Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Is Arizona Summit's 2016 Legal Residency Fellowship Program designed to persuade law grads to delay taking the bar exam?

In its viewbook, Infilaw’s Arizona Summit School of Law (ASLS) adopted the motto: "Raising the Bar in Legal Education." Unfortunately, ASLS’s version of "raising the bar" does not necessarily include actually passing the bar.

ASLS’s recent bar passage rate is among the lowest in the country, possibly rock bottom (or to put it less harshly, rock inverted summit). Its most recent bar passage rates were 26.4% (July 2015 exam) and 28.4% (February 2016 exam), or well under half the passage rates achieved by the other two law schools in Arizona, the ones that have not tried to elevate their brand image by changing their names to a synonym for "mountain peak."

A source has provided OTLSS with a document issued by ASLS’s "Center for Professional Development," announcing a remarkable one-year-long "ASLS 2016 Legal Residency Fellowship Program." (See below, or this link) The Fellowship program runs from August 1, 2016 to July 31, 2017, and is available to ASLS grads from ASLS's graduating classes of 2015 and 2016. It certainly looks like this program is designed to persuade recent grads to delay taking the bar exam. Our source thinks so. 

Under the program, law grads work for a "participating employer or an employer of their choice." The participant works "no more than 20 hours a week." ASLS pays the employer, who apparently pays the grad. ("ASLS will pay the employer for Participant’s hours worked each month, plus employer’s share of FICA. . .Participants will be paid a total of $3,000 per month for the duration of the program").

You know, the customary arrangement is for the employer to pay the employee for his or her time and labor. Here, however, the employer is being paid by a third party to provide its so-called employee with activities for a set number of hours per week, almost as though the "employee" were a child attending a summer camp or preschool, rather than a skilled professional reporting to his or her workplace.

Compensation-wise, the program is not bad until you realize that the school has just scammed these kids for three years plus $132,000 in tuition and fees in exchange for a degree at a joke school with  an abysmal law job placement rate.

What is interesting is that the program requirements become more burdensome just before and after the participant takes the bar exam.  First, though the wording is ambiguous, it appears that a grad enrolled in the fellowship program must take an uncompensated two month leave of absence prior to the bar exam. Second, after taking the bar exam, the participant earns "an hourly wage for up to 40 hours per week, not exceed $3,000 per month." So instead of working half-time or less to make a monthly salary of $3000, as he or she did before the bar exam, the post-exam-taking participant must work full-time for that same $3000. 

So it would seem to be in an ASLS’s grad’s interest to delay taking the bar until the conclusion of the fellowship program, so that he or she can earn an uninterrupted $3,000 per month for a work week that maxes out at 20 hours. As noted, the fellowship concludes on July 31, 2017. The first bar exam after that is in February, 2018. That is a substantial chunk of time to prepare for the exam, and no doubt ASLS is hoping to "raise the bar" on its bar passage rates from the obscene to the barely acceptable.



12 comments:

  1. Work for a "participating employer or an employer of their choice"? As if graduates of Arizona Summit ("The summit of hypocrisy; the Grand Canyon of bar-passage rates") had abundant options.

    Is a "job" through this scheme guaranteed? What if a student can't find any "employer"? Just exactly which "employer" would want a graduate of this putrid toilet, even at no cost?

    Shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic.

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    1. Stonemason, Esq.July 20, 2016 at 7:57 PM

      "Participants are employed by their employer and not ASLS."

      What do you expect them to do? NOT game their employment stats?!?

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    2. Their attempt to decline responsibility for employment might not stand up in court, particularly since they impose so many conditions and also effectively pay what they acknowledge to be wages.

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  2. In my experience, an "employer" in this situation is going to assign the "employee" only clerical work for fear of going to court relying on the work product of someone who could do no better that a TTTT without a meticulous review of that work product. What is your malpractice carrier going to think of the situation? But Arizona Summit can still say they're employed and that's all that matters.

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    1. A savvier employer will assign work that can be plausibly billed as attorney time, but is unimportant enough that the quality doesn't matter: legal research and memos on secondary issues, reviewing unimportant document production, drafting reports that no one will ever read, etc. It's literally free money for the firms as long as real lawyers do the important work.

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  3. Nice idea, but this is probably just a "no-pay internship" as a "paid" internship. Meaning, maybe you get to work at the EPA or the DA's office or whatever, but there is no job at the end and there never was going to be. But, you got paid. And ASU gets to mark the student as "employed."

    This might "work" for a handful of students (i.e. one or two get picked up, or can leverage the experience into another paying, FT position). Being Charles Emerson Winchester III probably helps in any event, and the irony is that those self-same students may score the "jobs," as is often what happens.

    Ultimately, they are delaying the inevitable when it comes to the majority...

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  4. Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance KingJuly 21, 2016 at 6:42 PM

    There is a new book out by AJ Angulo, titled "Diploma Mill$ How For-Profit Colleges Stiffed Students, Taxpayers, and the American Dream" that discussed law schools like Arizona Summit. After WWII, returning GI's selected reputable non-profit law schools to attend. The author pointed out that marginal for profit law schools came to and end as the legal professions' "dominant institution."

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  5. Am I reading correctly that electing to take the July bar exam costs kids enrolled in this program $6,000? And then they have to work twice as hard afterward to make up the time for the employer, but don't get paid more to make up the difference?

    What a scam.

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  6. Authur: You are mistaken. We will be taking the exam in Feb. '17. Also, there is no mandatory requirement to work 40 hours after the bar because the language reads, "may" and not shall. Therefore, you are misinformed.

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    1. "Authur" - LOL! 11:12 must have gotten a 140 on the LSAT.

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  7. If a student doesn't feel "ready" to take the bar, is it so negative to study for an extra few months before taking the exam? Is the extra support really an issue?

    Based upon the author's biased article, I imagine that he would respond to my questions by saying something along the lines of, "they would be 'ready' if they didn't attend a TTTT school" or "those jobs are handouts."

    The truth is, the school has low bar passage rates and is expensive. At this point, I think that's it's pretty safe to assume we all know this. Law school, in general, is not easy, nor is it cheap.

    So with information as attainable as this, why would it be necessary to share these facts in an article about the Fellowship program? Why would the author choose to devalue the efforts of the school to help improve its bar passage rates? Why would the author choose to, potentially, harm the students that chose to extend study for a few months, with financial security, by making them feel as though they're not good enough?

    From corner to corner, the program aids all parties involved. So why is it such a bad thing? All I can seem to find in this article is malice.

    If a Summit student passes the Bar 6 months after she graduates, does that make her any less of a lawyer?

    Sometimes I wonder what would possess people to act so ignorantly. More astonishingly, when speaking on things don't even concern them.

    If attacking the school and its students makes you feel more complete, then by all means -- do so. Fill that void that you're missing in your life. But understand that there are some that may feel it's not the most mature use of your time.

    Warren Bingham
    SBA President of Arizona Summit Law

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  8. Hey, this is an unrelated comment. Just want to say a big "thank you" to the contributors and commenters on this blog for convincing me not to go to law school. I was a non-trad student with a humanities degree, currently living abroad and looking for a way to move back to the US and get into a profession with a measure of stability. Was offered a conditional full-ride scholarship to a NYC-area T3. Can't say anything bad about the people I interacted with there, but in the end, I decided against going for a number of reasons, most of which were laid out by the writers of this blog and other blogs like it.

    I still don't know what to do with my life, but I really feel confident that law school is not the answer. Big thanks to everyone here.

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