Arizona’s newest law school is set to begin classes next month in Scottsdale.
Phoenix International School of Law will open Jan. 18 to about 50 students and begin its goal of gaining accreditation and graduating students whose skills will be equivalent to second-year lawyers, said the school’s dean, Don Lively.
"Our objective is to graduate people who are ready to practice law upon graduation," Lively said.
While that may sound obvious, that has not been the tradition of law schools.
Lively said law schools typically don’t teach the practical side of law, leaving that to large and midsize law firms.
Phoenix International’s approach, which sprang from the "widening chasm between what law schools were doing and what some of us saw the needs of the legal profession were," has already been tested in Lively’s first venture into private legal education.
That venture was Florida Coastal School of Law.
The Jacksonville school opened in 1995 and within three years gained accreditation from the 400,000-member American Bar Association.
Today, the school has the second-highest number of students who pass the bar of all Florida law schools, he said.
Lively said the school began with little money but a lot of energy and vision.
It eventually drew good students and people from the mainstreams of legal education and the legal profession,
"It drew really good people into its orbit," Lively said.
The Phoenix International charter faculty will include Judge Stephen Gerst of Maricopa County Superior Court.
Gerst presided over the trial of Bishop Thomas J. O’Brien, the former Roman
Catholic Diocese of Phoenix leader who was convicted of leaving the scene of a fatal hit-and-run.
One of Gerst’s responsibilities will be to direct the General Practice Simulator, a two-semester immersion course for third-year students on the realities of a small law practice.
Lively said he chose the Valley to open a law school because he believes it is underserved by legal education.
The only two accredited law schools in the state are at Arizona State University and University of Arizona.
The school’s temporary home is at 15011 N. 75th St.