Educating students 'in the ways of professionalism'


Pictured are (left to right) Dennis Archer, former Michigan Supreme Court Justice, Detroit mayor and ABA president; Edward Pappas, Professionalism Advisory Committee chair and former State Bar of Michigan president; Cheryl Niro, former Illinois State Bar Association president; Don LeDuc, Cooley president and dean; Melvin Wright, Jr., director of the North Carolina Chief Justice's Commission on Professionalism and former Chair of the ABA Committee on Professionalism; Amy Timmer, Cooley associate dean of students and professionalism; and John Berry, former chair of the ABA Professionalism Committee.

Thomas M. Cooley Law School recently brought together nearly 60 leaders in the legal and higher education fields for the school’s inaugural Professionalism Advisory Committee meeting held at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn.

The objective, according to organizers, was to identify professionalism issues that impact the practice of law and higher education and to create a dialogue on ways to improve and promote professionalism in legal education.

The committee’s efforts will result in recommendations for Cooley to consider for the next decade of its professionalism programming.

“We are at a critical time in our professionalism programming, having implemented the professionalism plan we adopted in 2002 that was recognized in 2006 by the American Bar Association as one of the best among the nation’s law schools,” said Amy Timmer, associate dean of students and professionalism at Cooley. “This new committee will guide our efforts for the next decade and help us continue to graduate the most professional, service-oriented, and ethical lawyers in the country.”

Committee members include heads of Michigan law firms, presidents of Michigan colleges, judges, bar association presidents, and past chairs of the ABA Committee on Professionalism and the national Consortium on Professionalism Initiatives.

One of Cooley’ professionalism principles is its focus on students, officials say.

“We believe that all of us — staff, students, faculty, alumni and community members — have a stake in educating the law student in the ways of professionalism,” said Timmer.

Current Cooley students worked along side committee members to help identify issues and shape the recommendations.

Edward H. Pappas, chairman, Dickinson Wright PLLC and former State Bar of Michigan president, serves as the chair for the advisory committee.

During his term as SBM president, Pappas made professionalism the theme for his administration.

“Part of my effort to improve the professionalism of lawyers included reaching out to law schools to find ways to communicate to law students the importance of professionalism in our legal careers,” said Pappas. “Cooley Law School immediately partnered with the State Bar to pilot a program during its orientation for incoming students. Following the pilot, Cooley began offering the ‘Professionalism in Action’ orientation program at all of its campuses.”

Following the break-out sessions and keynote address by former Michigan Supreme Court Justice, Detroit Mayor and ABA President Dennis Archer, the committee reviewed several professionalism issues and recommended steps to be used as guiding principles that will prepare students for the ethical challenges of the legal profession.

Cooley Law School currently has 17 programs devoted to professionalism in the practice of law, including the professionalism
orientation and oath during students’ first days, and mentoring, pro bono service for the indigent, and a professional development course throughout their enrollment at Cooley. The school also has professional principles that are upheld by students and faculty alike.