MAYS: I think Arizona does have a national reputation. And it’s one of the things
that we have seen somewhat in our recruiting, particularly when we’re attempting to
recruit diversity students, students of color.
AZAT: What questions do they ask?
MAYS: The question about SB1070 comes
AZAT: You’re coming in to a dean position
up and what the climate is like in Arizona.
We encourage people to come and visit,
and I think that what ends up happening is,
once you get here, you find that the place
you live is made up of people just like you
are. And so you find a group with whom
you resonate, folks with whom you have
things in common, whatever your interests
are. If the interest is fighting 1070, then
you’re able to do that. If the interest is sup-
porting it, then you’re able to do that.
You’ve heard the story about the old
man who was sitting outside the city. One
gentleman came up to him and asked him
what it would be like to live in the city, and
the old man asked the gentleman, What
was the city that you just came from like?
And he said, Oh, it was terrible, the people
fought all the time or they were back-biters.
And the old man said, Well, that’s pretty
much what you’ll find here, it’s just like
that. Then the next guy came up and said,
What it’s like in the city? The old man
asked what was it like where he came from.
Oh, he answered, everybody was wonder-
ful. Well, that’s exactly what this city is like.
I agree with that parable that you get
what you expect.
when the economy’s bad, and lawyers are
getting laid off. Is this a tough time to
MAYS: Well, it is. That’s why it becomes
that much more important for us to be able
to deliver on what it is that we say we’re
going to do for our students. That’s why
we’ve got to kind of create that better
mousetrap to ensure that the students who
we bring here have the opportunity to
develop those skills that they’re going to
need to be successful lawyers.
AZAT: I was reading some statistics about
law schools and the way prospective law
students tend to ignore difficulties in the
economy and apply. Eighty percent of
prospective students will still apply even if a
significant number of law graduates don’t
Shirley Mays Phoenix School of Law
get jobs. But reality may be setting in, and
applications nationally are actually down
now by 12 percent.
Are you seeing a decline in applications?
MAYS: We are seeing a slight decline.
However, for the fall class we brought in
314 students. We also have a spring class,
and we brought in 69 students for that
AZAT: So why do people still keep apply-
ing in large numbers?
MAYS: I think that, as a people we’re much
more optimistic than sometimes we think. I
also think that, because we have this good
product, in a sense, those who are interested in our product are going to come here
because they can look and see, All right, I
come in and I start here and this is where
I’ll be when I graduate, so that is a good
place for me to go. It’s a good investment.
As you well know, the thing about
lawyers is that once you graduate, everybody’s not going to get that $160,000-a-
year job. However, the trajectory for
lawyers’ salaries is that over time they go up
at a higher rate than a number of other professions that remain rather flat.
AZAT: They take the long view.
MAYS: Yes. So even though at Year 1 you
may not have the salary that is extremely
huge, by Year 5 or by Year 10, your salary
would have increased significantly, and that
is the kind of thing that you’re looking for
in terms of a career—one where you’ll be
able to make more money, and continue to
be satisfied with the work.
AZAT: Does a downturn affect certain segments of prospective students more than
others? Does it affect diversity? Or students
who are the first in their families to attend
law school, who may be less willing to take
a risk that student loans are worth it?
MAYS: Well, if it does, it hasn’t affected us.
In our class that started in the spring is 40
percent diversity. The class that we had in
the fall, 32 percent diversity. So we have a
commitment to bring in those underserved
populations, and we’re absolutely able to
AZAT: Recently there have been more stories about law schools and their lack of
transparency, a failure to disclose true data
about employment after graduation.
MAYS: I know.
AZAT: “Transparency” advocates suggest
that law school numbers are jiggered somehow. In that regard, I see that your number
of graduates who are employed is 96 percent.
MAYS: That’s right.
AZAT: That’s a phenomenal result. So let
me ask, do you stand by the numbers? Are
MAYS: Yes, that’s right. And the reason we
stand by it is that it is in jobs that either
require a JD or prefer a JD.
AZAT: So it doesn’t include a graduate who
gave up and decided to get a job at
McDonald’s the January after graduation?
They’re not counted as “employed”?
MAYS: That’s right. It eliminates those jobs
where you’re working at Target or you’re
working at McDonald’s. And that’s the
number that we publish.
AZAT: Do you think law schools have an
obligation in a bad economy to provide a
more complete picture to prospective stu-
MAYS: I think 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.
AZAT: That’s true, but the glossy materials
from schools still look as sunny as they did
in the 1980s.
MAYS: Well, the legal market has changed,
and that’s why more of the schools are imitating us in terms of focusing on the “
practice ready,” because for a graduate to be
able to show that they actually have this
practical experience is going to put that
graduate head and shoulders above the
graduate who comes out with zero experience.
By the same token, it requires us to be
more creative in terms of the kinds of
courses and skills we expose our students
to while they’re in school, and to be more
creative in terms of how it is that we help
them to find positions.
We talk to our students from the first
possible moment, which is the spring
semester of the first year, about how they
can begin to prepare themselves to enter
a legal market. So it involves career counseling, and it’s not just about placing
them in a job. It’s about dealing with
them holistically. AZ AT