With the first two law classes now underway on the Kalamazoo campus, Western Michigan University and WMU-Cooley Law School officials have signed a series of new agreements that will continue and expand of legal education in West Michigan.

Photo: Western Michigan University. Used by permission.

The terms of the new agreements are already enabling the delivery this semester of two upper-level law classes on the WMU campus in Kalamazoo. Classes in employment and environmental law--the first WMU-Cooley law classes offered on the WMU campus--began Jan. 11. The new agreements also will pave the way for a group of first-year law students to begin basic legal education on the WMU campus in fall 2016.

The three new agreements cover facilities use, courses and programs, and parking. They were signed by WMU President John M. Dunn and WMU-Cooley President and Dean Don LeDuc during a brief public ceremony. Additional agreements are being developed, along with a series of new initiatives triggered by the affiliation the two schools launched in August 2014. The affiliation formally links the private law school and public university, but allows both to retain their governance and fiduciary independence.

"This is a great affiliation with a very fine law school," said Dunn at the signing. "It is also, for the people of Michigan and locations well beyond, a great example of how to work our way through challenging times and expand opportunity for our students in a powerful way without relying on state resources."

Both presidents praised the agreements as developments that signal enhanced opportunity for students and new opportunities for faculty and staff. For the law school, LeDuc noted, the affiliation also fulfills a directive from the American Bar Association that private law schools should expand their ties to universities.

"It is different for us to be part of a University structure, and we're appreciative of the complexity of a big, powerful and wonderful institution like WMU," LeDuc said. "The relationship has already allowed us to enhance research and grant opportunities and, for instance, secure support for the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project, which works to exonerate people unjustly convicted of a crime."

Among new opportunities that are a result of the agreements signed Jan. 19 are such initiatives as:

• Accelerated programs that will allow WMU students to complete both an undergraduate and law degree in a time frame shorter than the traditional seven years--saving the students time and tuition dollars;

• Cross listing of courses that will allow WMU graduate students to take law classes and law students to take graduate courses, with each earning credits toward their respective degree programs; and

• Dual courses that will be team taught by faculty at both schools.

Source: WMU release