Ann Arbor’s Ave Maria School of Law

At the mention of law school, people start to tremble and exhibit tremendous fear and those who have been through it or going through it warn you never to go that it is awful. And as for the subject material, I believe I agree. As for the school however, the story is entirely different.

Ave Maria was founded because of a desire to combine the intellectual tradition of the Catholic Church with the teaching of the law. Thomas Monaghan, former owner of Domino’s Pizza and the Detroit Tigers initially funded the school with the sale of Domino’s Pizza. His dream was to start up a law school that did what Ave Maria is doing, he wanted to build a truly Catholic law school that was going to educate and develop moral lawyers. He was joined in this effort by some great legal minds. Dean Bernard Dobranski, former Dean of Catholic University of America Law School, Stephen Safranek, Mollie Murphy, Richard Myers, Joseph Falvey, Michael Kenney and Laura Hirschfield. Dean Dobranski tells a funny story of the acquisition of Judge Robert Bork as a professor of law at the school. Dean Dobranski is old friends with Justice Antonin Scalia and he happened to mention the potential start of the law school to him and right away Scalia began strategizing with him and discussed the need to have a big name professor. He came up with Judge Robert Bork, Supreme Court nominee and distinguished legal scholar. Eventually with the help of Scalia, Dean Dobranski got Judge Bork to sign on board.

The dream of the school started with Professor Safranek a former professor at the University of Detroit Mercy Law School. He initially proposed the idea to Monaghan who was able to fund the project. The dream was so strong in fact that when funding from Monaghan was promised, Safranek along with several other professors from University of Detroit Mercy left the school and worked on building the law school for nothing for the first year and in addition, donated all their severance pays (which between five of them was over one million dollars). In my eyes, that is devotion and that is what Ave Maria is all about. The extent of the compassion of the school doesn’t end there. That is simply the beginning. Although the school is very oriented in the Catholic Church and teachings, the school is open to all faiths and there are many mormons, Christians, and Arabs and everyone loves the school.
Ave Maria is a special place full of heart, compassion and love. The school has attracted an incredibly talented student body and has had tremendous success in its young life. ABA accredidation was achieved in five years, the shortest time possible. In addition, the bar passage rate for the state of Michigan is 100%. This surpasses the University of Michigan, the eighth best law school in the nation according to U.S. News and World Reports (yes, this is a bragging point of the school). Each class is approximately 150 students and yet the school has over 7,000 donors from all over the country. For such a small school to achieve so much in such a small period of time I think only shows what potential for growth and greatness this school has in store for the future.

Recently the school has faced the downside of attention with buzz about a possible move to Florida. Thomas Monaghan has started the formation of a Catholic town in Naples Florida called Ave Maria Town where he would like to see the Law School moved. This has caused a lot rumors to fly around and critics to jump all over the school. All of this is simply talk. Dean Dobranski has said that any potential move would not happen at least until after 2009 and to me seems quite unlikely as currently construction is underway to provide more parking for students. But whatever the law school does as it grows, we have to pray that it grows becomes everything it is destined to become.

For those that criticize the religious aspect of the school, it is highly unbased. Mass is held at the school three times a day and the Catholic Intellectual Tradition is important but when you’re in Contracts class, religion has nothing to do with it as it should be. If you want to be in a place where you are part of a family that genuinely cares for each member and would do anything to help you, then this is the place for you. It’s a great school with terrific professors, terrific students and a wonderful spirituality.
If you’re looking at law school and are worried about all the daunting stories, consider Ave Maria as a place where you can go and learn the law in an environment that will nurture you.

For more information check out: http://avemarialaw.edu

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