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University of Utah law students are taking on a different kind of class exercise.
A handful will join Bob Adler, dean of the S.J. Quinney College of Law, in running a 100-mile race bordering Zion National Park on Friday. They'll take turns pacing the 60-year-old academic as he runs through the night.
Fitness isn't their only motivation. For every mile Adler logs in a 30-hour time frame, donors are writing checks to fund scholarships and signing up to mentor students.
Adler also is challenging students to pass the bar exam and get jobs at a 100 percent success rate, though he isn't setting a deadline.
"It's just a long-term, but permanent, goal," Adler said.
Even if they're not venturing into the desert, aspiring attorneys, instructors and alumni showed their support Thursday by running a 100-mile relay on campus.
So far, Adler has raised $135,000 out of an anticipated $250,000. That's in addition to his school's $800,000 in scholarships and $1.4 million endowment to support the U.'s aspiring environmental attorneys.
Those tuition breaks may not be enough.
The average U. law student graduates with $80,000 in student debt, Adler said. Reducing that burden, he believes, will allow students to focus on their studies instead of outside jobs and to pursue lower-paying jobs in government or nonprofits if they wish.
His alumni appear to be largely immune to the joblessness that plagued law graduates during the economic recession and spurred colleges such as Brooklyn Law School to partially reimburse graduates who cannot find work. Adler wants to keep it that way, and he is pledging to connect each student with a professional attorney mentor.
Ten months after graduating, 94 percent of the U.'s law school grads are employed. They pass the bar exam, which is required to legally practice law, at a rate of 90 percent rate.
Still, fewer Beehive State residents want to be attorneys amid national reports of a glut of law graduates. Enrollment in the past decade has dipped 15 percent as applications dropped off, school data show, from 382 to 321.
"We're hoping we're seeing the bottom," Adler said, "and we'll start to see an uptick."
The Friday race, said first-year law student Tyler Bugden,"is a huge statement" that requires the same grit and gumption needed to finish law school. Bugden is part of the three-member team that will help their professor in the last leg of the race.
The campus run Thursday, with instructors and alumni, was an easier way for students to schmooze and get advice, Bugden said, compared with lunches or networking events.
"Going on a run, going on a walk, you get to meet people on equal ground," Bugden said. "It's a lot less pressure."
Adler, for his part, began trail running after former student and Salt Lake City attorney Dan Barnett asked him to be a pacer in another ultramarathon. Since then, Adler has completed three 100-mile races. He and the trio of students who will help him this weekend practiced along the Pipeline Trail in Mill Creek Canyon.