THE OPPORTUNITY

Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School (“WMU-Cooley” or the “Law School”) seeks a collaborative leader and experienced educator to serve as President and Dean. Founded over 45 years ago with an access mission, WMU-Cooley is committed to providing a rigorous program of legal education for a large and diverse student body. WMU-Cooley seeks a President and Dean who is committed to innovative legal education, is enthusiastic about developing and promoting the Law School, and recognizes the challenges and value of its mission.

A successful candidate must demonstrate an unwavering record of ethical decision-making, an inclusive and positive leadership style, and a deep commitment to providing rigorous and demanding educational opportunities for populations historically underrepresented in the legal profession. A successful candidate will also demonstrate a leadership approach that can foster a collegial and supportive environment that joins all campus communities in a common institutional culture to achieve institutional goals.

ABOUT THE LAW SCHOOL

WMU-Cooley is a large law school with campuses in Auburn Hills, Michigan; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Lansing, Michigan; and Riverview (near Tampa), Florida. The Law School also recently obtained approval to offer a 60-credit program on the campus of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  

WMU-Cooley is a private, independent, non-profit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt law school dedicated to teaching students the knowledge, skills, and ethics needed to succeed in legal practice and to be valuable members of society.  The Law School is affiliated with Western Michigan University, a major national research university, enrolling more than 23,000 students from across the United States and 100 other countries.  As an independent institution, the Law School is solely responsible for its academic program.

The Law School’s faculty is highly regarded for its practice experience and its teaching excellence. Most faculty members practiced extensively before joining WMU-Cooley. And despite working year-round, often teaching multiple sections and different courses in the same term, WMU-Cooley professors are universally engaged with students; committed to supervising student organizations and externships; deeply involved in community outreach; and prolific in their contributions to scholarship and local and national media. WMU-Cooley has been a national leader in elevating clinical and legal-writing faculty to tenure-track status and as full members of the Faculty Conference.

The Law School has also been at the vanguard in making a law-school education accessible to non-traditional students, offering nighttime and weekend classes, and developing an innovative blended-learning program using the Law School’s distance-learning technologies.

The Law School distinguishes itself by providing students with opportunities to participate in a variety of clinics to develop their skills and connect them with the critical role of lawyers in our society.  The Innocence Project advocates for wrongfully imprisoned individuals; the Access to Justice Clinic helps those seeking to expunge their criminal convictions; the Debt Relief Clinic provides debt-related legal assistance on issues arising from past-due medical/hospital bills, loans, predatory lending,  and unfair/abusive collections practices for under-served individuals in Hillsborough County, Florida; the Estate Planning Clinic is a one-term live-client clinic available for evening and weekend students; the Family Law Assistance Project is a two-term clinic where students represent low-income people in family law and domestic violence matters in Oakland County Circuit Court; the Public Defenders Clinic has students working on a variety of criminal cases; and the Sixty Plus, Inc., Elderlaw Clinic is a two-term, in-house, live-client clinic that provides free legal assistance to elderly residents of Ingham, Eaton, and Clinton counties in Michigan.

The WMU-Cooley Lansing campus, which is the Law School’s administrative headquarters, sits in the midst of downtown in Michigan’s capital city. Students attend class in the Cooley Center, a modern 10-story building just steps from the Michigan Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, local courts, and numerous law firms, both big and small.  The Lansing facilities, like all of the Law School’s facilities at all of its campuses, are outfitted with distance-education capabilities.  Although Lansing is the seat of state government, it retains a small-town atmosphere with a cost-of-living index below the national average, and natural areas and lakes abound. The city is home to the minor league baseball team, The Lugnuts, who play in Cooley Law School Stadium less than a mile from campus. For anyone wishing to take in Big 10 sports and internationally acclaimed entertainment choices, Michigan State University sits less than 10 minutes away.

WMU-Cooley has been accredited by the American Bar Association, the Higher Learning Commission, and a member of the North Central Association and is licensed in Florida by the Commission for Independent Education of the Florida Department of Education.  

PRESIDENT AND DEAN’S ROLE AND RESPONSIBILITIES

The President and Dean of the Law School is the chief executive of the Law School and the public face of the institution, representing its interests and promoting its mission in interactions with multiple external constituencies, including the media, the public, the bar, the Law School’s accrediting agencies, and alumni.  The President and Dean will also, in coordination with academic officers, assist in maintaining high standards of teaching and scholarship and implement policies and programs designed to attract qualified applicants to WMU-Cooley and make them successful law students and lawyers.  The successful candidate will present a comprehensive plan to prioritize the elevation of WMU-Cooley in the eyes of potential applicants and the legal community more generally.

As a key part of the Law School’s leadership team, the President and Dean must communicate transparently and comprehensively with both the Law School’s Faculty Conference and the Law School’s Board of Directors, fostering a relationship between the two that is characterized by openness, teamwork, and common purpose.  WMU-Cooley seeks to develop a commitment to achieving outcome-based, data-driven admissions and curriculum planning, with the use of formative assessment in teaching and learning and in promoting critical thinking, problem-solving and creativity as a leading educational organization.

The President and Dean, again in coordination with academic officers and the faculty, will be responsible for enhancing the Law School’s standing based, in part, on the following:

  • Leading efforts to integrate the Law School with its affiliate, Western Michigan University, and maintaining and increasing cross-disciplinary and collaborative relationships between the Law School and Western Michigan University;
  • Developing a modern and effective brand for the Law School as it works to enhance its standing on multiple fronts;
  • Instituting and executing robust development and marketing programs and increasing the financial resources available to the Law School and its endowment through these efforts;
  • Providing decisive and smart leadership in managing the structural, financial, and human resources of the Law School, particularly given the Law School’s considerable footprint and facilities;
  • Recruiting and retaining a qualified and diverse student body;
  • Leading the Law School in its commitment to the effective assessment of student knowledge, skills, ethics, and competencies;  
  • Ensuring that WMU-Cooley’s graduates are prepared to pass a state bar examination and obtain gainful legal employment after graduating;
  • Maintaining the Law School’s commitment to providing a rigorous and demanding curriculum and program of education;
  • Developing a strong partnership with faculty and continuing to elevate the role of faculty in the Law School and communities we serve;
  • Working with the Faculty Conference and the Board of Directors to develop and implement a multi-year strategic plan for the Law School with defined priorities, objectives, outcomes, and actionable strategies to achieve the ultimate objective of student success-with programs against the strategic objectives evaluated each year.

CANDIDATE QUALIFICATIONS

The successful candidate will bring many of the following qualifications and qualities to the position:

  • Deep understanding of the financial and pedagogical challenges facing legal education today, particularly at law schools committed to an access mission;
  • J.D. with academic accomplishments meriting tenure at the rank of full professor at WMU-Cooley and a record of excellence in teaching, scholarship and service (extensive classroom experience is preferred);
  • Experience dealing effectively and cooperatively with regulatory and accrediting agencies or associations;
  • Demonstrated commitment to diversity and the provision of a rigorous academic experience for historically underrepresented populations;
  • Ability to convey to prospective students the importance of and opportunities created by obtaining a legal degree;
  • Set the standard for ethical and professional behaviors expected of all lawyers;
  • Strong management and financial skills;
  • Ability to articulate a clear vision for the Law School;
  • Fundraising experience and success in developing donor relationships;
  • Leadership style that emphasizes consensus-building and transparency, and a demonstrated appreciation and support for shared governance;
  • Ability to recruit, help develop, and motivate talented faculty and staff;
  • Work with a large and diverse board of directors; and
  • Exceptional interpersonal and communication skills, patience, and good humor.  

APPLICATION PROCESS

Nominations and applications (letters of interest, resume/CV and contact information of at least five references), or expressions of interest should be submitted to the search firm assisting the University.  Review of materials will begin immediately and continue until the appointment is made.  It is preferred, however, that all nominations and applications be submitted prior to March 6, 2019 to:

Laurie C. Wilder, President
Porsha L. Williams, Vice President
pwilliams@parkersearch.com || eraines@parkersearch.com
Phone: 770-804-1996 ext.: 109 || Fax:  770-804-1917

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