First-year law classes will be offered in Kalamazoo next year. They’ll be part of the curriculum at the newly renamed Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School. The two schools have been working on an affiliation agreement for three years. Officials of both schools say that will also include a law minor for Western students and a “Three-Plus-Three” program allowing students to get their bachelor’s degree and a law degree in just six years.
Leaders of WMU and Cooley Law School announced the initiatives Wednesday. They say the law school will remain an independent private non-profit organization. There are no current plans to build a separate law school facility on the university’s Kalamazoo campus. Cooley currently offers classes in several other Michigan cities including Grand Rapids as well as Tampa Bay, Florida.
WMU President John Dunn says work on the affiliation agreement with Cooley has been underway for three years. The two schools have had a cooperative arrangement for a decade. Dunn says Western needed “access to the study of law” and it makes more sense to affiliate with an existing program than to create a new one. The chairman of WMU’s Board of Trustees says the university and the law school need to adapt in order to survive in a changing academic environment. Ken Miller, who graduated from both, says every program at Western could benefit from the tie with Cooley.
This year has seen some turbulence for Cooley. In July it announced that it was halting enrollment at its Ann Arbor campus and might eventually close it. But officials at Cooley and WMU were quick to point out that any problems in Ann Arbor would not affect the relationship between the two schools, or their plans to bring law school programs to Kalamazoo.
The name change of the law school has been approved in Michigan but it still must be cleared by officials in Florida.