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College of Law climbs best schools list

September 02, 2008

Offering a legal education that begins in the classroom, but does not end there, the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law has been cited by a national business publication as one of the top schools in the country for Hispanic students.

The College of Law at Arizona State University is ranked second on Hispanic Business magazine’s “2008 Top 10 Law Schools for Hispanic Students,” published on Sept. 2 and posted on the publication’s Web site, The magazine, which also rates business, engineering and medical schools, based its selections on reputation, enrollment, faculty, student services and retention rates.

While generally hesitant to rely on rankings to determine a school’s quality, Paul Schiff Berman, Dean of the College of Law, said a celebration of the College’s “tremendous commitment to its Hispanic students, its comprehensive range of curricular offerings that address issues of potential interest to those students, and its strong ties to the broader Hispanic legal community” is appropriate.

“The growing Hispanic population in the United States is arguably the demographic story of the 21st century,” Berman said.

“Accordingly, as we create a new ‘gold standard’ for 21st century public legal education, we at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law will continue to be at the forefront of efforts to train Hispanic lawyers of tomorrow while addressing, through teaching and scholarship, the complex issues of law and policy implicated by these broad societal changes.”

The College of Law, which placed seventh on Hispanic Business’ 2007 list, was lauded for giving students opportunities for interdisciplinary courses in its Clinical Program and in ASU’s new North American Center for Transborder Studies.

“From pre-law to post-graduation,” the magazine reported, these programs “provide Hispanic students the tools to be professionals and leaders.”

In an accompanying article titled, “Creating `Hispanic-Friendly’ Campuses: Leading Universities Strive for `Critical Mass’,” Dean of Admissions Shelli Soto and Professor Charles Calleros talked about the philosophies and practices that are essential to a good law school.

Soto told Hispanic Business reporter Richard Kaplan law schools need a “critical mass” of Hispanic students, in addition to professors who can address legal issues of concern to these students, and a powerful and active Hispanic professional community. Once that occurs, as is the case at ASU, the university becomes a vibrant learning environment, Soto said.

One key to a law school’s success is providing a rich array of opportunities for Hispanic students to interact with other students, faculty, Hispanic professionals and other community members, Calleros said.

For example, the College gained national attention in recent years when faculty, staff and students collaborated to bring the Hispanic National Bar Association’s four-tier mentoring program to the Phoenix area, he said. And, last spring, 90 attorneys, law students and college pre-law students participated on mentoring teams in the Phoenix-area program, which also provided programming for dozens of high school and junior high school programs.

“The faculty and staff provide ample support and role modeling, but it’s the students themselves that make this a good place for future Latino lawyers and scholars,” Calleros said. “The Chicano/Latino Law Students Association is very active, maintaining pro bono programs, academic support committees and recruitment committees.”

In the 2008 rankings, only the University of New Mexico School of Law in Albuquerque came in ahead of the College of Law and, in the process, preserved its place in 2007. Rounding out the Top 10 in 2008 list are: (3) American University Washington College of Law in Washington, D.C., (4) the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law in Tucson, (5) Florida State University College of Law in Tallahassee, (6) the University of Southern California School of Law in Los Angeles, (7) the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, (8) the University of Miami School of Law in Coral Gables, Fla., (9) The George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C., and (10) the University of Florida Fredric G. Levin College of Law in Gainesville.

To read more about the list, go to