WMU-Cooley student says the hard work for his 4.0 GPA results from his love of the law



by Cynthia Price
Legal News

“Well, yes, I’ve been working hard, but it’s because I really love this,” says Cody Brooks, who is on track to graduate from Western Michigan University-Cooley Law School with a perfect 4.0 GPA in May. “I enjoy my classes, I like doing the research, I love all of it, and that makes it easy to motivate myself.”

“I also like participating outside of class, being active. You just kind of have to own your experience,” Brooks continues.

Brooks was one of four winners of the WMU-Cooley Grand Rapids campus Leadership Awards because he has done an excellent job on both the academic and extracurricular fronts.

Brooks served as a teaching assistant for Professors Paul Sorensen, Tonya Krause-Phalen, Chris Hastings, and Victoria Vuletich. “I really enjoyed being a teaching assistant,” he comments.

In addition, he was on both the Mock Trial and Moot Court leadership boards (and participated in both, including the Nationals in Mock Trial), and was the  Student Development and Administration chair. He was also the resource editor for the Law Review; a member of the student Federal Bar Association, serving as vice president; and involved with the Liquor Law Society.

He particularly enjoyed Moot Court, which may have given him a direction for his future career. “Mock Trial is about the factual arguments, but Moot Court is more about the legal arguments. The teams of two each prepare the legal issues for both the petitioner and the respondent. It’s really fun. One of the best parts I think is that the [people playing the] judges interrupt you like in the real appellate courts. They ask you things like, ‘Why don’t you think this is as important?’ So you learn to express respect for the judges, and how to stick to your argument,” Brooks explains.

He says as a result of that and other experiences, he is leaning towards wanting to do appellate work after graduation.

Brooks says that he also attended an en banc session of the DC Circuit Court when he worked for the Summer Law Internship Program at the Department of Justice last year.

For that internship, he was assigned to the Professional Responsibility Advisory Office. The PRAO is not to be confused with  the Office of Professional Responsibility, which handles complaints, but rather exists to advise DOJ attorneys on ethics and professional conduct.

When approached by an attorney with a question, usually over a sort of “hotline,” the PRAO gives its response as promptly as possible. Brooks says that the clerks’ assignment was to research the state rules that would apply to the attorney’s situation and report the findings to the PRAO employees who would counsel the attorney in the matter.

“Each state determines the professional responsibility rules, and the federal courts have a rule that generally adopts the ethics rules of the state,” Brooks says.

Though the interns did not handle full cases, Brooks says his supervisor allowed him to sit in on a couple of the complaint calls. “He’d get the attorney’s permission first, and they would usually say something like, ‘Make sure you remind him of confidentiality,’ but then would say OK. They had a broad array of questions – ­­­confidentiality, disclosure obligations, interviewing witnesses, a couple conflict of interest – across the whole spectrum,” Brooks says.

Originally raised in Chelsea, near Ann Arbor, Brooks came to Grand Valley State University for his undergraduate degree. “I started as a math major, but I stopped enjoying math, and at the same time really enjoyed my Criminal Justice 101 introduction class, so I switched, and ended up loving it.”

He received his Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice with an emphasis in Law Enforcement. Following that, he moved back to Chelsea for a while, working as a barista, but had already made the move back to Grand Rapids when he decided to apply for law school.

According to Brooks, his experience at WMU-Cooley has been superb. “I’ve always been so happy with our professors here. They all can talk from a point of view of ‘this is how it works in practice.’ And they’re always willing to be there for you; they’ll put in the work if you will. There are very good communications between the professors and the students.”

Where does he go from here? Brooks is applying for judicial clerkships. But he says, “I’m really interested in a lot of aspects, though I’m definitely leaning towards being a litigator. I started out wanting to be a federal prosecutor and that certainly still appeals to me, but since I really loved my experience with the moot court, I’d also be happy doing appellate work. Another area that interests me a lot is Federal Indian law, how tribal and state law work together.” Brooks is writing an article for the next  WMU-Cooley Law Review on the last subject.

He says, “I know you don’t get your dream job right out of law school, so I’m concentrating on the judicial clerkships first, applying all over the country.” But he adds, “I’d be happy doing any type of law, really.”