Friday, January 28, 2005

Things About Cooley I Wish I Would Have Known

(This is the information that didn’t get included in the '"Welcome To Cooley" package)

Cooley has an attendance policy. If you miss more than twice – you are dismissed. Yes, you read that right. Therefore, if you are not motivated to attend class, Cooley will be very unforgiving. During the winter storm warning … Cooley did NOT cancel class. If you were unable to make it, got stuck in the snow, etc, the fact that there was a blizzard is just tough luck. It WILL be counted against you. Blizzards, winter storm warnings, and government pleadings that you stay off the roads are no excuse.

Cooley has multiple-choice and essay sections on each exam. It’s about a 50/50 split in terms of points, although lately it seems to be tilting slightly more toward multiple-choice questions. My Torts exam had 60 multiple-choice questions and as I recall a 45-minute essay question.

You can’t bring bottled water into the two-hour-forty-five-minute exams. Thirsty? That’s too bad. Got to go pee? Gee. Maybe you shouldn’t have drunk so much water before the exam.

Your first-term, first year classes will probably have a mid-term multiple-choice exam. It will count for roughly 10% of your overall grade. Your performance on this exam will have almost no correlation to how you do on your finals.

You do not get “study” breaks between classes and final exams. It is not unusual to have your last class on a Monday and have the exam on Wednesday (and the next on Thursday, the next on Friday, and so on). Almost all Final Exams are schedule back to back. If you don’t like taking one whole week of back-to-back final exams, you might want to take Cooley off the short-list.

Very few seats are available for taking your final exams on laptop. Lots of people complained about this – and trust me when I say this – complaints seem to fall on deaf ears. If you do get lucky and take it on a laptop, you will be using a program that is basically the equal of Notepad. You don’t get to use Word, WordPerfect, or anything of that sort to type your exams. It’s also a good thing to know how to spell, use good grammar, and so on, as Word won’t be around to help you.

There is no such thing as a “take home exam” or an “open book exam” or any of that sissy crap. Every first year exam (not so sure about 2L and 3L) is a closed book proctored exam. If you don’t know the UCC in your head, memorized, plus know all the elements of whatever Tort, Criminal Law, Con Law, etc, problem you are confronted with on an exam – your puny girlyman inability to memorize 45 rules per course in your head for finals will mean you become a C student. That’s if you’re lucky. I also happen to have ended up being one of the many girlmen in my class i.e. I am at best a C student.

You do not get to take in outlines, notes, paper, bottle water, nothing, nada, zip, into the exams – with the exception of writing instruments. You do get to bring in pens, pencils and highlighters. Cooley proctors will also provide very dull and utterly useless pencils for you in the event you need one. I always take one so I can be rest assured that Cooley has indeed thought of everything; even the Coffee is cold in the vending machines during exam week.

Parking is a joke. It’s about $8 to $10 a day to park in one of the ramps. Metered parking will kill you with tickets. This problem will probably never be solved. If you have classes on weekends, the situation is 100 times better.

Cooley is very flexible with their scheduling. You can take classes at night, weekends and regular “traditional” day classes. You can also mix and match with part weekend and part weekday. That’s what I did last term.

In some classes simply book-briefing (along with using canned briefs) without producing written briefs of your own work - is prohibited. You MUST write your own briefs and, this varies by professor, expect to turn in your briefs if called on. My Contracts professor expects students to write their own briefs and likewise those students are expected to expect to have to turn in those briefs if requested. My Torts professor is more practical and has said that we should do whatever works for us. So - this policy varies by professor. In general - at Cooley you will find yourself writing an awful lot of homespun briefs. Mike Shecket or 4Law or Casenotes will come in handy, but more often than not you'll find yourself taking the long road at Cooley.

Some of the professors are excellent and you will find yourself learning a lot from them. This can be misleading though as knowledge of a particular subject or enjoyment of a class does not always translate into a good exam score. It’s not just how they shove it into your head, but how you vomit all of it back out. Which brings me to IRAC.

IRAC. They love IRAC at Cooley, unless you get a professor that lives or works in the real world, which case your skills at IRAC can be less than perfect. If you get one of the tenured guys that have done nothing but teach for 20 years – you will need to IRAC and EERFC perfectly. If you don’t know what IRAC means, Cooley will teach you…

With a mind numbing, required, zero-credit hour class that takes all of the work and time of a normal 3-credit hour class, but counts for nothing on your grade. This is a special class. You can’t miss it more than once or you’ll automatically get an F and have to take it again during the following term.

If you either void-grade (yup – I had to do this) a class OR your gpa falls below a 2.0, you will be placed on Academic Probation. It doesn’t matter if your GPA was a 4.0 and you needed to hit the void-grade button for a single class that went south – you end up in the Special Ed section of Cooley. I just got my helmet and special shoes and now, thankfully, I won’t be able to hurt myself in class anymore.

If you get placed on Academic Probation and if the following term your GPA is below a 2.0, but above a 1.5 – you get one more term to fix it. If you haven’t fixed it after being on 2-terms of Academic Probation, you are dismissed. Oh – and coming back to Cooley after being on a single term of Academic Probation for any reason is made extra-difficult for you (see below)…

After your first term of Academic Probation, no matter how well/poorly you did during that term on exams, you will be punished by having your financial-aid for the following term placed on “hold” until at least week 5. If you need student loans to survive, pay rent, etc, they will inform you of the fact that “you will need to make other financial arrangements.” Basically – this is just their way of saying they want you to be certain this is something you want to continue with, although it will *feel* as if they want you to leave to make room for the next round of bodies being injected into the Cooley matrix.

Until recently, roughly 75% of the people who ended up on Academic Probation never made it out. Over the past two years this has been reduced to 50% and the people running the ARC (Academic Resource Center) really do seem determined to bring down that number even more. I'm not so sure I agree with their methods, but I suspect their hearts may actually be in the right place.

The Cooley overall attrition rate is, give or take, about 48%. It bounces around a bit, but on balance about half are gone after the first year. Your odds of failure at Cooley are exceptionally high and somewhat proportional to their rate of accepted admissions.

Lots of people try and transfer out. I don’t have numbers on how many actually succeed. I suspect that deep down I don’t want to know.

Cooley has low ranking due to its “big front door” policy. It gives a lot of people a shot at an ABA accredited education that might otherwise not have found their way into a traditional law school. There is something positive to be said for that. It is a very non-elitist school with respect to admissions, but every other aspect of it is extremely traditional. My LSAT was in the low 150’s, so I had a few other options, but chose Cooley. I was unaware of its peculiar policies until after my arrival. I had heard that it was “a hard school”, but I figured that was just the teenagers complaining. No. It’s a HARD school.

The Socratic method is used extensively, although some professors are more into it than others. The ones that seem to be the most into it are the classes in which you will need supplements, because looking for the UCC-207 to come bursting out of the chest of a student being called on just isn’t going to happen. The Socratic method was novel for the first two weeks, after that it became (and has become) apparent to me that this method for teaching law is utter bullshit. Philosophy – yes. Humanities – maybe. Law? It is about as inefficient of a system as one could find, yet some of the prof’s are really into it.

Generally speaking, and this depends on the professor, you will get one “pass” for each class. I know a few professors who give NO passes. It’s up to them. Typically, you must notify the professor in writing BEFORE class that you are unprepared. A few of them want affidavits rather than just a note or letter. If you are unprepared a second time… well… don’t be unprepared a second time or let’s just say it means it’s time to pack your bags.

If you were unprepared when called on, and failed to do the above… what happens depends on the professor. Generally, you will be sanctioned and/or given an assignment that has to be turned in within a day or two to the professor. It will be, from what I’ve heard, a time consuming assignment. It’s punishment for “taking up the time” of the class and the professor for being unprepared.

I am actually, on balance, impressed with my professors. I am unimpressed with many of the policies of the school and it is my main motivation for having on-and-off regrets about my choice of law schools. They have a lot of good people at Cooley and the facilities are excellent. I visited top-tier schools (before I realized I was a “slow” kid) that didn’t have facilities as nice as Cooley’s. Overall...

If you go to Cooley you need to go in with open eyes. You CAN succeed at Cooley, but a lot of people fail regardless of how hard they worked at it. It is probably one of the harder law schools in the country, but at the same time they really do give you a shot at making it, although in the end you will probably find yourself wondering if it was worth it.

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At Friday, January 28, 2005 11:53:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just simply don't go to Cooley. Spend the extra time studying to blow the LSAT score through the roof and it surely will pay off a school where you can do take home exams, aren't expected to brief for ten hours a day, and are encouraged to live a normal life.

At Saturday, January 29, 2005 6:57:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I received my JD from Cooley and L.LM from a tier one school. I can assure you Cooley is no harder academic wise than other schools. Yes other schools let you have open book exams, and take home tests, but the tests are so much more difficult in part because of the tests being open book or take home. Most schools have back to back exam weeks as well, and with no time off before exams start. Cooley is probably rough with their academic probation and stuff, but I think they have a good reason for it. About 20 to 30 percent of the students who start at Cooley just don’t belong in law school period, why let someone rack up that debt by sliding them through the classes when they will have no chance at all of passing the bar. Only half the people that graduate from Cooley end up passing the bar anyways, if they didn’t flunk out people their bar passage rate most likely would drop to about 25%. The parking at Cooley does suck, never did understand why they had to put the law school in downtown Lansing.

At Saturday, January 29, 2005 8:10:00 AM, Blogger MajQa' said...

Upon reflection ... I am wondering if my blog entry is coming across a bit more negative than I had planned.

Cooley is a good school. It's a very hard school, but on balance the education one can obtain from Cooley is arguably first-rate. And the unwritten moto at Cooley still seems to be "If you want it bad enough, you can get it at Cooley." There is something good to be said for their non-elitist attitude. I like it. I appreciate it. I agree with it.

The parking pisses me off. I think the attendance policy is overly rigid (class during a winter storm warning - comon; class on Easter is also very uncool).

The jury is out for me when it comes to closed book / proctured exams. I am not so sure I the "take home" exams are equally hard. Then again, having experienced Cooley first hand I must say that anyone who gets A's and B's earned every bit of those grades. Likewise, this term I plan to pull myself out of being a C student and into something much more reflective of what I am capable of.

The pros - very flexible scheduling. Good professors. A hell of a mental workout. Decent scholarships. A big front door. Excellent library, facilities, etc.

Oh nuts. Gotta go to class. Darn attendance policy...


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