Category Archives: The Value of a Legal Education

Highlights the value and benefits of a legal education at Cooley Law School. Cooley’s rigorous program of legal instruction taught by experienced practitioners equips its students with the knowledge, skills, and ethics needed to practice law competently and effectively.

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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Weekend law student Stephanie Samuels: Never too late to start a new life

Stephanie Samuels was almost 60 years old when she finally discovered she could make her life dream of going to law school a reality. Up until then, “life sort of just happened,” and it was never really an option – until she heard about WMU-Cooley’s weekend program.

“I talked to my husband about it,” said Samuels, “and I said, ‘You know what, I think I might be able to do this.'”

Since Stephanie worked for American Airlines, she philosophized that, with a little bit of creativity and some luck, it was within reason for her to fly from her home in the Texas, Dallas-Fort Worth area to WMU-Cooley’s Lansing campus once a week for classes. Well, that is exactly what she was able to do, every weekend for the last five years.

Even better, she was able to fly back and forth for free.

“Now the cool thing for me is I actually can fly standby,” grinned Stephanie, “and in the entire five years I went to law school, I only missed one weekend. WMU-Cooley has been flexible – really, really flexible for me. I have been able to do a lot of things I never thought I would be able to do. I got to be part of a mock trial team as a weekend student, plus I got to study abroad two semesters, in both Oxford, England and in Hamilton, New Zealand. I would never have been able to do those kind of things had it not been for Cooley and the weekend program.

“All of my law school experiences have really opened life up for me and given me the confidence to start my own private practice in international law. I’m even thinking about doing a non-profit, which was an offshoot idea I got from a contact I made during my time in New Zealand. One of the professors at the University of Waikato was a member of the United Nations in New York and she invited me and another law student to the UN’s annual indigenous rights convention.  What an incredible opportunity! I will never forget it.

“I am so excited to start this new life and explore all the possibilities . They are endless to me now. That’s because of Cooley.”

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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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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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Weekend Student Jason Puscas: At the end of the day, law school is an investment

Jason Puscas doesn’t believe you should have to choose between a stable family life, post-secondary education and a prospering career in public policy. A self-proclaimed lifelong learner, Puscas is determined to be successful at all three aspects of his life.

“I think there is always a desire to continue your education as you move on with your career and professional life,” Puscas said. “Being able to go to law school seemed like a great opportunity to grow professionally.”

Since graduating from Grand Valley State University in 2009 with a degree in political science, Puscas has held a number of positions in public policy. He is currently the Director of Government Relations at the Detroit Regional Chamber. He’s also pursuing his law degree on weekends, as a student enrolled in WMU-Cooley’s Weekend Program.

“When you really think about it, law is a result of public policy and that’s an area that I’ve really fallen in love with as I’ve advanced in my career,” he said.

He wasn’t always sure law school was a realistic opportunity.

“As you get older and farther away from your undergraduate degree, your priorities obviously change.” Puscas said. “Whether that be family or a full-time career, your schedules are harder. It’s more difficult to try to make those decisions, what your priorities are going to be. What Cooley was able to offer was the flexibility for me to be able to pursue both at once. “

WMU-Cooley’s Weekend Program allows students to complete their entire legal education taking classes exclusively on the weekends, or any combination during the week. Weekend classes start in September at the Lansing campus and May at the Auburn Hills and Tampa Bay campuses.

“Being able to go to school, continue my career, and have time to spend at home wasn’t an opportunity I was able to find somewhere else,” Puscas said. “For me personally, having a wonderful girlfriend at home and a house to take care of, having a full-time job in Lansing working 40-60 hours per week, and being able to somehow still fit that desire to continue learning into your schedule is pretty unique. It’s not an opportunity you often find in the modern post-secondary environment.”

Puscas, who plans to graduate this year, said his experience in the classroom has been a positive one at WMU-Cooley.

“You watch television and see these gigantic lecture halls and you see this Socratic method where you are being called on and challenged,” he said. “It’s not like that at all. It’s not nearly as scary as you think it’s going to be. The classroom sizes are intimate. The professors all have a level of practical knowledge and experience that they can relate to and share with you. It’s really more of an ongoing discussion and an opportunity to grasp an area of the law and talk about it as a group.”

Puscas also reflected on the investment he feels he’s making by pursuing a degree from WMU-Cooley.

“Part of what made Cooley the right choice for me was the fact that they do offer generous scholarship opportunities,” he said. “When you combine that with the flexibility they offer, the convenience of the class schedule, I don’t know where else I would have gone. Cooley was the right choice.”

WMU-Cooley student Jason Puscas

WMU-Cooley student Jason Puscas

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Weekend Law Student Reese Kewin: Single mom of six pursues dream of law school at 46

Reese Kewin is not your average law student. In fact, there’s nothing average about her. At 46, and starting law school, Reese knew that a “huge life change was ahead,” not only for her, but for her six children.

“People often ask me, ‘Why law school? Why now?’ I take a deep breath and say, Well, it’s something, quite honestly, I have thought about for a long time, for decades it seems.”

A self proclaimed Michigander, and having gone to high school and college in Michigan, Reese knew all about Cooley. She always kept it in the back of her mind whenever she thought about going to law school. Of course, as often happens, life got in the way, and law school was pushed aside. She got married, moved away, had children, got divorced – then suddenly, many years later, found herself back in Lansing working only blocks away from Cooley. Law school was literally staring her in the face.

“One day I got up and I thought, you know what? Stop just thinking about it!”

So, that day, Reese boldly walked into WMU-Cooley’s Lansing campus and asked the Admission Office for a tour. “All of my questions were answered,” Reese stated in relief. “I just knew, as I walked the halls, that this was the place I needed to be! And as I left Cooley, after touring the whole campus and the library, walking the few blocks back to work, I started to cry. It sounds kind of silly, but after all these years of wanting to do this, I knew that this was where I belonged. That was it, I took the LSAT a few months later.”

The Weekend Program was exactly what she needed to make this dream of law school possible. Reese started her law school journey working full-time while taking two classes, plus Intro to Law. Then, just as she was getting used to being a student again, life handed her another curve ball.

“I had just finished my first term, and as it happens in Telecomm, my industry of choice for 22 years, layoffs occurred,” declared Reese. “I again found myself taking a deep breath, and I thought, even with just a term of law school under my belt, I am going to try to dip my toe into the legal field to see what I can do. I approached the career development folks here at Cooley, and they sat down with me and revamped my entire 22 year Telecomm career into a legal resume for me! I then went to some job fairs and found that the legal field was very welcoming and open.  I even found a job as a student assistant working for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. Once again, my choice to go to law school, even as an older student, was just reaffirmed for me!”

As any parent knows, this law school journey was not going to be alone. She needed her children to be on board and to support her decision. So she kept reinforcing it with them.

“When you guys start back to school, mommy is starting back to school,” Reese remembers saying to her children. She made it clear that she was going to need time to study, and that there will be times when you will want to do things, but we aren’t going to be able to do them. She let them know that they all needed to be flexible and will need to come up with some alternatives.

But she really never needed to worry. Her children have supported her wholeheartedly.

“I think, at least I hope, that in some small way they see that, wow, if mom can go and do this, then we can do anything too.”

As the first term ended for Reese, and her grades rolled in, the tears flowed again after seeing how she did. “The kids were like, ‘oh mom, did you not do well?’ and I said, ‘No! I got a four point!”

Her son understood why she was crying and why she was going to law school. “Mom, I know why you’re doing this. Because you want to help people.”

Reese wiped the tears and said, “That’s exactly why I am doing this.”


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