Thomas M. Cooley Law School launched its newest location in Riverivew on Monday with 104 students -- nearly twice as many as administrators initially expected to enroll, according to the National Law Journal.
"Cooley's Tampa Bay Campus enrollment exceeded our expectations," Associate Dean Jeff Martlew told the National Law Journal. "These numbers indicate the Tampa Bay area was ready for a law school. We are pleased to open our doors with such enthusiasm from the community and the students who have selected Cooley."
Cooley announced its intention to open its first campus outside Michigan in August and broke ground Sept. 20.
"Our expansion into Florida brings an extraordinary practical legal education model to an underserved population of individuals seeking a flexible law degree program," said Martlew. "Cooley has nearly 900 alumni living here, and 5 percent of our current student population are residents of Florida."
Cooley already has four campuses in Michigan: Lansing, Auburn Hills, Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor.
"We are pleased to welcome Cooley to our region," said Pedro Bajo, president of the Hillsborough County Bar Association. "In recent years, Cooley has offered complimentary training to local attorneys who wanted to be part of the American Bar Association's (ABA) Military Pro Bono Project. The program prepares local attorneys to represent members of the military in legal issues ranging from child custody concerns to housing and rental disputes."
In August, the ABA's Council on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar accepted the recommendation of the accreditation committee to accept the Thomas M. Cooley Law School’s application to open a Tampa Bay-area campus. The campus has also been approved by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association and the Florida Department of Education, Commission for Independent Education.
The site of the Riverview campus, located at 9445 Camden Field Parkway, just off U.S. 301, north of Bloomingdale Avenue, includes a 132,000-square-foot building that was previously occupied by Progressive Insurance. Cooley also purchased an adjacent property that, when combined, will provide a large campus setting of 13.3 acres with more than 500 parking spaces.
Cooley is hiring 24 full-time faculty and 40 support staff.
Renovations began Sept. 26. The facility will be occupied in three phases, with the first two phases now completed. Phase I was office spaces occupied in January 2012. Phase II included the library, classrooms and more office space.
When completed, Cooley will have 24 classrooms, a 336-seat auditorium and a 25,000-square-foot law library. All renovations are expected to be completed in late 2012.
The Riverview campus will offer night courses this summer, and there are plans to expand to morning classes in September and afternoon classes in January 2013. Eventually, administrators hope to enroll nearly 700 students.
During a two-day orientation in late April, Cooley's new students met with faculty, local judges and attorneys and alumni.
Founded in 1972, the private, nonprofit law school operates its Juris Doctor program, Joint Degree programs and Master of Laws programs across Michigan. Cooley has more than 15,000 graduates across the nation and worldwide and offers enrollment three times a year — in January, May and September. Cooley is an independent law school, accredited by the American Bar Association and the Higher Learning Commission. Additional information can be found at cooley.edu.