Real-world ethical dilemmas and professional conduct will be the focus on Friday, May 8, when the State Bar of Michigan and the Thomas M. Cooley Law School will partner to launch a professionalism orientation program for incoming students. The event is scheduled from 3 to 5 p.m. at Cooley's Auburn Hills campus at 2630 Featherstone Road.
The program, initiated at the suggestion of State Bar President Edward Pappas, will feature small group discussions among veteran attorneys, judges, and incoming law school students on a range of topics related to ethics and professionalism. The event is a first for the State Bar and is believed to be only the second of its kind in the country.
"This pilot program offers us a unique opportunity to stress to new law students just how critical it is for those entering the legal profession to focus on ethical and professional standards. The seminar should help them view their legal studies through the lens of the Bar's ethical requirements," Pappas said. He added that, based on the success of the orientation, the State Bar may recommend offering the professionalism orientation to incoming students at all Michigan law schools.
Materials for the program were patterned after those developed by the Louisiana State Bar and were edited for Michigan by Cooley Assistant Dean Joan Vestrand. Cooley was selected for this partnership because of its statewide leadership in professionalism programs. Cooley received the American Bar Association's E. Smythe Gambrell Award for outstanding professionalism programs in 2006, and is the only law school in Michigan to have received this honor.
"At some law schools, ethics is a separate, stand-alone course that is not woven into the fabric of the curriculum, as it is at Cooley. We believe that professionalism and ethics are every bit as important as a lawyer's legal knowledge and skills," said Vestrand, who also chairs the school's professionalism department.
In addition to Pappas, other keynote speakers and participants will include Chief Judge Gerald E. Rosen of the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan; Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson; Hon. Annette M. Jurkiewicz-Berry of the 3rd Circuit Court; Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association President and Cooley Adjunct Professor Douglas Hampton; Straker Bar Association President Ahmad Roby; and former State Bar of Michigan President and Cooley Visiting Professor Thomas Cranmer.