When one thinks of great law schools, Arizona does not immediately leap to mind. And with good reason. As of 2021, the state only offers two accredited colleges of law, one at the University of Arizona and the other at Arizona State University. But what the state lacks in quantity, it more than makes up for with quality.
One of the hottest states in the U.S., Arizona’s desert climate has a famously “dry” heat, in which the low humidity makes the high temperatures feel more palatable than the oppressive weather in Florida or California. This environment makes Arizona an attractive state for not just snow-adverse seniors, but anyone interested in temperate conditions.
In addition to diversity in age, the state’s location on the U.S. and Mexico border, as well as its many indigenous peoples, make it a true melting pot of cultures.
In other words, Arizona’s population, geography, and climate connect the state to some of the most pressing issues of our time. In fact, you can’t help but wonder why more educators haven’t taken advantage of this unique mix to open more law schools in the Grand Canyon State.
But as this article will show, Arizona’s two law schools have more than enough to prepare the lawyers of the future to tackle these and many other legal concerns. Following the rankings found in U.S. News & World Report’s list of Best American Law Schools, this article lays out the many benefits of Arizona’s colleges of law. Using this information, you’ll quickly see that although Arizona is an unusual choice for a law school, it may also be the best choice.
2. University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law (Tucson, AZ)
Established in 1915, the University of Arizona’s Rogers College of Law is the oldest law school in the state. In its over 100 years of existence, Rogers has trained federal judges, attorneys general, and state and federal congresspeople.
The school graduates approximately 150 students each year, many of whom quickly find jobs in the legal profession. According to statistics from the school, 87.2% of graduates in the Class of 2020 found full-time work in the legal profession within 9 months of graduating. The school also found that 84% of students passed the Bar Exam within two years of taking it.
These impressive numbers speak to the quality of education University of Arizona Law provides. With its 15 in-house clinics, students gain hands-on experience practicing law related to some of the most important issues of the day. As part of the nationwide Innocence Project founded in the Cardozo School of Law, the University of Arizona Innocence Project clinic gives students the chance to use DNA testing to exonerate wrongfully convicted prisoners in the state.
The Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program in the Tribal Justice Clinic enlists students to address tribal concerns, not just in Arizona, but throughout the United States. Students working in this clinic have achieved several impressive feats, including writing and filing an amicus brief for the Supreme Court, provided legal research to aid an Arizona tribe’s challenge to the Indian Child Welfare Act, and wrote a bench book used by tribal judges.
In the Domestic Violence Law Clinic, law students and their supervising attorneys help victims find safety and secure their rights. Those working in the clinic provide representation for orders of protection to keep abusers away from survivors. They offer legal advice and counsel regarding questions of custody and child support. Finally, students provide public work and community outreach to raise awareness of laws regarding domestic abuse and rights for survivors.
In addition to formal training at UA Law’s clinics, the school offers its students numerous other opportunities to develop their skills. The college authorizes several teams to participate in legal skills competitions, including the ABA National Appellate Advocacy Competition and the Giles S. Rich IP Moot Court Competition. Students can work in one of the four law journals published at the college, such as the Arizona Law Review and the Arizona Law Journal of Emerging Technologies.
Given these impressive resources, it should come as no surprise that UA Law accepts only the best students. As explained in its profile, the school sends offers of admission to only 25.5% of those who apply, down from 32.5% from just three years ago. Admitted students have a median GPA of 3.70 and a median LSAT score of 161, putting it within the top 50 of scores among American law schools. With those limitations, AU Law can maintain an attractively low 4.5:1 faculty-to-student ratio.
Although it falls in last place on this list, these factors explain why U.S. News & World Report gives UA Law a much higher ranking, putting it within the top 50 law schools in the country. The school takes full advantage of everything that the state of Arizona can offer to students of the law.
1. Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law (Phoenix, AZ)
While AU Law features an incredible group of resources and supports for future lawyers, Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law provides even more. In the mere 55 years since the school’s founding in 1965, the public state law school has established itself as one of the best places to study law in the American southwest.
U.S. News & World Report calls ASU Law the 7th best public law school in the country, and the 25th highest ranked school overall, giving the school special recognition for its legal writing program. This high ranking stems in part from the increasingly impressive group of students that ASU Law welcomes each year. In 2019, the college’s 272 students had a median LSAT score of 164 and a median GPA of 3.8. That said, ASU Law has a higher acceptance rate than its sister in Tuscon, sending offers of admission to 272 of the 3,710 people who applied, for a rate of 29%.
Students who enter ASU Law benefit from the institution’s incredible resources. Former and current faculty include Retired Arizona Supreme Court Justice Scott Bales, anti-domestic violence activist Sarah Buel, and Michael J. Saks, a prominent scholar in the field of law and social science. ASU Law publishes five legal journals that are operated by its student body, including the Arizona State Law Journal and Jurimetrics: The Journal of Law, Science, and Technology.
In the college’s 13 clinics, students gain experience handling real cases in many programs. These programs cover issues such as first amendment rights, patent law, new technologies, and immigration law.
For those who want more rigorous experience, ASU Law has focus centers in which students work for large-scale change. The Academy for Justice works to reform the state’s criminal justice system to serve the poor and oppressed better. Students in this academy advocate for abused indigenous women, challenge bail bond standards, and address systemic racism in the Arizona criminal justice program.
In the Center for Law, Science and Innovation, students study the latest legal frontiers in technology. These students get to grapple with laws with which future generations will contend, arguing about cutting-edge topics such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, and big data.
The Difference Engine, ASU Law’s global inequality center, presents legal challenges to racism, sexism, and homophobia throughout the United States. Its projects include the Supercharger, a Shark Tank-style incubator that brings together NGOs working in Arizona with social entrepreneurs with the capital to fund real change. The Women’s Power Index ranks world organizations according to measures of inequality, taking the first steps to identify and address sexism in the workplace.
These resources fully prepare Arizona’s future lawyers to enter the field. 90% of ASU Law students pass the Bar Exam, and 89% of graduates gain full-time employment in the legal field within 10 months of matriculation. The school counts among its alumni Arizona Supreme Court Justices Ann Scott Timmer and John Lopez IV, Chicago Bears chairman George McCaskey, and current Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema.
As these statistics show, despite its low number of law schools, Arizona is an excellent choice for anyone looking to learn the legal profession.