In early July, we broke the news that Cooley Law School would stop accepting first-year students at its Ann Arbor campus and would begin conducting faculty and staff layoffs due to continuing declines in both enrollment and revenue. At the time, the school had “no plans” to completely close the campus.
At the end of July, however, Cooley Law notified its Ann Arbor students there may be a “possible consolidation” of that campus with other Cooley campuses, three of which exist in Michigan.
It’s now mid-August, and the foreboding promise of layoffs has finally come to fruition. How many heads will roll thanks to this law school’s “right-sizing” plan? Our sources say the damage is “massive”…
Since last week, we’ve received various tips from readers concerning faculty and staff layoffs at Cooley Law. On August 8, a tipster told us that the Lansing campus suffered a major blow. On August 11, another tipster informed us that Cooley was “laying off tons of professors and staff from its main campus.”
Now, the story has made the local news, with sources saying “the cuts are deep, upwards of 50 percent” of Cooley’s faculty of 271 law professors. One angry professor had this to say to the Lansing City Pulse:
“We have non-disparagement and confidentiality clauses upon which our severance packages hinge so I cannot say anything on the record and very little off the record other than to confirm that the cuts to faculty and staff are significant and I am among those in that category,” shared one faculty member, who spoke under condition of anonymity. “Plus I am really, really pissed.”
The source continued: “I was notified last week. My last day is August 31 … I honestly don’t know if they are done. If enrollment continues to decline then maybe not.”
If this is what happens during Cooley’s first week as the Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School, we can’t wait to see what kind of public relations nightmares will be coming down the line.
Aside from Cooley’s dwindling enrollment rate — which dropped by 40.6 percent over the past few years — what could be the cause of the school’s cash-flow problems? Here’s an interesting thought:
One source said that Cooley’s financial problems became more urgent when Wells Fargo Bank sharply raised interest on a line of credit, making it unaffordable. To raise funds, the source said, Cooley plans to issue bonds in September through PNC. To make those bonds more attractive, Cooley needed to reduce costs — thus the large-scale layoffs.
It appears that source wasn’t just wildly speculating — James Robb, associate dean of external affairs and senior counsel to the school, confirmed that Cooley Law was, in fact, dealing with a bond issue:
“It’s not something we take lightly,” Robb said. “This is a painful but necessary process so we can put the institution in the right to be financially attractive to the investors. It is correct we are working on the renewal of a bond issue. And, to the extent that the school is in a stronger financial position the bonds are more appealing to financial investors.”
There will likely be reductions across all campuses, with the exception of the Florida campus for whatever reason, but that could be subject to change. Layoffs will reportedly conclude at the end of the month. As for the Ann Arbor campus, it now seems that Cooley is considering “closing the campus ultimately.” So much for there being “no plans” to completely axe the troubled campus from its ever-languishing line-up.
Robb says that the school regrets having to go through this “painful but necessary” process, but all Cooley is trying to do is put itself in a better position to teach the would-be lawyers of America. We suppose that the key word there is “would-be,” as only 26.9 percent of last year’s class found full-time jobs as lawyers nine months after graduation. At least they got an “outstanding education” as a consolation prize.
As for the many, many law professors who are losing their jobs thanks to Cooley Law’s financial predicament, we’re sure they’ll be pleased to know that the Cooley Law School Stadium, home of the Lansing Lugnuts, will not be impacted. After all, we hear concessions sales is a “J.D. Advantage” job.
Cooley “right-sizing” [Lansing City Pulse]