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Arizona State Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Arizona State Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law

One Law School’s Effort To Resolve Access To Justice

Many lawyers have likely been there. It’s the moment when someone asking for legal assistance approaches your firm. Arizona State Law School Dean Douglas Sylvester remembers it happening to him when he was an intellectual property associate. Artists and musicians wanted his assistance or the pro bono help of someone at his firm. Spending two years in the position, Sylvester tells Bloomberg Businessweek, he only accepted one of the many pro bono cases brought to him.
And now, as the dean of a major law school, Sylvester has the opportunity to prepare law students with a skill he had to develop on the job. “One of the great skills that all attorneys have — and it’s not one we teach in law schools but is uniform to every area of law — is how to interview potential clients,” he told Businessweek.
And so Sylvester is pushing to launch a program in the fall of 2016 that will train law students to assess incoming cases. The program, which has yet to gain official approval from Arizona State’s faculty, will be called Arizona Legal Services Center. Law students will interview potential clients and evaluate their cases alongside law school faculty members. The law students then will introduce the clients to an Arizona lawyer or break the news that their case doesn’t have traction.
“My goal is to have it open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, every week, with enough students and supervising attorneys involved that our doors are open,” Sylvester told Businessweek. “This is a low cost solution to a big problem in our country — and one that our law schools are in a special position to address.”
Sylvester believes it’s the first program of its kind and hopes other schools in other states will adopt similar models. This program is exclusive to Arizona citizens and lawyers. Interestingly, Sylvester says the biggest pushback he’s received so far has come from security concerns. He says it might require installation of security doors and a receptionist “to make sure people aren’t just walking in, to make sure we have a first look at someone before they go in.”
Source: Bloomberg Businessweek

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