Changes in AZ law schools signal future growth

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Paola Cravioto, an international student from Mexico, reads literature on the James E. Rogers College of Law as she decides whether or not to apply for the program. (Photo by Megan Canterbury/Arizona Sonora News Service).

 A once dwindling job market for lawyers has now found a revival causing Arizona law schools to focus on new strategies to make their graduates more appealing.

Nationally, the rate in which members of the Class of 2015 receiving job offers, who participated as summer associates, rose to 93 percent according to the National Association of Law Placement. That is a giant leap from the 69 percent measured in 2009.

“During the last couple of years we have seen some bobbling numbers in the markers that describe law student recruiting volumes, but this past fall, for the first time since the recession, we see some clear markers of recovery,” says James Leipold, NALP’s Executive Director.

Laurie Hodgson, director of professional development at Arizona Summit law school, says the job market “took a nasty turn,” following the 2008 recession.

In 2011, more than 80 graduates filed lawsuits against universities across the country for not making them aware of how hard it would be to find work after graduation.

In 2013 the Arizona Board of Regents approved to decrease tuition for James E. Rogers College of Law School by 11 percent. Tuition dropped to $24,381 from $27,288 the previous year.

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Law students and professors sit inside the James E. Rogers College of Law awaiting the start of a potential student information session on March 11, 2015. (Photo by Megan Canterbury/Arizona Sonora News Service).

 According to Leipold, as the number of students entering law school becomes smaller anxiety among firms will increase in fear of “a small talent pool to be divided amongst competitors.”

The University of Arizona, according to Marc Miller, dean of James E. Rogers College of Law, holds a strong belief that the legal job market is seeing a structural shift.

“There’s a national shift to experimental education,” says Miller when it comes to how the U of A is adapting to this shift.

The U of A has integrated experimental learning past the traditional law school clinic. The U of A offers different applied learning opportunities such as externships, clerkships, workshops, seminars and ad hoc placements.

Arizona Summit Law School, a private non-exempt law school founded in 2005, has seen a 50 percent increase in its number of graduate since 2011.

“We infuse professional development from day one,” says Hodgson.

Arizona Summit, according to Hodgson, focuses on classroom academics while emphasizing clinics, bringing future employers to campus and encouraging externships for students.

“Certainly the industry continues to experience change at a breakneck pace, and it is hard to look very far ahead with any confidence, but it seems pretty clear that the summer and fall recruiting season that is shaping up for 2015 will be one of the most competitive we have seen in some time,” says Leipold.

Alexandra Aguilera is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at amaguilera@email.arizona.edu.

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