New Leaders Take the Helm of University of Arizona Law Undergraduate and Master of Legal Studies Programs

Continued growth on the horizon for both degrees

Alejandra Cardenas Cuestas

Keith Swisher Undergraduate Law directorKeith Swisher is the new director of University of Arizona Law’s bachelor of arts in law and master of legal studies (MLS) programs. Swisher has taught at Arizona Law since 2015 and will continue in the classroom as a professor of legal ethics and procedure.

Swisher previously taught legal ethics and torts at the Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and Arizona Summit Law School (formerly known as Phoenix School of Law) and was the associate dean of legal scholarship and faculty development at Arizona Summit. He also serves as an ethics counsel and expert witness to lawyers, law firms, and judges, and represents indigent defendants in the Ninth Circuit. He holds a JD from Arizona State University and an LLM from Harvard.

Swisher says his interest in leading Arizona Law’s BA and MLS programs stemmed from his deep-seated respect for the law school, staff members and students he met in the last 18 months, and because of the college’s ability to evolve—specifically for the betterment of its students—in response to new changes and opportunities in the legal profession and in legal education.  

“The BA in law program has the ability to create a new category of legal professional,” says Swisher. “The MLS program, the GRE acceptance [for JD admissions], the early bar exam, and the lowered tuition are all bright signs of a cutting-edge and compassionate institution,” Swisher adds, referring to recent Arizona Law innovations across degree programs.

Mark BlairJoining Swisher’s team is Mark Blair, as the program coordinator of the BA and MLS programs. Blair received both his JD and LLM from Arizona Law and holds a PhD in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona. He previously served as director of graduate studies, senior program coordinator and undergraduate minor advisor in the UA American Indian Studies Department.

Blair says he was drawn to his position because of the school’s impressive quality and innovation.

“Keith Swisher and Mark Blair are ideal leaders to help nurture and grow the still-young but extremely successful BA in law and MLS programs," says Dean Marc Miller.

"The fundamental vision behind the BA in law is that the legal profession and more broadly the vast range of entities and individuals subject to complex regulatory environments would welcome a new, diverse, well-trained class of legal professionals. A second essential element was the recognition that around the world most lawyers are trained as undergraduates. And, finally, that a first-class BA in law program, designed and taught by lawyers, and in partnership with UA's School of Government and Public Policy, would draw superb students who might not otherwise imagine training or working in law or in regulated environments. Everything we hoped for the new major has proven true, and its potential is limitless under the wise leadership of Professor Swisher and Dr. Blair."

“New Opportunities in Legal Education”

The BA in law, launched in 2014, is the nation’s first and only undergraduate law degree and recently surpassed 900 students.

The degree is in partnership with the University of Arizona’s School of Government and Public Policy (SGPP) and also includes global dual degree partnerships with Ocean University in China and The American University of Phnom Penh in Cambodia. More than 280 students are enrolled in the B.A. in law internationally. The BA in law is now also available through UA Online.

“Unlike pre-law programs, our BA in law gives students an immersive legal education, taught by actual law professors,” Swisher explains. “Students also receive cross-disciplinary exposure, in large part through our partner, SGPP, which provides the students with social science courses including political science and policy.”

The undergraduate degree provides a cost-effective and efficient route to legal training for the many careers for which knowledge of the law is necessary but a Juris Doctor (JD) is not required. That includes compliance, healthcare, insurance, government, human resources, securities, law enforcement and more.

As for those who may want to become a lawyer, says Blair, “this program gives students a taste of what law school is like and better prepares them to succeed if they decide to go to law school.”

For qualified law majors who want to practice law, the degree provides an accelerated path to the JD at Arizona Law with the 3+3 Program.

“Virtually each day, the program presents new opportunities in legal education,” says Swisher.

Swisher and Blair say they plan to marshal, continuously improve, and grow the BA and MLS programs so that students and faculty remain proud of, and enriched by, their participation.

Says Swisher, “We have so many opportunities for growth and partnerships—including double majors, dual degrees, global partners, public service programs, internships, and new in-person and online courses—to meet the needs of a changing legal profession and a changing legal services industry.”