Cooley to Offer New Advanced Corporate Law and Finance Degree

New program will make Cooley the only law school in the country to offer advanced degrees in corporate, intellectual property and tax law
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AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Jan. 15, 2009 — The Thomas M. Cooley Law School announced today that it will offer a master of laws (LL.M.) degree in corporate law and finance, and has tapped E. Christopher Johnson Jr., former General Motors (GM) North America vice president and general counsel, to join its faculty and lead the development of the advanced degree program.

Johnson previously had served as vice president and general counsel for GM North America since 2001 and was responsible for managing the delivery of all legal services that impacted the GM North America region.

Together with Cooley’s existing master of laws programs in intellectual property and taxation, the addition of the corporate law and finance LL.M. degree makes Cooley the only American Bar Association-approved (ABA) law school in the country to offer this extraordinary package of business-related master of laws degrees.

“I am very excited about my future with Cooley, an exceptional law school at the forefront of championing justice in our nation and diversity in our profession, and I look forward to helping create the country’s premier corporate law and finance master of laws program,” Johnson said.  Cooley is the nation’s largest law school and has campuses in Auburn Hills, Lansing and Grand Rapids.

“I am delighted that someone of Christopher Johnson’s extensive practical experience, exemplary ethics and standing in the legal community will be heading up the corporate law and finance masters program,” said Charles P. Cercone, Cooley’s associate dean of faculty. Johnson has also been appointed to serve as a member of Cooley’s nationally recognized Professionalism Department.

LL.M. programs allow students to specialize in a particular area of law, which is a growing trend in the legal profession.

“Today’s global marketplace involves complex business transactions,” Cercone said. “We are pleased to offer another opportunity for Cooley students and lawyers who want to specialize in an in-demand area.”

Johnson plans to use his corporate experience to the benefit of Cooley students. “I am blessed to have served with a group of extraordinary professionals on the GM legal staff for 20 years, and my goal is to translate that experience into training the corporate lawyers of the future,” said Johnson.

The corporate law and finance LL.M. program will be offered to both full- and part-time students at Cooley’s campuses in Lansing, Auburn Hills and Grand Rapids beginning in September 2009. In order to be admitted to any of Cooley’s LL.M. programs, applicants must have a Juris Doctor degree from an ABA-approved program. Alternatively, applicants must be admitted to practice law in the United States and have a degree from a qualified US or international law school. Cooley will also consider applicants who have law degrees from international law schools, but who are not admitted to practice in the US, upon special application to the Dean.

These three advanced degree programs can help provide the legal expertise that Michigan needs as it looks to recover from the current economic downturn.

“New businesses need legal help in corporate formation and finance, tax law, and protection of intellectual property,” Cercone said. “Together with Oakland University’s business incubator program, Cooley hopes to play an important role in that recovery. No other law schools provide this combination of business-related master of laws programs.”

“The highly acclaimed Cooley Law School, with its newest campus in Auburn Hills, is an important member of our growing Oakland County family,” said Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson. ”Cooley’s expansion of its post-doctorate program to include a master of laws in corporate law and finance complements its existing LL.M. programs in tax law and intellectual property. I am delighted to welcome this high level of legal expertise into our community and recognize its importance in providing county businesses with access to professional services to help them manage their operations in the current economic climate.”

Johnson is also a recognized leader in efforts to provide pro bono legal services, a cause that he championed at GM for many years. He currently serves as the chair of the Corporate Pro Bono Committee for the State Bar of Michigan’s Access to Justice Initiative, co-chair of the Legacy Justice Campaign for the Detroit Legal Aid and Defender Office, and co-chair of the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association Foundation.

Cooley’s new advanced degree and its appointment of Johnson are being lauded at the state’s top legal association.

“Christopher Johnson has been a tireless advocate for advancing the cause of access to justice for all and for holding the profession to the highest standards of professionalism, including the provision of pro bono services to those in need,” said State Bar of Michigan President Edward H. Pappas. “I congratulate Christopher Johnson and Cooley Law School on this outstanding appointment.”

Johnson is a national leader in efforts to increase access to law school and diversity in the legal profession. He is a member of the ABA’s Presidential Advisory Council on Diversity in the Legal Profession, the ABA Council for Legal Education Opportunity, and the ABA Section of Legal Education Standards Review Committee, a past chair of the ABA Africa Law Council, and the recipient of many awards for his work in this and other areas, including the ABA Spirit of Excellence Corporate Award, the State Bar of Michigan Michael Franck Award, and the National Bar Association Clyde Bailey Award for Corporate Leadership. In 2008, this led to his induction into the National Black Law Students Association Hall of Fame.

“Cooley Law School students will benefit tremendously from the immense legal and business experience of Christopher Johnson,” said Reginald M. Turner Jr., a member of Clark Hill’s executive committee and a past president of the National Bar Association, the nation’s oldest and largest association of African American judges, lawyers and law students. “He is a consummate professional who embodies the highest ideals of our profession.”

“We are always looking ahead to the needs of the profession and how we can deliver an exceptional, relevant and hands-on education to our students while reinforcing solid principles of knowledge, skills and ethics,” said Cooley President and Dean Don LeDuc.

Prospective students interested in more information about any of Cooley’s master of laws programs may contact Willette Oleh, director of graduate and extended programs, at (517) 371-5140 ext. 2703 or olehw@cooley.edu.

Cooley Law School is the largest law school in the country. Founded in 1972, it operates J.D. programs across Michigan in downtown Lansing, Auburn Hills and downtown Grand Rapids. Today, Cooley Law School has more than 13,000 graduates across the nation and worldwide and also offers joint degree and master of laws programs. Cooley offers enrollment three times a year; in January, May and September. Additional information about Cooley can be found at www.cooley.edu

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