because irrespective of what you hear about
there being too many lawyers, there’s definitely a justice gap in the country. We have
so many populations. We’ve got the immigrant population, the elderly population,
victims of domestic violence, the juvenile
population who simply are not receiving
adequate legal services. And to the extent
that we can help to fill that justice gap, then
we’ve done a great work. A mighty work.
AZAT: Looking back, what was your
favorite course in law school?
MAYS: Oh, gosh, now you’re taking me
back so many years. Despite my conversation about practical applications of the law,
the courses that I tended to enjoy the most
in law school were the more theoretical
courses. One of the things that I loved to
do back then was to pontificate on various
issues of the day, and so having the ability
to do that theoretically was great.
My favorite course in law school probably was my Property class. I think that was
in part because of the way the professor
taught it, which was from the perspective
of, All right, why should anybody be able
to hold property privately, and why shouldn’t property just be for whoever can sit on
it and claim it? Those kinds of things generated a lot of interesting discussions. And
later, I actually taught Property.
AZAT: How about your least-favorite class?
MAYS: You know, right now, I’m feeling
like such a nerd, because I’m thinking, I
loved all my classes. There wasn’t one that
I disliked. I really, really had just a wonderful, eye-opening experience in law school.
AZAT: You can get back to me on that. I’m
sure you’ll think of something.
What were your goals in law school?
Where did you picture yourself?
MAYS: Well, when I came to law school, I
myself was a first-generation college graduate, let alone a first-generation law school
graduate. My parents had attended college
but they hadn’t graduated, and I didn’t
know any lawyers.
And so I came in with a vague notion of
wanting to do good and to help others.
One of the things that occurred at Harvard
was that the folks who came to campus to
interview you tended to be the large law
firms from all across the country. And I got
stars in my eyes. It’s like, Whoa.
Shirley Mays Phoenix School of Law
AZAT: So you tried law firm life?
MAYS: Yes. My first summer job between
my first and second year of law school, I
went to a law firm in Cleveland and made
more that summer than I had the entire
prior year before going to law school.
That’s back when summer jobs were summer camp.
I did very little work—the white-water
rafting trips and the golf outings and the
going to the country clubs. I was right on
that bubble where the year I graduated
from law school, that year my salary almost
doubled because I came out and they were
paying, I think, maybe $50,000, and then
because of the bumps that year, I ended up
at the end of the year making like $75,000
AZAT: What was your practice?
MAYS: When I first graduated, I worked in
municipal finance. We did bond work for
various cities. That was at Squire Sanders in
AZAT: As a law school dean, you must look
back and be pleased that you practiced for
MAYS: Oh, yes. That’s another thing that
we pride ourselves on here at PSL is that
our faculty members have practical experience. We have, I think, four retired judges
who sit on our faculty, and the vast majority of the faculty members who are here
have practiced. That way they can bring
that real-life experience into the classroom
as they’re teaching the students, and that
was the same experience that I had as a law
AZAT: Have you written on law topics?
MAYS: Yes, I’ve written on sexual harassment, because one of the classes that I
picked up was a women in the law class
after I started teaching, and that also is a
subject area that’s pretty close to my heart.
And that class was a survey course, so we
looked at a lot of the historical aspects of
women in the law; we looked at things like
prostitution and laws that were designed to
protect women by preventing them from
working long hours—so, of course, they
couldn’t make money to support themselves.
AZAT: Are you teaching right now?
MAYS: I am not. But I am going to propose
an agency course. One of the topics that
The economy has had an impact on the market, and I don’t know that we’ll ever go back to the type of legal market we had in the ’80s.
I’ve taught throughout my legal career is
business associations, which looks at agency
partnership, corporations, which also was a
tie to my practice.
AZAT: And lawyers could use that information for themselves or for their clients.
MAYS: That’s exactly right: how to order
those business relationships, when they sign
a contract they need to make certain
they’re signing it in representative capacity
so that they’re not on the hook themselves
personally for liability, and those kinds of
things. So it also has a lot of real-world
AZAT: Did you have any other Arizona ties
MAYS: I have one sister who lives in
Tucson, and she’s got three children. And
then once I came out to Phoenix, our older
sister came out and our parents came out
from Ohio. So our parents now are in
AZAT: Do you like it here?
MAYS: Yes, and especially now; it still
amazes me that I can walk outside in
January without snow boots or my fur coat.
AZAT: How have you found the people?
MAYS: One of the things I found out about
Phoenix is that everybody seems to be from
someplace else. So people are very open,
the city itself has been warm and welcoming.
AZAT: You arrived as the state became the
center of numerous national debates.