Monthly Archives: September 2012

Happy Family Day!

I am excited that today is Family Day!  I know not everyone can be here, but I look forward to meeting several of you that can be here today.  Margaret Barfield, who has assembled many Family Days over the years, tells me that we anticipate a larger crowd than normal today!

Registration begins at 8:30am,  and then family members have the opportunity to sit in on an actual Civil Procedure class with their students.  I sure hope none of the parents and spouses get called on in class today — surely you did your reading just in case!  🙂

Following class (and a short break), we will assemble all the families for a panel discussion.  Dean Tacha will provide a welcome, and then Dean Cupp, Director Oliver, and I will talk about “Law School Life.”  This will be a great time for questions, and we will do our best to provide some answers.

After the panel (and another short break), families will have the unique opportunity to witness the final round of an advocacy tournament.  Two of our upper division students will square off in front of a panel of actual judges to see who will be crowned champion of this year’s Armand Arabian Advocacy Tournament!

We have a special luncheon planned for the families in attendance at 12:45pm.  Following lunch, the final item on the agenda is the opportunity to receive a guided building tour at 1:30pm.  Then, you will be free to enjoy a beautiful Malibu afternoon!

I hope to snap a few pictures along the way to share with those that cannot be here today.  For those unable to attend, please know that you are always welcome to drop by for a visit whenever you are in the area.


At the End of the Rainbow

Not sure where to send the photo credit, but I appreciate my friend, Stephen Butler, Director of Law Associates here at Pepperdine Law, for sharing this picture with me.  I guess our law school is what you find when you make it to the end of the rainbow.  🙂

For those of you attending Family Day tomorrow, I cannot guarantee a rainbow, but I anticipate a good day nonetheless!

Professional Health

Our students are in the process of becoming professionals.  Specifically, they are entering the legal profession, and as with any profession, there are unique challenges, expectations, and responsibilities.  At Pepperdine Law, we believe it is our responsibility to prepare our students, not only with legal knowledge and skills, but also with “professional” knowledge and skills.

This year, we expanded our “professional development” offerings and have required attendance for our first year students.  We have seven separate presentations planned over the course of this academic year.  Yesterday, we hosted our first presentation, and the topic we decided to lead with was “professional health.”

I hope to come across as a realist and not an alarmist, but it is worth noting that those in the legal profession are notoriously bad at taking care of themselves.  High stress and poor coping mechanisms is a bad combination, and lawyers are famous for combining the two.  In particular, substance abuse is a major problem in the profession, and state bar associations around the nation struggle to educate attorneys on the dangers.  Often, however, the state bars find themselves disciplining lawyers for the problems that arise.

So, yesterday, we brought in two engaging speakers to address these issues head on.  Dr. Connie Horton, Director of the Counseling Center here at Pepperdine University, did a masterful job teaching the students on the broad topic of professional health.  As expected, Dr. Horton delivered the perfect blend of the realistic challenges of law school and the proper coping mechanisms for dealing with law school.  Our second speaker was David Mann, who works as a consultant to The Other Bar, an organization that provides support to lawyers, judges, and law students struggling with substance abuse.  David has a personal story that immediately grabs the attention of lawyers and aspiring lawyers, and he does not pull any punches when speaking to the unique substance abuse problem in the legal profession.

Both speakers did a terrific job, and I feel that our professional development series is off to a strong start.  I hope that the lessons shared yesterday — at such an early stage of the professional development of our students — will make a difference for many years to come.

The Honor Board

Last evening, I had the privilege of attending a dinner at Dean Tacha’s home.  Our dean regularly has student groups in her home, and last night she hosted the student-run Honor Board.  The Honor Board has the important responsibility of enforcing our Honor Code, and this year’s board is led by the wonderful combination of 3L co-chairs, Xochitl Cortez and Lindsey Dodge.

We dined outdoors on a beautiful Malibu evening, and in the middle of dinner, Dean Tacha asked the students to each stand, introduce themselves, and share a few words about what led them to choose service on the Honor Board.  I cannot describe how neat it was to sit under an early moon and stars and listen to these impressive students explain what led them to volunteer their time for a cause we simply call “honor.”  The word “integrity” is not taken lightly at Pepperdine Law, and it was encouraging to hear this diverse gathering of students explain why they are willing to stand up for integrity.

I meant to take a picture of this wonderful group, but I failed to do so.  However, some of us tossed around the idea of a potluck gathering at my house at some point in the future (prompted by word that Louis Scotti bakes a mean dessert!), so I hope to get another chance.

The Endeavour

I will admit that I had very few interactions with paparazzi before moving to Malibu, but I have to say that there were more cameras out last Friday for the Endeavour than when I lasted bumped into Mel Gibson at the grocery store.  🙂

It was quite a sight to see faculty, staff, and students all flock to our patio to scan the skies for the flyover.  The flyover itself was even more impressive.

Photo credit to someone on lower campus for this spectacular shot.

Waves of Service

I attended my first meeting as a member of the steering committee of Waves of Service yesterday.  Part of our meeting involved going around the table to describe the service activities going on in our respective areas.  I represented the law school, and as I began to jot down a few notes about the service activities here, I was blown away by the amount of activities that immediately sprang to mind!

The following are just a few of the service opportunities:


Within our official institutes…

* Nootbaar Institute — our Global Justice Program sends students to serve around the world.

* Palmer Center — our Micro-Enterprise Program matches students with underprivileged friends from the community.


Within our curriculum…

* Legal Aid Clinic — students work with clients on Skid Row under the oversight of Professor Brittany Stringfellow-Otey.

* Special Education Advocacy Clinic — students work with clients under the oversight of Professor Richard Peterson.

* Asylum & Refugee Clinic — students work with clients under the oversight of Judge Bruce Einhorn.


Within our student organizations…

* Christian Legal Society — among other opportunities, the chance to work with Christian Legal Aid of Los Angeles.

* Advocates for Public Interest Law — working with local public interest agencies.

* Simply Service — a catch-all for service activities, including blood drives, sack lunches for day laborers, babysitting, food banks, and hygiene kits for the homeless.


Again, this is just a short list!  Students at the School of Law are without a doubt being trained for lives of “purpose, service, and leadership.”

Below are a few pictures of some of our folks working with Tree People during our recent participation in Step Forward Day:



Essay Exam Writing

Wow.  We had over 110 students show up for our ASP skills workshop on “outlining” last week, so I made about 110 copies for Professor Gash’s “essay exam writing” workshop yesterday.  Professor Gash caught me prior to the workshop to say we should make some extra copies, so I made 40 more.  I still underestimated and had to make one more trip to the copier!  Looks like we ended up with 155 students crowding in to hear Professor Gash hold forth on how to write essays on a law school exam.

It is one thing to draw a crowd, and quite another to provide them with quality information.  Yesterday’s workshop was a hit on both fronts.  It was great fun for me to see the proverbial light bulbs flipping on all over the room.  Those rare moments when you feel you start to “get” law school are priceless!

Since Professor Gash is still “Dean” Gash to me (because I have the honor of succeeding him in my current role), it was especially fun for me for so many students to get the privilege of learning from him.  If you want special insight into his life, check out his BLOG chronicling his family’s African adventure earlier this year.

Celebrating 75 Years

Today is “Founder’s Day” at Pepperdine University.  It is an annual event that commemorates our founding, but today’s Founder’s Day is extra special because it serves as the closing ceremony for our year-long 75th anniversary celebration.

I will attend this morning’s special ceremony and hope to snap a few pictures to share.

However, you can celebrate with us today no matter where you are by taking seven minutes of your day to enjoy this special video, narrated by the parent of a Pepperdine alum, NBC’s Lester Holt.

Spiritual Life at the School of Law

I had the honor of making a presentation to the Religious Standards Committee of the Pepperdine University’s Board of Regents this morning on faith-based initiatives at the School of Law.  It is always fun (and beneficial) to take a step back and look at the big picture.  The Regents were receptive to the work being done in this area at the law school, and it was encouraging to spend time with them.

As you probably know, Pepperdine is a Christian university with a specific background in the “Church of Christ” tradition.  As an extension of that background, Pepperdine chooses to welcome people from all faith backgrounds, including those without a faith background.  If you ever have questions about Pepperdine’s religious background or approach to spiritual life, please do not hesitate to ask me.  In many ways, I have the responsibility of running point in this area.

This year, I surveyed our incoming students to get a sense of the religious preferences of the students.  I used the census categories, and here are the results:

* Christianity (66%)

* Unaffiliated (20%)

* Judaism (8%)

* Other (5%)

* Buddhism (0.5%)

* Islam (0.5%)

I found the “unaffiliated” number particularly interesting.

HERE is a link to the section of the Student Life Office website that provides a broad overview of the spiritual life initiatives at the law school.

Things to Never Say to a Law Student (Part 2)

Again, with credit to Professor McClurg:

5. “Do You Really Have to Work on That Tonight?”

Probably the answer is Yes.  On the rare occasion when the opposite may be true, from the student’s perspective, the question contributes to a sense of guilt — i.e., not only am I struggling in law school, but now I’m failing my family/friends, too!  Instead, just keep up the support and look forward to winter break.  Oh, speaking of breaks, a word on Thanksgiving Break.  Having five days “off” so close to finals is a precarious situation.  In fact, taking five days “off” so close to finals is a bad thing for academic success.  Here is my advice to family and friends: Do not advise students either way on how to spend Thanksgiving Break.  Instead, support whatever decision they make.  If they choose to miss the family holiday, if they choose to come home but only take a day off, or if they choose to take several days off — simply lend support to their decision.  And remember that winter break will come very soon.  That is a real break!!!

Oh, more on this later, but if your student is not a native Southern Californian and is planning on staying in Malibu for Thanksgiving Break, he/she is welcome to come to Thanksgiving Dinner with my family.  Professor Jim Gash will be out of town for Thanksgiving, but he has graciously donated his spacious home (compared to our condo) to my family so we can host as many students as need a place to enjoy some food, football, and fellowship!

6. “What Kind of Lawyer Do You Want to Be?”

The correct answer from students is: I don’t know.  Even if students think they know, their answer is most often wrong.  The problem with asking the question is twofold: (i) students grow weary from hearing the question over and over; and (ii) after a while, students begin to believe maybe they are supposed to know.

7. “Do You Have a Job Yet?”

This will mostly come later, but when it does, don’t ask it.  When they do land a job, you will know.  If they do not have a job secured yet, they could do without the added pressure.

8. “Have You Heard the One About the Lawyer, the Shark, and the Pornographer?”

Like most every profession, the legal profession consists of amazing people making a positive difference in the world, along with some dirty, rotten scoundrels.  The general public likes to emphasize the latter, and the jokes perpetuate that perception.  The jokes don’t bother everyone (including me), but they do some, and as a result, feeding your student a steady stream of the funniest lawyer jokes is generally a bad idea.