BYU student chooses Ave Maria law school for its values

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    By Alexis Saint-Jean

    After graduating from BYU, Chris Esseltine wanted to study in a law school in tune with his values as a Latter-day Saint.

    He wanted a school that would teach the importance of God”s laws for America.

    So he went to Ave Maria School of Law in Ann Arbor, Mich.

    “I chose Ave Maria over several top-20 schools because I believe in its mission,” said Esseltine, a BYU alumni from Canada.

    Esseltine explained that the school, which opened in 2000, is dedicated to train future lawyers in accordance with Christian teachings.

    “[The founders of the school] wanted to train lawyers with the finest legal skills while at the same time emphasizing the moral and spiritual aspect of America, and the law in America,” Esseltine said.

    He said he thinks the school”s teachings are much needed in the actual legal field.

    “There is just a lot of immorality and dishonesty in the practice of law and in America itself,” Esseltine said. “The school was founded to reverse that trend.”

    Rachele Conner, the school”s admissions counselor, said Ave Maria fills a void in the teaching of law.

    “The founding professors wanted to have a law school that would give an opportunity to students to combine faith and reason,” Conner said. “They found that there weren”t schools like that. So they decided to create one.”

    Although the school relies mostly on the teachings of the Catholic Church to enrich the regular legal curriculum, many of its students come from other faiths, and LDS students now represent the second largest denomination attending the school.

    Esseltine explained that Ave Maria offered a quality of life that he was familiar with.

    “It is much like BYU in that people have similar values,” Esseltine said. “It is just very friendly, very encouraging. People are trying to help one another do well, and there are certainly no cliques … nobody is excluded.”

    Like BYU, the school expects its student to abide by an honor code.

    “We have standards that we”re expected to live up to, and they are very much the same as anything you”d find at BYU,” Esseltine said.

    Some LDS students already accepted to top-10 schools decided to go to Ave Maria instead because of the school”s special atmosphere, Esseltine said.

    “The neat thing about Ave Maria is that the people here are fairly devout,” said John Gadd, a BYU alumni from Sandy studying at Ave Maria. “It”s inspiring to be around people who are so devout in their principles.”

    Although the school is new, it is rapidly gaining a reputation of excellence. In 2003, its first graduating class had the highest bar-pass rate in Michigan, even surpassing the University of Michigan Law School, one of the top-10 schools in the nation.

    Esseltine will come to BYU Oct. 19 to the law fair in order to recruit students for Ave Maria.

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