Cooley Gains Branch Status


    GRAND RAPIDS — Following a three-year struggle, the ThomasM.CooleyLawSchool’s satellite locations will become branches of the school, offering a full program starting in September.

    Though students were previously restricted to taking only 15 credits at the Grand Rapids and Rochester locations, and then having to move on to the Lansing location, the American Bar Association has approved the satellite locations as sites to complete the full 90-credit law degree.

    “We’re just delighted,” said Marion Hilligan, associate dean of the Grand Rapids/Western Michigan University campus.

    A letter from the American Bar Association informing Cooley of the change came following a meeting with the association in June, Hilligan said.

    “We certainly were very hopeful, and after the meeting we were expecting a positive response,” she said.

    The law school has waited more than three years for that positive response after the American Bar Association refused to grant “acquiescence” for the program.

    Hilligan said the school is prepared to offer students the chance to earn their full degree here starting in September.

    “We’re working really hard,” she said. “We’re ready to get up to speed quickly.”

    While the school now has about 15 resident faculty members, Hilligan said Cooley will be hiring additional faculty to bring that number up to 23, not including many adjunct faculty members who will teach specialty electives.

    The Grand Rapids campus, located in a building under renovation on

    111 Commerce Ave. SW

    , has the capacity for eventually enrolling 600 to 800 students, Hilligan said. There will be about 270 students enrolled in Grand Rapids for the fall semester, by which time renovations will be finished.

    Hilligan said she believes enrollment will rise as the school starts its full degree program.

    “It’s a very underserved market,” she said of West Michigan.

    With the full degree program, Hilligan said students have lifestyle choices, as well as geographic choices. Students can experience the urban campus of Grand Rapids, the government-centered campus of Lansing or the traditional college campus at OaklandUniversity in Rochester

    Hilligan said she is pleased with the support the school has received from the Grand Rapids community.

    “We’re really glad that we’re able to offer this service here,” she said. “There’s a big demand for it.”    

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