Law school seeks ABA approval of Alaska satellite campus

(Dec. 5, 2013)  Seattle University School of Law submitted its formal application to the American Bar Association for a satellite campus in Anchorage that would allow Alaskan students to spend summers and their entire third year in their home state.

The law school has formed strong partnerships with the Alaska Court System, the Alaska Bar Association, and individual lawyers in Alaska, the only state without its own law school. The Alaska Court System has agreed to allow the law school to use its courtroom for some evening and weekend classes, as well as Moot Court and other competitions, and to provide access to its law library.

Chief Justice Dana Fabe wrote a letter to the ABA expressing enthusiastic support for the program, which she says will provide training and experience to benefit lawyers who practice in Alaska and help diversify the Alaska bar. Of the approximately 4,000 lawyers in the state, Alaska Native attorneys make up only a tiny percentage. 

"The satellite campus is good news for Alaskan students who want to pursue a legal career," she said. "The expense and difficulty of moving out of state can be challenging, particularly for minority and rural Alaskans. We anticipate that the satellite campus will open the door to legal and judicial careers to many more young Alaskans and will increase diversity in our profession."

Among the many letters of support is one from the Alaska Bar Association, whose Board of Governors voted to support the application.

"The Board of Governors wholeheartedly supports this effort to enhance the legal education opportunities in Alaska," wrote President Michael Moberly.

Jonathan Rubini, chairman and CEO of JL Properties, Inc., and Mark Kroloff, a principal with First Alaskan Capital Partners, have guaranteed the law school space in Anchorage for classroom and office use.

"It's very gratifying to see such widespread support for this program, and we appreciate the cooperative spirit of the Alaska Court System and the Alaska Bar Association," said Dean Annette E. Clark. "We look forward to helping even more Alaskans earn their law degrees and return to serve their state."

The School of Law has many outreach programs with the state of Alaska, including the Study Law in Alaska Program, in which law students take a course and gain practical experience though a variety of summer placements in Anchorage. The law school also participates in the collaborative Color of Justice Program, which brings diverse students from across the state together for workshops and activities designed to encourage them to consider legal and judicial careers.

George Sundborg, father of University President Stephen Sundborg, helped pave the way for Alaska statehood. He and his wife, Mary, established an endowment that provides scholarships to Alaska students to attend Seattle University School of Law.

Stephanie Nichols, a 2006 graduate of Seattle University School of Law who grew up in Fairbanks, directs the Study Law in Alaska Program, teaches several Alaska-related law courses, and oversees the development of this Alaska J.D. Program. She is proud of the developing program.

"It will be a great way for Alaskan students to benefit from our excellent legal education and keep them close to home," she said.