Cooley Law School Founder Still Paid 6-Figure Salary | Why?

LSAT Blog Cooley Law School Founder Still Paid 6 Figures
Former Michigan Chief Justice and Cooley Law School founder Thomas E. Brennan retired in 2002.

According to Cooley's 3 most recent IRS filings available on GuideStar, he received $370,245 (2009-10 - PDF p35), $368,581 (2008-9 - PDF p50), and $365,008 (2007-8 - PDF p6) in total compensation for each of those years.

These IRS documents suggest that his formal titles are "Professor Emeritus" and "Former President" and that he works just 10 hours/week. Taking the average of his total compensation for these 3 years, and assuming he worked 52 weeks/year (no vacations), he earned $707.58/hour during this 3-year period.

But what has he done to earn such a high hourly rate during his retirement? The only current formal responsibility of which I find mention is that of compiling the widely-derided "Cooley Rankings," aka "Judging the Law Schools." (Cooley places #2 nationwide in his latest ranking, while it's in the bottom tier of the U.S. News rankings.)

What else does Brennan do? Well, he retired to Florida and has spent time:

-sharing his opinions on a personal blog (active)
-organizing an online convention to propose amendments to the Constitution (in progress)
-founding the American Golf League, a national pro circuit (apparently inactive)

Brennan updates his blog (apparently unaffiliated with Cooley) once a week or so, sharing his thoughts on a variety of topics, including:

-pedophilia / NAMBLA, in which he seems to suggest that the media is hypocritical for supporting gay rights activists while criticizing priests and coaches found to be pedophiles. He asks when NAMBLA will get Hollywood actors to support pedophilia.

-Harvard Law offering a course entitled "Understanding Obama", in which he offers to teach a course entitled "Understanding Romney" and "explore his views as a monoracial child."

-Obama as a celebrity / abomination, in which Brennan refers to him as a "benign, loving, and lovable dictator."

-his daughter's book, in which praises it for exposing the Left's co-optation of education and the media to promote "atheism, socialism, and hedonism."

Aside from the blog and "Cooley Rankings," he continues to devote time to his pursuit of an online convention in which citizens would propose new amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

In September 2010, the Cooley Law School Law Review held a symposium on Article V (the relevant section of the Constitution). As this seems to be one of Brennan's pet projects, he returned to campus for the symposium, during which he gave a 20-minute speech:

Whatever your opinion of Brennan's blog posts, or of his pursuit of an online convention to amend the constitution, the fact remains that these seem to be the activities on which he spends his time. From what I can tell, he doesn't appear to spend much time on any that directly benefit Cooley students.

It's entirely possible that he's also continued to spend 10 hours/week working on Cooley-related business. Perhaps he still provides lots of hand-holding to Cooley Law's current president and dean ($523,213 total compensation in 2009-10) via phone and Skype and/or travels frequently between Florida and Michigan.

However, if he does, it seems to be taking place behind the scenes. What I do see is Cooley Law's tuition skyrocketing from $28,740 (in 2009-10) to $36,750 (2011-12).

The ABA data on the Class of 2010 tells us 375 out of 927 Cooley graduates were in long-term employment 9 months after graduation. Of those, 63 were in "business and industry" (which could include working as a barista), 62 were solos, and 110 were in law firms of 2-10 attorneys. Such positions typically have low starting salaries. 88% of the school's class of 2011 graduated with debt, and they took on an average debt of $115,364.

How many Cooley graduates will ever reach salaries close to those of Brennan and Cooley's current president/dean?

Key questions:

-Why has Cooley provided Brennan with over $350,000/year in compensation while he's ostensibly been living across the country in Florida, retired, and working on unrelated projects?

-What degree of value has he truly provided to the law school, and the students, since retiring?

-For how long will the law school continue to compensate him at the students' expense?

Further Reading:

Thomas M. Cooley Law School [GuideStar]

Photo by aresauburnphotos


  1. Steve, your inner lawyer is dying to get out! :P

  2. He could be doing worse. He could be practicing law.

  3. Erid,

    If he were practicing law, at least he would not be collecting $370K per year - on the backs of students and the federal student loan scheme. As far as I am concerned, NO tenured "law professor" deserves such outrageous compensation - given the minimal "work" they produce. In this specific case, we are talking about a "professor emeritus."

    1. I very recently heard in the press the controversy of law schools allegedly manipulating their employment statistics when a friend showed me a CBS News video uploaded March 8, 2012 on Youtube called "Lean times for law school grads" and they spoke briefly about the crisis. I also saw the CNN Youtube news video of a lawyer arrested for alleged prostitution at her Chicago office and charging $50 for sex; and then saw the CNN News video of a recent grad serving coffee at Starbucks. Read the recent blogs and was shocked how widespread this dilemma is. I matriculated at Cooley and graduated back in the 90's; passed the bar exam the first attempt; but since then the only job that I worked where a law degree can theoretically help was selling cars at a Hyundai dealership.

  4. When you have the 2nd best law school in the country, you gotta pay the man.

  5. I encourage people who care about this to visit Brennan's website and tell him what you think. These people need to be told how disgusting and immoral their actions are - if enough of us make our outrage clear, eventually something will be done.

  6. cooley is the best law school in the nation. Haters be hatin' is all.

    Pleaze. Let'em do they thang dawg.

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