Thomas M. Cooley Law School
Academics & Programs: The Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Michigan is the “the largest law school” in the United States in terms of enrollment. There are four campuses—one in the state capital of Lansing, one in the northern suburbs of Detroit, one in Grand Rapids and its newest location in Ann Arbor. Cooley prides itself on “flexible” and “accommodating” scheduling. There are “daytime, nighttime, and weekend” classes. There are “three terms yearround” as well, and you can start in January, May, or September. Some students complain that “the cost is very high.” Others tell us the price tag is “very affordable.” Either way, Cooley offers “a lot of financial aid and scholarship opportunities.” Technology is also “cutting-edge,” and the law library is one of the most extensive in the country.
Students here describe Cooley as an “underrated” “lawyer-making machine.” It’s not the place for you if you want to imbibe legal theory, though. “The school promotes practical application so you are ready to jump into your career” immediately upon graduation. Real legal experience “is required.” Every student must complete a clinic, internship, externship, or otherwise demonstrate the equivalent in work experience. “Lectures are practical and grounded instead of theoretical.” Course selection is broad and specializations are available but the number of mandatory courses is “a little ridiculous,” and it “may prevent you from taking many electives and delving deeply into a particular area of interest.” Basically, “Cooley’s thinking is that if it is tested on the bar, it should be a required class.” “This law school prepares you for the bar exam.” Period.
Some students love the “hard-working” administration. Others say that the top brass is “frigid.” Far and away, the biggest administrative complaint is that Cooley takes its sweet time posting grades. Like, “forever.” The faculty is “interesting, entertaining, and knowledgeable,” and it’s full of professors who have “actually practiced law.” There are also “many adjunct professors.” They’re typically judges, partners at big law firms, or general counsel for major corporations. Outside of class, faculty members are very approachable. “The accessibility of the professors is second to none,” beams a 3L.
The “rigorous” academic atmosphere here is “not for the faint hearted.” “Class sizes tend to be quite large.” Professors generally “employ the Socratic Method and are always seeking to test your knowledge of the material.” “The majority of students get C’s.” “Exams are tough, and an A is well earned.” “Cooley lowers the bar for admissions, but after that you are on your own to sink or swim,” warns a 1L. “Cooley is very hard to stay in.” “Few students here have above a 3.0.” Although the school has a fully staffed academic support resouce center, students uniformly promise that “you will Thomas M. Cooley Law struggle to survive through all three of your years here.” “You better know the law,” they say. “If you slack off, you’ll fail out.”
Campus Life/Facilities: Cooley “accepts just about anyone and everyone.” The student population is “a mixture of students who didn’t get in any place else and students who are on full scholarships because their LSAT and GPA were so high.” An overwhelming majority of students is enrolled part time. Diversity of all kinds is a fabulous strength. Well more than half the future attorneys here come from some state other than Michigan. More than one third represent an ethnic minority. There are “nontraditional students from many different professions.” “Age, background, and socioeconomic status” really run the gamut. “Cooley is so diverse that one could not even attempt to discriminate without confusing himself,” declares a 3L. On the one hand, the vast assortment of students “makes for excellent class discussions.” On the other hand, “people divide into cliques easily” outside the classroom.
The three campuses each have their own identity. In Lansing, students have a “beautiful” building downtown “by the capitol.” However, the surrounding area is largely “bleak” and “depressing.” The Grand Rapids campus is similarly located in “a refurbished old building in the heart of downtown,” and it’s not in the greatest neighborhood, either. The decidedly suburban Auburn Hills campus is a nice and new facility “tucked away in a wooded compound” that feels like “a generic corporate headquarters.”
Social life can be hit or miss. Cooley is home to a tremendous number of student organizations,” and “most students are nice people.” However, there isn’t much of a community. “A lot of people come to class and then leave immediately after,” explains a 1L. “Building a social life takes effort.” The fact that “grades are impossible during the first few terms” certainly doesn’t help. “Those who are social butterflies mostly ended up failing out after one or two semesters,” cautions a 2L. “People get along, but it’s best to focus on studying.”
* The Princeton Review is not affiliated with Princeton University.