ASL exists to provide opportunities for people from Appalachia and beyond to realize their dreams of practicing law and bettering their communities.

We attract a qualified, diverse, and dedicated student body, many of whom will remain in the region after graduation and serve as legal counselors, advocates, judges, mediators, community leaders, and public officials. 

We offer a nationally recruited, diverse, and well-qualified faculty, a rigorous program for the professional training of lawyers, and a comprehensive law library. The program emphasizes professional responsibility, dispute resolution, and practice skills. The ASL community is an exciting, student-centered environment that emphasizes honesty, integrity, fairness, and respect for others. We also emphasize community service and provide a resource for people, the bar, courts and other institutions of the region.


Professionalism – Professionalism is a founding pillar of ASL, providing the guiding principle that permeates our program of legal education. At ASL, professionalism is a holistic and purposeful exploration and practice that expands well beyond professional competence and legal ethics, and extends into accountability, civility, integrity, and service throughout a student’s legal career.

Leadership – Transforming law students into leaders in the profession and in their communities rests at the heart of ASL. We strive to develop authentic leaders by challenging students to discover their passions and pursue opportunities to lead by serving others – in law school and beyond.  At ASL, we equip students with the skills to lead with compassion, empathy, integrity, and respect in their communities.

Service – Service to others and causes greater than oneself is embraced throughout ASL.  Community service is a focal point and is inculcated in our students from orientation through graduation.  Modeled by faculty, staff, alumni, and student organizations, placing the needs of others above one’s personal desires is a cornerstone of our curriculum and pervades the ethos of ASL.

Community – Our culture is a small, exciting, student-centered environment emphasizing honesty, integrity, fairness, and respect for others. Our relationships with students are transformational – not transactional. Lifelong connections are developed at every level, and this supportive backdrop allows for meaningful and sincere interactions between every member of our society. Faculty have open door policies, and the law school is actively engaged in support of our local and regional partners.

InclusionRespect for diversity is a bedrock principle in our law school, and we strive to recruit and support students from a variety of diverse backgrounds, cultures, and experiences. We celebrate the value that each unique member of our community adds to the ASL experience.

Accessibility – Opportunity to seek a high-quality legal education underpins the very mission of ASL. The fundamental idea of access to justice for the population of the Appalachian region and other underserved communities across the country animates the law school’s curriculum, goals, and purpose.

Practice-Ready – Our approach to legal education produces practice-ready attorneys by blending theoretical doctrine with practical lawyering skills. We equip students to be effective advocates immediately upon graduation and encourage graduates to be lifetime learners by always striving to improve their skills and their knowledge of the law.

Our History

In late 1993, Joseph E. Wolfe, a Norton, Virginia attorney, proposed to establish a law school in southwestern Virginia. Within six months, his proposal attracted the support of regional business executives, civic leaders, attorneys, and educators.

In late 1994, a Steering Committee formed that eventually grew to eighty members. This committee chartered ASL as a Virginia non stock corporation, secured tax exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service, and drafted ASL’s preliminary mission statement. The Steering Committee also prepared a feasibility study for the new law school.

In early May 1995, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia approved establishment of ASL.

In April 1996 Buchanan County signed a compact with ASL, under the terms of which ASL received its main academic and library buildings and their grounds, funds for renovation of the buildings, and funds towards operating costs. The Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal agency, also contributed funds to ASL’s operating costs.

In April 1997, the Commonwealth of Virginia Council of Higher Education granted ASL authorization to enroll students in courses leading to the Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. ASL held its first faculty meeting on August 8, 1997, and its first classes on August 12, 1997, with nine faculty members in residence and seventy one students in attendance.

ASL Charter Class graduated on May 12, 2000. On February 19, 2001, ASL received provisional approval from the American Bar Association. On June 12, 2006, ASL received full approval from the American Bar Association.