Monday Profile: Mark Cooney

By Jo Mathis

Legal News

Mark Cooney is a professor at Thomas M. Cooley Law School’s Ann Arbor campus, where he teaches writing courses. Before joining Cooley’s faculty, he spent 10 years in private practice with civil-litigation firms, most recently Collins, Einhorn, Farrell & Ulanoff, in Southfield. He specialized in civil appeals, defending legal- and medical-malpractice cases and other tort cases. 

Cooney recently published his first book, Sketches on Legal Style, a collection of new and previously published short pieces on legal writing. He has authored articles on legal writing and is  a frequent contributor to the Michigan Bar Journal's “Plain Language” column. He is the editor-in-chief of “The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing,” has chaired the State Bar's Appellate Practice Section and has served as a plain-language consultant on the State Bar's Standing Committee on Standard Criminal Jury Instructions. 

Residence:  Milford. 


Currently reading …“Poetry” by John Keats. 


My mother always told me …“Don’t tell the reader. Show the reader.”     

What is your most treasured material possession?  My 1976 Fender Stratocaster. You can burn my house down and wreck my car, but don’t touch my Strat.


What advice do you have for someone considering law school?  If you like writing, this is the profession for you. 


If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be?  Lost, as I was before I found the law.


Favorite local hangouts:  Dawn Treader Book Shop in downtown Ann Arbor and Seoul Street on Plymouth (for my BiBimBop fix). 


Your proudest moment(s) as a lawyer?   Winning a pro bono case that I took on the side as a second-year lawyer. I was able to get unemployment benefits for my client, who’d been fired and denied benefits by a boss who had red horns and a barbed tail.   


What is your happiest childhood memory? Fishing at a family friend’s farm pond.


Which things do you not like to do?  Administrate. Logistics and schedules make me itchy.


What would surprise people about your job? The many hours of work outside the classroom. 


What’s your greatest achievement? My strong, happy family relationships, especially with my wife and our two wonderful teenage daughters. 


At Thanksgiving dinner, would you rather talk politics, religion or the weather?  The religion of food and wine.


What would you say to your 16-year-old self?  “Be more loving.”


Favorite joke:   The only thing that two trial lawyers can agree on is what a third trial lawyer is doing wrong.


If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?  I’d stop people from shooting each other. We’ve got to stop shooting each other.

Must-see TV:  “Midsomer Murders” or “Inspector Lewis.”


What’s your favorite animal?  Brook trout.


If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be?  My grandfathers, who both died before I was born. I‘ll happily settle for two people instead of three if I can finally meet those two men. 


Who is your favorite character of fiction?  Sherlock Holmes.


Favorite movie: “Escanaba in da Moonlight.”


Favorite law-related movie: “Anatomy of a Murder.”   


Favorite place to spend money:   A fly shop.  


What is your motto?  “If you don’t ask, nobody can say yes.”


Where would you like to be when you're 90?  Fly fishing on the Au Sable River. (Easier wading than the Manistee, and I may not be quite as nimble then.).