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A classroom in Thomas M. Cooley Law School’s Lansing, Michigan campus.

Cooley Law Hires New Dean

Western Michigan University Cooley Law School has a new dean.

The law school announced last week that James McGrath, a professor and associate dean at Texas A&M University School of Law, will take office as dean and president of Cooley Law starting July.

McGrath will replace Don LeDuc, who will retire after 16 years as WMU-Cooley’s president and dean.

“The selection of James McGrath as president and dean comes as WMU-Cooley is in a strong position to enhance its standing in legal education,” Scott Dienes, WMU-Cooley board member who chaired the President and Dean Search Committee, says. “The search committee, and the law school’s faculty and staff, found that his personal character and expertise in the areas of innovative legal education and performance outcomes align with WMU-Cooley Law’s School’s mission for training the next generation of attorneys.”

NOT YOUR AVERAGE DEAN

McGrath has a unique background for a law school dean.

According to the National Jurist, McGrath has played in a band that opened for R.E.M., owned a nightclub, and been arrested for gay-rights activism.

On top of that, McGrath, who is white, graduated from Howard University School of Law, a historically black law school in Washington, D.C.

McGrath says he was drawn to the school for its social activism.

“I wanted to go to a school where people did it best,” he tells the National Jurist.

As an openly gay man, McGrath took part in a number of protests back in his day.

“You’re supposed to get arrested,” he tells the National Jurist. “If don’t get arrested, you’re not doing it right.”

McGrath graduated undergrad from San Jose State with a degree in Psychology and would ultimately receive his LL.M. in Graduate Legal Education from Temple.

CHALLENGES AHEAD

McGrath is entering Cooley Law at a time where enrollment is dwindling.

Once the nation’s largest law school, according to the National Jurist, Cooley Law enrolled nearly 4,000 students. In 2016, the law school only enrolled 1,285 students.

In 2014, the law school closed its Ann Arbor, Michigan campus.

Back in November 2017, Cooley Law was found out of compliance with an ABA admissions standard.

Cooley Law’s ultimate bar passage rate is 69.02%, according to ABA data.

“I hear the things they say about Cooley, and I’m here to fix that,” McGrath tells the ABA Journal.

Sources: Cooley Law, ABA Journal, National Jurist