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What's Going on With Arizona Summit Law School?

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

Arizona Summit Law School has been to the top, but it's going down fast.

The American Bar Association has given the struggling law school until Feb. 1 to explain its financial predicament. The school is "significantly out of compliance," the ABA says, with requirements it have enough money to continue operating.

Don Lively, president of the law school, says they are working on it. For a law school that once had 1,000 students, that may not be enough for the 200 who are still there.

Answer to the Bar

Barry Currier, the ABA's managing director of Accreditation and Legal Education, advised school officials in a letter that they will have to answer to the bar's accreditation committee at a meeting in March.

The ABA accredited the school after it opened in 2005, but placed it on probation last year for failing admission practices, academic standards, and bar pass rates. The pass rate dropped to 25 percent in 2016 -- the lowest in Arizona and the school's history.

To help rebuild, Lively said the school has completed a second, multi-million dollar capital raise. They have also cut costs "to maintain a much smaller school," he told USA Today.

Dean Penny Willirch said they have raised admission standards, requiring higher GPA and LSAT scores. She said she wants to get the school "back to the days when 75 and 80 percent" of its graduates passed the bar.

To Protect Students

It has been a downward spiral for Arizona Summit since then. The law school has survived some legal battles with former students and professors, but the war is far from over.

Last year, the state's educational licensing board ordered the school to post a $1.5 million bond to protect students in case it closes down. Meanwhile, InfiLaw, which owns Arizona Summit and two other for-profit law schools, is scrambling to stay in business.

InfiLaw's Charlotte School of Law and Florida Coastal School of Law have problems of their own. Both were sued by students who allege the schools misled them to rake in tuition, examples of the "law school scam" described by the Atlantic.

Charlotte gave up last year after the U.S. Department of Education pulled federal student loans from the school.

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