ASU President Michael Crow

“Sustainability” gets a lot of play these days, and it’s even one of ASU’s stool legs, or pillars (or something else cylindrical). A news story on Tuesday added a new wrinkle to that mission statement.

Apparently, according to an Arizona Republic story, a move is afoot to make the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law “self-sustaining.” What does that mean?

The story is here.

Well, it would remain a part of the state university, but be independent of its budget. Not quite private, not quite public. That would necessarily mean that tuition would climb (probably quite significantly for out-of-state students).

But ASU President Michael Crow and Law Dean Paul Schiff Berman speak admiringly of the idea. Not everyone in the news story does.

ASU Law Dean Paul Schiff Berman

Law schools nationwide are going through a bit of an identity crisis lately. You can’t throw a hornbook without hitting a heady conference on “the role of the law school.” In fact, ASU has one slated for next February.

My own law school, UC-Hastings College of the Law, the oldest law school west of the Rockies, is similarly a public university that is also divested of the state’s budget process (and largesse). That may insulate it from Sacramento’s cyclical madness. But it also means that many of its graduates have a pretty large loan debt to pay off. Tuition has ramped up steeply in recent years. And I get relentless calls from the school asking me to “honor” my graduate status by providing a hefty donation (Hey, I think I am getting another call right now looking for some of that “private-side funding” we hear so much about.)

We’ll cover the evolving business model of law schools more later. But for now, I have to say that I enjoyed reading some of the comments that followed this Arizona Republic story.

There were hundreds of them. About a law school.

I generally do not advise reading article comments. Because they are anonymous, they are often venomous and more filled with rage than insight. In that regard, these comments may not be much different. But for those of us who want to hear what people feel—really feel—about lawyers, anonymous comments may be just the ticket.

One of the comments, I’m happy to say, even cited Arizona Attorney Magazine’s September story on the Economic Report done by the State Bar. Every time that happens, I blush a bit (and a lawyer somewhere gets a briefcase).

Keep reading to get an earful.

savebrice: The U.S. produces a plethora of attorneys. We can afford a few less prospective lawyers.

zona70: I agree with you on this one. An attorney produces nothing they simply consume resource and spur greed. An engineer produces something, they innovate, develop, advance. A few years ago I read that the USA is producing 10 lawyers for every similarly educated engineer. A sad commentary on what our society is becoming.

Sardog: Let me know how you feel about lawyers the next time you walk in on your spouse with the pool cleaner, or you see blue and red lights in the rearview mirror. Take a stand, and just represent yourself. You’ve posted many igorant things here…but this post may be the most ignorant post to date.

Sike1984: You should hire an attorney to copyright the statement so you can market it as “most ignorant.” It would be awesome.

BigSis: Ask yourself, how many lawyers do we need ??? There has to be a finite limit.

Peruse the yellow pages someday under “attorneys”, there are so many it will make your head spin.

BassAckwards: Why doesn’t anybody ask how many burger flippers we need? Or how many quarterbacks? Or how many mechanics? Or how many actors? We need as many as the market will support. That’s how it works. By the way, you do realize that corporate America, those big businesses that all the conservatives agree need all the breaks they can get cause apparently it’s so hard be filthy rich, those guys employ the largest chunk of lawyers out there AND they couldn’t operate without them.

DesertRat83: If you complain about how many lawyers there are (i.e. roughly 1 for every 400 Arizonans), I hope you don’t complain about how expensive lawyers are. Simple economics tells you that the more lawyers = more competition = lower prices for their services. Since the average attorney charges $250/hr in AZ (citation: Arizona Attorney magazine, Sept 2010), I would think that most regular folks would hope for an increase in supply to drive down the price.

yzguy: This is a sad move on the part of ASU and it is disheartening to see the Board of Regents even thinking of approving this. ASU is not equivalent to either the U of M law school or the University of Virginia school of business in either academic reputation or national status. Both of those schools enjoy a much larger population base in the immediate area as well. This is just another experiment by Dr. Crow to do something that is unwise in the long run. Tuition at ASU was supposed to be affordable for the average citizen of the state who is, little by little, being priced out of ASU as the university continues to seek out higher tuition from out of state and professional schools students. Every year the portion of non Arizona residents attending these schools grows larger and larger. My small voice (and most likely any one else’s other than Crow’s and his lock step administrators) won’t be heard but I don’t believe that we can continue to use ASU as Dr. Crow’s personal experiment of how a state university should be run. Eventualy, the time to pay the piper will come but he will be long gone and won’t be accountable.