The long awaited re-branding of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School will happen. On Tuesday, officials from Cooley and Western Michigan University will announce an affiliation that will allow Cooley to call itself the “Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School.”

When reached for comment, Western New England grad Staci Zaretsky said, “OMG no, nooooooo! Now Cooley is going to be RIGHT ON TOP OF WNEC in U.S. News. :( ” That’s because unranked law schools are listed in alphabetical order.

I wasn’t able to talk to anybody associated with the Cooley law firm (formerly Cooley Godward Kronish), most likely because they are all having a huge party in the hopes that somehow people will no longer think their respected law firm is at all associated with the garish Cooley Law School.

I’m skeptical that this name change will scrub Cooley’s embarrassing Google footprint in a meaningful way, but then again, Cooley exists because people are bad at using the internet…

Frankly, I just don’t think a lot of people will start calling Cooley “Western Michigan Law.” Like, maybe that will happen in the New York Times or some other publication that isn’t really paying attention. But how often is Cooley in the Times anyway? At best, I think many publications will say something like “Western Michigan Law (formerly Cooley Law School)” for the sake of accuracy.

And that’s all Google needs. It’s not like anybody searching for Cooley will miss the ridiculous history of the school. If anything, the name change will just sully the reputation of Western Michigan. I’m sure the administrators at WMU think it’s really cool that they’re getting a law school, but when people start slamming the law school diploma mill as “Cooley at WMU,” it’ll just make Western Michigan look bad.

Here’s the dumb, shortsighted reason WMU gives for doing this:

Trustees at Western Michigan University in July approved the agreement. The schools say they’ve had a long, collaborative relationship and the move will add Western Michigan to the list of public universities with accredited law schools.

Does WMU want to be added to the list of public universities who abuse their students by offering very expensive, low-value diplomas? Because that’s a list I don’t think people should want to be on. It’s disappointing that WMU apparently thinks that just being affiliated with any law school is a good thing.

There’s also likely a little bit of financial security wrapped up in this affiliation. As a stand-alone law school, Cooley is very vulnerable to the declining number of law school applicants. But if it’s affiliated with a larger “public” university that gets taxpayer funds, budgets can be shifted around during rough times.

And I just can’t wait till Cooley starts adding “public law school” to its information brochures, as if Cooley is engaging in anything approaching a “public service.”

Again, it’s easy to see how Cooley could use this to fleece another crop of students, but I don’t actually think it will make that much of a difference. People who are going to go to Cooley have already proven that they’re going to go despite overwhelming information about the school. And people who are choosing cheaper options than Cooley have already proven they know how to do some basic research. I just don’t think the name change is going to confuse those people. I mean, it’s not like anybody is actually confused by the naming similarity between NYU and NYLS.

All that’s going to happen is that it’ll give Cooley one more bad argument to throw against the wall to see what sticks in the press. If you see somebody write WMU Law, know that you are just reading a journalist who’s not doing his or her job very well.

Western Michigan, Cooley Law School to sign affiliation agreement [Detroit Free Press]


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