Cooley alum 'overjoyed' with prestigious award


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Recent Cooley alumna Veller Morris almost went into a career in radiology — and it was sheer serendipity that she instead took a legal studies program.

In her first undergraduate semester at the New York City Technical College, Morris took liberal arts.

In her second semester, she chose to specialize in the radiology program — only to find a week later the program was no longer offered.

She then plumped for legal studies.

“Once I chose the legal studies program, the radiology program was reinstated that same semester. It was then I realize an unseen hand was guiding me,” she said. “Once I discovered my calling and my passion for the law, I never stopped pursuing my goal to go to law school until I got accepted at Western Michigan Cooley Law School in September 2018.”

Morris got her initial peek into the legal world in her first job, as a receptionist/legal assistant at a law firm in the Woolworth Building, in Manhattan.

“I was assigned to an attorney who made the work seem fun and exciting and I quickly learned from him,” she said. “He used to say the ‘defendants were bad, and they were liars.’ I was very impressionable at that time and believed every word he said.

“However, soon enough, I later learned the plaintiffs also lied and that busted my bubble, and shattered my world of innocence and dispelled the notion of my belief that ‘defendants were bad, and they are liars’—but it was a learning experience and it helped me to become a better person and a paralegal.”

 Morris, who prior to law school spent 4-1/2 years as a legal assistant at Mallilo and Grossman in Queens, N.Y., thoroughly enjoyed her experience at Cooley.

She said that during orientation, on the first day of school, she “felt a sense of belonging and knew in my heart this was the type of family I wanted to be a part of.” 

Morris considers serving as associate editor for the Law Journal as one on her greatest achievements and accomplishments at Cooley.

“After I took scholarly writing, I was determined to get on one of the journals at the school and so I applied for and got accepted to the position as associate editor on the Law Journal. I really enjoyed being an associate editor because it opened up my world to the process of editing one’s work before it could be published.

After successfully completing Scholarly Writing, Morris wrote her first article, “Nuisance Law - The Little Axe that Cut Down the Giant Tree," published in the Ingham County Bar Association newsletter BRIEFS last January.

“Long before I got accepted into Scholarly Writing, I began brainstorming about my topic because I wanted to be ready once class started,” Morris said. 

One day, while listening to the news, she heard about the verdict against Johnson & Johnson and big pharmacies; how that for many years prosecutors have been trying to bring a case against them to make them pay for the damages caused by the opioid addiction in the country.

When Morris heard the reporter say that “it was the Nuisance Law that conquered them, it was at that moment I knew I found my topic,” she said.

“My article was really about showing how an ancient law, like the Nuisance Law was used to overcome injustice that was perpetrated by big pharmaceuticals on the population,” Morris added. “So even though the law seems to be insignificant, it played a big role in bringing these giant pharmaceuticals to their knees by declaring that the opioid addiction was a nuisance to society because of the increase rate in suicide and opioid overdose.”

In early December, as she approached her final months at Cooley, Morris was one of 1,100 successful applicants selected out of 8,065 applications for the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program Class of 2022.

The finalists' pool represented about 100 different academic disciplines and 300 academic institutions worldwide.

The program, administered by the U.S Office of Personnel Management, values leadership, problem-solving, strategic thinking and other qualities that lead to excellent service in a future career in the government.

In addition to working at a government agency, finalists also have the opportunity to be included in a rotational program simultaneously. PMF finalists receive 160 hours of formal interactive training, challenging work assignments, feedback on their work, four- to six-month developmental assignment, and other career-oriented benefits during their two-year appointment. 

“When I was awarded the fellowship to be a 2022 finalist, I was overjoyed, and I felt honored to be part of the most prestigious and coveted PMF program with the federal government,” Morris said.

She said her “career goal is to be the type of lawyer that would protect the defenseless — whether in courthouse, or through policy making — and to ensure equal justice under the law is truly equal to all people.”

She also has found time to give back to the community, participating in helping with food bank packaging for distribution at WMU-Cooley Law School and delivering care packets to the homeless with the Lansing Seventh Day Adventist Church.

Originally from the Caribbean island country of Grenada, Morris now makes her home in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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