Thomas Cooley Law Goes On The Offensive

In the years of writing about law schools and legal education, I’ve only mentioned  Thomas Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan, a few times.  It’s not that I like or dislike the school, as I really don’t know much about it beyond what I read.

Cooley’s claim is that it produces practice-ready lawyers rather than scholars.  I  take no issue with that purpose, though I have no clue whether it’s true or just a cool slogan.  But somebody at Cooley, in response to a dubious lawsuit alleging fraud in the inducement of inchoate lawyer to pay a lot of money to some day become a lawyer, thought it was a smart idea to shut up one of its critics by smacking him with a subpoena. If that’s their idea of practice-ready, then it’s time they met Streisand.

From Paul Campos at Inside the Law School Scam :

The Thomas M. Cooley Law School served me with a subpoena yesterday afternoon, commanding me to produce certain documents purportedly relevant to this civil action.  The documents in question include all my communications with the defendants, and “all documents and communications . . . that you had or exchanged with any person regarding how (i) Thomas M. Cooley Law School reports its post graduation employment rates or (ii) your communications with David Anziska regarding any inquiry or investigation he discussed with you about how law schools report post-graduate employment and salary data.”

Seriously?  There isn’t a legitimate argument of which I can conceive to justify serving Campos with a subpoena, and as Campos responds, there’s essentially nothing he’s got to discover.  The only explanation for this subpoena is that the Brain Trust at Cooley thinks this is a fine tactic to shut its critics up, and so they’ve chosen to go on the offensive after their critics.

They chose poorly.

Not only have they brought their scheme to the attention of the blawgosphere, with Paul Horowitz at  PrawfsBlawg and Orin Kerr at  Volokh Conspiracy raising the secondary alarms, but they pushed their primary blawgy nemesis, Campos, to lay it all out on the line:

I haven’t warned people about the dangers of enrolling at Cooley for the same reason it would be a waste of time to warn a parent that it’s a bad idea to hand a 15-year-old boy a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and the keys to a new sports car. Some things are so obvious that it’s pointless to belabor them.


After all, in the context of the gathering disaster that is contemporary American legal education, Cooley is without question the prime example of a shameless diploma mill that would be shut down immediately if American law schools were subject to more than the most cursory regulation by either the ABA or the federal government, which through its no-questions-asked student loan programs pays a large portion of Cooley’s operating budget.

Double ouch.

Graduating class of 2010:

Percentage of graduates who obtained jobs with law firms of more than 25 attorneys:

Cooley: 1.1%

Stanford: 51.1%

Percentage who obtained federal clerkships:

Cooley: 0.0%

Stanford:  29.3%

Percentage who were unemployed nine months after graduation, or whose employment status was unknown:

Cooley:  34.4%

Stanford:  0.6%

Percentage who were employed and reported a salary:

Cooley: 6.5%

Stanford:  88.5%

And so on.

Well, nobody said Cooley and Stanford were drawing applicants from the same pool, but then, even the raw numbers from Cooley, well, suck.

While much of Campos’ pedantic defense, not to mention his blog on the whole, conclusively demonstrates why some people made a wise choice in getting tenure rather than stand in the well, and as much as angry unemployed young lawyers adore him for validating their victimhood and narcissistic lack of responsibility for their poor choices, there’s one point that can’t be denied.

Cooley’s real problem has nothing to do with supposed defamatory claims on what, until it filed this suit, was a profoundly obscure blog, and everything to do with what has been dubbed the the Streisand Effect.

To the extent that lawyers really didn’t know much about Cooley, it not being Stanford excepted, we now know two things.  First, that it’s considered a “diploma mill” within the academic community, and second, that if this is any indication of what it considers “practice-ready” lawyers, it sucks.

And before anyone belabors the obvious, it’s certainly true that lawprofs, rallying against this SLAPP tactic directed at one of its own, remain as disingenuous as ever, as they want the blawgosphere to rise up against Cooley and decry its effort to silence its critic, even though no lawprof would spill a word in defense of a practicing lawyer against whom the same occurs.  Yes, they’re disgraceful, cowardly, self-absorbed hypocrites, who couldn’t care less about anyone outside their effete little pond unworthy of their intellectual attention.

But then, that’s what distinguishes real lawyers from scholars. We can afford to stand up for what’s right, and have the guts to do so while lawprofs either can’t be bothered or wouldn’t take the chance of standing up for anything that doesn’t elevate their sniveling self-importance within their pretentious community. 

So, Cooley’s tactic of subpoenaing a blawger to shut him up and send a message that anyone who disparages the school can expect to get SLAPP’ed is going to backfire.  And even though the lawprofs don’t deserve having practicing lawyers come to their defense, do it because it’s the right thing to do. Plus, it provides a bit of fun to seize the opportunity to remind ourselves why we work in the well and not in the marble hallways of academia.

5 comments on “Thomas Cooley Law Goes On The Offensive

  1. Erika

    In Cooley’s defense, the one graduate I ever met from there was a really good paralegal.

  2. Paul Lafontant

    I am not a Cooley student or alumni, and I do not like the way they systematically purge students out. I have a classmate who transferred from Cooley. He’s been impressive. I firmly believe a good lawyer makes him/herself with some good basic training; he/she just has to push the envelop to reach higher limits. In French, we say “the cowl doesn’t make the monk.” A good lawyer must show restraint, respect, wisdom, humbleness . . . Erika’s comments are pretty worrying if you are a lawyer, for such a comment amounts to stereotyping a class of people and runs afoul of a lot of principles and teachings that you have received during your law school career . . . What do you make of a jailhouse lawyer who wins his/her appeal having been represented by a top lawyer who could not get freedom for his/her client?

  3. SHG

    1. Get a sense of humor. Erika was being sarcastic.
    2. “I firmly believe” is the worst basis for an assertion conceivable. Who cares what you firmly believe? Lawyers think. Priests believe. And why would you think anyone wonders what you believe? Are you the center of the universe?
    3. No one with half a brain sees this as an indictment of every student who attended Cooley. This isn’t about their students, but the school.
    4. Stereotyping is how the world works. Get used to it or find a different world.

  4. Erika

    No, engaging in stereotyping would be stating that the Biglaw paralegal Cooley graduate was likely the highest paid member of her graduating class 😛

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