Cooley breaks ground and begins renovations on Tampa Bay campus

The Thomas M. Cooley Law School broke ground Tuesday on its newest campus in Riverview, near Tampa Bay, Fla., the fifth campus for the nation's largest law school. Cooley has four campuses in Michigan: Lansing, Auburn Hills, Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor.

"It's a great day in Florida and a great day for Cooley Law School," said Jeff Martlew, associate dean of Cooley's Tampa Bay campus during his opening remarks. "Our expansion into Florida brings an extraordinary practical legal education model to an underserved population of individuals seeking a flexible law degree program. Cooley has nearly 900 alumni living here, and 5 percent of our current student population are residents of Florida."

The Tampa Bay campus will begin offering evening classes in May 2012 followed by morning classes in September 2012 and afternoon classes in January 2013. The full curriculum will be rolled out over a three-year period.

Beyond Cooley's large alumni base in Florida, Cooley has had a growing presence in the Tampa Bay area through its 122 approved externship sites and its Service to Soldiers: Legal Assistance Program. The program expanded into Florida in January.

"We are pleased to welcome Cooley to our region," said Pedro Bajo, president of the Hillsborough County Bar Association. "In recent years, Cooley has offered complimentary training to local attorneys who wanted to be part of the American Bar Association's (ABA) Military Pro Bono Project. The program prepares local attorneys to represent members of the military in legal issues ranging from child custody concerns to housing and rental disputes."

In August, the ABA's Council on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar accepted the recommendation of the Accreditation Committee to acquiesce in the Thomas M. Cooley Law School's application to open a Tampa Bay-area campus. The campus has also been approved by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association and the Florida Department of Education, Commission for Independent Education.

The site of the Tampa Bay campus, located at 9445 Camden Field Parkway, in Riverview, Fla., includes a 130,000-square-foot building that was previously occupied by Progressive Insurance. Cooley also purchased an adjacent property that, when combined, will provide a large campus setting of 13.3 acres with more than 500 parking spaces.

"We welcome Cooley to Hillsborough County," said Al Higginbotham, chairman of the Hillsborough County Commission. "Cooley Law School will have a great economic impact on the area by bringing several hundred students, faculty and staff to this new campus."

Renovations are expected to begin on Sept. 26. The facility will be occupied in three phases, with the first two phases to be completed prior to classes starting. Phase I plans call for office spaces to be occupied in January of 2012. Phase II will include the library, classrooms and more office space. All renovations are expected to be completed in late 2012.

Published: Thu, Sep 22, 2011