Saturday, June 14, 2014

A plan to train more lawyers in Alaska, perhaps even some for the state's rural and remote areas

Seattle University last week announced a plan to permit students to complete their last year of law school in Anchorage, Alaska, at a satellite campus.  The program has yet to be approved by the American Bar Association, but if it is approved, beginning in 2015, Seattle University students will be able to attend their third year of classes at Alaska Pacific University, and also spend summers there.

Both the Chief Justice of Alaska, Dana Fabe, and Alaska Bar Association executive director Deborah O'Regan, endorse the program.  A recent story in the Anchorage Daily News quotes O'Regan:
There's Alaskans that would have gone to law school but it's not practical to go Outside for three years.  
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It may make the choice to start a legal career easier for some Alaskans. 

Seattle University's announcement quotes Justice Fabe as saying she expects the satellite campus to "open doors to legal and judicial careers" to Alaskans and to increase the diversity of lawyers practicing in Alaska.

The Anchorage Daily News further explains:
The proposed satellite campus program would combine internships with law firms, nonprofits and state agencies with traditional classroom instruction. Local attorneys and judges will likely be tapped to help teach. 
Seattle Univeristy has operated a summer program in Alaska for a dozen years, according to Stephanie Nichols, its director.  The program brings law students from across the nation "to Anchorage for Alaska-specific courses and internships."  Nichols reports that, among the 170 students who have been through the program over the years, 60% have returned to Alaska to work.  Nichols is quoted:  
We have been planning to do this long before law schools started looking for other ways to branch out.  This has been in the works for years and years.
She states that scholarships are available for Alaska students, to defray the $41,000/year tuition, and she indicates that students from any law school could avail themselves of the program if they secure permission to spend their third year away from their home institution.  

Another partnership, this one between Willamette University College of Law in Salem, Oregon and the University of Alaska, Anchorage, was announced in May.  This one would permit students who have three years of credits from UAA to start law school at Willamette.
According to O'Regan, the Alaska Bar Association has 2,456 active members, the majority of whom practice in Southcentral Alaska.  
Very few lawyers are located in remote areas of the state: According to state bar statistics, only 31 attorneys practice in the Second Judicial District, which includes Barrow, Kotzebue, Nome and Unalakleet. 
Nichols, of Seattle University, notes that the new program might "sow seeds for Alaska-raised attorneys to practice in their hometowns in under-served areas of the state."

I'm sure Justice Dana Fabe would appreciate that.

1 comment:

Taylor Call said...

I think this is a good step for Alaska. I attended my first year of law school in the Northwest and knew quite a few students that were from Alaska that planned to move back when they were done. These students have to constantly move back and forth between Alaska and law school in order to work in Alaska in the summers. Although some students are mobile because they are younger or do not have families, non-traditional law students can sometimes face a dilemma when determining whether law school is right for them. Many older students have to move their families in order to go to law school and some undoubtedly decide not to get their degree because doing so would be too difficult. Allowing them to finish their second summer and final year of law school in Alaska would probably cause more Alaskans to attend law school. Hopefully this will be true for people from more rural towns like Unalakleet as well.