An ardent admirer of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, first-year law student Alissa Mack had the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University at the top of her law school wish list.
But as a graduate of Grand Valley State University in Michigan, the personal attention she received from No. 25-ranked ASU Law convinced her to join its more than 400 new students this fall semester, including 230 of her fellow first-time juris doctor (JD) candidates.
“My husband and I attended the admitted-student day in March and were both listening to the staff and students talk about how great the school is,” Mack said. “Then Dean Doug Sylvester started talking. It was at that point that my husband and I looked at each other and just knew this was the right place.
“Not every law school has a dean who is so incredibly devoted to his students, who is humble about his own accomplishments, proud of his law school, and so involved in constantly making improvements. Our experience that weekend solidified my decision to attend ASU because the staff (and students) seemed to share in that pride in the law school, as well as the devotion to every student to provide them with the resources they need to succeed.”
ASU Law is logging its largest entering class in its history. The overall incoming class also includes 66 “mid-level” JDs (transfers and students with advanced standing) and more than 100 students enrolled in ASU Law’s graduate programs — Master of Laws (LLM), Master of Legal Studies (MLS) and Master of Sports Law & Business (MSLB). This large class is a further indication that ASU Law continues to successfully buck the downward enrollment trend bedeviling many other law schools. Applications to ASU Law for fall 2016 were up more than 30 percent from last year, compared with a less than 1 percent increase in applicants nationally.
ASU Law not only enrolled another large JD class, it did so while maintaining student credentials.
“Students tell us they care about the reputation and quality of their law school, location and overall value,” Sylvester said. “We are committed to not only maintaining high standards, but also bringing forth new programs and opportunities to students so that they are equipped and well positioned to pursue their dream jobs. We are relentlessly focused on the success of our students throughout their academic and professional careers.”
ASU Law ranks in the top 20 among all accredited law schools in the nation for placing graduates in real lawyer jobs. Within 10 months of graduation, 85 percent of ASU Law’s graduating class of 2015 found employment in full-time, long-term, non-university funded jobs in which bar passage is required or a JD is preferred. This is well above the national employment average of 69 percent, according to data collected by the American Bar Association (ABA) on the nation’s 204 ABA-accredited law schools. ASU Law’s bar passage rate is No. 1 in Arizona at 85 percent, compared with 73 percent nationwide.
For Mack, the new home of ASU Law — the Beus Center for Law and Society on the Downtown Phoenix campus — was an added bonus in making her law school choice.
“I was leaning toward ASU Law when I thought I would be attending school in the old building,” she said. “I would have attended whether or not the new building existed. Don't get me wrong though, I really like the new building. It is so open to the community, and so much about it is community-focused. It conveys that part of the law school well. The outdoor courtyard is really nice, and there are so many study nooks throughout.
“The professors' offices are not all on their own floor away from students, which is really nice because it creates an openness between professor and student interaction.”
Adding to the overall learning experience are the various forms of diversity the new JD students represent. They hail from 97 undergraduate universities, 39 states and four countries. Their undergraduate degrees come from a wide range of study areas, including pre-med, accounting, economics, biochemistry, mathematics, business administration, international studies, chemical engineering, environmental sciences and finance. Also, several members of the new JD class hold master’s degrees in areas including business administration, education, science and the arts.
In terms of “real-world” experience, the class boasts students who have been a professional athlete, hotshot firefighter, legislative aide, CPA and a freelance cartographer. One student has served as an Arizona state representative and senator and now sits on the Tempe City Council. Another student deferred a position as a foreign services officer.
Sylvester likes to say that “public service is part of our students’ DNA,” and members of this new JD class already have shown a passion and commitment to community service through their work with the Red Cross, AmeriCorps, Arizona Justice Project, Chicago Justice Project, Habitat for Humanity, the Humane Society and more.
By all these metrics, Mack measures up well with her new classmates. She is also ready to put down roots.
“As we were leaving Michigan, my husband and I also wanted to go somewhere we could see ourselves living permanently,” she said. “We can see ourselves living in Phoenix even after I get my law degree.”