The New York Times ran an article last week about how a law school in my backyard – Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law – is taking a page from the medical education playbook and opening a “teaching” nonprofit law firm for graduates.

The ASU law school dean, Douglas J. Sylvester, got the idea when he visited the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and observed medical students and graduates gaining experience in the teaching hospitals there. He realized what his school needed was a “teaching hospital” for law school graduates.

As the article notes, Sylvester’s plan is one of a dozen or so efforts across the nation to address two seemingly contradictory needs: law school graduates with no job and people who can’t afford a lawyer. ASU’s nonprofit law firm will take in 30 graduates who will work under seasoned lawyers to provide low-cost legal services to Phoenix residents.

In a unique twist, Arizona recently passed a new law that lets law school students take the Arizona bar exam in their third year of law school rather than after graduation. The school also offers a North American Law degree that allows graduates to practice in the U.S. and Canada.

The incoming ABA president James R. Silkenat noted that one of his top priorities is to establish a “legal job corps” to match people with legal needs with attorneys who need the work, saying that, “There are unmet legal needs because of money and geography that seem to be growing, and the question of how to make use of unemployed recent graduates.”


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