Joseph Falzon, and SBA President Michael Ruso.

According to We the People, “Constitution Day commemorates the formation and signing of the U.S. Constitution by thirty-nine brave men on September 17, 1787, recognizing all who, are born in the U.S. or by naturalization, have become citizens.” Take time to read the The United States Constitution today.

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Victor Flores: Leadership Academy Ambassador for the Joys of a Legal Career

Triple-digit temperatures are not unusual in McAllen, Texas, but even the recent 100-plus degree heat could not melt the enthusiasm of 2011 graduate Victor Flores as he progressed through one of his best summers ever.

Victor Flores

Victor Flores

Flores, 33, who capped his academic career at WMU-Cooley Law School by being chosen by his fellow graduates to give the Wilkins Class valedictory speech, has been having a spectacular couple of months.

In June, Flores was named to the State Bar of Texas Leadership Academy. He is one of only 20 young attorneys chosen from throughout the state to participate in the prestigious year-long program. The group will meet three times throughout the year, with members traveling to Austin, Dallas, and South Padre Island, Texas, to learn about and discover their leadership philosophy, and to network with State Bar officials and with fellow up-and-coming attorneys from across the state. In addition, participants will each take on a project that they will present at the State Bar’s annual meeting.

“You’re connected with a high level of state bar officials and you learn how to become a leader,” Flores explained.

Flores is excited about the academy. “I think it’s a really good opportunity, both for me and for McAllen,” he said, explaining that it can be challenging to network when the centers of Bar activity are often hours away in Houston, Austin, and Dallas. Just as Flores will learn from the academy and bar officials during the meetings, so he plans to share the exciting programs of McAllen with his fellow attendees.

“We’re one of the few cities that do everything,” explained Flores, who has been an Assistant City Attorney with McAllen since November 2013. He is one of four assistant city attorneys, who are part of a collegial and supportive team that includes the city attorney, deputy city attorney, and two prosecutors.

One of the absolute coolest things about the job, Flores said, is the variety of law he gets to practice every day. Election law, constitutional issues, real estate matters, contracts, and planning/zoning issues, are just some of the matters that cross his desk every day. “It’s academically rewarding,” he explained.

Flores and his office also helped in a situation that had McAllen in the national news a year or so ago when an influx of young Central American immigrants meant all-hands-on-deck as they sorted out the legalities and logistics involved with getting the children to their U.S. families while awaiting their court hearings on immigration status.

In other professional accomplishments of Summer 2015, Flores was appointed as a council member for the State Bar of Texas Government Law Section, named as a director for the Hidalgo County Bar Association, and chosen as a Vice Director for the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division Disaster Legal Services Program. He also continues to serve as Associate General Counsel for Baptist Temple McAllen Church.

Whew! And if that wasn’t enough, Flores and his wife, Kristal, are expecting their first child and plan to have a Gender Reveal Party during Labor Day Weekend.

Flores is actively involved in each of the Bar activity groups. With the Government Law Section, Flores said they’re meeting quarterly, but involved throughout the year, providing Continuing Legal Education updates, becoming an active presence on social media, and sending out E-blasts on issues of importance to the section. With the Disaster Legal Services Program, Flores oversees six districts, working with them to update their disaster plans, including how to provide legal assistance in the wake of a disaster.

Flores is an outstanding ambassador for the joys of a legal career where helping people is a primary focus. While he always had an interest in the law, he started solidifying his plans for law school during a tour of duty in Iraq. A staff sergeant with the U.S. Marine Corps 2001-2008, Flores served some of his time in Texas, but also did a tour in South America, in addition to his time in Iraq.

He was a platoon sergeant for an infantry unit, and was in Iraq during the contentious democratic elections in 2004-2005. Although the Marines had a huge variety of duties, Flores said there were also down times, and there were many conversations about what they would do when they got home. Two members of his team never got a chance to fulfill those dreams when they were killed in the conflict, Flores said. “Those two losses hit me really hard. They had family and plans.”

Flores determined then and there that he would make sure their sacrifices meant something. When he returned to the U.S., he finished his undergraduate work at the University of Texas Pan-American (now the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley), then applied to law school. He chose WMU-Cooley because he could start right away, and in January 2009, Victor and Kristal Flores left south Texas and were introduced to winter in Michigan.

As surprising as it might seem, they didn’t mind the weather. As much as Michigan residents don’t like their winters, Texans are not particularly fond of their state’s summers. “We miss Michigan,” Flores said. “We miss the fall and the temperate summers,” he said, plus such attractions as Uncle John’s Cider Mill and Frankenmuth.

Flores keeps in touch with many of his fellow graduates, along with staff members and professors with whom he forged relationships during his time in school. The practical education and the hands-on training through his externship, led him to where he is today.  It was attorney Dave Louie (a Houston attorney who he met through his WMU-Cooley externship), among others, including Texas attorneys Joe Escobedo and Ernest Aliseda, who nominated him for the Leadership Academy.

He is looking forward to the exciting changes in both his personal and professional life. In October, he will be part of the city of McAllen’s new in-house litigation defense team, and in March 2016, he will become a first-time dad. With his recent appointments and an ever-more rewarding career, the long hot summer has been totally worth it!

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WMU-Cooley Tampa Student Wins Florida Bar Scholarship

Eula T. Bacon

Eula T. Bacon

Eula T. Bacon’s law school career continues to sparkle with jewels of success. Eula is employed full-time with the non-profit agency Career Source Suncoast, attends classes at WMU-Cooley’s Tampa, Florida campus, and actively participates in a number of student organizations. A busy person with just a few semesters to go until graduation, Eula has her eye on a bright future.

This summer, Eula Bacon learned she had some help with that goal when she was awarded a scholarship by the Labor and Employment Section of the Florida Bar Association. Only one student from each Florida law school received the award — $1,000 to help with their studies.

Eula was excited to learn she’d won the scholarship. “I am grateful to the Florida Bar – Labor and Employment section for investing in my legal education.  The award provides me with financial support, permits me to develop professional relationships with attorneys around the state and gives me the opportunity to learn about the importance of the Florida Bar.”

The scholarship is designed to recognize students who have excelled in their studies while exhibiting an interest in practicing labor and employment law.

In addition to the monetary award, the scholarship also provided a networking opportunity for Eula with labor and employment attorneys across the state. At the section’s recent convention, she connected with several attorneys from all over Florida.  “Attending the Florida Bar convention is a valuable experience, and I recommend law school students try to attend,” she said.

Eula served as Vice Chief Justice for the Moot Court Board for two terms this year, is a Pupil Member of the Tampa Bay Inn of Court, and an associate editor with the WMU-Cooley Journal of Practical and Clinical Law. Eula is also active in competition teams.

Eula won first place in 2014 in the Melissa Mitchell Criminal Procedure Moot Court Competition, served on the ABA Regional Negotiation Competition team in 2013 (which placed fifth overall) and, more recently, participated on a three-member team at the 2015 E. Earle Zehmer National Workers’ Compensation Moot Court Competition. She has made the Dean’s List several times, and participated in WMU-Cooley’s study abroad program in Oxford, England, in summer 2014.

When she’s not participating in on-campus activities, Eula is involved in community service, including volunteering at community legal redress workshops organized by the George Edgecomb Bar Association, participating in The Walk to End Lupus Now, and packaging personal items for active-duty military.

Eula is planning to be finished with her law studies in December 2016, and hopes to obtain a federal clerkship or a clerkship with a justice at the Florida Supreme Court.

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WMU-Cooley Graduate Helps the Homeless and Inspires Volunteers

For a quiet guy, Shane Goodale has made a lot of “noise” ever since joining the legal arena — good noise; noise that makes changes in people’s lives and inspires them to do good things on their own.

Shane Goodale

Shane Goodale

Goodale, 41, graduated from Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School in 2012. In the three years since graduation, Goodale, who has a solo practice in Okemos, Michigan, continues to, not just speak out about the needs of people in the community, but do something about it, along with inspire others to join in and help.

This summer, Goodale saw a months-in-the-making drive to help the homeless in a practical way come to fruition when he collaborated with Sera Bella salon in the Meridian Mall to provide free haircuts to those in need. Personal grooming might not seem like a necessity to some, but Goodale knew from his experience as a volunteer just how much a difference a spruce-up can mean to people.

He started the quest to provide haircuts in the spring, but learned that, in Michigan, cosmetology services must be provided in a licensed salon. He found a salon that would help at Sera Bella after a conversation about the project idea. The manager arranged for stylists to provide the free haircuts; Goodale made arrangements to get interested clients of a Lansing shelter to the mall salon. Goodale was also able to work with Sbarro pizza, from the mall’s food court, to provide free pizza. Inspired by the project, Sera Bella plans to keep a collection box on site for both monetary and non-perishable food donations.

Shane Goodale received WMU-Cooley's Student Great Deeds Award from Heather Spielmaker in 2011.

Shane Goodale received WMU-Cooley’s Student Great Deeds Award from Heather Spielmaker in 2011.

Goodale is no stranger to the shelter from which the haircut clients came. Called Open Door Ministry and located at the Central United Methodist Church in downtown Lansing, the shelter has been a volunteer outlet for Goodale since his days as a student at WMU-Cooley.

During his tenure as a law student, Goodale inspired fellow students to help the homeless as part of a class project. That experience led him to found a free legal clinic called HAPP, the Homeless Assistance and Prevention Project. The clinic provides free basic legal services to people who visit the Open Door Ministry, as well as pro bono opportunities for succeeding classes of law students.

Goodale was acknowledged in 2011 for his volunteer work when he was presented with the first-ever Lansing campus WMU-Cooley Student Great Deeds Award. He was also noted for his service with the Meridian Township Planning Commission, and his service on the board of directors for Stormfield Theater. In addition to his continued service on the Open Door Ministry Board of Directors, and with HAPP, Goodale also now serves as a member of the Parkwood YMCA Board of Directors, and as a community reinvestment fund board member for the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council.

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Triumph Over Adversity: Richard Bernstein Shares His Story of Success

If Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein ever tires of his position on the state’s highest court, he could command an astoundingly successful career as a motivational speaker. It’s not just Bernstein’s triumphs over adversity that he’s accomplished in his 40 years — blind since he was born Nov. 9, 1974 and catastrophically injured in a cyclist-pedestrian accident in 2012 are two of his more notable challenges — but the absolute passion and energy with which he greets life and shares his ideas with others, that make him so remarkable.

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein speaks at WMU-Cooley Lansing

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein speaks at WMU-Cooley Lansing

Justice Richard Bernstein speaking at WMU-Cooley's Auburn Hills campus

Justice Richard Bernstein speaking at WMU-Cooley’s Auburn Hills campus

Bernstein recently visited the Lansing and Auburn Hills, Michigan, campuses of WMU-Cooley Law School to share his thoughts with students, faculty, and staff on triumphing over adversity. As the most recently elected justice on the Michigan Supreme Court, and the first blind justice to ever serve on the court, Bernstein regaled packed houses with  tales of his campaign for the state’s highest court, learning his way around his new job, and career legal battles and victories he’s accumulated during his years of practicing law.

Whether it’s in the legal arena or personally, Bernstein doesn’t just cope with challenges, he confronts them head on with humor, faith, and perseverance. Among his career victories, he’s justifiably proud of the case where his victory established access guidelines now used by commercial facilities across the country. In the more personal realm, he was determined not to be beaten by injury after a speeding bicyclist crashed into him at 35 mph, breaking his pelvis and hip and knocking out a few teeth.

Justice Bernstein speaks to the Jewish Law Students Society at WMU-Cooley Auburn Hills

Justice Bernstein speaks to the Jewish Law Students Society at WMU-Cooley Auburn Hills

The 10 weeks Bernstein spent in the hospital following the accident in New York’s Central Park might have sent many a person into a tailspin. Not Bernstein. Instead, the experience inspired him to leap back into another love of his, long-distance running and sign up for his 18th marathon in New York City.

“The pain was going to be so intense that my goal was just to finish, ” Bernstein said. “It was the idea of adapting to your new body, fighting pain, challenging pain, but most importantly, never letting the pain get the better of you,” said Bernstein. “Every one of us has an internal struggle that exists within our own souls, our own spirits, and our own bodies. You come to find that when it gets to be the most severe, the most intense, you come to realize that that’s where you tend to find your peace.”

Watch the entire presentation:

Watch the Q&A session:

Event articles:

Macomb Daily News article

Morning Sun News

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