Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Back to School: Mission of the Appalachian School of Law

A Mission Tied to Its Locality

As I noted in an earlier blog, I am using this week to remind faculty, students, alumni, and entering students why the Appalachian School of Law is so special.  Let's move to its unique mission.

The Mission

Appalachian School of Law (ASL) is a mission-driven school created by local business, legal, and political leaders concerned about the well-being of people living in the central Appalachian Mountains.   ASL’s founders hoped to create an opportunity for central Appalachians to see beyond their own mountain valleys and, having done so, to return home with greater insight, effective legal skills, leadership ambitions, high ethical standards, and a commitment to community service.   

A 2008 student survey, conducted in conjunction with the strategic planning process, revealed that on average the parents of ASL students only had “some college” or a “2-year degree.”  Thirty-four percent of our students reported that their mothers obtained only a high school diploma (or less).  Another 30 percent reported their mothers had business or trade school, some college, or a two-year associate degree.  Their fathers tended to be more highly educated, with 26 percent of alumni reporting their fathers had a high school education (or less), with 20 percent reporting their fathers had business, trade school, some college, or a two-year associate degree.  

Our students are ambitious, working-class kids looking for a way to increase their earning potential, engage in a service profession, and make changes in this part of the world. 
At the same time, ASL's founders hoped that lawyers educated within the region would more likely stay in and provide service to the people of the region.  In other words, they hoped to educate lawyers for Main Street, not Wall Street.  

That hope has been fulfilled.  ASL has conferred a total of 1,064 law degrees over the last thirteen years.  Approximately half of our alumni are employed in small law firms in Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and North Carolina.  Our graduates have become community leaders,  holding positions as state legislators, judges, magistrates, Commonwealth Attorneys, public defenders, solo practitioners, and industry managers (especially in natural resource production companies).

For more information about the Appalachian School of Law, see here and here.

Under-served Client Population

ASL’s founders expected to provide legal services and civic leadership to under-served and economically depressed communities. In 2005, of the 250 counties in the U.S. with the lowest per capita incomes, Kentucky claimed thirty-five of those counties. Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia added another twenty-four counties to this list. Thus, the region ASL serves includes 23 percent of the poorest counties in the United States.

The map recently created by the Appalachian Planning Commission graphically represents this economic reality.

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