Arizona UA Law School logoYou may have wondered: What are the best reasons for an American university to launch a Bachelor of Arts in Law degree? This week, you got an answer.

I wrote before about the University of Arizona’s decision to be the first in the nation to offer such a degree. Time will tell whether the notion will catch on.

Yesterday, a UA Law professor took to the pages of The Chronicle of Higher Education to offer multiple reasons why the idea is overdue in the United States. In “The Case for Undergraduate Law Degrees,” Professor Brent T. White wrote, “Stepping back from the culturally embedded assumption in America that legal training should be provided in professional schools, the lack of an undergraduate route to legal education is perplexing.”

How perplexing? He suggests that the model has been successfully adopted in many other nations, and there’s no reason it wouldn’t work well here.

And when it comes to our evolving legal profession, “The question is not whether nonlawyers will provide legal services; it’s whether they will be well trained. Undergraduate law degrees offer the most cost-effective and broadly accessible way to offer such training.”

As always when opinionated people are engaged, the comments below the article offer some props to the writer as well as some pointed rejoinders.

Where do you stand on this experiment? Do you see the role of a B.A. in Law? Or do you see pitfalls on the path?

Susie Salmon, UA Law School

Susie Salmon, UA Law School

Color me nostalgic, but this week I’m offering a few great pieces of content from the departing issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine—in case you missed it.

Today. I point you to our new-ish column on legal writing. Wisely enough, that column is written by an expert in the subject, a legal writing professor at the UA Law School, Susie Salmon.

I have been impressed by Susie’s work from the first time I spotted it. Concise, witty, salted with just enough pop-culture and other references to keep us coming back for more.

This was not the legal writing approach I got in law school, I can tell you that.

(Ironically, Susie and I attended the same law school. I have never asked her about her experience at UC-Hastings as a writing student. Perhaps it was a stellar one; someone had to get the good section.)

Susie’s column in the current issue is spot-on as usual. She takes something you think you can live without knowing—in the June issue it’s the comma spliceand demonstrates that no, no you cannot.

Like all great writing teachers (and writers), Susie shows; she does not just tell.

And sometimes, she’ll tell off—but with courtesy.

When I received her April column, for example, I laughed out loud. For there, right in her lede (don’t know what that is? She explains it here), Susie gently pointed out a point of disagreement between us. You may chuckle (or chortle, if you’re legal-word pundit Bryan Garner), but debates over the Oxford comma are serious business.

Here is how she handled it. (And a sample of her column lede is below.)

Commas may look innocent, but can they be unnecessary? (Sorry, Oxford.)

Commas may look innocent, but can they be unnecessary? (Sorry, Oxford.)

Well, unlike the musings of my own law school professor, I take to heart Susie’s suggestions. And so I am pleased to tell you that since reading her gentle remonstrance, I have (deep breath) … taken a less hardline view that the Oxford comma is a ridiculous relic of a stodgy past.

Yes, I still strive to follow the AP Stylebook, our particular bible. And yes, my skin does break out in a rash when I see that damned O.C. wheel around the corner of a paragraph, grinning the power-drunk grin of a self-satisfied colonial monoglot.

But now, at least, I do not obliterate it with relish, striking it out with a violent Sharpie slash. Instead, I read the sentence multiple times, slowly, over Port, as I imagine baffled O.C. lovers do, considering every possible way a comma’s omission may lead to confusion or a monarchy’s collapse. And then, every once in a while, I allow the comma to remain.

See. I can learn.

Well, so can you. So enjoy Susie’s column now and in the future. But go easy on adding the commas, would you?

 

 

James E. Rogers

James E. Rogers

This morning, I share some very sad news from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. The following note by Dean Marc Miller was distributed Sunday evening:

“I am sorry to share the sad news that our friend and namesake Jim Rogers (’62) passed away last night after a long battle with cancer. He was 75.

“All of you who knew Jim realize what a loss this is to the entire University of Arizona community, and we feel this loss especially deeply at the James E. Rogers College of Law.

“Jim’s passion for higher education, and indeed his passion for the role of great educational systems and institutions at all levels, was matched by his generosity towards those who create such institutions. He transformed Arizona Law and afforded all of us—students, faculty, and staff—opportunities that we would not have had without his vision and encouragement. His legacy continues in the programs he helped build, the students of lives he changed, and the many people here who became his friends, and his character and vision will continue to shape the experience and careers of future generations of graduates.”

law-schoolOn Monday, the University of Arizona reported that it will be “the first major research university to offer a Bachelor of Arts in Law” beginning in the fall of this year.

The initiative is a novel approach to serving an undergraduate community that seems less and less inclined to pursue a legal career, but which may find legal training a great benefit.

According to the school, the degree is “the product of a partnership between the James E. Rogers College of Law and the School of Government and Public Policy in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.”

In January, I got a brief preview of the new initiative when I interviewed UA Law School Dean Marc Miller for our magazine Q&A. At that time, the proposal remained unannounced as it was still in process to garner Board of Regents approval. Monday’s announcement indicated it had cleared that hurdle.

Why a B.A. in Law? As Dean Miller puts it:

“A Juris Doctor is a highly valuable degree and there are roles that only lawyers can serve. But training a broader range of students will serve society, open careers in areas of substantial regulation, respond to changes in technology and the forces of globalization, and invite opportunities for the delivery of new and more accessible legal services.”

The degree will require core courses taught by the university’s School of Government and Public Policy. Then, students can take their core law courses, taught by full-time law school faculty.

University of Arizona Law School logoThough the university intends to train students to “think like a lawyer,” the intended consumer of the new bachelor’s degree may not be headed toward a law school J.D.

Reports the university, “Possible careers open to graduates of the program include corporate compliance, city planning, water resources management, tax advising, business management, trade, banking and finance, conflict resolution, healthcare administration, contracts, government, human resources, policy analysis, and legal technology consulting.”

Those who opt for law school after graduation may find their way made easier by a “3+3” program, which will allow certain students to complete their B.A. and their J.D. in six years.

More news on the initiative is here and here.

What is your thinking on this initiative? Do you predict it will be a popular choice for undergrads? Do you interact with clients in positions that touch on legal issues whom you wish had some legal education? Would such a degree fill that need?

University of Arizona Law School logoIn the March Arizona Attorney, which just went live online, I take the opportunity to praise some law student leaders. Among them are the winners of an annual writing competition at the University of Arizona law school. That competition is named for attorney Richard Grand.

If you read my column, you’ll see that I also get to share a nice photo of the winners.

Here’s the portion of my column pertaining to the UA Law School:

“A January ceremony provided the announcement of the UA Law winners: Kate Hollist (first place), Jessica Schulberg (second), Matt Smith (third), and Omar Vasquez and Tim Butterfield (both honorable mention). Congratulations to all.

“This year’s competition asked for the students to locate the storyteller within them. They were asked to write a profile of a real person who had some experience with the law or legal system. The diversity of responses was matched only by their compelling writing. Well done.”

“The UA competition holds a special place for me due to Richard Grand. The successful and talented attorney died last April, making this the first contest without his involvement. I am pleased to see the continued passion for the student writing experience in his wonderful widow, Marcia. I am sure I will raise a glass to Richard’s memory on February 20, when he would have turned 84.”

But because law school folks are some of the nicest in the legal profession, I also get to share with you, here, a second photo. You see, the school’s own Juan J. Arévalo insisted I step into a shot with the winners. That let Dean Marc Miller and me bookend the talented writers.

Thanks, JJ!

The 13th annual Richard Grand Writing Competition winners. L to R: me (not a winner!), Tim Butterfield, Katherine Hollist, Jessica Schulberg, Matt Smith, with UA Law School Dean Marc Miller. (Not pictured: Omar Vasquez)

The 13th annual Richard Grand Writing Competition winners. L to R: me (not a winner!), Tim Butterfield, Katherine Hollist, Jessica Schulberg, Matt Smith, with UA Law School Dean Marc Miller. (Not pictured: Omar Vasquez)

Please let me know if you hear of any other law student and young lawyer honors.

law-schoolIf you want to examine responses to a crisis, you really need to look at law schools. They are facing what will be, for some of them, an existential calamity.

In recent months, the three Arizona law schools have issued announcements that bolster their offerings. The approaches vary, and they are aimed at two significant subsets of their products’ consumers: potential law school applicants, and soon-to-be and recent graduates.

Both of those categories are increasingly skeptical of the ability of law schools to provide a degree with value commensurate to the purchasers’ outlay.

I am curious what you think about the three most recent announcements. As you consider them, view them through the eyes of those two categories of people, and ask: Would this changed policy or additional program have been a deal-maker in my choice of schools? Does this new initiative make me look differently at the law school?

Here are the approaches and initiatives:

And then, just to make your choice more complex, is the elephant in the room: an Arizona pilot program that would allow certain law students to take the Bar exam during the third year of law school.

Which of these, if any, would have affected your decision to attend a school (or attend law school at all)?

Does pricing trump all? Or does saving a few thousand dollars mean not that much when amortized over a career? Would having a schedule that allows students to work (and maybe graduate sooner) help attract them? Or does the possibility of the school itself employing you as a lawyer sweeten the pot sufficiently?

Let me know what you think. Who, if anyone, is on the right track?

Rehnquist Center banner logoSo far, my overscheduled Tuesday looks like it won’t accommodate a trip south to Tucson. And that’s really too bad. (Well, that’s too bad most any day, but it’s especially the case on February 26.)

The reason I’d like to drop by the University of Arizona Law School is to attend an oral argument—before the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, of all legal bodies.

Here is how the Court describes itself and its civilian judges:

“The United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces exercises worldwide appellate jurisdiction over members of the armed forces on active duty and other persons subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The Court is composed of five civilian judges appointed for 15-year terms by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate.”

Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces sealThe Rehnquist Center at the law school has announced the morning event, during which law students will have the opportunity to argue; those same students have already filed an amicus brief in the case.

The Center says that the Court has never traveled to Tucson. But if that’s not enough of a draw, here are the case facts:

“GCM conviction of possession of child pornography, larceny of military property and filing a false claim. Granted issues question (1) whether the military judge abused his discretion when he failed to suppress evidence of child pornography discovered on Appellant’s personal computer in the course of an unreasonable search conducted to find contraband after Appellant was wounded in Iraq and medically evacuated to the United States; and (2) whether the Army Court erred in creating a new exception to the Fourth Amendment when it held that the Government’s search of Appellant’s personal computer was reasonable because the Government was not ‘certain’ or ‘absolutely clear’ that it would be returned to the wounded-warrior Appellant.”

From where I sit, that is a fascinating Fourth Amendment question. (Although didn’t the U.S. Supreme Court this past Term examine a question related to privacy rights on a school computer that could possibly be returned to the employer? What case was that? Anyone?) (Recently, Canada’s Supreme Court took the view that folks do have some measure of privacy, even on their work-issued computer. O Canada.)

More information about the Tuesday morning arguments is here. Included among the detail are the argument briefs (in PDF).

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