Deans Concerned Over Loan Program Changes

Arizona Summit Law School

For-Profit Arizona Law School Found Non-Compliant With ABA Standards

Arizona Summit Law has been found to be out of compliance with American Bar Association standards.

The ABA issued a letter to Arizona Summit Law’s Interim Dean Penny Willrich last week stating that the law school is not in compliance with Standard 202(a) concerning the adequacy of its finances.

Staci Zaretsky, editor at Above The Law, reports that compliance with Standard 202(a) requires that an accredited law school’s current and anticipated financial resources be sufficient for a school to carry out its program and “operate in compliance with the standards.”

Donald Lively, president of Arizona Summit, told the ABA Journal that the school is working to improve its financial situation.

“Last week, we completed a second multimillion dollar capital raise to solidify the school’s financial position,” Lively says. “We also have reduced cost structure commensurate with plans to maintain a substantially downsized school. Shortly, we will be notifying the ABA of these developments with an updated report.”

Troubling performance and practices

Last March, The New York Times reported that Arizona Summit Law was placed on ABA probation after it was found that the school’s “admissions practices, academic programs, and graduation and bar exam passage rates were below par.”

According to a statement by the ABA, Arizona Summit’s poor performance and practices “have resulted in the law school now being in a position where only immediate and substantial action can bring about a sufficient change to put the law school on a realistic path to being in compliance within the time allowed.”

In July 2017, Arizona Summit grads had a bar pass rate of merely 25.7% for first-time test-takers. In comparison, Arizona State University posted a 74.3% first time pass rate, while University of Arizona posted a 76.1% first time pass rate.

According to azcentral, Arizona Summit once boasted state bar exam pass rates as high as 97%, but the school has been struggling with declining pass rates in recent years.

Summit’s sister school, Charlotte School of Law, shut down last August after it was placed on probation for dwindling enrollment numbers.

Worried students and alumni

Students and alumni from Arizona Summit say that they are worried about the current status of the law school.

“The school is digging itself even deeper into this horrible hole, and we’re not sure what we should do,” a second-year law student tells Above The Law. “We don’t want this to turn into a situation like what happened at Charlotte.”

The program is certainly following the Charlotte formula. “When I started at Summit, the place was happy, energetic, and alive,” one alumnus tells Above The Law. “Throughout my years, I watched as the best professors left, the quality of student diminished, and the overall atmosphere tumbled faster than a boulder rolling down the side of a mountain. As I prepared for the bar exam, I remember hearing rumors about the ABA placing us on probation, and our bar passage rate was a dark cloud used by the remaining faculty as ‘encouragement.’”

Above The Law reports that Arizona Summit will now have to submit a report on its financial situation to the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions by February 1st. In March, the school will appear before the Accreditation Committee.

Sources: Above The Law, ABA Journal, American Bar Association, azcentral, The New York Times, Supreme Court of Arizona