When the Thomas M. Cooley Law School arrived in Tampa, Florida, many people in the community found a chance to attend law school, according to Tampa Bay Online. One such person, the head of a Tampa engineering company, Jose Morales, was excited.
“When Cooley moved down here, I saw the opportunity to go at night,” Morales said. “It’s fairly close to my house and work, and it gave me an opportunity to do that. I love it.”
Morales is the head of J2 Engineering and is just one of 312 students enrolled in the law school, which is located in Riverview. The law school opened in May of 2012 with just 110 students. This was an increase from the expected 60 students on opening day. Jeff Martlew, the dean of the Tampa campus, said that the school’s culture “is one of the things that has contributed to making Cooley the largest law school in the nation.”
The founder of the law school is Thomas E. Brennan, a former chief justice for the Michigan Supreme Court, who was concerned that too many qualified people are being turned down by law schools because of unduly restrictive admission rules. This is why the philosophy of the school is what it is right now.
“If you show us the ability to be an attorney, we’ll give you the opportunity to be an attorney,” Martlew said. “It’s not like we let anybody in the door. We don’t. But we’re much more inclusive in our admissions policy than most law schools are.”
The law school has its main campus in Lansing, Michigan, with four total campuses in the state. The school in Florida is located off of Interstate 75 and U.S. 301 and the first location to be outside of Michigan. Classes are offered in the morning, afternoon and evening with ‘rolling’ admissions three times per year for each semester. Students can earn their degree in two, three, four or five years.
“That flexibility has really made us attractive to a lot of people,” Martlew said.
Across the five Cooley campuses there are 3,745 students, with 28.2 percent of the students minorities, and the school has accreditation from the American Bar Association and the Higher Learning Commission.
U.S. News & World Report did not include Cooley in its rankings.
“We know we’re never going to be ranked high by U.S. News, and we don’t care,” Martlew responded. “Their philosophy is completely different than ours on admissions.”
“For me, this is the perfect setting,” he said. “It’s not like I’m going to go work for a high-priced law firm. I’m just doing it to help my business.”