University of Arizona, James E. Rogers College of Law

May 12, 2021


MAY 14

Graduation Awards Ceremony

MAY 17

Future Preparedness: Pandemic End of Life Care & Bereavement

JUN 22


LawCats Live



Convocation for Arizona Law's Class of 2021 was held last night, and the celebration continues, with our Graduation Awards Ceremony scheduled for Friday. We'll provide a full graduation recap and photos from the festivities soon.

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Celebrating the Class of 2021!

Today, we profile one of our outstanding new graduates, LLM Susan Filan.

We also share a guest article from Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert M. Brutinel and Vice Chief Justice Ann A. Scott Timmer that will be extremely relevant to both recent and current JD graduates, "The Arizona Bar Examination: Pandemic Edition."

Until the footnotes,



For Next Stage of Her Evolving Legal Career, LLM Grad Turns to Indigenous Human Rights

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Susan Filan had already experienced multiple successful legal careers when she began the Indigenous Peoples Law & Policy (IPLP) Master of Laws (LLM) program at University of Arizona Law. Now the Class of 2021 graduate is gearing up for another.


After earning her JD from the Quinnipiac University School of Law, Susan worked in private practice as a trial lawyer, then became a Connecticut state prosecutor, followed by a transition to media, eventually rising to senior legal analyst for MSNBC-TV.


"And then I decided that I wanted to go in a new direction, and human rights has always been an interest of mine. I was trying to be a human rights lawyer in these areas of criminal and family, but now I am specifically focused on indigenous human rights."


Susan chose University of Arizona Law because of the strength of the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy program.


"It is the number one program in indigenous law in the country, if not the world. The LLM in Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy has been such an inspiring and exciting experience. I am with the greatest professors, scholars and advocates in the world in this program, and the opportunity to engage and learn from them is really an honor and a privilege for which I am incredibly fortunate and grateful."


Susan says her most meaningful memories at University of Arizona Law are of listening to lectures from professors Robert Williams and Rebecca Tsosie and her time in the International Human Rights Advocacy Workshop.


"The privilege of being a part of the International Human Rights Advocacy Workshop with professor Seanna Howard and United Nations' Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [José] Francisco Calí Tzay is an unmatched experience. [It's]practicing human rights law at the highest level, really, in the world, because the human rights clinic gives students an opportunity to advocate for and work with indigenous peoples globally."


Susan advises incoming LLM students to take every opportunity available to them to interact with professors and take as many classes as they can:


"You only pass through this buffet once, and you want to eat everything that you can. The year goes quickly, and then it's over."


In fact, Susan wasn't ready for her education to end and will now work towards a Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) in IPLP, sharing, "I didn't get enough, and I want more."


She hopes to become an advocate and scholar, and be able to teach, write and argue before international humans' rights bodies and domestic courts.

"I want to take this as far I possibly can, because I've been given the greatest education in the world, so I want to do the most I can in service to give back to those on whose behalf I am studying."

Read the original story on our website.

See also:

26 Years after Foregoing College, BA in Law Grad Finds New Success

Husband-and-Wife SJD Students Graduate Together

The Summer Bar Exam

The bar exam is a passage into the profession. It is also the source of intense discussion among courts, leaders in the bar, and legal educators, and it is currently undergoing change in many states and across the country. We welcome the opportunity to publish a short article by Chief Justice Brutinel (UA JD '82), and Vice Chief Justice Timmer (UA BA '82).


"The Arizona Bar Exam: Pandemic Edition"

By Chief Justice Robert M. Brutinel and Vice Chief Justice Ann A. Scott Timmer


Taking the bar exam perennially looms as a daunting experience for law students. When we took the Arizona exam, it lasted two and a half days and consisted of the multistate exam and two days of essay questions written by Arizona practitioners. If people failed the multistate exam, their essays would be unscored, and they would fail the entire exam. The exam covered twenty-seven subjects ranging from criminal law to tax to every article in the Uniform Commercial Code.


It was structured so that we were required to answer at least one federal tax question. Neither of us used much of this knowledge in practice (who needs to know bulk transfers?), just as we didn't draw on every subject learned in law school. But the exam allowed us to demonstrate our mastery of core legal principles as well as our ability to quickly digest new concepts, analyze issues, and clearly communicate that analysis, which are vital skills for all lawyers. Like legions of law graduates before us, we ran the gauntlet with our classmates, passed the exam, and on we went, joining the ranks of lawyers.

Much about the bar exam has improved since we took it. Arizona has opted for the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), which permits score transfers among most of the states (the fortieth state just committed to join the UBE).


The subjects have been streamlined, making the exam two days, and the multistate and essay scores are now compiled into one final score. But the pandemic threw a monkey wrench into the bar exam process, forcing us to quickly implement workarounds to traditional testing methods and simultaneously unnerving students and law schools. As the pandemic wanes (hopefully), the dust settles, and the July 2021 bar approaches, we think it appropriate to inform students of what steps the Court took and is taking to safely administer the bar exam in these unprecedented times.


When the pandemic hit last spring, our initial focus was on keeping Arizona's courts open and functioning. We quickly turned our attention to the July 2020 exam; could we keep that date? Continue it? What would happen to the applicants if licensure was delayed? Not knowing whether we could hold an exam in any format, the first thing we did was implement a strategy to permit graduates to temporarily practice law without passing a bar exam. Thus, in early April, the court amended Rule 39 of the Arizona Rules of the Supreme Court on an emergency basis, which, among other things, "authorized the limited practice of law by law graduates," upon meeting specified conditions, without the need to sit for an exam until February 2021. See Administrative Order no. 2020-80.


As matters progressed, the Court explored its options on administering the July exam. The National Conference of Bar Examiners, which drafts the UBE, provided state Supreme Courts with options for delivering the exam in person or remotely. Rather than provide one exam, the Conference was willing to provide multiple versions to accommodate different delivery methods and testing dates. But it did not have the ability to provide an online UBE test remotely in a compressed time frame, meaning its reduced remote exam would not be the regular UBE exam, and the scores from the remote exam would not be transferrable unless the state Supreme Courts agreed to it.


Our Court recognized that many graduates wanted the transferrable UBE score, which would require an in-person exam. Yet other students were understandably concerned about the safety of an in-person exam. Thus, recognizing the strain it would place on its certification and licensing division, the Court decided to accommodate both groups, holding an in-person exam in July and a remote non-UBE exam in October. We didn't have the option of offering a remote exam any sooner.

We took all possible steps to ensure that the in-person exam was as safe as possible. We contracted for three examination rooms at the Phoenix Convention Center instead of the customary one room and used two separate ballrooms for staging and lunching areas. The rooms were set up for social distancing and individuals were given pre-assigned seats with staggered reporting times and escorts. We learned about HVAC filters (the Convention Center's are hospital quality) and gave appropriate precautionary instructions to attendees and cleaning staff. See Administrative Order No.2020-78. We coordinated closely with the City of Phoenix concerning our plan. Maricopa County's health department reviewed and eventually approved our plan as a condition for holding the exam at the Convention Center. City staff also attended and monitored the exam. Rest assured that had we not been convinced that our staff and the graduates would be safe during the exam, we would have cancelled it and permitted graduates to take the October remote exam, the February exam, or simply obtain a refund of testing fees. Almost four hundred people took the exam with no reported Covid transmissions.


The October and February exams were held remotely, with the latter being a full, transferable UBE exam. Both exams went well. We opted not to have an in-person exam for February (the Conference would only provide one test, this time) because we could not guarantee that a site would be open for testing during the post-holiday surge in Covid cases, and because a UBE option was available remotely. Despite the pandemic distraction during the July/October bar exam, the combined passage rate was higher than the prior year's rate for first time takers in July. (We're awaiting February scores.) Other states have reported similar results.


So why not just admit students with a diploma privilege and not require any exam as requested in a petition? That would certainly have been easier for us. But the Court takes its regulatory role seriously. We are tasked with protecting the public by ensuring that only qualified law graduates are licensed to practice law in Arizona. Although graduates have demonstrated their qualifications in part by graduating from an ABA-accredited law school, we play no part in setting admission standards, establishing the curriculum, or deciding whether students should be passed to the next year or awarded a degree.


In short, as the regulator, we must be assured that graduates have mastered an understanding of basic principles of law, ethics, and relevant jurisprudence. That assurance, for better or worse, currently comes in the form of the bar exam. Could better methods be devised? Maybe. But exploring and implementing those methods on the fly during an emergency would have been ill-advised. And we rejected the idea of granting a diploma privilege only to those with a high GPA or who had graduated from a school with high passage rates. The Court felt strongly that all graduates should be treated equally.


In retrospect, we could have done a better job of communicating our reasons for denying the petition seeking the diploma privilege. The Court read and discussed the petition at length and wanted to issue its denial quickly so graduates could know how to proceed. We were able to move quickly because we had previously examined and discussed the issues. We were certainly aware of students' concerns and respected them.


We recently made the decision to administer the July exam remotely. Although the pandemic is diminishing, we have no guarantee that another surge will not emerge in Arizona, as it has in other states. Nor is the availability of the testing facility guaranteed, making the feasibility of an in-person exam uncertain. Because the exam will be a full UBE exam with a transferrable score, there is no need to risk the uncertainty of an in-person exam.


On behalf of the entire Court, we congratulate you on your achievements in law school, which have been particularly challenging, we're sure, during the pandemic. We also wish you well in taking the bar exam and, soon, in practicing law.

Around the College

Graduation Awards Ceremony


This year, Arizona Law's graduation awards ceremony will be held online, with a limited in-person "watch party" at the College of Law for up to 100 attendees. Family, friends, and classmates are all welcome to attend.

When: Friday, May 14, 4 p.m.

Where: Join us via Zoom -- Register for the Online Event

Join us in person (100-person limit) -- Register for the In-person Event

Please join us as we celebrate the diverse accomplishments of the following 2021 outstanding graduates:

Alex Bachik


Andrea Sharp


Annabel Barraza


Arizona Baskin


Bethany Munson


Carly Marshall


Christina Billhartz


Christina Poletti


Claire Maguire


Cory Jane Rodas


David Herrera Perera


DeLorean Forbes


Ezekiel A. Peterson


Gabriela Elizondo-Craig


Jake Smith

Joey Zhou


John Frick


Joy Parker


Katie Derrig


Lauren L'Ecuyer


Mario Rios


Paulene Abeyta


Reyna Araibi


Ruben Salcido


Samantha Walker


Sarah Myers


Stephen Bagger


Vincent Unuorakpor


Vu Ngo

Contribute to the 2021 Class Gift

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The Class of 2021 is raising money to establish a mental health fund at the College of Law. 

They are making great progress toward their goal of $5,000! Will you help them reach their goal with a donation of $20.21?


Bear Down Network Giveaway

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We're sharing this message from the University of Arizona Alumni Association's Bear Down Network. 

Join the Bear Down Network

"Help us celebrate the Class of 2021! Let's welcome these graduating Wildcats to the Bear Down Network by sharing our own graduation memories.


Now until May 30, post a photo from your graduation or a favorite memory from your time on campus to the main feed and tag the Alumni Association. You'll be entered to win a grand prize of a two-night stay at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort as well as other prizes!"

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In the News

Creative adaptation necessary in online classes

Daily Wildcat, featuring professor Tessa Dysart and 1L Dirk Bernhardt

Susan Filan is by no means the typical LLM student.


But graduation is a reminder that there is no such thing as a typical student. Each person comes to Arizona Law, across each of our degree and certificate programs, with their own story, pathway, family, friends, and passions.


And there is magic in the decision of each student to make Arizona Law their home. Some who come our community planned to do so since birth (more or less). Others, like Susan, found their way to Arizona Law at a turn in the road, with a new substantive focus, or just because the stones fell into place. A conversation. A story about an alum. An article or quote from a faculty member.


Magic. But you can also see how important our community of alumni and friends is. It is often those conversations -- "Have you thought about Arizona?" "Have you looked at the U of A?" -- that moves people to look, and ultimately to become a Wildcat. 


Our new dog, Spirit, adds her congratulations to the chorus.


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