Katherine Bishop 2014-02-27 23:04:54
Arizona Summit Law School caters to second career law students through flexible scheduling While some lawyers know from an early age the career path they want to take, others take an indirect route and make the decision to pursue a law degree after spending time in another career. Arizona Summit Law School (AZ Summit Law), formerly Phoenix School of Law, has a significant number of second career law students. These students are finding success in the pursuit of a law degree at AZ Summit Law thanks to flexible scheduling, practice-ready curriculum, and customized learning, which allows them to be well-prepared for practicing law. “Besides the core classes, the third-year general practice skills class was the most helpful to me,” said Allison Swenson, alumna of AZ Summit Law and a practicing attorney at Kutak Rock, where she worked part-time as a law clerk before deciding to attend law school, and during her studies. “Each week we studied different areas of law. Practitioners from the community shared their work experiences and led us through interactive sessions to get a feel for a practice area. Some classmates ended up choosing to focus in areas they hadn’t considered before.” Hands-on learning offered by the school prepares students to be effective immediately upon graduation. “From day one I felt as if AZ Summit Law was preparing me to be a practicing attorney,” said Kimberly Davis, AZ Summit Law graduate and an associate in Udall Shumway’s school law group. “We were required to write appellate briefs in our second semester, as well as drafting wills and learning to form corporations as part of the curriculum in our third year. I have been told my skills are more advanced than that of a typical first year associate.” The personal engagement with faculty is another fundamental part of the AZ Summit Law experience. Upon admittance, students are assigned a faculty mentor to help guide them through their education. For many students, their mentor was one of many faculty who made a positive impact. “When I initially visited the school, it felt small enough that I knew I could get a personalized education and the staff and faculty would care about my success,” added Davis. AZ Summit Law offers students the flexibility of part-time and evening classes, as well as an optional 2-year degree program. The ability to continue working while taking classes at AZ Summit Law was a key reason that Davis relocated to Arizona. As a school psychologist, she worked with education law on a daily basis and saw obtaining a law degree as the next step in her career. She was able to earn her degree at night while working during the day in Arizona public schools. “It worked perfectly for me. The professors treated us the same as a full-time law student and were compassionate and understanding,” commented Davis. Mark Boesen, a graduate of AZ Summit Law, practicing pharmacist and member of Quarles & Brady’s health law team, shared a similar experience. “It was amazing to have a sitting judge come to our class after a day on the bench,” he added. “We learned that while you need to know criminal procedure, when you are providing an objection there’s a certain way a judge wants you to do it.” “When I started researching schools, one website said right up front, ‘Only full-time, only during the day,’” said Boesen. He wanted to complement his 17 years of health care experience and role as a chief compliance officer with a law degree. “A day program wasn’t going to work for me,” he continued. “I needed to pay the mortgage and raise a family.” “From the day we opened our doors in 2005, our mission has been to provide opportunities to underserved populations and graduate practice-ready professionals,” said AZ Summit Law Dean Shirley L. Mays, a graduate of Harvard Law School with an extensive and distinguished career in both private practice and legal education. “People pursuing a second career in law aren’t always able to follow the traditional path,” Mays continued. “They often need more flexibility and support to reach their educational and career goals.” Andrea Claus, AZ Summit Law alumna and an estate planning attorney at Morris, Hall, Kinghorn is an example of that need. “I wasn’t 23,” Claus said. “My twin girls started kindergarten when I started law school.” Claus began her career in restaurant management and chose to become an attorney from her desire to help people and make a difference. “The curriculum is well-suited for more mature students,” Claus said. “We learned from each other as we applied our own knowledge and experiences to what we were learning in class.” AZ Summit Law’s focus on blending theory with practical knowledge has been recognized as one of the country’s most innovative law education programs. “We’re very proud of our strong record in providing a high quality education, preparing our students to pass the bar and assisting them in finding fulfilling positions in their fields of choice,” said Mays.
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