Kudos Cooley: Law School graduate honored with two awards


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Andrea Muroto Bilabaye’s interest in the law was sparked in high school, when an attorney gave a Career Day presentation. “I remember her discussing how diverse the practice of law is, and I was drawn to the idea of constantly learning new things,” she says.

During undergrad from Loyola University Chicago, where she earned her degree, summa cum laude, in political science, Muroto Bilabaye interned at the Cook County Public Defender’s Office; and before starting law school, served as a law clerk to the now-retired Hon. Michael J. Baumgartner of the 34th Circuit Court in Roscommon.

A January 2018 graduate of Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, Muroto Bilabaye was among the top students of her class, earned 15 certificates of merit; was on the dean’s list and honor roll; and last fall received Alumni Distinguished Student and Student Bar Association Leadership Achievement awards during the Lansing campus honors convocation.

“I was very grateful,” she says. “To be selected from a pool of so many other qualified students was truly an honor, and it inspires me to keep working hard.

“The thing I enjoy most about Cooley Law is the professors,” she adds. “Not only are they all very knowledgeable in their respective fields, but they are also amazing people who constantly go out of their way to help students.”

A winner of the intra-school Mock Trial and Moot Court competitions, Muroto Bilabaye was invited to join Cooley’s team for the Stetson National Pretrial Competition, held last fall in the Tampa Bay area. The team made it to the semifinals and finished third overall.

“It was a wonderful experience—I got to work with two extremely knowledgeable coaches and three other very talented students—one of which was my husband, Geofrey,” she says. “I really enjoyed being able to share that experience with him.”   

Muroto Bilabaye had earlier participated in the February 2017 Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition.

“This was an excellent experience because I got to hone my oral argument skills, a vital part of appellate advocacy—my desired practice area,” she says. “My husband was my partner for that competition as well, so that made my experience even better!

“Competitions are truly invaluable because they closely simulate a genuine courtroom experience, which you do not get in a traditional classroom setting,” she adds.  “When the time comes for me to appear before an actual court, I’ll feel far more confident because of the skills I learned by participating in these competitions.”

Muroto Bilabaye served as chair of the Mock Trial executive board and as public relations chair of the Alternative Dispute Resolution executive board.

“I enjoyed working with others in the law school community and planning events when I was part of these organizations,” she says. “I hope to be active in other legal organizations after I become an attorney.”

Muroto Bilabaye has been working since last August as a law clerk at the Speaker Law Firm—a boutique appellate firm in Lansing specializing in family law.

“It’s been an excellent experience,” she says. “I truly love doing appellate work, and family law is a great area because I’m helping people fight for the things that are most important to them. Our staff is wonderful, and I’m very lucky to be mentored by two amazing attorneys, Liisa Speaker and Jennifer Alberts.”

Muroto Bilabaye’s career goal is to become an appellate attorney, an excellent fit with her passion for research and writing; and she also would eventually like to teach law.

“While in law school, I worked as a teaching assistant for Research and Writing and as a graduate assistant in Cooley’s Academic Resource Center—both positions involved teaching other students, and I enjoyed that,” she says.

Muroto Bilabaye is proud of co-founding the law school’s annual World Celebration potluck dinner, along with her husband and with Professor Bradley Charles.

“We wanted to celebrate Cooley’s diversity, and we thought allowing people to share the food of their ancestors would be the perfect way to do so,” she says. “We had an excellent turnout, and the second annual World Celebration is scheduled to be held at the end of January.”

A native of Houghton Lake, since graduating high school Muroto Bilabaye has lived in several places, including New York City, Chicago, and London. “I enjoyed the big-city experience, but I’m happy to be back in Michigan now, closer to my family,” she says.

She and her husband make their home in Lansing, where her leisure pursuits include cooking, reading, crafting, and spending time with her family.   

Muroto Bilabaye and her husband met while working as graduate assistants at Cooley’s Academic Resource Center, and they tied the knot last May. Next year, they plan on having a vow renewal ceremony in Geofrey’s homeland of Tanzania.

“It will be my first time visiting Africa, and I can’t wait,” she says. “Geofrey is helping me learn Swahili, and I hope to be at least somewhat proficient by the time we visit—however, it’s a very difficult language to learn!”