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.