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Author Topic: Is Thomas Cooley Lw School Really That Bad????  (Read 3947 times)

David Bakody

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Is Thomas Cooley Lw School Really That Bad????
« on: January 27, 2004, 07:16:58 PM »
I know Cooley is ranked at the bottom of most ABA law schools.  When I looked into how ranking is established, the meaning of the rankings became a bit less... useful.

If I understand the ranking system correctly, about 45% of rank is based on the average LSAT scores of admitted students.  The only thing this tells me is how selective a school is about the LSAT, and very little with respect to whether or not the college turns out skilled lawyers.

Does anyone here know what the actual *quality* of a Cooley education is like?  My 151 LSAT and 3.53 GPA isn't going to get me into very many law schools, but if I take the LSAT a 3rd time and score in the 170's (like I suspect I will) then I can attend Cooley on a virtual 100% scholarship.  With a wife and 3 kids - that adds up to some serious money.  My other option is to try to attend what to me might be termed "a better brand" of law school, but it will also mean a serious debt load when I graduate.

I mentioned Cooley to an admissions person at Marquette and I thought they might vomit on me.  It was just a passing question about transfer policies, etc, and when I said Cooley he almost turned green.  Literally.  It seems lots of schools refuse to admit Cooley transfers and that's a little disturbing.

Any Cooley people here that can comment?  How is Cooley seen in the state of Michigan itself?  How is the actual legal education i.e. preparation of a person to actually practice law?


valerie098

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Re: Is Thomas Cooley Lw School Really That Bad????
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2004, 10:17:49 AM »
I have never attended Cooley or visited. But I received many emails from Cooley law students commenting on the school. All of the students that emailed me really think Cooley is a great school. They say it is vigorous with some tough teachers. I think it gets a bad rap because it has a low bar passage rate. Cooley is one of the ONLY schools in the US that will give students with low LSATs a chance to attend law school. However, many of these students do not do well.....but some do. If you want more info--email me and I'll forward you some things I've received. Also--Lansing is freezing, hope you don't mind some snow and cold weather.

fungoking

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Re: Is Thomas Cooley Lw School Really That Bad????
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2004, 10:47:00 AM »
I know how you feel about money--Cooley would probably be the only place I'd get money, too (154/3.2)

I was admitted last year but after a little research and consideration of my personal needs, decided to stick it out a year and take the LSAT over. 

I try not to pay attention to rankings, but I could not ignore a few facts about Cooley.

Their bar pass is LOW.  If memory serves me correctly, its one of the lowest in Michigan, in the low-mid 40% range.  That makes it one of the worst bar-pass rates of all the ABA-accredited schools, too.

Their 1st year attrition is crazy high.  Most schools seem to be around 5%.  Almost never tops 10%  Cooley's according to the ABA book is between 30-45%

They list Government as their biggest employer.  If that is true, you're not going to be making much out of law school, and with 3 kiddies, the free legal education might not be worth it if you come out pulling in 40 grand a year.

They ARE ABA accredited, though, and to obtain that accreditation, they have to meet a lot of standards.  You might know that reputable U of Colorado faces the peril of losing their accreditation because of facilities.  Cooley was accredited at the earliest possible time after its inception in 1972, and I don't think they ever lost the accreditation once they won it. 

Their low numbers might be the result of their rather liberal admit policy.
Still, feel it out for yourself, talk to some alums, and see how you feel about it.  I think thats the best way to go about Cooley.


David Bakody

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Re: Is Thomas Cooley Lw School Really That Bad????
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2004, 12:04:37 PM »
I have never attended Cooley or visited. But I received many emails from Cooley law students commenting on the school. All of the students that emailed me really think Cooley is a great school. They say it is vigorous with some tough teachers. I think it gets a bad rap because it has a low bar passage rate. Cooley is one of the ONLY schools in the US that will give students with low LSATs a chance to attend law school. However, many of these students do not do well.....but some do. If you want more info--email me and I'll forward you some things I've received. Also--Lansing is freezing, hope you don't mind some snow and cold weather.

I live in Wisconsin, so I don't think the weather is going to bother me in Michigan.

My plan is to take the Patent Bar (I'm about to complete a Masters in Computer Science) and become involved with IP - unfortunately that puts me in league with a million other upcoming lawyers as well.

As I Google for information on Cooley, I come across very few students who said their experience was bad, or even current students complaining about it. What I do manage to find are lots comments on Cooley being at the bottom of the rankings - and that's it.  In terms of finding actual substance of students addressing anything beyond its image... I haven't had much luck.

valerie098

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Re: Is Thomas Cooley Lw School Really That Bad????
« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2004, 02:51:20 PM »
Best of luck to you!

krepsm

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Re: Is Thomas Cooley Lw School Really That Bad????
« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2004, 05:08:51 PM »
I don't think Cooley turns out bad lawyers or anything(it has to meet certain aba standards) but when you get out will the cooley name be competetive?  Probably not if your looking for a high paying job or are trying to get into a popular area of the law.  Most people like to think that rankings aren't important, but realistically, they are.  Employers know the rankings!  You might get a good education at Cooley, but will you be proud to put it on your resume?  Will the cooley name get you ahead.  You only go to law school once, so be sure you can live with your choice. 
Just a little to think about. 
BTW-I'm not trying to say that Cooley is a bad school.  Everyone's situation is different, and for some people, cooley might be a good choice.

Lovin1L

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Re: Is Thomas Cooley Lw School Really That Bad????
« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2004, 01:09:30 AM »
I'm probably going to sound a little cranky and anything that sounds like that is not directed at anyone on this board, its just that I am sick to death of people slamming Cooley who haven't gone there or know little about it. I am happy that you took the time to ask the question and didn't just assume.

I attend Cooley (third term now) and its great. My GPA was great and my work experience was great but I froze on the LSAT and decided to send in my apps and re-apply if I didn't get in. I was admitted to Cooley and talked to two Prosecutors who attended Cooley and a current student. All of them had great things to say about Cooley. After going there now for almost a year, I completely agree with them.

I do think that Cooley gets a bad rap because they will give chances to students who had lower LSAT scores. Some people think the LSAT is a predictor of success and some don't. I'm proof that the LSAT is not a predictor and as far as I am concerned, all the hype is bull. My grades are excellent. I do believe that their attrition rate is higher but as far as I am concerned, that is to be expected from a school that doesn't treat law students like they have to have a silver spoon in their mouths just to be admitted. Cooley actually looks at the whole person which is more than I can say for alot of other schools.

I saw the bar passage rate for this year and it was bad. I will admit that I was concerned and I looked into it. I received information from an extremely reliable source and found out that the people who did not pass did not take the prep classes recommended by the school. All of those who did take the prep courses passed and Cooley has now made the prep classes and practice exams mandatory prior to graduation.

The instruction is excellent and quite frankly, from talking to students from other schools, Cooley's requirements once you get in are stricter than other schools and it is harder to stay in.

Cooley just released a report of law school rankings (its somewhere on their website) where ABA calculations were used to determine rankings of law school. And, oh my god, its impossible, but Cooley is not the proverbial hell hole everyone wants to think it is. They used ABA rankings and not U.S. News and World Report rankings. Somehow, (gee, I really can't for the life of me understand why) but I think I trust the ABA criteria over U.S. News and World Report. Go figure.

Bottom line, don't believe people who know nothing about the school or who like to jump on the opinion bandwagon. Do your own investigation and find out the truth. Only you can decide what the truth is and only you are going to have to live with your choice.

Good luck and I wish you well in whatever decision you make.

David Bakody

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Re: Is Thomas Cooley Lw School Really That Bad????
« Reply #7 on: January 29, 2004, 09:35:02 AM »
I am happy to hear that your experience with Cooley is turning out to be a positive one.  That is very encouraging to me and probably others who are weighing the option of going to Cooley.  Like you, my LSAT wasn't very high (151), but my grades were ok (gpa 3.53).  Since I'm 37 years old, Cooley might be a better fit for me regardless.

sergei33

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Re: Is Thomas Cooley Lw School Really That Bad????
« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2004, 08:32:56 PM »
Here is my Cooley experience, for what it is worth.  I had mediocore grades and a good LSAT - a 3.2 from Michigan and a 169.  My decision was geographical, however: I was only looking at law schools in the State of Michigan (at the time there were 5).  I was waitlisted at Michigan (my undergrad), accepted at DCL w/ no scholarship offer, and accepted at Cooley with a 50% scholarship (the same grades/LSAT would be full ride today).  I chose Cooley rather than waiting for Michigan.  My first hint at an anti-Cooley animus was when I was told that choosing Cooley over Michigan meant I "must be on crack."  I was in part going by the ABA study which indicated that for the first two years of laws school there is virtually no difference in the quality of education you receive from any ABA-approved school.  I found Cooley to be a bit bipolar - on one hand they have an expansive admissions policy; on the other the classes are very hard.  In my entire career there I had one exam that allowed any kind of outline or book in the exam.  I am told that most of the 1st-tier schools allow such materials.  Not only is the subject material difficult to grasp (every law school is largely self-taught) but the format of any law school is unlike anything most people have tried before - one test per class, and that is your only grade.  I got good at it, earning 11 book awards, serving on the law review, and having a research paper of my own published. I clerked twice during my tenure and graduated 2nd in my class.  Based on those credentials, I felt confident about my Cooley experience and confident about my job prospects.  I was mistaken.  Not necessarily about Cooley, but about the legal industry itself.  To step back a bit, one should consider what the legal business is really like.  According to the ABA more than 60% of lawyers still practice in small or solo firms.  To over simplify a bit, there are two kinds of places you might work (assuming private practice): a small firm or a big firm.  A small firm will only hire when it has a specific need, and then can rarely afford to hire a new graduate - they need someone to immediately generate income.  Large firms virtually only hire one way: seasonally, and out of the pool of their summer associates.  Given that framework, here is what I found as the (almost) universal mindset of lawyers looking to hire recent graduates: the most important criteria (in this order) are (1) your grades, (2) where you went to school, (3) any experience you have.  Note that only the last has any direct application to your ability to do the work; these criteria make it easier on the decision maker.  Thus good grades are the first layer of no-brainer filtering; school reputation is the second layer.  To get back to my experience, I had a lot of interviews with some of the best and biggest firms in Detroit, none of which led to offers.  The only job I was able to find, after more than 2 years of looking (I started while early in 3L) came about literally by dumb luck and good salesmanship - with a small firm.  The cold fact is that Cooley has a poor reputation - regardless of whether it is deserved.  I believed at the time that I could be a good lawyer; I know now that I am.  Very few people were willing to take the chance, however, solely because of unthinking criteria.  As a caveat, I suspect this is the case for any "4th tier" school, although I cannot say from personal experience.  If a lot of Cooley grads are working for the government, bear in mind that one should not conclude that is the only place they work nor that they stay in those jobs: your first job is just that, a first job.  I am now 1/2 of a two-person firm, representing some of the biggest land developers in the state.  My peers and clients respect my work, I am making good money, and my quality of life is more than I had hopedfor this early in my career.  To a certain extent it is because of Cooley; to a certain extent it is despite Cooley.  If I had to do it over again, I don't know that I would choose Cooley again, but I still hang that massive diploma above my desk, and my State Bar card is the same shape and size as every other lawyer's in Michigan.

Sorry for the length of the post, but that's what you get for asking. ;D