The New York Times reports that law schools are starting law firms, ostensibly to provide real-world training to law students and provide legal aid to underserved populations, but with the additional benefits of providing a soft landing for graduates unable to get a job and boosting law-school employment statistics.
The Times article focuses on the non-profit firm, Alumni Law Group, established by Arizona State University, and includes a photo of two Arizona State students working on an unemployment benefits case (presumably for outside clients, not themselves). Arizona State and other schools that have launched similar programs cast these organizations in visionary terms, pointing to the school-affiliated firms as providing affordable legal services to those who might otherwise be unable to retain representation.
While the Times article reaches to portray the trend as one being adopted by more elite schools — comparing it to the business school certificate at the University of Pennsylvania and credit-for-work program at the University of Virginia — for now Arizona State is in the company of perennial US News & World Report rankings laggards Thomas Jefferson Law School in California and Pace Law School in New York. There is no word yet whether these newly-created firms will be ranked by Vault and other prominent sources of law firm rankings.