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Law school buys minor league ballpark naming rights

Feb 23, 2010, 5:40 PM EDT

The Thomas M. Cooley Law School of Lansing, Michigan charges its many, many students something like $25-30K a year in tuition for what U.S. News routinely considers a fourth-tier legal education.*  And now their tuition dollars are going to the Lansing Lugnuts, Class-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays:

The baseball park will be renamed Thomas M. Cooley Law School
Stadium in time for the Lugnuts’ season opener in April, said James
Butler, a member of Cooley’s board of directors and the board of
commissioners for the Lansing Entertainment and Public Facilities
Authority, which runs the ballpark. General Motors gave up its naming rights to Oldsmobile Park as part of its bankruptcy reorganization last summer.

Well, seeing how good a naming rights deal on that park did for General Motors in general and Oldsmobile in particular, I can’t see how this isn’t a fabulous deal for Thomas M. Cooley.

If I paid tuition to that fourth-rate diploma mill they call a law school I’d storm the administration building.

*I’m well aware of the criticisms of the U.S. News rankings and agree with many of them. It’s quite telling, however, that Cooley has done so bad by so many different ranking systems that it actually went out and created its own alternative ranking system that appears to have been designed for the specific purpose of giving a high ranking that Cooley can use in its marketing materials. And in those gamed rankings, Cooley ranks 12th.  Seriously.

  1. Old Gator - Feb 23, 2010 at 5:48 PM

    And this place turns out lawyers? Who could believe such a thing?

  2. Matt G. - Feb 23, 2010 at 6:28 PM

    Class A Blue Jays affiliate? Says your horrendously flawed rankings system. When you take into account the stadium’s capacity and amenities, the team is actually right up there with the Yankees and Red Sox.
    /hope my Cooley-educated boss isn’t reading this

  3. ctm - Feb 23, 2010 at 6:35 PM

    Those ratings are exactly what I needed to decide which law school to attend. Ever since I was young, I wanted to attend the law school with the most seating capacity in its library. If that school could rank 139th in first-time bar passing and 179th in graduate employment, well that would just be an added bonus. Cooley, here I come!

  4. ChrisKoz - Feb 23, 2010 at 6:47 PM

    Cooley’s objective stats are pretty gawd-awful. I really hate to bag on it, but those people are getting fleeced. Only 51% of graduates are working in firms (and that includes solo practice, woe be to the client who goes to those solos right after graduation), 18% in “business” which can be anything from in-house counsel (unlikely) to waiting tables (more likely), and 15% of those reporting status aren’t employed? That’s just depressing. It’s too bad the ABA lost their ability to seriously restrict law schools.
    Sigh, I’m starting to sound like AboveTheLaw.
    http://officialguide.lsac.org/SearchResults/SchoolPage_PDFs/ABA_LawSchoolData/ABA1796.pdf

  5. Josh Borken - Feb 23, 2010 at 7:13 PM

    Obviously, Cooley grads are so devoted to pro bono work that they don’t have time for paid employment. According to Wikipedia and the Princeton Review, they have the 4th most competitive students in the nation. Which totally course, explains why they had 8 transfers in and 170+ transfers out.
    Thomas Cooley School of Law: The Mets of the law school community

  6. Charles Gates - Feb 23, 2010 at 8:57 PM

    It’s quite telling, however, that Cooley has done so bad by so many different ranking systems that it actually went out and created its own alternative ranking system.
    Lawyers? Sounds like a top notch marketing program to me.

  7. Old Gator - Feb 23, 2010 at 9:22 PM

    Yeah, and I’ll bet that with his diploma every graduate gets a pair of cleated sneakers – you know, Indonesian knockoffs of some brand name – the better to chase ambulances.

  8. Stone - Feb 23, 2010 at 9:51 PM

    It always amazes me how many lawyer/sports bloggers/commenters there are. Don’t you people work 80 hours a week? How the hell do you have time for this? Which account are you billing for this hour of blogging?

  9. Craig Calcaterra - Feb 23, 2010 at 10:01 PM

    You talkin’ to me? You know this is my full time job, right?

  10. Old Gator - Feb 23, 2010 at 10:13 PM

    Well, they read it when you wrote it. Problem is, because you’re a lawyer, nobody believes it. This is not a “cultural problem.” Is an ontological one.

  11. Motherscratcher - Feb 24, 2010 at 12:52 AM

    Job?
    Craig, you’re young and you have your health. What do you want with a job?

  12. Charles Gates - Feb 24, 2010 at 9:02 AM

    I’ve learned via my law background, mostly Law and Order and buttressed by a business law class or two, that it’s not what they believe, it’s what they can prove.
    The stats say, Only 51% of graduates are working in firms. The school would say probably something like “Our rigorous academic program prepares those in the Thomas M. Cooley Law School of Lansing, Michigan family to benefit society by excelling in multiple career avenues, not just law.”

  13. Old Gator - Feb 24, 2010 at 12:18 PM

    Oh dear Buddha, you’re a…cop??? Uh oh. Well, all those comments about the “sixties” referred to the 1860s. And all those comments about “the revolution” – did I tell you I was a Civil War veteran? yes, and references to “weed” really meant chewing a frond of jimson in that innocent way that us nineteeth century duffers have, you know, in our rocking chairs and all….and the Statute of Limitations is so far behind me that it’s encased in a layer of geological strata. And I donate regularly to Widows and Orphans….

  14. anonymous - Mar 9, 2010 at 12:43 PM

    Although Cooley cannot properly be labelled a “diploma mill”, there are clearly two classes of students at Cooley. Firstly, the second class pay the full freight in order that the first class get a subsidized or free ride in terms of tuition. Further, the second class are excluded from participating in the Thomas M. Cooley Law Review and the Thomas M. Cooley Journal of Practical and Clinical Law due to the above-noted grading scheme. The school uses casebooks and texts consistent nationally with more widely-known and widely-accepted law schools and the faculty are similarly qualified; however, what is largely lacking is the true legal scholarly collegiality (except for that with all but a very select few students). This differs from the collegiality found at many other law schools, seemingly in favor of the faculty lining their pockets as quickly as possible, and then moving on, leaving perhaps thousands of Cooley graduates with mountains of (in many cases federally-underwritten) student debt, and with no way to ever repay. The school has somehow maintained its ABA accreditation since receiving it in 1978 although it came into conflict with the ABA when it tried to expand its first-year course offerings to shared campuses at Oakland University and Western Michigan University–it had to bring a lawsuit against the ABA to try to force the ABA to accredit the satellite programs–and Cooley lost (some months later, the ABA “acquiesced” to the satellite campuses allowing the classes completed there to count towards the accredited degree). I think that pretty much every student who manages to graduate from Cooley has the ability to pass the bar exam; however, even among those who survive the planned attrition process a significant number will likely never find legal jobs because it is the practice of the profession to allow way too many qualified lawyers into the marketplace.
    I have been able to identify three nationally known figures who have Juris Doctor degrees from Thomas Cooley: (1) U.S. Congressman Bart Stupak; (2) former Michigan Governor John Engler (now President of the National Association of Manufacturers); and, (3) Anthony Gair of the New York City firm Gair and Gair, a personal-injury lawyer who also subsequently obtained a Master of Laws from New York University Law School and who is best known in the legal community for representing, in a wrongful-death suit, Amadou Diallo, the Haitian immigrant who had been allegedly brutalized and killed by NYPD officers.
    I attended Cooley in good faith, accumulating six figures of federally-underwritten student debt; suddenly, one semester I had a semester GPA of 2.24 after successfully completing all of the required courses to be qualified in having the substantial legal education necessary to take a fair shot at the bar exam–and then, for my last four semesters or so, my semester GPA was around 3.49, but which left my cumulative GPA under 2.5. Also, there is a lot of politics being played at Cooley; the school allows two options that are called “voids” when a student passes a required course but winds up with a C- or a D in it. In my case, I voided one course with one professor for a D grade and retook the course the next semester and receive an A- grade with another professor. I expressed an interest in concentrating in taxation law and in continuing in Cooley’s embryonic Master of Laws in Taxation program, determined to get the required B grade in Federal Individual Income Tax Law but missed and ended up with a B- grade. I was encouraged by the assistant director of the program to apply for the program and was turned down. For my externship requirement I was turned down for the in-house elder law clinic but was able to obtain an approved externship mirroring a solo practitioner to successfully complete my externship requirement. I had wanted to apply to the Washtenaw public defender clinic; however, the commute from Lansing to Ann Arbor conflicted with the Advanced Writing course (I received a 3.5/4 on the main writing assignment, a mock criminal law appellate brief).
    I returned to my home state of Florida, took the bar exam three times, the second time coming within 2 1/2 points of passing the exam. After my third try, I no longer was able to finance the necessary pre-exam prep refresher course nor the retake fees. During that time, I was able to find a job as a legal assistant for a two-lawyer collections law firm in-house with a collection agency but was urged to devote my full-time efforts to the bar prep course–which made sense to me–and found the job taken by the time I had finished the exam (although it was suggested, though not promised, that I could thereafter return to the job). I also was able to get a brief internship at a new government law office (the Florida Supreme Court created a new law office called “Regional Counsel” to mirror the public defenders’ office in order to satisfy new state constitutional requirements as to representation of indigent criminal co-defendants). That led me to get an interview at the public defender’s office; but I was told that their office no longer participated with the certified legal intern program and that absent being admitted to the Florida bar I would not be considered. My Florida bar application has since become “stale”. As of now, it looks like I might be able to eventually find employment totally outside the legal profession that would allow me to repay my student loans, but after holding fast to my aspiration to attend and graduate law school and become an attorney-at-law since first completing the law school admission test in 1991 and being turned down for admission to eleven law schools before being admitted to Cooley, my hopes are fading quickly.

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