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Judge Brennan's Ten Commandments For Law School

Starting a new law school from scratch is not a simple matter. WMU-Cooley Law School’s founder, Justice Thomas E. Brennan, had many concerns, large and small, to attend to, from hiring faculty to acquiring furniture. He devised the school’s innovative year-round schedule, created the Student Bar Association and Scholastic Review Board, composed the school’s motto, and designed its distinctive diplomas

Another of Brennan’s concerns was that his students—also new, of course—achieve success at the new school. To that end he typed up a one-page list of suggestions he titled “Judge Brennan’s Ten Commandments for Law School.” For several years, Xerox copies were included in new-student welcome packets.

In later years, some first-year professors attached copies to their course syllabus. But as far as is known, the “Ten Commandments” were never typeset or digitalized. . . until now. Here, preserved on the internet, is the handout that helped the first generations of WMU-Cooley law students achieve success.

  1. You are now a member of the learned and honorable profession of the law, the purpose of which is to promote truth and to establish justice. PUT NO OTHER PURPOSES AHEAD OF THESE.

  2. The law is a noble profession and not merely a money-getting occupation. Its object is to serve people. REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE TRAINING YOURSELF TO SERVE OTHERS.

  3. BE PROUD OF YOUR LAW SCHOOL. Its reputation will be intertwined with your own, and its success and yours will go hand in hand.

  4. COOPERATE WITH THE FACULTY, THE DEAN, AND THE ADMINISTRATION. They are experienced legal educators. They have your interests at heart. They are on your side.

  5. BE PREPARED FOR CLASS EVERY DAY, AND ATTEND CLASSES REGULARLY. You cannot receive a valid law degree by correspondence, and you cannot get a legal education simply by reading nutshells and outlines.

  6. STAND UP AND SPEAK UP IN CLASS. A law school classroom is a learned forum, in which ideas are debated and forensic skills sharpened. The professor, as the presiding officer, is entitled to your respect, but you are entitled, and expected, to challenge and to question as part of the learning process.

  7. READ EVERY WORD OF EVERY CASE. Words are the tools of lawyering. Precision in the use of words cannot be developed by speed reading and skimming over ideas.

  8. MAKE FRIENDS IN LAW SCHOOL. Help your classmates and younger students. Work with those ahead of you and with faculty members. Law school friendships will last a lifetime. 

  9. BE GOOD TO YOUR SPOUSE AND MEMBERS OF YOUR FAMILY. They are making sacrifices for you to get a legal education. Recognize that your concentration on law school creates an unusual strain on personal relationships, and requires unusual recognition on your part of the demands you make on others.

  10. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF WHILE YOU ARE IN LAW SCHOOL. Leave a little time each day for relaxation, for exercise, and for socializing. You will want to be not only a lawyer, but a healthy, effective, and well-rounded lawyer. 

Mission & History