Arizona Summit Law School
|Arizona Summit Law School|
|Parent school||InfiLaw System|
|School type||For profit|
|Dean||Jay Conison, formerly Shirley May-Day|
|Location||Phoenix, Arizona, USA|
|Faculty||18 full time 40 adjunct|
|Bar pass rate||20.1%|
The Arizona Summit Law School, founded in 2005 and known until 2013 as the Phoenix School of Law, is a for-profit law school located in Phoenix, Arizona. SummitLaw is part of the InfiLaw System of independent, for-profit law schools, which includes Florida Coastal School of Law and Charlotte School of Law, owned by Sterling Partners. Although the school was approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) in 2010, the ABA announced in May 2018 that it planned to rescind the school's approval for failure to comply with ABA standards regarding admissions practices, academic standards, and support and bar passage. This follows a March 2017 decision by the ABA to place the school on probation after the school's bar passage rate dropped to 25% in July 2016.
The ABA withdrew the school's accreditation effective July 9, 2018, however the school has appealed the decision and the ABA is expected to decide the appeal by mid-October. The Arizona Supreme Court announced on June 14 that current graduates are still eligible to take the state's bar exam but, unless the ABA reinstates accreditation, future graduates will be ineligible to take the exam.
The school announced that it would not accept an incoming class for Fall 2018. In August 2018, the school was forced out of its rented space in the Phelps Dodge Tower after failing to pay rent.
According to Arizona Summit's official 2018 ABA-required disclosures, 34.4% of the Class of 2017 obtained full-time, long-term, JD-required employment nine months after graduation, excluding solo practitioners.
In July 2017, the school had the lowest bar passage rate in Arizona, with 25.7% of first time test takers passing compared to 76.1% for Arizona State University and 74.3% for University of Arizona. The state's total passage rate was 69.4% for first time test takers and 56.6% overall.
The total cost of attendance (indicating the cost of tuition, fees, and living expenses) at Arizona Summit for the 2014-2015 academic year is $64,856. The Law School Transparency estimated debt-financed cost of attendance for three years is $243,864. The median amount of debt for program graduates is $178,263 The school offers controversial conditional scholarships to students that can be reduced or eliminated based on overall grade point average, rather than academic standing. During the 2015-2016 academic year, 73 students had their conditional scholarship reduced or eliminated.
The school is located in the Phelps Dodge Tower, a 20-story building in downtown Phoenix, occupying floors 13, 14, and 17, across from CityScape, at One North Central Avenue.
Critics contend that Arizona Summit's admissions process is now close to a fully open unselective enrollment system. Arizona Summit's Fall 2016 entering class had a median GPA of 2.96 and a median LSAT score of 143 (20th percentile of test takers). The 25th percentile of admitted students had a GPA of 2.55 and an LSAT score of 140 (13th percentile of test takers). The school admitted 64.1% of applicants. Last year, the school lost 99 first year students (33% of the class). Forty-one students failed out of the program, 35 transferred, and 23 left for other reasons.
The school says its mission is based upon three pillars: (1) a student-centered educational experience; (2) supporting programs that allow for professionally prepared graduates; and (3) commitment to underserved communities.
- Clinical Programs: SummitLaw houses a Mediation Clinic and other clinical programs designed to develop and enhance practice skills. Courses are offered in trial and appellate practice, mediation and alternative methods of dispute resolution. Clinical methods are used in various courses throughout the curriculum.
- Externships: SummitLaw offers qualified, upper-level students in good academic standing opportunities to participate in a for-credit externship program. Students attend a classroom component that provides a link between the placement setting and the learning process.
- Mentoring Programs: Each student is assigned a faculty member as their mentor. The faculty member helps to guide the student through their law school experience and form a professional relationship that will carry into their future career.
Nevertheless, legal scholars dispute the for-profit school's mission. Many legal academics contend that Arizona Summit admits students who have little chance of passing the bar or obtaining employment after graduation, in order to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in student loans.
In May 2017, the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education, the state's licensing authority governing for-profit educational institutions, voted to require the law school to post a $1.5 million surety bond, to be potentially paid out to students in the event the school closes down.
- Delta Theta Phi, Law Fraternity, International
- Black Law Student Association
- Jewish Law Students Association
- Phi Alpha Delta, International Law Fraternity- Goldwater Chapter
- Hispanic Law Students Association
- Intellectual Property Law Society
- J. Reuben Clark Law Society
- St. Thomas More Society
- Justice for All
- Juvenile Law Society
- Parents Attending Law School (PALS)
- Public Interest Law Project
- Legal Aid Work for the Protection of Animal Welfare Society (LAWPAWS)
- Student Bar Association
- Night Student Society
- Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA)
- SummitLaw Women's Association
- Federalist Society
- Real Estate Club
- International Law Society
- Moot Court
- Law Review
- Students admitted for the Fall of 2014 to Arizona Summit Law School had a median GPA of 2.94 and a median LSAT Score of 144.
- The July 2015 bar passage rate for first time bar takers from Arizona Summit Law School was 30.6%. Out of 144 first time takers, only 44 achieved a passing score on the bar. With those retaking the bar included, the passage rate sinks to 26.4%.
- The February 2016 bar passage rate for first time bar takers from Arizona Summit Law School was 38.1%. Out of 97 first time takers, only 37 achieved a passing score on the bar. With those retaking the bar included, the passage rate sinks to 28.4%.
- Arizona Summit's July 2016 Arizona bar passage rate for first time writers was 24.6%. Out of 73 first time test writers, only 18 achieved a passing score. The school's total July 2016 Arizona bar passage rate was 19.7%.
- Arizona Summit's July 2017 Arizona Bar passage rate for first time writers was 25.7%. Out of 35 first time test writers, only 9 achieved a passing score. The school's total July 2017 Arizona bar passage rate was 20.1%.
- One graduate has failed the bar exam 6 times in two states.
A 2012 report showed that 18% of first-year students at Arizona Summit had transferred to other law schools. This led to a policy in which transfer students were required to meet with an adviser before their transcripts would be released.
In 2013, two professors filed a lawsuit against the school, alleging that they had been fired for objecting to a new policy related to student transfers, among other policy changes. The complaint was subsequently dismissed by District Court. The plaintiffs appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
On March 27, 2017, Arizona Summit was notified by the ABA that the school had been placed on probation. The school was found to be out of compliance with ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools 301(a), 308(a), and 309(b), as well as various sections of Standard 501. The ABA stated "that the law school’s admissions practices, academic program…and outcomes…have resulted in the law school now being in a position where only immediate and substantial action can bring about sufficient change to put the law school on a realistic path back to being in compliance within the time allowed by the Standards and Rules of Procedure.” Arizona Summit became the second InfiLaw school to be placed on probation by the ABA. Charlotte School of Law was placed on probation in November 2016.
In January 2018, the ABA issued a letter stating that the school's financial strength was insufficient to carry out legal education that met the ABA's standards, and gave the school until February 1, 2018, to submit a report on its efforts to improve its financial position.
The ABA withdrew approval in June 2018. The school is no longer accepting new students and has cancelled classes for the fall 2018 term.
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