Monthly Archives: September 2013

Pardon our Progress

I confess admiration for the PR mind that developed the phrase “pardon our progress.”  Generally speaking, construction projects are flat out inconvenient, but we can put up with it if we know that the end result is desirable.

We have lockers at the law school.  That seems a bit like middle school, but hauling massive casebooks around on a daily basis makes one appreciate having a place to store such heavy luggage.  This year, we are installing new lockers at the law school.  In the past, student shared a locker, but the new lockers will allow each student (who wants a locker) to have one of her or his own.

The challenge has been the timing of the locker installation.  Because it could not be completed amid the other construction projects over the summer, installation was pushed back until… well… now.  As a result, our 1Ls were not assigned lockers during orientation, and our 2Ls/3Ls have had to clean theirs out for the removal of the old and the installation of the new.

Thankfully, we are making great progress and hope to have the new lockers ready for assignment one week from today.

HERE is a blog post with a picture of the new lockers from Phil Bohl, Assistant Dean for Information Services, who oversees this project.


Al Sturgeon

Assistant Dean for Student Life


Family Day/Arabian Advocacy Competition

We’re just finishing up with Family Day!

Over 120 family members joined us to show their support for their “students”.  After sitting in on Civil procedure class, Dean Tacha gave a spirited address imploring students on the value of a Pepperdine Law degree.  After a panel discussion about the rigors of law school and how to cope, the Armand Arabian Moot competition finals were held.   Congratulations to Amanda Martin for winning the competition and showing off her excellent oral argument skills!  Here’s a photo of the finals in progress:




When I conduct exit interviews with our graduates, “the faculty” is the number one response to what was positive about their Pepperdine Law student experience.

Last night, I was struck by how the faculty transitions from one generation to the next.  I had the honor of attending a retirement reception at Dean Tacha’s house honoring Professor Janet Kerr and her thirty years of service on the faculty.  Immediately afterward, I went to the home of Professor Jim Gash, who has served on the faculty during half of Professor Kerr’s teaching career — and in fact, was a student of Professor Kerr’s in his days as a Pepperdine student.  At Professor Gash’s, I heard Professor Derek Muller deliver an excellent lesson on “forgiveness” to the forty or so students gathered for a midweek Bible study — Professor Muller’s teaching career is just getting started as he begins his third year on the Pepperdine faculty.

Musician John Mellencamp once wrote: “There is nothing more sad or glorious than generations changing hands.”  Last night, I witnessed the glorious part.


Al Sturgeon

Assistant Dean for Student Life

Recruiting new lawyers, one handshake at a time

Earlier today I had the opportunity to engage future lawyers during the Cal State University of Dominguez Hills Graduate Fair.  In all over 50 schools were represented across various academic schools and disciplines.

The next wave of law students seem to be excited and ready!  Today I heard from students passionate about practice areas like criminal law, immigration, entertainment law and public interest.

Over the next two months Pepperdine representatives will be visiting campuses all over the country to share with potential students the great attributes of Pepperdine School of Law.


Phi Alpha Delta Fundraiser for St. Jude’s

Last night, the Shepherd Chapter of Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity, one of our student organizations, organized a dinner at Chili’s Grill & Bar to help raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.  Yesterday, all over the nation, Chili’s donated 100% of their net profits to St. Jude’s.

Last night’s event was open to anyone, so I took advantage of the opportunity to take my wife and youngest daughter out for dinner where we had the pleasure of sharing a meal with several fantastic law students.  Special thanks to Katherine Schober (PAD president) and Janette Blair for organizing this fun (and yummy!) night out for such a good cause.

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Al Sturgeon

Assistant Dean for Student Life


Giant Goff Gathering at Casa Gash

Professor Jim Gash and his family play host to a weekly Bible study at their house each Wednesday evening — a tradition that has gone on at Pepperdine Law for many years.

Last Wednesday, Jim’s friend (and New York Times best-selling author — and Pepperdine Law adjunct professor), Bob Goff, spoke to a large crowd.  HERE is a link to Professor Gash’s blog on the turnout.


Al Sturgeon

Assistant Dean for Student Life

Family Day – Coming on September 27th

For those coming to Family Day this Friday:

Family Day was created because of the high value we place on family relationships.  You, as family (and friends), are such an important part of the life of the Pepperdine law student in your family.  As such, we see you as partners with us in making sure that all of these law school experiences are positive and nurturing for the student.

You will be welcomed to a classroom setting where you will be able to achieve an important level of understanding of the daily activities of a Pepperdine Law student.

Here’s the schedule for the day:

8:30- 9:00 – Registration

9:10 – 10:10 – First Year Class (All Family members are encouraged to attend)

10:20 – 10:35 – Welcome – Dean Deanell Reece Tacha

11:45 – 12:45 – Armand Arabian Advocacy Tournament (Final Round)

12:45 – 1:30 – Lunch

1:30 – 2:10 – Guided Building Tour

There’s still time to RSVP!  Please contact Margaret Barfield at

Hope to see you then!


Things to Never Say to a Law Student

Professor Andrew McClurg has written an excellent book for the family and friends of law students and granted me permission to share excerpts with you from time to time.  If you are interested, I would recommend purchasing this book.  Chapter Nine is one of my favorites, and it is titled, “Eight Things to NEVER Say to a Law Student.”  Excellent, excellent advice in that chapter!  (By the way, if you have already said most of them, don’t worry – it happens every year.  Better to get them out of the way earlier rather than later!)  Today, I share these statements with my own super brief synopsis (Professor McClurg’s in-depth descriptions are much better, of course).


1. “Don’t Worry, You’ll Do Fine”

* This one is a killer!  Everyone in law school made great grades prior to law school, and due to the forced curve, many law students will not make great grades in law school.  If “fine” has been defined as great grades, many students will simply not “do fine.”  That’s okay, of course, but saying this to a law student simply adds more pressure, which is a bad thing.  If you feel the urge to say something along these lines, let me suggest a simple “I’m proud of you.”


2. “Maybe You Weren’t Meant to Be in Law School”

* This is the flip side of #1.  Don’t say this either!  When a student starts freaking out (notice I went with “when” and not “if” here!), don’t say #1 (more pressure!) or #2 (more freaking out!).  Just love them, say you are proud of them no matter what — and gently suggest, “Why don’t you go have a talk with Dean Sturgeon?”  🙂


3. “Remember, It’s Only a Test”

* It will be frustrating for you to censor this statement because it is true, but it doesn’t “feel” like it is only a test.  Therefore, saying that it is makes you seem like you do not understand and therefore are not able to be helpful.  Instead (again), simply offer your support.


4. “Is That the Best You Could Do?”

* You don’t have to ask this question because I will go ahead and answer it for you.  The answer is most probably yes.  So, be proud of your student!  Getting a B in law school is like getting an A in college.  Don’t worry about letters or ranks or any other ways of understanding your student’s previous academic achievements.  Let the student set the reaction to grades — if they are down, hug them and say you are proud of them (in your sad voice), and if they are excited, hug them and say you are proud of them (in your happy voice)!

And let me repeat — suggesting a little visit to Dean Sturgeon or Director Oliver is always a good option!


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 several days “off” so close to finals is a precarious situation.  In fact, taking several 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!!!


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.


Al Sturgeon

Assistant Dean for Student Life

Celebrating ‘Founder’s Day’ at Pepperdine

Founders Day

Today is a very special day for Pepperdine University.  Some 76 years ago this September, on a sunny afternoon that chased away the clouds of the Great Depression, Christian businessman George Pepperdine opened a brand new college at 79th and Vermont in Los Angeles, investing his fortune and faith in the promise of a life-changing education.

Today’s celebration, simply called ‘Founders Day’ calls the university back to its roots with a reading of Mr. George Pepperdine’s Dedicatory Address from 1937, a performance of John Williams’ “The Champions” by the Pepperdine orchestra and concert choir,  a recitation of memorable quotes from Pepperdine’s history, and remarks by President Andrew K. Benton.

Of all George Pepperdine’s memorable quotes, This one is my favorite:

“…There are many good colleges and universities which can give you standard academic training, but if our school does not give you more than that, it really has no reason to exist.  The great difference between this college and other colleges is that we are endeavoring to place adequate emphasis and greater stress upon religious teaching and Christian character.  We want to present to you, in teaching and example, the Christian way of life.  We do not compel you to accept it.  You are free to make your own choice, but we want you to know what it is.”




The 100 Most Influential People in Tax and Accounting

Please join me in congratulating Professor Paul Caron on being named as one of Accounting Today‘s 100 Most Influential People in Tax and Accounting for the eighth year in a row.  You can read about it HERE — most appropriately — on Professor Caron’s famous blog!


Al Sturgeon

Assistant Dean for Student Life