Senior U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Tarnow denied Cooley Law School’s recent request for a gag order preventing the American Bar Association (ABA) from criticising the law school. Cooley representatives asked the federal court for an order preventing the ABA from claiming that Cooley’s admissions policies fall below ABA standards. Judge Tarnow said that not only did the ABA not break any rules by publishing the opinion, but they have to publish the opinion in order to comply with Department of Education rules.
The ABA says that they’re happy with the judge’s decision. They say that their opinion is important so that students can have the information they need in order to make the best decisions about their education. They also say that most students are going to make the same decision about their education whether or not they read the ABA’s opinion.
Cooley Law School has undergone significant changes in the past decade. They recently joined up with Western Michian University to call themselves the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School. They expanded to locations in Grand Rapids and Auburn Hills. On their website, they say that it’s their goal to give students the tools that they need to succeed.
The ABA disagrees. They say that Cooley doesn’t admit students that have a reasonable chance of passing the bar. Cooley graduates are quick to point out that sometimes, students with low GPAs and standardized test scores make great lawyers. Authorities say that’s not enough. They say that for every student who beats the odds, there are other students that leave with a mounting pile of debt and no diploma in hand. They also say that graduates of Cooley Law fail to find employment in the legal field at a high enough rate to justify Cooley’s high tuition costs.
At this point, the ABA hasn’t taken any formal action against Cooley Law. They have the option to revoke Cooley’s status as an ABA-approved school. The opinion might be the first step in that direction. Critics say that the revocation would be a welcome first step to ensuring that aspiring lawyers with poor credentials aren’t taken advantage of for tuition dollars.
On the other hand, many Cooley grads say they’re fortunate that Cooley was willing to admit them when other law schools wouldn’t. They say the school provides minority access to a legal education and helps expand the reach of legal services to the poor and underprivileged. Judge Tarnow says that his decision is final.