WMU-Cooley Law GR changes leadership

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By Cynthia Price

Though new Associate Dean Tracey Brame of WMU-Cooley Law School  had served as the Grand Rapids campus assistant dean under Nelson P. Miller,  she says it is still amazing just how broad the job is.

“Nelson and I worked for ten years together; we were sort of yin and yang. I would go to places he couldn’t be, that kind of thing. But even having helped him in many ways, there was a whole lot that he did I wasn’t familiar with. So it’s been a real learning curve,” says Dean Brame, who transitioned into the position Jan. 1.

Dean Miller has not retired, but returned to focusing on teaching. He based his decision on a conviction that he had achieved the vast majority of his goals for the school, accomplishing a lot within the administrative framework.

“I was the campus dean for ten years, and there really wasn’t anything more to do. Since I still want to do more personally, I needed to make a change,”?Miller says. “For example, the Grand Rapids campus has maintained a 75% Michigan bar pass rate. I want to do something where I can meet new challenges.”

A practicing litigator for 16 years before joining WMU-Cooley, one of the many things he wants to do is expand his pro bono work. Dean Miller has won the State Bar’s John W. Cummiskey Award for pro bono work in the past, among many other accolades.

He received his B.A. from Indiana University and his J.D. from University of Michigan Law School. Then, some 30 years ago, he settled in Grand Haven.

There, he serves as operations manager for his over-1000-member church, Covenant Life, which renovated and moved into the abandoned piano factory. “I’m actually managing a larger staff and building than  at Cooley,” Miller says.

He will also co-edit the Institute for Continuing Legal Education’s Causes of Action form book

Dean Miller will always be Dean Miller, however, because he was given the title of Associate Dean Emeritus at WMU-Cooley’s January convocation. The award was a total surprise to him, and was accompanied by widespread delight and congratulations on the part of his colleagues and the students.

“It was much, much appreciated after all these years of service,” he says.

His skill at teaching – he is continuing to teach Torts I and II – should also not be underestimated. One of Dean Brame’s new responsibilities is to review teacher evaluations, and she says that Miller’s are extraordinarily good.

Dean Brame  notes that one of the high points of her first two months has been the “tremendous” amount of faculty support she’s received.

She brings a wealth of experience to WMU-Cooley; prior to starting there in 2006, she was a staff attorney for Legal Aid of West Michigan, an attorney for the District of Columbia Public Defender Services, a researcher/writer for the Federal Defender’s office, and an assistant defender with the State Appellate Defender Office.

In addition to overseeing the Grand Rapids campus, Brame, who founded WMU-Cooley’s Access to Justice Clinic,   is the Associate Dean for the WMU-Cooley Kalamazoo location on the Western Michigan University campus. In Brame’s previous position as assistant dean, she focused primarily on student liaison, in terms of both discipline and support.  Victoria Vuletich has been named to take her place.

Well-known for her dedication to, and expertise in, ethics and professionalism, Vuletich presents and writes widely on the topic, and a few years ago was a guest lecturer at Oxford University.

“Victoria ... will definitely play a mentorship role,” Dean Brame says.

“I’ll also continue representing WMU-Cooley externally, which is a big job, but then there’s this huge breadth of other issues I need to deal with: spoiled chocolate milk due to mechanical problems, personnel issues, becoming an amateur meteorologist to determine whether to cancel class. And lots and lots of signatures,” she says.

“But, you know what, I’m really enjoying it,” she adds.

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