WMU-Cooley Law School's Winter Issue of Benchmark Alumni Magazine

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Letter from the

President and Dean Benchmark EDITOR Terry Carella CO-EDITOR Sharon Matchette ADVANCEMENT AND ALUMNI RELATIONS William Arnold Director of Advancement and Alumni Relations CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Terry Carella, Sharon Matchette SeyferthPR DESIGN Image Creative Group PHOTOGRAPHY Terry Carella, Tom Gennara Photography SUBMISSIONS Benchmark seeks story ideas from graduates on a variety of subjects such as graduate achievements, international experiences, cultural diversity, legal information helpful to practitioners, unique law practices, advice to prospective law students, and special events. If you would like to share a story idea, please write, call, or e-mail: Communications Office WMU-Cooley Law School 300 S. Capitol Ave. Lansing, MI 48933 (517) 371-5140 ext. 2916 communications@cooley.edu Benchmark is published twice a year by the Communications Office of Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School. ALUMNI DIRECTORY The alumni directory is located in the WMU-Cooley portal. You will need an individual user name and password to access the database. https://portal.cooley.edu/ Please call the Alumni Office at (800) 243-2586, or e-mail alumni@ cooley.edu with questions.

As we all slowly emerge from our COVID-induced separation from one another, I am happy to report that we have begun teaching in-person on campus again, with many safeguards to help keep our community safe. Many of our electives are online as we continue to improve our innovative curriculum. When we were forced to switch completely to online classes overnight back in March 2020, your alma mater was uniquely prepared for the challenge. While we were teaching online, we doubled down on implementing empirically proven teaching techniques to ensure our students received a quality legal education during these difficult times. As we return to campus and teaching in person, we are integrating many of these innovations into our live classes to help our students continue to excel. This issue of Benchmark features some great articles about our outstanding graduates, including the Hon. Kwamé Rowe, who recently gave an amazing address to the graduating Stanley Matthews Class of 2021. Read about him and many of our other graduates working hard to elevate the legal profession. You can also read about your remarkable faculty’s recent accomplishments and your staff’s relentless efforts to deliver a quality law school experience for our students, some of whom are also featured in this issue. Finally, in this issue we introduce our new strategic plan – the culmination of much hard work by the entire WMU-Cooley community. Crafted with input from graduates, staff, faculty, students, and of course, the Board of Directors, who ultimately approved our ambitious plan, this focused direction will keep us moving in a positive trajectory. These are exciting times to rebuild, and your staff and faculty are working hard to meet these challenges as we make WMU-Cooley a leader in delivering a modern legal education. We appreciate the hard work and resources our graduates so generously have given to help us fulfill the promise of our mission and the goals of our strategic plan. Thank you for your support. I hope to see you on campus (conditions permitting) this spring! James McGrath Professor, President and Dean WMU-COOLEY BOARD OF DIRECTORS THOMAS W. CRANMER HON. LOUISE ALDERSON Miller Canfield Chair, Board of Directors Troy, Michigan 54-A District Court Lansing, Michigan SCOTT A. DIENES Vice-Chair, Board of Directors MUSTAFA AMEEN Barnes & Thornburg, LLP Law Office of Ameen & Shafii Grand Rapids, Michigan Tampa, Florida JOHN M. DUNN AARON V. BURRELL President Emeritus of Dickinson Wright PLLC Western Michigan University Detroit, Michigan Kalamazoo, Michigan CHRISTINA L. CORL Plunkett Cooney Columbus, Ohio

HON. MICHAEL P. HATTY Chief Judge, 44th Circuit Court, 53rd District Court Livingston County HON. JANE E. MARKEY Michigan Court of Appeals Grand Rapids, Michigan KENNETH V. MILLER Millennium Restaurant Group, LLC Kalamazoo, Michigan LAWRENCE P. NOLAN Nolan, Thomsen & Villas P.C. Eaton Rapids, Michigan

HON. BART STUPAK Venable, LLP Washington, D.C. JORDAN V. SUTTON Sutton Advisors PLC Lansing, Michigan MITCHELL S. ZAJAC Butzel Long Detroit, Michigan

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE special strategic plan edition | 2021

Features Winter 2021




Our new Strategic Plan charts the course for WMU-Cooley’s bright and exciting future with a vision of advancing justice and equity by providing broad access to a legal education to diverse individuals who meet that opportunity with a commitment to achieving high standards of professional competency.

The WMU-Cooley culture of support opens doors for students who otherwise would not be able to fit law school into their schedule or consider a career change.

Robin Sutara combined a global upbringing, expertise in math, and two law degrees to become Microsoft UK’s First Chief Data Officer.

8. DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION: YVELINE DALMACY Yveline Dalmacy has a driving enthusiasm to use her law degree to answer the question “What can I do to help?”

12. RESILIENCE: KWAMÉ ROWE Kwamé Rowe defied the odds and naysayers to escape poverty and gangs to become a first-generation college student, lawyer, and now one of the youngest sitting judges in recent memory.

22. SERVICE AND INTEGRITY: JON KOHLER Jon Kohler has a passion for conservation and the need to rehabilitate the lands.

26. SERVICE AND INTEGRITY: RABIH HAMAWI Rabih Hamawi knew he wanted to build a practice that would help those who have little or no means to navigate through the legal system.


LOOKING TO THE FUTURE special strategic plan edition | 2021 Ahmed Salim, Washington class, 2012


I am proud to present you with our new strategic plan. This plan was a labor of love by representatives of your faculty, staff, fellow alumni, current students and our board of directors. We have kept the heart of WMU-Cooley’s mission while planning and preparing to lead the future of legal education — just as our school is about to begin its next 50 years. We were lucky to have an incredible facilitator to help us in creating this ambitious plan. We were able to secure the services of Kellye Testy, who is the president and CEO of LSAC, the Law School Admissions Council. LSAC is the organization that administers the

Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and supports potential law students through their journey to law school. She is a former dean of Washington University and Seattle University Schools of Law, so she understood our challenges and potential as we roadmapped our school’s next chapter. Assisting Kellye and ensuring timely completion of every step of the process was my Chief of Staff, Professor Frank Aiello.

It will be exciting to track our progress on implementing this well-crafted and forward-thinking plan to keep our school strong and innovative for the everchanging future of our profession.

WMU-Cooley’s strategic plan values reflect the qualities we recognize and respect in our over 20,000 distinguished alumni worldwide.


To advance justice and equity by providing broad access to a legal education to diverse individuals who meet that opportunity with a commitment to achieving high standards of professional competency. OUR MISSION

We provide a transformative practical legal education, grounded in the science of learning, that prepares and inspires our students to become lifelong learners and agents for positive change in their communities and our profession.



We design and deliver our programs to promote our students’ professional development by creating a collaborative and supportive community that transcends the classroom. We provide effective support from enrollment through entry to the profession so our graduates experience superior outcomes at licensure and in employment. We engage our proud and vibrant alumni community as an integral part of our programs.


DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION We create and maintain a welcoming and inclusive culture that respects and celebrates the uniqueness

of each individual without regard to their race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, or religious beliefs. We know that meaningful progress requires that we actively nurture a culture of belonging and align our actions with our words.


We know resilience can be learned, is key to success, and is more important than inherent ability. We reject the proposition that prior circumstances define a person and support each individual’s unique identity and learning journey.


CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT We continuously improve by making transparent, evidence-based decisions, learning from our mistakes, and investing in the development of our staff and faculty. We know innovation requires risk-taking and a commitment to discipline for long-term sustainability.



We believe attaining a legal education is an opportunity that confers a duty of service and integrity. We strengthen society through leadership, service, and dedication to the rule of law. We emphasize and adhere to the highest standards of professional ethics and service to others.

Our Goals


LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES FOR OUR STUDENTS TO SERVE THEIR COMMUNITIES. • Enhance clinical opportunities and create parity across campuses. • Increase experiential course enrollment. • Strengthen our externship program.


EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING, AND SERVICE THROUGH OUR PROGRAMS. • Develop and adopt social justice learning outcomes.

• Increase active learning, including simulation experiences and cross-course integrated exercises. • Intentionally seek and retain diverse candidates in our admissions and in future faculty and staffing hiring.


RESPECTED NATIONAL LEADER IN THE DEVELOPMENT AND DELIVERY OF MODERN LEGAL EDUCATION. • Develop internal and external certification programs in teaching for faculty.

• Increase faculty engagement, presentation, and publishing on science-based learning and other innovative approaches to legal education. • Develop and implement competency-based grading in MBE courses. • Increase the use of existing and new technologies that enhance teaching and learning.


STRENGTHEN OUR FINANCIAL SUSTAINABILITY. • Grow admissions at or above our current profile. • Enhance and expand our development efforts. • Develop new market-driven degree, certificate, or other legal education programs. • Maintain operational discipline to align resources with institutional priorities.



• Develop lifelong learners by teaching and assessing growth mindset, self-regulation, and resilience. • Exceed accreditor compliance for bar passage outcomes. • Improve graduate employment and support alumni placement in a changing legal services market. • Foster alumni pride in the institution through the support and promotion of their practice and increased contact with current students as mentors, adjuncts, and externship hosts.

6. CONTINUOUSLY IMPROVE. • Enhance methods for consistent collection and review of data. • Develop continuous quality improvement processes that advance our programs. • Increase faculty and staff professional development. Adopted June 26, 2021

• Advance academic support efforts so every student has the opportunity to develop the knowledge, skills, and values to excel in the profession.




Kimberly Lewis & Susan Lee BY TERRY CARELLA

The WMU-Cooley culture of support opens doors for students who otherwise would not be able to fit law school into their schedule or consider a career change. Orientation for most students can be slightly overwhelming, but for Kimberly Lewis it was the launch of an exciting new future. A natural extrovert, she had already scoped out her classmates and locked in on one student. Someone she intuitively knew was interesting and smart. Lewis didn’t take long to introduce herself to Susan Lee. She let her know straight away that “we’re going to get to know each other.”


That kind of approach may have put some people off, but for Lee, who was already shell-shocked and feeling the whole idea of sitting in a law school orientation was surreal, she was happy to find there were nice people at the law school. They exchanged phone numbers after that first day, and every day after they discovered one more connection. “We found out we were in the same classes,” smiled Lee, “then we decided to sit next to each other; then we realized I was from New Jersey, and she was from Boston – then we had that East Coast connection. It just went on from there.”

It is that WMU-Cooley familylike support, according to Lee, that helps you when you are going through a tough moment or getting some necessary motivation everyone needs in law school. “After that orientation day,” reflected Lee, “that became a touchstone of motivation for us – being there for each other, caring for each other. She knows my family and I know her family. It just became more of a sisterhood than a friendship.”

CULTURE OF SUPPORT The WMU-Cooley culture of support opens doors for students who otherwise would not be able to fit law school into their schedule or consider a career change. According to Lee, “Cooley Law School gives people who are genuinely interested in law the opportunity to practice law, whether it is in the courtroom or to enhance their career. The support system and resources for students is incredible. The

faculty is so accessible. They are invested in your success. You are never really more than an arm’s length away from someone who is going to be able to provide you with help or support.” Lewis echoed Lee’s assessment. “Not to be cliché, but you are never really alone at Cooley. It’s not just a culture of support. The culture is one of setting you up for success versus setting you up for failure. You can go to your fellow students; you can go to the ARC – the support is beyond magnificent. That, I think, is probably one of the greatest gifts that Cooley has given me. The support system at Cooley is truly unique.”

WITH AGE COMES EXPERIENCE Both Lewis and Lee are confident people, and neither one is worried about “fitting in.” In fact, Lewis would say that many of their differences are really assets. They do what they must do and do it well. That comes from their life (continued)

Susan Lee Susan Lee was a “military brat” growing up mostly in Colorado, who always wanted to be a lawyer. Spending the past 27 years living in Boston, she thought the chance to go to law school might have passed her by. However, it was her move to Tampa and working for a law firm that her childhood dream of becoming an attorney was brought to the forefront again. Education and learning have been a constant force in her life. She was always in school for something or another. She painted and had an art studio for a short time; she practiced martial arts for six years; she did triathlons; she went to Boston University where she obtained a paralegal certificate; and she went to school for radio and television production and performance. But it took a colleague at a law firm in Tampa to point out the obvious when she was considering getting a master’s degree. She asked, “Why don’t you just go to law school?” That was the tipping point. She knew all too well working in a law firm that people in need of help are often also looking for legal assistance. She started looking into law schools in the Tampa area, and it became clear to her that WMU-Cooley was a better fit for her. “I heard from an alumnus that Cooley picks you, and in my case, I truly believe that,” stated Lee. “They give you that opportunity. It was a great choice and the decision to resign from my job to attend law school full time worked better for me and it has been an incredible journey.” With graduation around the corner, Lee is narrowing down her career choices, but that doesn’t mean she has limited her options. “The wonderful thing about a law degree is that there are a thousand and one ways you can use your J.D.,” smiled Lee. “There are so many directions you can take. One never knows how an opportunity will present itself. You never know what you will end up finding interesting and what will end up driving your passion.” It seems the more Lee learns, the more interests she finds. She thought Elder Law might be her calling, then she discovered she loved the complex layers and issues involved in Native American Law. One thing she is sure about is that she wants to work in the criminal law field.




“It’s important to continue to show the world that equality is essential for women in society,” stated Lewis. “We’re equal, we’re willing, we’re capable, we’re able, and in some cases we’re better.

experience. She believes young classmates also bring things to the table with their youth. “Susan and I are unapologetically unafraid to be who we are and who we want to be in the law,” stated Lewis. “We are here because we want to help people.” For Lee, despite being comfortable in her own shoes, she wondered if law school might be too much. “The ultimate question for me was how different did I see myself from being in my 20s to racing toward 50? I found there really wasn’t a difference, except for now I bring my life experience, which is everything.” Both spoke to WMUCooley professors before they started law school to address those concerns. They got the same


response; ‘Age is not going to matter for you because you’re going to come in with life experience and you can’t replace that.’ Lee believes a legal career is one where you can continue to learn, grow and help others forever, and “It is never too late. It is a great investment because you can practice law for as long as you can practice. You don’t have to retire. You can do so many things with your J.D. as you age. It’s a wonderful thing.” That means everything to these two nontraditional women law students.

“As a woman born in the late ’60s,” continued Lewis, “growing up formally in the ’80s and ’90s and realizing that I am still 27 in my mind; that insight is powerful. I have seen firsthand how women have been treated. Although women have started to be appreciated and respected over time, there is still a lot of work to be done.”

LEARNING WITH HUMOR Both women take their law school decision and work seriously, yet there’s plenty of room for laughter. “We try to bring humor and balance to our day,” explained Lee. “You can’t go through life with such seriousness. You can’t lose yourself within the law. That could easily exhibit

itself in a negative way, physically and emotionally.” For both Lee and Lewis, humor in the classroom evolved by being creative. As they would say, “With our personalities, we try to bring fun into the classroom as a way to learn, especially when we are preparing for competitions.” One of the funniest memories for Lewis had to do with how she and Lee would creatively memorize the elements for defamation. They would put themselves through the ringer asking every silly question they could think of. Each would take turns playing the role of attorney or the subject-matter expert. Using humor was a great way to learn and remember the legal terms and the law behind it. But they both know real cases are all too serious. “People’s lives are at stake,” stated Lewis firmly. “There are liberties and money involved.”

ELEMENTS OF HUMANITY Lewis believes that compassion is an essential component to advocating for your client. She believes both men and women can bring empathy to the table but feels women can sometimes have

“Susan and I are unapologetically unafraid to be who we are and who we want to be in the law. We are here because we want to help people.” KIMBERLY LEWIS

Kimberly Lewis a leg up because they have learned the art of compassion growing up. “I think women learn at a young age how to communicate differently,” reflected Lewis. “There’s a deeper level of communication that women know intuitively and through cultural upbringing. A woman can understand and sympathize with another woman’s struggles. Not always, but many times.” For Lee, that compassion really comes down to a matter of perspective and the differences in someone’s experience and circumstance. “There is a whole world out there, and when something bad happens, a person will seek out someone they trust and who understands his or her perspective to help resolve their problem.”

LEWIS & LEE LL.P.? Like Lee, Lewis is gravitating to the field of criminal law as a career. For Lewis, she feels like she’s trading in one show for another, coming from the world of theater. “I think I am a very, very good fit for trial. I just like it. I’m not afraid to speak; I don’t get easily intimidated. I am a hard worker; I work my butt off to know everything I can know before I stand up in front of a judge.” She finds merit in both the prosecution side and the defense side, so either route works as a career in criminal law. It’s not too much of a stretch to wonder if these two dynamic women might be thinking of forging their own law firm.

Well, that idea has crossed their minds on more than one occasion. As much as they recognize that there is much to learn and networking to be done, “Lewis & Lee LL.P.” is more of a plan than an idea. “We’ve talked about this quite often,” explains Lewis. “We want to get five to seven years of litigation, really good litigation, under our belt working good caseloads, before we look at opening our own firm. We’ve been studying together, competing together, and finding success together. Having a business together would be outstanding.” Lewis expounds upon how attending law school at an incredible time in history has been a blessing in disguise. “It’s hard to articulate, but the last two years of law school have truly been amazing. Everyone had to learn how to adjust, and the professors showed us how to adjust. You learn best from good leadership – someone who models good behavior and ethics and does well. Today, we now receive accolades because of how we have adjusted and conducted ourselves well. That is a reflection on the great leadership at Cooley Law School.”

Kimberly Lewis says she is the poster child of nontraditional students. Her journey started at 13 years old when she began singing professionally. She was sure that was going to be her life’s career. She traveled all over the country, then all over the world. Then she met her husband during a United Service Organization (USO) tour. That was it. She was “the girl who broke up the band.” Kimberly then got married, had a child, and learned Arabic. She lived with her military spouse in England, Jordan, and Kuwait. Lieutenant Colonel Lewis worked as a military attaché and his career took the family to many embassies abroad. It was from her time living in England and Jordan that Lewis came to the realization that she had a desire for learning the law. It was eye-opening for Lewis to live in countries where freedoms look differently than those in the United States. Her experience living in countries with different rights for people fueled a passion for advocacy and change. “To me, a human being has the right to God-given freedoms, the right to be free. The right to make decisions for themselves. And when I saw that wasn’t the reality around the world, that is the reason I went to law school. She believes it is the best way a person can be a voice for change.” As a military spouse, with her husband stationed at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base, Lewis only looked at law schools in the Tampa Bay area. It was WMU-Cooley’s open house event that made the decision for her. “It was the atmosphere,” stated Lewis. “The dean was there, the assistant dean was there; there were people from the Academic Resource Center (ARC) explaining to us as nontraditional students, younger students, and students coming from out of state, how they were here for us, and how Cooley was going to set you up for success. If you sell it to me, I will buy it. Not only did Cooley sell it, but they’ve also kept their word. That’s the important part. They talk the talk, but they also walk the walk.” Lewis feels that she can now really follow her passions at this point in her life, including being involved in protecting those entangled in human trafficking. “I just finished an externship at the federal prosecutor’s office which was a magnificent experience,” declared Lewis. “You get to see both sides of the law; one where you are the voice of the victim and the other where there is an individual alleged to do wrong and they need their constitutional rights protected. There is a beauty in both of those things.”




Yveline Dalmacy BY TERRY CARELLA


Charting Her Own Path of Service

Her passion to support her community is a trait that was passed down to her at a very young age. “My grandmother and mom were such giving people,” shared Dalmacy. “They wanted to help everyone, to their detriment sometimes. I remember my grandmother cooking for people in the neighborhood until there was nothing left for her to eat. And she’s like, ‘It is what it is.’ That’s how I grew up. I always felt a higher calling to help humanity, and to be of service to others.” Dalmacy was also raised knowing that she needed to be educated to get anywhere in life. But even being educated didn’t make the journey any less bumpy.

What does being a lawyer mean to Yveline Dalmacy? Well, it doesn’t mean driving the fanciest car or living in the biggest house. To her it means touching and empowering as many lives as you can in your lifetime. That’s the legacy she wants to leave. As a proud Haitian who immigrated to New York when she was 14 years old, she met many challenges but still managed to help others along the way.

“I faced a lot of adversity in my lifetime; as a Black woman, as an immigrant, as someone who speaks with an accent, even as someone who is heavyset,” shared Dalmacy. “I felt like everything was stacked against me. All the jobs I’ve been in, most of the jobs, I felt like I was the ‘token’ Black person.” Dalmacy went on to explain how, despite her educational credentials, working very hard, and getting stellar reviews, she was never afforded deserved advancement. In fact, speaking up for herself would often derail her career. She settled into a 10-year position on Wall Street in private wealth management. Yet despite being paid well and living comfortably, Dalmacy wasn’t satisfied. She wanted to invest in herself and her own goals. It was that level of inner strength and belief in herself that propelled her forward. She credits all those who came before her with the courage to do what she knew to be right. “I’m going to speak up now because the ones before me did. If they had not spoken up, if they had not died, if they had not gone to jail, I would not be where I am today. And if that means I have no job, then I will create my own job. You’re not going to keep this woman down. I will chart my own path.” With that mindset, Dalmacy stepped off Wall Street and started her path to “help save the world,” which (continued)




included getting a master’s degree in diplomacy from Seton Hall University.

schoolwork on Saturdays and Sundays, then flying back to New York on Mondays.

It was later, though, that Dalmacy followed through on her longtime goal of becoming a lawyer, despite feeling it may be “too much, too late.”

Despite her hectic schedule, Dalmacy wanted to be involved. She was on the law school’s COVID-19 task force committee representing her fellow students. She was on the board of directors for Blue Lotus Women Empowerment. It is her hope to make the lives of women better, especially those in Haiti, Nigeria, and India. She wants to be an advocate for the voiceless. Dalmacy also wants to empower women politically and economically so that they can be a force in the world, while building awareness of the many struggles of woman globally.

“My husband kept saying, ‘You’ve always wanted to go to law school. Don’t you want to go back to school?’ And I’m thinking, Oh my God. At my age, two masters? Do I really want to go to school?”

“But I remember watching TV and seeing children being ripped from their mother’s arms as they tried coming into the United States. It nearly broke my heart. All I could think was, ‘What can I do to help?’” That was it for Dalmacy. It was a legal background that would allow her to be an agent for change. And it didn’t take long to start, with WMU-Cooley’s year-round and flexible programs. Only three months after being accepted, she was taking classes in January, flying to Florida on Fridays, doing


She also was involved with the American Bar Association and the National Bar Association, and on the Florida Bar’s Landlord Tenant Committee, the ABA Criminal Justice Association, and the Real Property Probate and Trust Association. She was also named Deputy Chief of Administration to the National Bar Association. Never shy about giving credit to her law school alma mater, Dalmacy said she

Study Abroad in treated Law School “The support from the school was tremendous. I was with respect from the president on down.”

could name off nearly every professor and staff member who made her entire law school experience outstanding. “Cooley was the school for me,” stated Dalmacy. “If I had to do it all over again, I would choose Cooley. The support from the school was tremendous. I was treated with respect from the president on down. When I served on committees, I felt like an equal and that my advocacy on behalf of students was heard and supported.”

many more tools at my disposal to impact change. I don’t know where my path lies, but I’m going to leave it up to God to chart my next course in life because, at the end of the day, it’s not about financial wealth – it’s about how well you have lived your life and who you have helped.”

As the first in her family to earn an undergraduate degree, as well as her two master’s degrees and a law degree, she is acutely aware of the example she has set for her 10-year-old daughter, Annabelle, who has been learning the law right alongside her. But if you ask Dalmacy, it is her daughter who is the role model. “Annabelle is an A-plus student and my inspiration,” says Dalmacy with great pride. “She helps me study, even while she was studying from home during the pandemic. She was the one who would always have her work done well beforehand. I never had to say a thing.” Dalmacy need not say anything. Her actions and empathy speak for themselves. No doubt, she has inspired many. “I believe that if I can help change the life of even one person,” professed Dalmacy, “I have accomplished my mission. As an attorney, I will have




On Thursday, July 22, 2021, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the appointment of Kwamé L. Rowe to the 6th Circuit Court of Oakland County, in southeast Michigan.


On Friday, August 13, 2021, Judge Kwamé Rowe was sworn in at a private ceremony held at the Oakland County Commissioners Auditorium in Pontiac, Michigan. WMU-Cooley Professor Joan Vestrand has known Rowe for many years, back to when Rowe was in high school and Vestrand was speaking at his school. At Rowe’s swearing-in ceremony, Vestrand shared some of her memories.



Don’t let others tell you that you can’t do something. Rowe served as a special assistant prosecuting attorney with the Trafficking Unit for Oakland County, working on felony cases involving human trafficking, complex narcotics, and homicide. He previously served as a clerk under Judge Leo Bowman of the 6th Circuit Court. In addition to his J.D. from WMU-Cooley Law School, Rowe (Trimble Class, 2015)

earned his B.A. from Michigan State University’s James Madison College. He is a member of the Oakland County Bar Association, Straker Bar Association, and Wolverine Bar Association, and he serves as a volunteer at Pontiac High School. Rowe lives in Pontiac with his wife, Gabriel, and children.

“It seems like yesterday when, 16 years ago to practically this very day, our lives crossed for the first time. You, a skinny, tall, and gangly 11th grader at Pontiac Northern High School at the school to help your principal and teachers launch a new ninth grade academy, and me, a middleaged law professor about to address more than 500 unruly incoming ninth graders on the importance of personal character to success – something my own 13-year-old son warned me ahead of time that kids his age don’t care about. To say I was nervous over whether I could reach or even control my audience is an understatement. “But then, there you were – this grinning, adorable chatterbox who already knew he wanted to be a lawyer – assigned to assist and support me in whatever I needed in my presentation. And what I needed, it turned out, was you. In your upbeat, positive, and quite charming – may I add – presence, I relaxed. In your orbit, I somehow knew that everything was going to be okay. And it was. The program was a success. “That day, your sacrifice of your personal time on behalf of your school not only impacted the kids who were there, but it impacted my life as well. But little did I know that this was only the beginning of the ripple you would make – not just in my (continued)




“Because of you, Kwamé, we even had the Wayne County Circuit Court judges teaching all of us not just life lessons for success, but hip-hop line dancing!” WMU-COOLEY PROFESSOR JOAN VESTRAND

life but in the lives of so many others. It only took a matter of days when, because of you, an idea sparked in my head. “Through Success on Saturdays, over the next three years the community came together to support the kids at your school in incredible ways, bringing forward programming on topics such as overcoming adversity, goal setting, choices and consequences, street law, gangs and violence, substance abuse, academic skill building and more. “Because of you, Kwamé, we even had the Wayne County Circuit Court judges teaching all of us not just life lessons for success, but hip-hop line dancing! Because of you, two rival gangs at the high school agreed to see The Freedom Writers Diary together followed by discussion of the lessons of the film over Chinese food with some of them then joining SOS. Because of you, the Secretary of Education for the United States came to your high school and helped students grow through his own story of overcoming adversity and finding success. “You even met Judge Bowman – one of your mentors, through the program, a program that wouldn’t have come to be had you not volunteered that hot summer day to help your teachers in their efforts to


get the new ninth grade class off to a good start. Not to mention the annual book fairs that developed in Pontiac through SOS which resulted in hundreds of free books for the community each year and the prom dress drives, and the scholarships.

what was about to hit him, either. What was supposed to be a “look-see” in your possible benefit, was about to change the trajectory of his life – just as you changed mine.

“I often think of that day, the April after we met – a day which happened to be my birthday, when I escorted you to the GM Headquarters in Detroit so that you could meet E. Christopher Johnson – the general counsel for GM Legal Services North America – a very busy and important man. As you recall, he had agreed to meet you in consideration of whether GM might include you in its summer high school legal internship program which until then, was reserved for Detroit kids only. And for such an important occasion, your school gave you the day off.

“Because here’s the thing, Kwamé: once again, if you hadn’t gone to Detroit that day – your path and Mr. Johnson’s path may never have crossed, and he wouldn’t have come into your orbit. Yes, you got the internship not to mention Mr. Johnson as your personal mentor – an incredible gesture on his part – but look what happened for him. He joined up with the SOS program, went on to deliver the commencement speech at your high school graduation, and ended up leaving GM for the Cooley Law School faculty! I bet he never dreamed his own life would change because of our lunch that day. But it did.

“As I pulled up to your school to pick you up, there you were – literally bouncing on the curb, all dressed up with that big grin on your face – and off we went. And what a day it was. Of course, you chattered nonstop all the way down to Detroit – so excited for what lay ahead. But I don’t think either of us could have imagined what was truly in store. And honestly, I don’t think that Mr. Johnson knew

“Kwamé, because of the person you are, so much good spawns from you. And probably more than you can possibly know. We are but a small piece of your life, that part that led to SOS. But did you know – and you may not because by then you may have gone on to MSU – that SOS spawned Cooley’s Angels – an initiative devoted to providing food, clothing, financial support and mentoring to

“Because of you, two rival gangs at the high school agreed to see The Freedom Writers Diary together followed by discussion of the lessons of the film over Chinese food with some of them then joining SOS.” WMU-COOLEY PROFESSOR JOAN VESTRAND

Pontiac Northern students in critical need? “One of the beneficiaries of Cooley’s Angels – there were many – was a 17-year-old girl suddenly in the position of raising her six younger siblings all on her own and with little resources. Your school was worried that under such a responsibility, she’d have to drop out and wouldn’t earn her degree. And, so, Cooley’s Angels stepped in and provided two straight years of support, including not just food, money, and clothing for her and her brothers and sisters, but later, ensuring her ability to attend college, mentoring her first year, and buying all her college textbooks on her behalf. If you hadn’t been there to help me that day at the ninth-grade academy, Kwamé, there wouldn’t have been any Cooley’s Angels to help her. How many lives have been touched by you?

life – one that is richer and more fulfilling and more in keeping with humanity.

experience. Their life will change because of you. And in a very good way.

“I’m telling you all this because while you may think we all helped you, I don’t think I’m alone in believing that you helped us far more. Because of who you are, you helped us to be better people and to follow your example to put others first. And your optimism – it’s downright contagious! You led us to a better and more meaningful

“Thank goodness that our governor made the right choice for Judge Bowman’s replacement. With you on the bench, even more people – especially those who are our most troubled and need the most help, will fall into your orbit and experience your care. And while just like us, they won’t know it right then, it’s bound to be a pivotal

“Over 2,400 years ago, Socrates described the essential qualities of a good judge. He said that it took four things: to hear courteously; to answer wisely; to consider soberly; and to decide impartially. Kwamé, not only do you have these abilities, in you, they are grounded in a kind heart and a deep compassion and (continued)




“This is going to sound ridiculous, but my first piece of advice is simple, it is the Golden Rule: Treat others how you want to be treated. Be nice. Be respectful. Smile. And never lose your temper.” THE HON. KWAMÉ ROWE

respect for humankind. But even more importantly, these traits rest on a solid base of personal integrity making you even more influential and an even greater agent for positive change. On this next journey, continue to stay true to who you are. Use your power and influence well. Uplift others as you always have. And know this: we at Cooley are so proud of you. I am so proud of you. Congratulations, your honor.”

Judge Rowe was chosen to be WMU-Cooley’s commencement speaker for the September 2021 Stanley Matthews Class. Read excerpts from his speech below.


“You may ask yourself, how could he become a judge at such a young age? Aren’t judges usually older, and where is his gray hair? There are a few pointers that I have for your success as future attorneys. I guarantee you, no matter what area of law you practice, whether it is litigation or transactional, or you are a research attorney, these tips will help you be successful in your legal practice.


“Statistically, speaking, I should not be standing before you,” Rowe told graduates. “Instead, as statistics would have it, I should be dead or in jail. I grew up in the inner city, I am a first-generation college student (yes, college


student), I grew up poor, I was a teenage parent who would not allow my child, and now children, to grow up without a father; I faced gangs, and watched my family overcome violence and addiction. So how did I do it?

each other. It does not help resolve the case. It ends in egos controlling the outcome and clients paying in the end. Although our system is an adversarial system, parties can still be respectful. This is not television. The bulldog attorney does not always win. In fact, a lot of times they hurt their clients.


“BE TRUE TO YOURSELF: Our parents have instilled values in all of us. At a young age, we are taught the difference between right and wrong. Don’t let anyone change that. If you feel in your gut that something is wrong, then it is wrong.


“THE GOLDEN RULE: This is going to sound ridiculous, but my first piece of advice is simple, it is the Golden Rule: Treat others how you want to be treated. Be nice. Be respectful. Smile. And never lose your temper. Day in and day out, I see attorneys that refuse to get along and are extremely mean toward

“DON’T LET OTHERS TELL YOU THAT YOU CAN’T DO SOMETHING: When I was a student at MSU, I went to my counselor and told him that I wanted to go to law school. As a student-parent, I did not have the greatest grades in undergrad. I worked two jobs and took care of my family. As a result, my grades suffered. I remember going into my academic counselor’s office and advising him that

I wanted to go to law school, and he said no … you should do something else. I insisted, and he still said it was a bad idea. When I wanted to become a judge, I received a lot of feedback: well you’re too young, you should wait a few years, you need to do X and Y… If I had listened to my counselor or to the negative people, I would not be standing before you today.


“REPUTATION, REPUTATION, REPUTATION: You have been told this throughout your law school career. Reputation means everything. As you will become aware, the legal community is a small community. Any area of law that you practice, you will encounter the same attorneys over and over again. Believe me, attorneys talk. Judges do too. When attorneys or judges are having lunch, they are talking about other attorneys and judges. Your reputation will follow you for your entire career. It is easy to build a good reputation, but it is almost impossible to overcome a bad reputation.


“TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF: As new attorneys, you are the low person on the totem-pole, whatever area of law you practice. Partners, judges, clients and opposing counsel will demand a lot of your time and energy. Sometimes you will find yourself tired and frustrated. Don’t forget to breathe. In reality, there are very few things that you can mess up. Most things can be fixed. If you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to fall on your sword. Falling on your sword builds character and it is an experience. Never take an experience for granted no matter how great or horrible the situation. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your family or other attorneys. Never forget why you became an attorney.

“As Justice Thurgood Marshall once said, ‘Where you see wrong or inequality or injustice, speak out, because this is your country. This is your democracy. Make it. Protect it. Pass it on.’”

“These are the steps I took to make it before you today. Hold on to these steps. Remember you are strong and can persevere through the lows and highs. You control the direction of this great country.

https://info.cooley.edu/blog/ Kwamé-rowe-looking-back-atfalling-in-love-with-the-law

To read more about Judge Kwamé Rowe’s story called Understanding You Need to Work Hard Makes the Task Easy, scan this QR Code: KWAMÉ ROWE – UNDERSTANDING YOU NEED TO WORK HARD MAKES THE TASK EASY



Robin Sutara Robin Sutara (Witherell Class, 2010) has always been a trailblazer. Perhaps an unassuming trailblazer, but she has definitely carved out a career and life path that has taken her to extraordinary places and heights. Sutara, who twice graduated from WMU-Cooley, garnering her J.D. in 2010 and then completing her Masters of Law (LL.M.) in Intellectual Property in 2013, was named as Microsoft UK’s first Chief Data Officer in January 2021. She is responsible for collaborating with Microsoft’s customers throughout the UK, learning about how they leverage data and artificial intelligence, and working closely with them to create new solutions for a variety of functions and across multiple industries, including retail, banking and healthcare. Sutara has been with Microsoft for more than two decades, serving in a number of leadership positions on the way to her current role with the company.


Sutara’s previous roles included consumer support engineer, technical account manager, business operations manager and chief of staff, where she was responsible for all operations and business management functions for the corporate vice president for the Azure Data engineering organization. Azure is a cloud computing service operated by Microsoft for applications management via Microsoft-managed data centers. “Throughout my time at Microsoft, I have had the opportunity to leverage data bringing better experiences, improved knowledge and efficient operations in roles (that I served) at Microsoft,” she said.

Today’s data-driven environment has created the need for the new position of Chief Data Officer among C-suite executives. “It’s an interesting role, and it is a relatively new function in organizations. It covers a variety of responsibilities, from driving data technology decisions to creating data-driven cultures and identifying data-centric opportunities,” said Sutara. And for Sutara, serving as Microsoft UK’s Chief Data Officer means focusing primarily on helping some of the largest companies in the world implement data strategies and use data to transform organizations. “I don’t like thinking in terms that data is just an asset; rather, organizations should establish data as part of their culture. Today, there is so much opportunity for organizations to think about data - how to use it and manage it. However, data must be collected, stored and used in the right way,” Sutara added.

“Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person on the planet to achieve more, and that empowerment is only possible with an understanding of data within an organization.” “Microsoft has been on its own digital transformation journey for several years and data has been central to that journey. I focus on creating a data culture at Microsoft, from the leadership team down to each employee. This includes ensuring that we are considering data across our

internal processes, as well as how we are helping our customers and partners succeed with data. Ultimately, I help customers and partners obtain value from data and analytics services, bringing the best that Microsoft has to offer.” Sutara emphasizes that in today’s business environment, amidst a global pandemic, data strategies are more crucial than ever. “As the world continues its recovery from the pandemic, data is going to be critically important for organizations. It will help them understand their customers and employees, and allow them to think about the opportunities that sharing data can bring,” she said. “They can start to think of data as a strategic asset for their own organization and the value they can bring to their suppliers, customers and employees.” A native of Bernice, Louisiana, the selfproclaimed “military brat” has lived in cities around the country and around the world. It was during her time in elementary school that it became evident she had unique talents. She excelled in math and science, attending seventh grade math classes while still in the fourth grade. From high school, she attended Norwich University, a private military college in Northfield, Vermont. There she was among only a few women in the university’s computer engineering courses, where she thrived on the aspects of Boolean logic and abstract algebra. She put her educational career on hold while at Norwich and enlisted in the U.S. Army, where she was one of just a few women working on electrical, electronic, and armament systems on Apache helicopters while serving near the Demilitarized Zone in Korea. After finishing her degree, Sutara enrolled at WMU-Cooley Law School in 2007, at which point she was a mother of two girls. As a working mother, she found a learning (continued)




“Cooley has an amazing ecosystem. They offered programs geared toward working adults where you can derive a significant value for success.” ROBIN SUTARA

environment at WMU-Cooley that would help her acquire new skills that she uses today in her role at Microsoft. “Cooley has an amazing ecosystem,” Sutara said. “They offered programs geared toward working adults where you can derive a significant value for success. I feel like I worked hard and was fairly close with a lot of staff. As a working adult, I had a connection that you don’t always get as a traditional university student. The student population was a great mix of working adults and undergraduate students.” And she found the day-to-day structure at WMU-Cooley provided the challenges she was looking for. “I really appreciated the diversity in the classroom and that definitely brought about some phenomenal conversations on case law and interpretation of law,” she said. “I had great relationships with the staff and professors, including the honor of serving as teaching assistants for both Professor Frank C. Aiello and John Nussbaumer in Criminal Law, Property Law, and Secured Transactions.” Additionally, she was a member of the WMU-Cooley Law Review. “I remember teaching a class and making sure my kids had snacks to eat in the room while I was teaching,” she said. “I was really surprised by the inclusive environment that Cooley created. I was busy raising a family and working, so I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did.” In addition to serving as a teaching


assistant and doing an externship at the U.S. District Court of Eastern Michigan in Detroit, she also was co-founder and president of WMU-Cooley’s Weekend Student Organization. Sutara also was Assistant Articles Editor for the Law Review; a member of the Student Bar Association, class senator and student services chair; a member of the Student Intellectual Property Law Association, where she served as treasurer and vice president; a member of the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan – Auburn Hills Chapter, where she was the founder and community service chair; cofounder and treasurer of Veterans of Cooley; and Cooley Ambassador. She also earned Certificates of Merit in Criminal Law, Business Organizations, Advanced Writing, Property Law I, and Property Law II. “Cooley was an amazing opportunity,“ Sutara said. “I definitely benefited from the scholarship program and the systems in place that help the working adult. I was working and raising a family and the flexibility Cooley provided was very important to my success there.” Today, Sutara uses what she learned at WMU-Cooley in her new role at Microsoft. “Law is not black and white, and there is a level of interpretation,” she said. “Data is black and white, but how you use it strategically can be like law, there is a level of interpretation there.” One could surmise that Sutara’s breakneck pace as a global business leader and mother would leave her exhausted at the end of a busy day. Well, not really. Odds are, in her spare time,

“From obtaining two law degrees and multiple professional certifications – all while working full time, parenting my daughters and balancing personal commitments, including training for Ironman competitions, I believe anything is possible. I am inspired by the opportunity to improve, to grow, to get better.” ROBIN SUTARA

she is out training for a triathlon. She began running to lose weight and after losing more than 100 pounds, she sought new fitness challenges. Her longest race so far has been a 70.3-mile Ironman. She has also run five marathons and is training for a full 140.6mile Ironman.

Sutara and her family against the John Lennon Wall in Prague, Czech Republic.

“I started running in 2015 to lose weight, and I would enter half marathons and full marathons. So, after running, I picked up CrossFit training and they recommended triathlons,” Sutara said. “But I didn’t know how to swim.” So like everything else in her life, Sutara faced the challenge of learning to swim and competing in a triathlon head on. The pandemic has put a hold on competing, but she is training for a full 140.6-mile Ironman in Copenhagen in 2022 and the 2022 London Marathon as well. “I love competing against myself and pushing myself to do better,” she said. Sutara’s life mantra captures her desire to excel – “I strive to bring my best in all aspects of my work and personal life.”

A family selfie in Prague, Czech Republic.

Sutara following a race.

“From obtaining two law degrees and multiple professional certifications – all while working full-time, parenting my daughters and balancing personal commitments, including training for Ironman competitions, I believe anything is possible. I am inspired by the opportunity to improve, to grow, to get better,” Sutara added. Sutara has four daughters ranging in age from 16 to 25-years old: Rebecca, Barbora, Ryan, and Vicktoria. Sutara and her husband Marius live in London, England.





Jon Kohler When you read articles featuring Jon Kohler (Adams Class, 1997) about his success as a land broker, you read about the deals that include large swaths of land in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina. You also read about the value of the land and how the deals were brokered.

What you don’t read about in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and others is Kohler’s passion for conservation and the need to rehabilitate and maintain many of the lands his company brokers in their most natural states. In July 2021, Forbes featured Kohler’s firm, Jon Kohler & Associates, for what the firm has coined Social Storm® properties. This refers to properties that investors gravitate to for safety in bad times and buy for recreation during good times. The publication, Land Report, highlighted the firm in its article “America’s Best Brokerages” this past spring for brokering sales totaling $100 million to $250 million in 2020.


Since 2010, Kohler has closed on over 281,000 acres of land valued at more than $1 billion. The firm has also closed on the record-breaking $142 million sale of Rock Creek/Molpus; at 124,000 acres, this sale was regarded as the largest timberland sale in the southeast for eight consecutive years. Though Kohler is considered the number one broker of plantations in the United States, he speaks of these lands, many of which have been converted from cotton plantations of the past to quail plantations today, as sacred and important to the ecosystem. “From an almost biblical perspective, some of these properties stand as a representation of atonement and redemption,” said Kohler. “These same places where bad things have happened have turned around, and are now some of the most cherished places in America for their redeeming conservation efforts.” When talking about the large areas of

land in the Southeast, Kohler explains their significance to conservation practices today. “It’s really a story that should be told that few people pick up on,” said Kohler. “Today, it’s almost ironic or a complete turnaround. These are some of our country’s most significant environmental and ecological properties. It took a lot of work to restore these properties. They’ve been converted from being cotton fields and have become the ideal model for conservation today. “Let’s think about some of the best places in America today, like Yellowstone for me. Imagine if Yellowstone had been a cotton plantation and now it’s been converted. The same thing has happened down here. The areas that we hold out from becoming developed lands are places that when birds leave the north in the fall, they come to for the neotropical summers. They have to stop at what are now quail plantations, because it’s the habitat they need before they migrate

further south, and people don’t think of that. If they land in an industrial timberland stand, cattle ranch or farmland, they won’t have what they need. These are the last great natural areas of the South with native ground cover, wildflowers, and the open pine savannas.” Kohler said that when marketing these properties within the four main plantation lands of the south – Union Springs, Red Hills, the Albany Area, and the Ace Basin – it is important to share stories, including historic and natural features of the land. But when he talks about the ecosystem, his tone changes and you begin to understand the emotion this third generation land broker has for conservation. “When the Monarchs are flying down here it looks like a rain storm on weather radar. These aren’t a storm – these are Monarch butterflies. They come down and they hit this (land). Or the crazy ones are these little bitty songbirds. They catapult themselves across the (continued)




Gulf of Mexico, just south of here, but they stay here for a week building up the reserves they need. If this wasn’t here, I don’t know what they would do. They aren’t going to make it, at least the little bitty birds aren’t going to make it, flying across the Gulf of Mexico. They have to have this. It’s the South’s last conservation area.” As properties are sold in these areas of the South, the new property owners

are tasked with keeping and promoting a healthy ecosystem. “When you think of natural habitats, you think a lot of those are government lands, but these properties are managed much better than most state lands, most federal lands. It’s done organically. It’s done by capitalists. Quite frankly, you know, especially like the map behind me, these four main belts in particular are so important.”

Law School Memories: • President of the Cooley Outdoors Club. • Spent a lot of time watching the O.J. Simpson trial while attending Cooley. Credits that for earning the “Book Award” in Evidence. • Received a “C” on writing a business plan, a plan that included working on commission as a land broker over charging an hourly rate as an attorney.


With each of the four designated plantation areas being nearly 300,000 acres each, Kohler says it’s like a giant national park with multiple like-minded property owners. “Imagine if it were gone,” said Kohler. “Mass amounts of endangered species, like the gopher tortoise, are being propagated and protected on these properties.”

Kohler credits much of his success to his wife, Erica, who spends her time researching and placing values on the properties they sell. Before Jon Kohler & Associates found its niche in selling properties for recreation purposes to those investing in land, most land was appraised for its value as agricultural, business or residential. Thanks in large part to their efforts today, the quail plantations are regarded

as a separate asset class and heavily sought out by both investors and conservationists. While most are private, when they do lease out hunts, upwards of $10,000 a day can be expected. Quail play a vital role in both drawing recreational interests as well as being an indicator species for the overall health of the ecosystem. Kohler, his wife and two children, Greyson, 10, and

Ashton, 7, reside in the Red Hills area, near Tallahassee, Florida, on a 600-acre parcel of land known as Lick Skillet. Sitting along the Aucilla River, the property is named after a local town dating back to the 1800s. It was believed that when individuals cooked over open fires and left their skillets out, bear would come out of the woods and lick the skillets clean. Kohler says that the oldest known evidence of humans in North

America has been found in the area just below his property, as a mastodon tusk containing human carvings has been carbon dated at over 12,000 years old. Besides working as a land broker, Kohler enjoys taking care of his land and bringing it back to its natural state.

He is also an avid quail hunter and serves on the national boards of both Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever.

WMU-Cooley: While attending WMUCooley, Kohler knew he was going to be a land broker, but wanted to earn a law degree to be the best land broker he could be. He credits WMU-Cooley for helping him become a storyteller for the lands he represents.

“The thing that most individuals believe is important about law school is gaining knowledge of laws, which is very important of course,” said Kohler. “The thing that law firms don’t focus on is the storytelling and the persuasion. I believe

Cooley trained us to be persuaders and negotiators.”

“That’s one thing that separates my firm as a land broker from others – we are storytellers. I look at a lot of good trial attorneys and they’re storytellers. They weave the story in with facts in a compelling way.” 25



Sometimes seminal moments in one’s life can change a career path. For Rabih Hamawi (Story Class, 2015), who at the time, owned and operated an insurance agency in Livonia, Michigan, it was a not-so-ironic realization that led him to now battle in court against insurance companies on behalf of his clients.

Rabih Hamawi


“There are trigger moments in your life that kind of open your eyes,” Hamawi said. “During my days in the insurance agency, I had seen many, many times when policyholders who should have rightfully collected on a claim and the insurance company would either delay the payment or not make a payment at all. I saw insurance companies shortchanging the policyholder. So, when I opened my law firm, my mission statement was to advocate for the less fortunate in that relationship – the policyholder.” Hamawi, who emigrated from Beirut, Lebanon, is a member of one of the largest Arabic communities in the United States. In Lebanon, he earned an LL.B., Bachelor of Laws and had begun the process of completing all required steps to practice as an attorney in his native land. But, when he decided to practice law in the United States, he didn’t want to leverage his LL.B. and earn an LL.M., but rather he sought a J.D. degree, and WMU-Cooley Law School seemed to be the ideal fit for that ambition. “Cooley was closest to me, and I was working full time supporting my parents and three siblings, whom I brought here in 2005, and Cooley’s class schedule was very flexible,” Hamawi said. “Cooley also offered students more hands-on experiences than what other law schools could provide. It was the right size where I would get the one-on-one attention I wanted and structured so I could achieve the degree I wanted. “Of course, like anything, at the end of the day, you get what you put into your education; but I really can’t count all of the positive experiences that Cooley provided me. Cooley also had the best professors. In my opinion, it is the best law school in Michigan,” he said.

“I wanted to create this niche practice where I could help others,” he said. “Sometimes Hamawi and his wife, Amy (left), and with his parents (right). it might be Today, Hamawi ranks as one of the top defending someone who doesn’t understand insurance lawyers in the state. He has been the system and an insurance company is named to the Michigan Super Lawyers Rising making them an offer they hope they might Stars list in insurance law in 2017, 2018, take. I wanted to open a firm that will fight 2019, 2020, and 2021; an exclusive list, exclusively for those who have lost their recognizing no more than 2.5 percent of homes, businesses, and their most precious exceptional young attorneys in Michigan personal items due to disasters, and who who have demonstrated excellence in now must persevere against an insurance their areas of expertise. Hamawi was also company to get their lives back together,” selected to the Michigan Lawyers Weekly says Hamawi. Class of 2020 Up & Coming Lawyers, And Hamawi’s multi-language and diverse which is dedicated to saluting Michigan background is a major asset for his clients. lawyers who have established a name for “That’s why I wanted my firm to give themselves by displaying the ambition, drive, special attention to the needs of the several and accomplishments that set them apart minorities in Metro Detroit, and Michigan, among their peers — in their first 10 years who sometimes are victimized by insurance in practice. He is the current Chair-Elect of companies due to race, ethnicity, religion, or the Insurance and Indemnity Law Section of inexperience with the judicial system,” the State Bar of Michigan and serves on the says Hamawi. executive board of the Michigan Association for Justice. “One of the advantages I have personally is my background,” he said. “My first language was Arabic, but more importantly, I understand all of the dialects of the Arabic language. I can’t tell you how many times I have encountered misunderstandings or misinterpretations during depositions and court proceedings. I have witnessed courtappointed interpreters who even misinterpret what the client is saying because they don’t know the particular dialect. The court interpreter might wrongly translate what a client is trying to say ... when I encounter that, I stop the whole proceeding until they get it right.”

Following law school, Rabih Hamawi knew he wanted to build a practice that would help those who have little or no means to navigate through the legal system.

While in law school, Hamawi interned for the Hon. John Corbett O’Meara, federal judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. He also interned for the U.S. Department of Justice in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit. At WMU-Cooley, Hamawi served on the WMU-Cooley Law Review Board of Editors as a Symposium Editor, where he received the Law Review Board Award for the most significant contributions to the Law Review Board during his tenure. He also served on the Moot Court and Mock Trial executive boards, and was a member of WMU-Cooley’s National Trial Team. Upon graduation, Hamawi received the Student Leadership Achievement Award for his outstanding participation in a leadership role during law school. Hamawi and his wife, Amy, live in Dearborn, Michigan.



Annual Giving For nearly 50 years, our law school has been on the frontline of innovation and change in legal education. From providing first of a kind, flexible, affordable programs to infusing technology to enrich student access to practical legal scholarship, WMU-Cooley Law School has, from its inception, pushed the Annual Giving boundaries to achieve its mission of providing transformational For nearlylegal 50 years, our law school has been on the frontline of innovation and change in legal practical education. education. In the process, our law school has changed the face of the legal From providing first of a kind, flexible, affordable programs to infusing technology to enrich student profession and our graduates now lead in the legal profession and in access to practical legal scholarship, WMU-Cooley Law School has, from its inception, pushed the communities around the country. boundaries to achieve its mission of providing transformational practical legal education. None this is without ongoing support generosity oflead In theof process, ourpossible law school has changed the the face of the legal professionand and our graduates now the legal profession and in communities around the country. ourin alumni and friends. None of this is possible without the ongoing andalumni generosityand of ourfriends alumni and Continue the tradition. Please joinsupport fellow byfriends. making your gift to WMU-Cooley today. Visit cooley.edu/giving to make your Continue the tradition. Please join fellow alumni and friends by making your gift to WMU-Cooleygift today. Visit cooley.edu/giving make your giftAnnual online or return enclosed Annual Fund reply envelope. online or return theto enclosed Fundthereply envelope. Three opportunities to make a difference Three opportunities to make a difference:




support curricular Support curricular enhancements,recruitment recruitment enhancements, efforts,and andscholarships scholarships to efforts, secureaamore morediverse diverse to secure student student body body whilewhile promoting promoting a diversityand of a diversity of thinking thinking and ideas in the ideas in the classroom classroom and, ultimately in and, ultimately, in the legal the legal profession profession.

fuel thethe dreams of of those who Fuel dreams those wantwant to change the worldwho to change the students are just world — who students wholike want youyou. to be just like

help affordable Helpkeep keepCooley WMU-Cooley by providingby support for dayaffordable providing to-dayfor operations and support day-to-day immediate needs operations and immediate needs.

LEARNmore MOREatATcooley.edu/giving COOLEY.EDU Learn



WMU-Cooley Hosts Virtual Event Series Since May 2020, WMU-Cooley has been proud to host the WMU-Cooley Community Conversations special virtual event series featuring many top professors and legal experts who speak on important topics impacting society and our legal system. Thank you to the following keynote speakers for being a part of the discussions and solutions we face today. If you missed any of the conversations, you can catch up by watching them on the law school’s official YouTube page.

Mick Grewal, Trinea Gonczar, and Judge Rosemarie Aquilina

September 30, 2021: Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, Trinea Gonczar, and Manvir “Mick” Grewal, Sr.; At the Heart of Gold Panel Discussion

Cindy Stuart

October 6, 2021: Cindy Stuart; Court Access = Access to Justice

Marla Mitchell-Cichon, David Williams, exoneree Lacino Hamilton, and Tracey Brame

October 28, 2021: Former WMU-Cooley Innocence Project director Marla-Mitchell-Cichon; David Williams, past student and attorney with the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project; exoneree Lacino Hamilton, and WMUCooley Innocence Project Director Associate Dean Tracey Brame; Wrongful Conviction Panel Discussion

November 10, 2021: Gary Watson, Kathryn Rattigan, Rick Conklin, Colin Maguire, Kati Komorosky, Brigadier General (ret.) Michael C. H. McDaniel, and Samantha Sliney; Drone Law Symposium Panel Discussion



WMU-Cooley School News Graduates of WMU-Cooley Law School’s Florida and Michigan campuses were honored during graduation ceremonies held on Sept. 11 and Sept. 26, respectively. SEPTEMBER 2021 MATTHEWS CLASS GRADUATION The commencements included the opportunity for graduates from previous terms to participate since in-person ceremonies had been cancelled due to COVID restrictions. During the commencements, 83 juris doctor degrees were conferred to members of the Stanley Matthews Class, and 58 past-term graduates participated in the ceremonies. In Michigan, the Hon. Kwamé L. Rowe of Oakland County Circuit Court provided the keynote address, while Leanna Poole was selected by her fellow students to give the valedictory remarks. During her remarks, Poole, who earned her bachelor’s degree from Prairie View A&M University, reflected upon their journey through law school and the many

challenges the law students faced, especially during the COVID pandemic. “We have all heard the saying that ‘law school is a marathon and not a sprint.’ Well, I am happy to announce that we have finished this marathon,” said Poole. “From the long nights updating outlines, reviewing notes, and briefing cases, to late nights studying for finals, that was all a part of the marathon and what got us to the finish line today. Our time at Cooley has prepared us to face challenges head-on and be great advocates. We have earned our place in the legal field, and I am sure we will make an everlasting mark. “Although COVID may have brought some tough times, I want us to focus on what we gained from this experience,” Poole added. “Going forward, we now know that nothing can stop us. We made it even when it felt like everything


The Hon. Kwamé L. Rowe


Leanna Poole

was against us. The next time you find yourself unsure of what to do, or you feel your back is against the wall, remember that you made it during a worldwide shutdown. You picked up the pieces and continued to walk with your head up. That is what we should remember about this pandemic: That we are strong, and we can get through anything that is thrown our way.” During his keynote address, Judge Rowe spoke with students about how he overcame adversity and pushed aside the naysayers when he decided he wanted to go to law school. “As many of you are aware, I sat in the very seats that you are sitting in just six years ago,” he said. “Yes, that’s right, just six years ago I graduated from law school, and here I am before you as a sitting judge. Not only just a sitting judge, but one of the


The Hon. Daryl Manning

President McGrath

Graduates from WMU-Cooley Law School’s Tampa Bay commencement ceremony on Sept. 11.

TAMPA BAY CAMPUS youngest, if not the youngest appointed judges in Michigan history.” During the ceremony, WMUCooley Professor Erika Breitfeld was presented with the Stanley E. Beattie Award for excellence in teaching. Each term’s graduating class votes on the faculty member who will be honored with the award. In Florida, the Hon. Daryl Manning of Florida’s 13th Judicial Circuit provided the keynote address, while Talece Hunter was selected by her fellow students to present the valedictory remarks. Hunter, who earned her bachelor’s degree from Johnson C. Smith University and a master’s degree from Ohio University, spoke about many issues, including the pandemic that affected the graduates while in law school.

“We probably had the most unique law school experience in law school history. We directly or indirectly survived COVID, depression, racism, and social ethical economic injustice. We survived the U.S. Capitol takeover, highly contested elections, natural disasters, and building collapses,” said Hunter. “Rules were broken, ignored and rewritten. Sometimes there were no rules. In fact, much of what we lived through, was lawlessness. Yes, every part of our being is trained to support the rule of law. And maybe it was that lawlessness that helped us truly value the rule of law.” Judge Manning shared how the events on Sept. 11, 2001 changed the nation and how those important changes relate to the work of future attorneys.

“September 11th will always be a solemn day of remembrance and reflection,” said Manning. “It is a day that changed our country forever. It will also be a day recognizing your tremendous accomplishments. Just as those brave and courageous passengers on United flight 93 were game changers by fighting back and thwarting the attack of the hijackers, you all can do more. Be a game changer in the law. Congratulations to each of you for your tremendous accomplishments. Take some time to process what you have done and enjoy it. You are well along the way to joining a small community of legal professionals.”



Erika Breitfeld

Talece Hunter

Nichole Stocker & President McGrath



In the spring, WMU-Cooley held the last of its virtual commencement ceremonies put in place during the Covid pandemic. MAY 2021 WOODS CLASS GRADUATION WMU-Cooley Law School held commencement ceremonies on Sunday, May 23. The virtual graduation honored 205 juris doctor and seven master of laws degree recipients from the law school’s campuses. Buddy Faulkner and Roslyn Murrell were chosen by their classmates to present the valedictory remarks, and Judge Jessica Costello from the Hillsborough County, Florida, 13th Judicial Circuit, presented the keynote. During the ceremony, Melissa Heinz of the Grand Rapids campus and Kathryn Kucyk of the Auburn Hills campus were presented with the James E. Burns Memorial Award for graduating summa cum laude (highest GPA in the graduating class); and Comfort Aduwa was the recipient of the President’s Achievement Award (highest increase percentage in GPA

from incoming credentials through law school). During her remarks, Murrell, who attended the Lansing campus, spoke about the class’ journey through law school. “We all remember the first day of orientation when we were told that time would go by quickly and by the time we finally look up, we will be done. My fellow graduates look up. We are here now. We have finished the course.” She spoke about changing from in-person to virtual classes due to the pandemic. “Suddenly we could not come to campus, but we adapted. It was a rough start for many of us, but we persevered,” Murrell said. “Our law school experience was like a seed that was planted. That seed was our law school application. When we were accepted we were covered by mountains of coursework

that some of us have never experienced before, kind of like being covered with top soil and fertilizer. We knew it was good for us, but it was also suffocating at times. The seedling was watered by our tears of first-year law school exams. It was nourished by so many, our professors and staff who welcomed us openly, by our fellow classmates, and the sunny dispositions of our friends and family who championed us on and always gave us a positive uplifting word.” Faulkner, from the Tampa Bay campus, thanked friends and family of graduates by saying, “without you this marathon might not have been quite as bearable. “The network of friends we have made at Cooley will be with us for life. We have shared an experience that most people wouldn’t attempt. We know there are great things in store for all of


Buddy Faulkner


Roslyn Murrell

Judge Jessica Costello


“The Class of 2021 represents 124 different undergraduate institutions from around the country. There are members from this graduating class hailing from every branch of the armed forces.” JUDGE JESSICA COSTELLO

us. The law degree is one of the most versatile degrees in the world. You can use it for most anything you want. Law school has taught us to think of things in ways most people cannot. It has taught us to value integrity and good relationships. It has taught us to be comfortable with uncertainty. So, go out there and accomplish whatever life brings you.” Judge Costello spoke about the importance of the accomplishments of graduating from law school. “Today we are celebrating 207 juris doctor recipients. We are celebrating seven LL.M. recipients, those who thought law school was so nice they decided to do it twice. The Class of 2021 represents 124 different undergraduate institutions from around the country. There are members from this graduating class hailing from every branch of the armed forces.” said Costello.

Costello shared the importance of going through law school during the challenging times of the pandemic, the power of resilience. “The resilience that comes from life-altering change, like the life-altering change of making it through law school during a once-in-a-century global pandemic.” She shared advice on being resilient, by first referencing the definition of resilient from Black’s Law Dictionary. “‘The ability for something to return to its original form after being compressed or stretched, or the ability to recover from or adjust to adversity and change.’ You can definitely say the uncertainty of this past year compressed and stretched us. Importantly, over this past year, we’ve had to function without one of the most important aspects of the human experience, each other. Unfortunately, after the year we have experienced, and unlike

the first definition, we will never return to our original form after what we have been through. For that reason, I think the second definition of resilience is much more helpful to describe our current state in light of the difficulties we face. We will and we have and shall recover from and adjust to adversity and change.” Talking about her experience as a lawyer, and now a judge, she explained how her own resiliency got her to where she is today. Costello shared a time when delivering the closing arguments for a defendant. As the youngest lawyer in the courtroom, she had to “rise for the occasion and be resilient.” Costello said, today as a judge, “It does me great joy to see great lawyers do the same in a multitude of ways, because of the extraordinary impact you can have as an advocate for others.”

“The network of friends we have made at Cooley will be with us for life. We have shared an experience that most people wouldn’t attempt. We know there are great things in store for all of us.” BUDDY FAULKNER



WMU-Cooley New Home of National Legal Mentoring Consortium WMU-Cooley has become the new administrative home of the National Legal Mentoring Consortium. Amy Timmer, WMU-Cooley associate dean of Academic and Student Affairs, has been named the consortium’s new director. “I am pleased that the consortium’s executive committee has given me the honor of being its new director, and has approved the consortium’s move to WMU-Cooley,” said Timmer. “These two changes will ensure continuation of the National Legal Mentoring Consortium, whose mission of supporting legal mentoring programs is crucial to our profession.” The National Legal Mentoring Consortium was established in 2011 at the Center on Professionalism at the University of South Carolina School of Law. It was supported by the Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough law firm, now Nelson Mullins, and one of the firm’s partners, Ed Mullins, Jr. After


10 years of supporting the consortium, the University of South Carolina School of Law now passes on the reins to WMU-Cooley. “We plan to be excellent stewards of the consortium, following in the footsteps of the University of South Carolina,” WMU-Cooley President and Dean James McGrath said. “The NLMC has supported legal mentoring programs in law schools, law firms, and state bar associations around the country. As law students and new lawyers prepare to meet the needs of our ever-changing legal profession, support for those programs is critical. In the hands of Dean Amy Timmer, I am confident the consortium will continue to thrive under our stewardship.”


Chair of the NLMC’s Executive Committee, attorney Nathan Alder, added, “We absolutely supported the move to WMU-Cooley. Amy is a founding member of the National Legal Mentoring Consortium, and has served on the executive committee since its inception. She is clearly dedicated to preserving and maintaining the Consortium through her and WMU-Cooley’s generous offer to take the helm. Having Amy as director will give us the internal support we need to continue to promote and assist legal mentoring programs around the country.” For those seeking ongoing information, go to National Legal Mentoring Consortium on the WMU-Cooley website.


WMU-Cooley Law School was founded on a mission of equal access to a legal education and offers admission to a diverse group of qualified applicants across the country. Since the law school’s founding in 1972, WMU-Cooley has provided a modern legal education to more than 20,000 graduates, teaching the practical skills necessary for a seamless transition from academia to the real world. WMU-Cooley enrolls classes yearround at its Michigan and Florida campuses. WMU-Cooley is an independent, non-profit law school, accredited by both the American Bar Association and the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.



Multicultural Lawyering: Professors Kim O’Leary and Mable Martin-Scott




How can lawyers help their clients when the clients’ experiences – often traumatic and oppressive ones – are not like anything the lawyers have ever experienced or encountered?


WMU-Cooley Professor Kim O’Leary can relate to the inability to relate. As a white middle class law student, transplanted from southern Indiana to Boston in the early ’80s, O’Leary remembers being overwhelmed by the neighborhoods her clients lived in and the problems they were encountering. She feared that she didn’t have the life experiences to help clients with such vastly different backgrounds. But her clinical teacher, who’d run into a similar culture shock 20 years previously, had the answer. As a self-described 33-year-old Jewish kid who found himself representing the Black Panthers in Los Angeles in the 1960s, Gary Bellow told O’Leary he’d

been in the same boat – he had no clue what his clients were experiencing. “So, I sat in people’s kitchens and listened,” O’Leary recalled Bellow telling her. Who you are and how you grew up does not define what you can be. Both as humans in general, and lawyers in particular, people have the ability to stretch and grow so that they can effectively help others – even if their life experiences are so vastly different as to make that seem impossible at first. What it takes is talking – and even more important, listening.


“A lawyer’s job is to help other people. You can’t help them if you don’t understand what they want and need.” KIM O’LEARY

Enter “Multicultural Lawyering,” a course created by O’Leary and fellow WMU-Cooley Professor Mable Martin-Scott and taught for the first time in January 2020. A limited-enrollment elective now offered two out of every three terms at the law school, Multicultural Lawyering is a game changer on many levels. This isn’t yet another trendy consciousness-raising seminar designed to tell one side that the other side has value. Martin-Scott, who grew up in inner-city Chicago, has seen plenty of well-meaning courses taught elsewhere that led only to arguments, divisiveness, and hard feelings. She didn’t want that at WMU-Cooley, a law school with a nearly 50-year track record of inclusiveness. But the more that she read the material that O’Leary was sending her way, the more she realized this new course was very different and she signed on as a partner. “This class avoids getting people on the defensive or on the offensive. My job as the Assistant Dean of the campus, was to not have that conflict,” Martin-Scott said. “This class is not about that.” O’Leary explained that the class is designed to equip soon-to-belawyers with the tools and the skills to engage with others in a meaningful way.

Martin-Scott added that the number one principle the class seeks to instill is “You have to represent your client. To do that, lawyers have to understand their clients. “A lawyer’s job is to help other people. You can’t help them if you don’t understand what they want and need.” There are no sides. Instead, there are a multiplicity of cultures. Even people who don’t think of themselves in cultural terms have a culture. And that culture informs how they see the world – and the people in it – and how they react and conduct their daily lives. The key, especially in training lawyers, is to get students to not only understand how they view things, but how others particularly their clients - view those things. Lawyers cannot fully represent their clients without an understanding of what makes them tick – how the culture they are a part of affects them and even determines what they do. And it’s no longer just a “nice” thing that a good lawyer does to create a connection with clients – it’s an American Bar Association rule. With the advent of ABA Model Rule 8.4G, lawyers now have a professional obligation to be culturally competent. With this course, Martin-Scott said, “the law school is poised as a leader in that field. We can make a difference.”

They already are. As the class got rolling, O’Leary and MartinScott realized there really was no textbook that presented the material in the way they wanted. So, they wrote one. The resulting volume, Multicultural Lawyering – Navigating the Culture of the Law, the Lawyer, and the Client, was published by Carolina Academic Press in 2021. The book, with its colorful design, clear explanations by the authors, and plentiful case studies (including “when failure to understand culture results in bad things”), is not only used in the WMUCooley course, but it’s catching on in the wider legal arena. The royalties, a bemused MartinScott reported, are already starting to come in.

The course has proven so popular that more than one student review has called for it to be made a required class. But the course will remain an elective, Martin-Scott and O’Leary said firmly. For the course to work, they explained, the students have to want to be there. They might not agree with everything they hear, but for the messages to resonate, for growth to occur, the foundation has to start with an audience willing to listen.




This is the message that O’Leary and Martin-Scott are communicating to law schools and organizations around the country that are now clamoring for the two to bring their message and training to them. Conversations have been held with law schools at the University of Michigan, University of Memphis, Syracuse University, and Wayne State University among others. The duo also participated in a panel discussion on preparing multicultural lawyers for the AccessLex Institute. It’s also the message that was communicated far and wide at a two-day online conference on multicultural lawyering that WMU-Cooley hosted in March 2021. The conference proved to be very popular and was soon filled to capacity, with guest speakers, interactive questions and answers, and a large volume of shared information. Going forward, O’Leary and Martin-Scott will continue to teach the course and speak around the world. The two are already talking with interested people in Australia and New Zealand, and hope to expand to Europe in the near future. O’Leary also plans to start a blog about multi-cultural

lawyering that will post on a regular basis, and the WMUCooley faculty have adopted a three-part Diversity, Equity and Inclusion proposal that includes self-education, voluntary study groups and collaborations with student groups. The future looks filled with positive developments. “The legal community and the world are multicultural and rapidly changing,” Martin-Scott said. “Lawyers have to lead that change.”

“It is no longer just ‘acceptable’ that lawyers are culturally competent, it is required. It is critical that students and lawyers are prepared, and it is extremely exciting to be a part of that change.” MABLE MARTIN-SCOTT


Multicultural Lawyering – Navigating the Culture of the Law, the Lawyer, and the Client, by Kimberly E. O’Leary and Mable Martin-Scott


WMU-Cooley Alumni News Bill Arnold: WMU-Cooley’s New Director of Advancement and Alumni Relations I am excited to serve WMU-Cooley Law School and the alumni community as your new director of advancement and alumni relations. I am committed to leading the law school’s effort to engage and connect our alumni and other constituents with the important work of supporting our current and future students. In conjunction with our faculty, staff, and Alumni Association, we will work to provide events, services, and opportunities that best serve the needs of both the law school and the alumni community. Together, we can achieve the law school’s commitment to advance justice and equity by providing transformative practical legal education that prepares and inspires our students and alumni to become lifelong learners and agents for positive change in their communities and in the legal profession. This issue of the Benchmark provides a glimpse at the law school’s latest strategic plan and priorities. Having perused the preceding pages, you’ve had the opportunity to read the new vision and mission statements and to get a better sense of those areas in which the faculty and staff will be directing their energy over the next several years. In the process, I hope you found yourself intrigued, perhaps even excited, by the things you read because we need your help to address these priorities and to fulfill this strategic plan. In the weeks and months ahead, I, along with members of the faculty, staff, and Alumni Association, will

be inviting the alumni community to partner with us in this effort. You can expect to hear from us as we seek to increase externship, clinical, and other experiential learning opportunities. You may also be asked to help us recruit, enroll, prepare, and graduate the next generation of Cooley alumni. And yes, you will see appeals for gifts to support scholarships, programs, departments, and the overall financial strength of the law school. Each of these forms of support are critical to the school’s ability to achieve our mission, sustain our distinctive approach to legal education, and to fulfill our commitment to opportunity, inclusivity, fairness, and equality. Like every other private college and university, WMU-Cooley Law School depends on the generosity of those who believe in the school’s mission and its founding

premise “that the strength of a democracy depends upon the ability of people to understand their laws.” That is as true now as it was 50 years ago when Judge Thomas E. Brennan, Sr. and the small cadre of lawyers and judges supplied the initial vision and the commitment of time and financial resources necessary to establish the law school. As director of advancement and alumni relations, I look forward to partnering with you and generations of alumni in sustaining and expanding the tradition of volunteer and philanthropic support for the law school. Together, we can ensure that WMU-Cooley’s transformative practical legal education remains accessible and affordable to current and future generations of students.



WMU-Cooley Alumni Association Executive Committee PRESIDENT



Susanne Harris (Carpenter Class, 1993)

Steven Heisler (Iredell Class, 2001)

Sharon Ellis (North Class, 1980)




Bradley Merritt (Kavanagh Class, 2008)

Kirstyn Wildey (Hughes Class, 2016)

Tiffany Foskey (O. Smith Class, 2003)




Robert Johnson (Boyle Class, 2018)

Sheila Lake (Burger Class, 2017)

Karen Poole (Witherell Class, 1990)




Kirstyn Wildey (Hughes Class, 2016)

Helen Haessly (Cushing Class, 2000)

Susanne Harris (Carpenter Class, 1993)

LAW SCHOOL SUPPORT COMMITTEE Bradley Merritt (Kavanagh Class, 2001)

WMU-Cooley Alumni Association National Alumni Board


Steven Balkema (Swayne Class, 2019)

Germese Gee (Todd Class, 2014)

Melaney LaGrone (Sibley Class, 2011)

Karen Poole (Witherell Class, 1990)

Alecia Chandler (Swainson Class, 2003

Patrick Griffin (Riley Class, 2009)

Sheila Lake (Burger Class, 2017)

Tom Rombach (Morse Class, 1987)

Nina DiPadova (Woodbridge Class, 2010)

Catherine Groll (Montgomery Class, 1992)

Julie Lawler-Hoyle (Warren Class, 2017)

Daphnee Sainvil (Chipman Class, 2011)

FaCheryl Dixon (Moore Class, 2013)

Helen Haessly (Cushing Class, 2000)

Michael Marcum (Sibley Class, 2011)

Jim Samuels (Dethmers Class, 1981)

Jason Downs (Curtis Class, 2019)

Danielle Hall (Blair Jr. Class, 2001)

Kathy Martin (Weadock Class, 1999)

Trovious Starr (Todd Class, 2014)

Sharon Ellis (North Class, 1980)

Rabih Hamawi (Story Class, 2015)

Bradley Merritt (Kavanagh Class, 2008)

Peter Tomasek (Todd Class, 2014)

Matt Fendon (CJ Adams Class, 2008)

Susanne Harris (Carpenter Class, 1993)

Joel Montilla (Taft Class, 2016)

Kirstyn Wildey (Hughes Class, 2016)

Tiffany Foskey (O. Smith Class, 2003)

Steve Heisler (Iredell Class, 2001)

Matt Newburg (Sharpe Class, 2008)

Adam Zickerman (Swainson Class, 2003)

Audra Foster (Fellows Class, 1997)

Ieisha Humphrey (Sibley Class, 2011)

Samuel Onyegam (Wilkins Class, 2011)

Steve Fox (Dethmers Class, 1981)

Shawn Jiles (Swainson Class, 2003)

Joni Orandello (Moore Class, 2013)

Jackie Freeman (Reid Class, 2006)

Robert Johnson (Boyle Class, 2018)

Alice Pai (Swift Class, 2004)


Distinguished Student Awards Presented Distinguished Student Awards (DSA) were announced in July 2021 to graduating students from the Stanley Matthews Class. The recipients were Madison Mazer and Leonard Peoples from the Lansing campus, Joeie Skelly 69% BENCHMARK from theMAGAZINE Tampa Bay campus, and ALUMNI Leanna Poole from the Auburn Hills campus. In November 2021, DSA awards for the Gray Class of graduating seniors included Amanda Ingraham, Katie Komorosky, and Casey Strong from the Lansing campus and Ashley Palmer and Yasmin Rammaha from the Tampa Bay campus.

2021 Alumni Events: June-November JUNE 2021 Michigan virtual alumni event hosted by Alumni Association Vice President Susanne Harris (Carpenter Class, 1993) and graduate Steve Heisler (Iredell Class, 2001).

JULY 2021 Tampa, Florida virtual alumni event hosted by Alumni Association Secretary Bradley Merritt (Kavanagh Class, 2008).

SEPTEMBER 2021 Lansing Lugnuts game social with the alumni association, students and employers, hosted by Helen Haessly (Cushing Class, 2000) and Karen Poole (Witherell Class, 1990).

Chicago in-person alumni social event hosted by Assistant Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Lena Bailey and graduate Steve Heisler (Iredell Class, 2001).

OCTOBER 2021 Charlotte, North Carolina in-person alumni social event hosted by Director of Advancement and Alumni Relations Bill Arnold. Central States Virtual Alumni Event hosted by John Heugel (Bushnell Class, 1980).

NOVEMBER 2021 Tampa, Florida in-person alumni social event hosted by Director of Advancement and Alumni Relations Bill Arnold.



WMU-Cooley Graduate Spotlight: Steven Heisler Steven Heisler is the Managing Partner of the Heisler Law Group in Port Huron, a firm specializing in criminal, family, appellate, and business law. Heisler is a lifetime member of the WMU-Cooley Alumni Association, and a current member of the National Alumni Board. He chairs the Major Events Committee, which is the committee that organizes the bar admission ceremony at the U.S. Supreme Court each year; plans the annual meeting of the association, and works with the staff at the law school to plan other major events involving the association. For several years, Steve has participated in regional networking events around the country, including hosting virtual alumni events this year, and he has also attended fundraisers for the school. He participates in the Mentor Jet programs for students organized by the Career and Professional Development Office.

Q: WHAT IS YOUR INVOLVEMENT IN THE WMU-COOLEY ALUMNI GROUP? A: I co-chair some of the major alumni events, like golf outings and retreats, and I’m on several mentoring committees.


Q: CAN YOU SHARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE MEMORIES AS A LAW STUDENT AT WMU-COOLEY? A: One of my fondest memories at WMU-Cooley was a remark by Cooley Professor John Nussbaumer during my very first class on the first day of law school. I can’t remember his exact quote, but what I do remember is that he indicated we have a moral duty to give back to the community. And now, I try to live that throughout my life, including giving back to Cooley. I’ve always had a philosophy, I call it “Guilter’s Gain.” I know it has a funny name, but it’s something that I made up. What it means is if you give blindly to others they will likely feel guilty that you’ve given of yourself and will want to give back either to you or to others. If you live that philosophy, I think it really pans out for you at the end of the day.


“The more you network, the more you continue to grow that network of people who will refer to you later on down the road.” STEVEN HEISLER Q: SINCE GRADUATING FROM WMU-COOLEY TWO DECADES AGO, WHY DO YOU REMAIN CONNECTED TO THE LAW SCHOOL AND ARE INVOLVED IN ITS ALUMNI RELATIONS? A: I’m a big believer in networking. The more you network, the more you continue to grow that network of people who will refer to you later on down the road. I also believe that being involved with and connected to Cooley has helped me when it comes to intern and employee searches as well. Networking has also been instrumental when I practice outside of my county. I have a pool of people who I can pull from to help me with a case, so networking is very important.

Q: LET’S TALK ABOUT YOUR PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND. HOW DID YOU GET TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY, OPENING YOUR OWN LAW FIRM? A: I received a business degree from St. Clair County Community College in Port Huron and a bachelor’s degree in business leadership with a concentration in marketing from Baker College. Then, while I was at Cooley, I worked at a law firm in Genesee County, and had gained clients through my time there. I decided

to use that experience and my knowledge from my two undergraduate business degrees to open my own firm right after I graduated law school.

Q: WHAT TYPES OF CASES DOES YOUR FIRM MAINLY HANDLE? A: It’s a general practice firm in St. Clair County. It’s a wider area of practice, which includes family law, criminal law, and some appellate, business and probate work as well. Family law is our biggest focus, followed by criminal law and business, which could include collections, business formation, those types of things; appellate as it relates to family law, and then probate.

Q: HAVE YOU EVER HIRED ANY COOLEY GRADS TO WORK AT YOUR LAW FIRM? A: Yes. In fact, I have hired a few Cooley graduates and they are now working in the court system. One is now a Friend of the Court referee, and one of my former assistants is now an assistant prosecutor. I’m very happy for them. It’s a blessing

to see them succeed in the legal profession.

Q: HOW BIG IS YOUR LAW FIRM NOW? A: Right now it’s me and my assistant, but I have openings for various positions.

Q: DID YOU HAVE A SLOW-DOWN DURING THE PANDEMIC IN THE CRIMINAL SIDE? A: On the criminal side, I would say probably yes. Family side, just the opposite – and it’s creating a backlog. We try to prioritize everything the best we can for our clients. But because of safety and protocols, we just can’t get everything done for each client right away.


We were married in June 2008 and have three pet birds. We love to travel. Prior to the pandemic, we traveled to Alaska, Europe and the Caribbean. My wife and I have been on over 50 cruises together.

Q: WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR UPCOMING LAWYERS AND MAYBE EVEN POTENTIAL CLIENTS? A: I tell my clients the same thing, using my “Guilter’s Gain” philosophy. I say to them, if I give to you and I take care of you and I’m fair with you, you’re going to feel guilty and refer me to others for legal services. And then they laugh, and it’s kind of funny. But I explain to them that’s how you came to me – because of a referral. So, don’t think Guilter’s Gain doesn’t work, because it does.

A: I met my wife on New Year’s Day 2000 – I was halfway through law school.

Heisler and his wife, Alicia.


Faculty Briefs Erika Breitfeld, Assistant Dean and Associate Professor Recipient, of the Stanley E. Beattie Teaching Award from the Trinity 2021 graduating class. Appointed, to the Oakland County Inns of Court. Appointed, to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Racial Justice Advisory Board. Served, as a member of the board of directors, for the Macomb County Veterans’ Treatment Court monthly meetings. Served, on the State Bar of Michigan Access to Justice Committee, in her capacity as a member.

Mark Cooney, Professor Accepted, an invitation to present for a national webinar on “Appellate Advocacy and Citing Authority in Briefs and at Oral Argument.” Published, an article called “The Benefits of Accessible Compliance Forms” in Corporate & Ethics Professional (CEP) Magazine. Published, an article called “Decluttering Sentences” in the Michigan Bar Journal’s Plain Language column. Accepted, for publication in the Michigan Bar Journal’s Plain Language column, an article called “Make Your Case in a Minute (With a Little Help from Aristotle).” Accepted, an invitation to present at the Michigan Appellate Bench-Bar Conference Foundation’s Moderator & Reporter Training. Judged, for the Center for Plain Language’s 2021 ClearMark Awards. Quoted, in WalletHub blog “Ask the Experts: Liability Car Insurance,” about factors to consider when determining appropriate liabilitycoverage limits. 44

Renalia DuBose, Associate Professor Signed, on Oct. 4, 2021, a Letter of Intent with Mitchell Hamlin Law Review to publish an article entitled “An Unexpected Result of Gender Equality Initiatives in Sports - The Sexualization of Female Athletes,” in Volume 48 of their Law Review. Recent international media coverage of female athletes’ backlash against sexualized athletic attire by the Norwegian women’s handball team and the German female gymnastics team serve as the introduction to the article. The history of women’s participation in sports is examined from the ancient Olympics to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Significant historical events that changed the social order in the United States and ultimately increased female participation in sports are analyzed, including the Civil War, Women’s Suffrage Movement, World War II, and the Civil Rights Movement. The positive and negative impacts of Title IX on female participation in sports are explored, especially the removal of women from significant decision-making roles regarding female athletics. Changes in female athletic attire from an era of modesty to an era of sensuality are documented, as are suggested steps forward to protect female athletes more effectively.

David Finnegan, Professor Presented, “The Numerus Clausus Principle and Land Law in Africa” at the annual meeting of the American Society of Comparative Law, on Oct. 21, 2021. Attended, the annual meeting of the Law & Society Association, in May 2021. Served, in Winter 2021, on the Law & Society Association’s Herbert Jacob Prize Committee. The committee reviewed nominated

books and gave the prize for best book in law and society scholarship published in 2020. Published, a book chapter on “Private Ordering, Dynamic Merchant Tradition, and the Uniform Commercial Code,” in Research Handbook on International Commercial Contracts (Andrew Hutchinson & Franziska Myburgh, eds.) in December 2020.

Amanda Fisher, Visiting Professor Presented, at the South Florida Regional ASP Conference. Presented, at the New England Consortium of Academic Support Professionals. Published, “Convergent Roles: How The Pandemic Has Caused An Identity Crisis For Mothers” (March, 2021), available at https:// abovethelaw.com/2021/03/ convergent-roles-how-thepandemic-has-caused-an-identitycrisis-for-mothers/. Published, “Asynchronous Teaching Methodologies: Pandemic Reflections and Best Practices” (Summer/Fall 2021), The Learning Curve. Defended, and published doctoral dissertation, “Gendered Stigma in the Legal Profession” (September 2021), ProQuest Dissertations and Theses.

Gerald Fisher, Distinguished Professor Emeritus Authored, the book, Local Government Law, A Practical Guidebook for Public Officials on City Councils, Community Boards, and Planning Commissions, published in May 2021 by Routledge. Published, an article, “Michigan Has a Deep-Rooted Public Policy of Strong Local Control … If We Can Keep It,” in the July 2020 edition of the Michigan Bar Journal.

Published, an article, “Billboard Cases in the Sixth Circuit Raise Questions on the Application of Reed v Town of Gilbert,” in the January 2021 issue of Briefly, a publication of the Government Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan. Served, as chairperson of the advisory board for the publication of the Michigan Sign Guidebook, created and published by Scenic Michigan. Presented, two online workshops in May 2021 with MSU Extension Service, on the Michigan Sign Guidebook for professional planners and attorneys.

Joseline Hardrick, Visiting Professor Published, the article, “The Importance of Pipeline Programs in Diversifying the Federal Bench and Bar,” in The Federal Lawyer, Sept/Oct. 2021, Vol. 68, Issue 5. Organized, the first-ever “Law Student and Young Lawyers Division Track” for the Hillsborough County Bar Association’s Annual Bench Bar Event in commemoration of its 125th anniversary on Oct. 12, 2021.The event included a private breakfast with judges, and two sessions titled “Professional and Legal Development While Mixing and Mingling in the Virtual World” and “Job Searching in the Post COVID-19 Era.” She also helped coordinate scholarships for several WMU-Cooley students to become members of the association and attend the event for free, and to secure a $1,000 discount on Kaplan and Themis bar prep course for several students.

Joseph Kimble, Distinguished Professor Emeritus Gave, a keynote address at the joint international conference of Clarity, the Center for Plain

Language, and the Plain Language Association International. He spoke on the medical power of attorney developed by the Kimble Center for Legal Drafting. Learned, that the medical power of attorney had won a prestigious ClearMark Award from the Center for Plain Language. Learned, that the ABA Journal published an article praising the Michigan Bar Journal’s Plain Language column, which he has been the editor of since 1988. https:// www.abajournal.com/magazine/ article/celebrating-plain-english-inmichigan Published, his latest “Redlines” column in Judicature, the scholarly journal for judges. The column was called “Another Plea to Hold the Acronyms.” https://judicature.duke. edu/articles/another-plea-to-holdthe-acronyms/ Published, an article called “Scouring Dictionaries: Their Overuse and Misuse in the Courts” in Dictionaries, the journal of the Dictionary Society of North America. Spoke, on that same subject at the virtual annual meeting of the Dictionary Society. Spoke, to the Health-Literary Work Group of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. His topic was “How to Work with Lawyers on Your Plain-Language Projects.” Notified, that his longer article, “Dictionary Diving in the Courts: A Shaky Grab for Ordinary Meaning,” has been accepted for publication by the Journal of Appellate Practice and Process. Discovered, that his article “The Straight Skinny on Better Judicial Opinions” had been cited prominently in a lecture by Lord Neuberger, then the President of the (UK) Supreme Court. The article appears in Professor Kimble’s first book of collected essays, Lifting the Fog of Legalese.

Testified, before the Massachusetts Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight regarding Senate Bill 2019, an Act Providing for Plain Language in Certain Government Documents. Attended, the virtual summer meeting of the Standing Committee on Federal Rules. Professor Kimble has been a drafting consultant to the committee since 2000. Continued, working on a complete redraft of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy.

Matthew Marin, Visiting Professor Co-Presented, “Creating and Administering an Asynchronous Course: Why it Works, and Why We Plan to Keep Doing it This Way,” for the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning Summer 2021 Conference on June 10, 2021. Published, “Asynchronous Teaching Methodologies: Pandemic Reflections and Best Practices,” in The Learning Curve, AALS Section of Academic Support.

Daniel Matthews, Professor Passed, the Florida Bar Exam, in February 2021. Admitted, to the Florida Bar, in May 2021.

Michael Molitor, Professor Co-authored, an amicus brief by the Business Law Section of the state bar to the Michigan Supreme Court. Case name is Murphy v. Inman.

Kimberly O’Leary, Professor

Amy Timmer, Associate Dean and Professor

Presented, with Professor Mable Martin-Scott, on a panel at the AccessLex Institute’s LexCon ‘21, on the topic of “Preparing Multicultural Lawyers,” on Nov. 2, 2021.

Named, Director of the National Legal Mentoring Consortium, now housed on the WMU-Cooley Law School website.

Presented, with Professor Mable Martin-Scott, a session on “Developing Cultural Competence Lessons in Doctrinal Courses” on Dec. 3, 2021, for an in-house training course at the law school of the University of Memphis. This will be followed by a session in February 2022 on “Creating a Flagship for Culturally Competent Lawyering.”

Participated, in the Southeastern Association of Law Schools (SEALS) conference discussion group on evolving pedagogy in Wills, Estates, and Trusts.

Charles Senger, Distinguished Professor Emeritus Contributed, a photograph, for the cover of the July/August 2021 issue of the Michigan Bar Journal. Co-authored, an article with Donald C. Frank (North Class, 1980), on aviation insurance, for the July/ August 2021 issue of the Michigan Bar Journal.

Otto Stockmeyer, Distinguished Professor Emeritus Contributed, monthly posts for the WMUCooley blog, archived at https:// info.cooley.edu/blog/author/ottostockmeyer Honored, with Scribes’ Kimble Distinguished Service Award, named for his esteemed colleague Joe Kimble.

Patrick Tolan, Professor

Instituted, a welcome reception for SEALS newcomers and was recognized by SEALS for outstanding support to the Hospitality Committee. Wrote, “Floridians Right to Choose or Refuse Vaccines,” accepted for publication in the forthcoming Barry Law School Children and Family Law Journal. Chaired, the professionalism committee for Hillsborough County Bar Association, Military and Veterans Assistance Committee: prepared and submitted annual professionalism report to the 13th Judicial Circuit.

William Weiner, Distinguished Professor Emeritus Elected, to a three-year term on the board of the West and Mid-Michigan Chapter of the Fulbright Association. He will serve as vice-president. His Fulbright was in Germany in 2004.

Quoted, in the October 2021 Michigan Bar Journal, in support of journalist Tim Skubick’s Liberty Bell Award. Ranked, in the top 10 percent of authors for all-time downloads by SSRN, the Social Science Research Network. 45

Class Notes 1976



Campbell Class

Bushnell Class

Witherell Class

Bronson, Terrence, retired in 2019 after serving 30 years as a district court judge in Monroe, Michigan. Following retirement, he was appointed to the Michigan Military Appeals. He also published an article in the May 2021 issue of the Michigan Bar Journal on Veterans Treatment Courts entitled “Wounds Decriminalized: The Progress of Justice for Veterans From Vietnam to 9/11 and Beyond.” He spoke at a press conference at the Hall of Justice on Specialty Courts on behalf of Veterans Treatment Courts (VTC) because at the time he was the only VTC judge who was a veteran.

Otis, David. K., a partner with Plunkett Cooney in Lansing, Michigan, was selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America 2022, in the field of Municipal Law and Litigation.

Cox, Bill, was named to Best Lawyers for 2021 in D Magazine. He is a criminal lawyer with the Law Offices of William Cox III, in Dallas, Texas. He frequently handles criminal law matters for high-profile clients and executives.

Champlain Class



Rutledge Class

Krinock Class


James F. Mauro, a Member in Dickinson Wright PLLC Lansing office, was selected by his peers for inclusion in the “Best Lawyers in America 2022 edition” for his work in Corporate Law and Real Estate Law.

Person Class


Felch Class


Desmond, John, attorney with Dickinson Wright PLLC attorney was named a “Super Lawyer” in the 2021 issue of Mountain States Super Lawyers, in the practice area of Commercial & Business Litigation. Desmond, a member in the firm’s Reno, Nevada, office, focuses his practice in the areas of commercial litigation and appellate work.

Chase Class

Bello, Mark, published Supreme Betrayal, the sixth in a series of legal thrillers. The book is based loosely on the appointment of Brent Kavanagh to the U.S. Supreme Court. Bello’s legal career focused on trying cases for social justice. In retirement, he has continued that passion in writing and publishing the Zachary Blake legal thriller series of books.

Pratt Class


Forbush, Audrey, an attorney with Plunkett Cooney, in Flint, Michigan, was named by Michigan Super Lawyers magazine to its 2021 Super Lawyers list in the area of state, local, and municipal law.

Butzel Class


Bahrie, Ron, announced that the Lansing, Michigan, Bahrie Law firm’s Writ for Certiorari was granted by the U.S. Supreme Court for the fall 2021 docket. The court will hear the firm’s veterans Social Security disability matter, a case the firm has been prosecuting since 2014.



special districts, cities, towns and other Arizona local government entities in all matters related to the issuance of municipal securities. He also maintains an active practice as underwriter, disclosure and bank counsel on publicly and privately offered debt issues.

Douglass Class Millenbach, Paul, was named a Super Lawyer in Michigan Super Lawyers/ Rising Stars 2021 edition in Business Litigation. He is an attorney with Foster, Swift, Collins & Smith P.C., in Lansing, Michigan.

Kreucher, Jon D., was elected president and CEO of Howard & Howard, a business law firm in Royal Oak, Michigan. He will take office Jan. 1, 2022. He has been an attorney with Howard & Howard for 18 years and has practiced law for 30 years. 1994


Fead Class Stratton, Timothy A., an attorney with Gust Rosenfeld, was appointed to the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey. The board oversees 550 public charter schools in the state. In his law practice, he focuses on public finance and Section 103 tax law. He represents colleges and universities,

Marshall, Kristina, was named Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice at Oakland Community College Oakland County, Michigan. She most recently served as the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, as well as the Director of the Human Services Program, for Baker College.

Klockow, Dawn N., was elected to a two-year term as a director on the Wisconsin State Bar Government Lawyers Division Board. She is corporation counsel for Green Lake, Wisconsin. 2004

Needham Class Walker, Joel, was appointed to be a judicial magistrate judge for the 7th Judicial District of Muscatine County in Iowa. 2006

Fitzgerald Class Parker-Lagrone, Alisa, was appointed by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to the bench in Kalamazoo County’s 8th District Court. She takes over for former judge Ann Blatchford, who retired July 1, 2021. The appointment ends Jan. 1,

2023. She has been the managing attorney for Legal Services of South Central Michigan. She is the chair of the State Bar Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee. 2007

Fisher Class Hudon, Kathleen “Katie,” Pensacola State College’s Director of Student Affairs, was named one of Pinnacle Award winners by 850 Business Magazine. The Pinnacle Awards spotlight leading women in business and education across 18 northwest Florida counties. Hudon was one of 12 women to receive the award this year. She volunteers with United Way, First City Art Center, Ronald McDonald House and Lions Club International’s SightFirst program. Hudon joined Pensacola State College in November 2019. She was selected as the Santa Rosa County Woman of the Year by the Santa Rosa County Chamber of Commerce for 2019-2020. Previously, she was an instructor and administrator at the University of West Florida and practiced law in Florida and Alabama. Langley, Peter, joined Plunkett Cooney as a senior attorney in the firm’s Lansing, Michigan office. A member of the firm’s Government Relations, Public Policy and Regulatory Practice Group, he also assists clients as a member of the firm’s Environment, Energy and

Resources Group. He was formerly deputy chief of staff and legislative director to Michigan Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekof. 2008

C.J. Adams Class Genovich, Laura J., was named a Rising Star in Michigan Super Lawyers/ Rising Stars 2021 edition in the area of Bankruptcy: Business. She is an attorney with Foster, Swift, Collins & Smith in Lansing, Michigan. Johnson II, Vassal, was named to the D. Augustus Straker Bar Association 2021-2022 Board of Directors. 2009

Riley Class Foster, Jessica Harbeson, was commissioned as a judge of the General District Court of the 20th Judicial District, for Fauquier and Rappahannock counties in Virginia. She was previously a partner at Foster McCollam Wright, where she practiced criminal and family law. Nugent, Ivan, became a shareholder with Krigel & Krigel in Kansas City, Missouri. He and his partners specialize in employment litigation, commercial and consumer disputes for both plaintiffs and defendants. Patel, Rahul B., is a cofounder and managing partner of Patel Gaines, with offices in San Antonio, Fort Worth, and Houston, Texas. The law firm focuses on commercial and civil litigation, commercial real estate, property tax litigation, and corporate and business law. He also operates Fundamental Sports Management

venture, PG Commercial, focusing on developing modern and innovative real estate development projects in south central Texas; and F45, which features high-intensity, circuit-training workouts designed to maximize one’s time at the gym. Patel has been featured in Forbes, Money, BusinessWeek, USA Today and Texas Monthly, among a number of other publications. He has received numerous recognitions, including the San Antonio Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Man of the Year, and one of the Top 100 Influencers in Law across the nation. He is nationally known as the resource to speak on topics including leadership, business, innovative management practices, personal branding, entrepreneurship, sports representation, commercial real estate, property tax litigation and more. Scott, Patricia J., was named a Super Lawyer in Michigan Super Lawyers/Rising Stars 2021 edition in the field of Civil Litigation: Plaintiff. She is an attorney with Foster, Swift, Collins & Smith, P.C., in Lansing, Michigan. 2010

Witherell Class Coyle, Emily, a partner with Plunkett Cooney in Detroit, Michigan, was selected for inclusion in the 2022 edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch, in the areas

of Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights, Insolvency and Reorganization Law, and Personal Injury Litigation: Defendants.

his field including Diversity MBA Magazine, Profiles in Diversity Journal, Crain’s Detroit Business, Michigan Lawyers Weekly, and Michigan Super Lawyers Rising Stars.

Woodbridge Class

Zapczynski, Jesse A., an attorney with Plunkett Cooney, in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, was named a Rising Star by Michigan Super Lawyers magazine in the field of Insurance Coverage.

Woodward Class Burrell, Aaron, has been named a “40 Under 40” Honoree by the National Bar Association. The award honors the nation’s top lawyers under 40 who exemplify a broad range of high achievement, including in innovation, vision, leadership and legal and community involvement. Aaron is a member of Dickinson Wright and serves as co-chair of the firm’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. He serves on the board of directors of WMU-Cooley Law School and the Oakland County Bar Association. He has served in leadership positions in numerous organizations including the State Bar of Michigan, the D. Augustus Straker Bar Association, and the National Bar Association. Aaron is recognized by numerous publications as a leader in

Pryor, Felecia, was named by Lincoln Educational Services to its board of directors in August 2021. She was also named to the board’s Compensation Committee. She serves as Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer at BorgWarner Inc. where her primary focus includes executive planning and compensation, talent and leadership development; culture, engagement and sentiment; internal communications; and diversity, equity, and inclusion. She previously served more than 16 years in human resources at the Ford Motor Company. Lincoln Educational Services Corporation provides career-oriented post-secondary education for recent high school graduates and working adults at 22 campuses in 14 states. 2011

Sibley Class Malott, Scott, W., an attorney with Plunkett Cooney in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, was named a Rising Star by Michigan Super Lawyers magazine in the field of Civil Litigation: Defense.

Chipman Class Barlaskar, Abe, an attorney with Plunkett Cooney in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, was named a Rising Star by Michigan Super Lawyers magazine in the field of Personal Injury: Defense.

Wilkins Class Flores, Victor, was appointed the city attorney for Brownsville, Texas. 2012

Ellsworth Class Green, Mikai, was named secretary of the D. Augustus Straker Bar Association 2021-2022 Board of Directors.

Washington Class Mennie, John, of Slavi Schostok & Pritchard, in Chicago, Illinois, has been included in the 2022 edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch. He focuses his practice on personal injury, medical malpractice and products liability. 2013

Moore Class Boora, Kal, of the Boora Law Group in Temperance, Michigan, was nominated to Who’s Who in America as a featured lawyer.


Class Notes Marshall Class Moran, Luke P., was admitted to the prestigious Million Dollar and MultiMillion Dollar Advocates Forum. Membership is limited to attorneys who have won million- and multi-million dollar verdicts, awards and settlements. He is a partner in his family’s Scranton, Pennsylvania-based law firm, The Moran Law Group.

W. Johnson Class Hamor, Robert J., was named a Rising Star in Michigan Super Lawyers/Rising Stars 2021 edition in the area of Real Estate. He is an attorney with Foster, Swift, Collins & Smith in Lansing, Michigan. 2014

Livingston Class Dickey, Ashley S., an attorney with Plunkett Cooney in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, was named a Rising Star by Michigan Super Lawyers magazine in the field Personal Injury: Defense.

Todd Class Bourjaily, Ryan P., an attorney with Plunkett Cooney in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, was named a Rising Star by Michigan Super Lawyers magazine in the field of Estate and Trust Litigation.


Mashburn, Xena, has joined the Los Angeles, California office of Wood, Smith, Henning and Berman as a senior associate. 2015

Story Class Ollie, Callana, Chief Legal Officer at Oakland Community Health Network, was recognized by the National Bar Association as a 2021 “40 under 40 Nation’s Best Advocate Award” recipient.

Trimble Class Rowe, The Hon. Kwamé, was appointed by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to the Oakland County Circuit Court. Rowe, of Pontiac, Michigan, previously served as an Oakland County assistant prosecutor. He fills a seat on the bench left vacant by Judge Leo Bowman, who stepped down April 30. He will fill the remainder of Bowman’s term, which expires Jan. 1, 2023. As a special assistant prosecuting attorney with the Trafficking Unit, he worked on felony cases involving human trafficking, complex narcotics, and homicide. He previously served as Judge Bowman’s clerk.


Taft Class Haney, Erin M., joined Bodman PLC as an associate in the firm’s Grand Rapids, Michigan, office. She is a member of Bodman’s Business Practice Group. She is a certified public accountant and a former senior auditor for the Michigan Department of Treasury. She has been recognized in Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch as an up and coming practitioner in tax law. Washington, Heather, was named to the D. Augustus Straker Bar Association 2021-2022 Board of Directors.

Hughes Class Brunetti, Marisa (Grifka), joined the Torts and Litigation Practice Group of Plunkett Cooney in the firm’s Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, office. She has experience handling claims involving business disputes, toxic torts, product liability and class actions. Her litigation practice also includes defending major pharmaceutical companies in state and federal opioid actions and representing clients in consumer default matters and foreclosures.

Thomas, Toi, was named to the D. Augustus Straker Bar Association 2021-2022 Board of Directors. 2017

Warren Class Walker, Kimlyn M., has joined the law firm of Icard, Merrill, Cullis, Timm, Furen, and Ginsburg, P.A., as an associate in the firm’s Sarasota, Florida, office. Walker focuses her practice in the areas of land use, zoning, municipal law and real estate. Before obtaining her law degree, she worked for the Hillsborough County Planning Commission as a land-use planner. She has in-depth knowledge and expertise in rezonings, special use requests, land development regulations, comprehensive plans, plan amendments, developments of regional impact, community redevelopment area plans and neighborhood studies. Walker has counseled and advised clients on development issues in both unincorporated counties and city municipalities. 2018

Boyle Class Fatmi, Ali, joined the firm of Barclay Damon in Buffalo, New York, as an associate in the firm’s Property Tax & Condemnation and Commercial Litigation Practice Areas. He primarily practices in the areas of general commercial and property-related litigation involving property tax and eminent domain.

Nelson Class Smith, Chanavia, joined Collins Einhorn Farrell PC, in Southfield, Michigan, in the firm’s general and automotive liability practice group. She focuses on firstand third-party automotive defense and other general liability matters. 2019

Curtis Class Hoff, Lawrence, joined Fox Rothschild LLP in Princeton, New Jersey, as an associate in the Intellectual Property Department. He has experience handling a broad range of intellectual property matters for domestic and international clients, including patent preparation and prosecution. Forrest, Renita (Wilks), was named treasurer of the D. Augustus Straker Bar Association 2021-2022 Board of Directors. 2020

Davis Class Witte, Allison, has joined the Ionia County, Michigan, Prosecutor’s Office as an assistant prosecutor.

In Memoriam 1976




Cooley Class

Bushnell Class

Morell Class

Black Class

Tiscornia, Gary Waldo, 75, died Oct. 14, 2021. He was the director of corporate affairs with the Michigan Humane Society, where he worked for 17 years, the last 11 as executive director. In 2000, his career took him to SPCA Monterey County in California. He retired in 2016 to Tucson, Arizona.

Gahan, Joanne, 82, of DeWitt, Michigan, died March 18, 2021. After earning her law degree, she developed and directed the Department of Risk Management and Legal Services at Ingham Medical Center in Lansing, Michigan.

Coleman, Stephanie, 64, died Aug. 5, 2021, in Lansing, Michigan. She practiced law for UAW-Legal Plan Services.


Woodruff Sr., David C., of Branch, Michigan, died Jan. 3, 2020. He practiced law in Newaygo County, Michigan, before becoming the prosecuting attorney of Lake County, Michigan. He served in the U.S. Navy as an intelligence officer during the Vietnam War. He volunteered his time as a scuba diver search and rescuer.

Lawter, Anne Elizabeth, 53, died June 22, 2021, of pancreatic cancer. She managed structured legal settlements with Ringler Associates since 2015. Previously, she was with Kitch Law Firm as a lead trial counsel, defending hospitals, physicians, and other providers in malpractice, general liability, and commercial matters for almost 20 years. She was also an adjunct professor at WMU-Cooley.


Felch Class Makulski, Michael A., 78, of Pearland, Texas, died July 24, 2021, after a short illness. He spent the majority of his legal career with Dow Chemical in Midland, Michigan. Also with Dow, he served as Dow’s General Counsel for Texas Operations in Freeport, Texas, retiring from the Dow legal department in 1993. He served in the U.S. Army, attaining the rank of captain, and completing a tour of duty in Vietnam 1969-70. He was awarded the Bronze Star.

Kavanagh Class Benedict, David Michael, 67, of Port Huron, Michigan, died May 31, 2021, after a short illness. He maintained a private practice in Port Huron. Walsh, John Farrell, 78, died May 30, 2021, from injuries suffered in an automobile accident. He practiced law as a juvenile criminal attorney until his retirement in 2012. He was an Air Force veteran during the Vietnam era, stationed in Okinawa, Japan. 1982


Goodwin Class

Marston Class

Waldron, Donald, 67, of East Lansing, Michigan, died Oct. 17, 2020. He practiced law for more than 35 years, specializing in Workers Compensation litigation. He retired as a partner with the law firm Rappaport, Pollok, Farrell and Waldron in 2019.

Sandler, Jon L., 69, of Columbia, Maryland, died June 12, 2020, following a lifelong battle with cancer.

Ransom Class Neeb, John C., 69, of Bad Axe, Michigan, died May 31, 2018. He had a general law practice in Bad Axe and Harbor Beach, Michigan. He was a former chairman of the board of Millennium Industries Corporation as well as general counsel for Millennium Industries.


Lawrence Class


Boyle Class Penny, Alex, 32, of Comstock Park, Michigan, died April 23, 2021.



Carpenter Class

Cushing Class

Legere, Henry Joseph Jr., 70, of Holt, Michigan, died May 1, 2021.

Gonzalez, Jill A., 61, of Portland, Indiana, died April 11, 2021. She was a criminal attorney for Delaware, Jay, and surrounding counties in Indiana. She was a deputy public defender for Delaware County since 2015. She was chosen to attend, and graduated from, the National Forensic College taught by Barry Scheck in 2016.


Moore Class Olson, David Walter, 58, of Wahkon, Minnesota, died July 25, 2021, of cancer. 1994

Ostrander Class


Ryan, Katherine M., 55, of Westchester, Illinois, died June 7, 2021, of cancer. She was a former Cook County prosecutor.

Ellsworth Class Syed, Omarr, 39, died July 23, 2021, of an illness complicated by underlying cancer, at Toronto General Hospital in Ontario, Canada. 2013

Moore Class Britt, DeOnna, 34, of Atlanta, Georgia, died Aug. 17, 2021.

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Membership is extended to individuals or organizations whose lifetime giving to the law school reaches $2,500 or more. Making a donation is easy. Start at cooley.edu/giving. Give or pledge your tax deductible contribution today!