Monthly Archives: January 2015

One Down

One day remains in January, but from the law school’s perspective, today is the last day of this first month of the spring semester.

It has passed so quickly, but what is troubling is that the remaining months in this academic year typically seem to increase in speed!

  • February is the shortest month of the year, of course.
  • March is bisected by spring break.
  • April is the month when classes end and finals begin.
  • May places a quick punctuation mark on the semester with finals ending, followed by graduation.

I keep using the metaphor of the roller coaster.  January is when the roller coaster rides tops that crickety opening climb and sends us screaming down the tracks.  The remaining months will feel like they are over in an instant!

Enjoy the ride!


Interfaith Student Council

Last night, my wife and I had the pleasure of hosting the Interfaith Student Council in our home once again.  It is always a highlight for us.

Counting the two of us, we had nineteen people there, which was a record attendance!  We had representatives of Atheism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism in the group, and we had a rich conversation on the topic, “What I always wanted to know about (e.g., Atheism, Buddhism, etc.) was ____________.”

I am always struck not only by the rich conversation among this group but also the respectful listening and questioning that occurs.  What an honor to be engaged in such an important conversation with such impressive students.

Exciting Lunch Events!

Our student body has two great events to choose from during our lunch hour today:

First, the Career Development Office in cooperation with our Criminal Law Society student organization is hosting a panel discussion concerning exciting career opportunities in the field of criminal law.  The panelists will include a district attorney, a public defender, a private criminal defense practitioner, and a U.S. Attorney.

Second, our Christian Legal Society student organization is hosting its midweek Bible Study during the lunch hour for the first time (instead of at Professor Gash’s home in the evening). Professor Peter Robinson will speak on what it means to be equipped by God as students and attorneys.

Stars in the Twitter-verse

HERE is an interesting post that draws attention to two great members of our faculty–Professor Paul Caron and Professor Greg McNeal.

Brand New Website

For the past year, Pepperdine has undertaken a university-wide initiative to redesign the Pepperdine website, including the law school’s website, The redesigned website is now live.  Check it out HERE.

Modest Means Incubator

Access to the justice system is difficult for far too many people.  With that in mind, we are proud to announce that Pepperdine University School of Law, UCLA School of Law, and Southwestern Law School have been awarded a one-year grant from the State Bar of California’s Commission on Access to Justice to establish a modest means incubator, a pilot program to help new attorneys launch and develop viable law practices serving modest means clients.

Please read our exciting press release on this great news!

The Butler Did It!


“The Butler Did It!”
The Legal Battle over the Estate of Doris Duke

Before Doris Duke died at her home, Falcon’s Lair, in Beverly Hills, California, her butler had a hearse waiting in the driveway to take her body for immediate cremation. There were no family members or friends at her deathbed, just powerful lawyers, respected doctors, and her butler. At stake was the vast fortune of “the richest little girl in the world” who died without close living relatives.

Don Howarth and Suzelle Smith are partners in the Los Angeles law firm of Howarth & Smith. Accomplished trial lawyers, who handle high profile cases, they represented Miss Duke until a year before her death. When a new Will naming the butler, Bernard Lafferty, surfaced and was filed for probate in New York immediately after her death, they were retained to challenge it by the Executor of the prior Will, Ms. Duke’s personal physician, who had not been present at her deathbed and had been systematically excluded from seeing her by the butler. As Executor under the new Will butler Bernard Lafferty had $1.5 billion under his control, was already spending profusely, and hired a team of 15 lawyers to fight the Will contest. The lines were drawn in the New York Surrogate’s Court in front of Judge Eve Preminger, niece of Hollywood’s Otto Preminger, and no expense was spared in the greatest Will contest of all time.

The subject of several Hollywood movies and three television documentaries, the legal saga headed by Mr. Howarth and Ms. Smith is now featured in a new book, “The Duke Legacy” by Miss Duke’s nephew, DW Duke, available on Amazon.

On January 22, 2015 Pepperdine will host Don Howarth, Suzelle Smith and the author of the book, DW Duke, for a one hour program. In our program the author will review the life and history of Miss Duke and her family, and the attorneys will address the legal strategies and developments which ultimately disclosed the termination of Miss Duke’s life by a morphine overdose, the removal of U.S. Trust and Bernard Lafferty as Executors, and the establishment of a nine member board of trustees to administer the $1.5 billion charitable trust. Frequent lecturers and renowned advocates, Mr. Howarth and Ms. Smith will give the audience an inside look into the case that proves the adage that reality is often stranger than fiction.

AALS Student Services Section


I have the honor of serving on the executive committee of the student services section of the American Association of Law Schools (AALS), and I am humbled and inspired by the good work of my colleagues across the nation.  Fellow committee members pictured above at our recent national meeting in Washington, D.C., lead student services at Yale, Mississippi, UCLA, Michigan, Indiana (Indianapolis), and Thomas Jefferson (San Diego).  I am the tall, bald guy.  🙂

Student Survey Launch

I must be a nerd when I get excited by the launch of a survey!

This morning, if all went as planned, all law students received an email with a link to a new survey about their experiences as law students at Pepperdine.  As the dean of students, I am particularly interested in knowing where we are meeting the expectations of students and where there is room for improvement.

Our students participated in the national Law School Survey of Student Engagement in 2006 and 2013, but this is the first opportunity the law school has taken to develop our own instrument (in conjunction with Pepperdine’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness) so that we can ask our own specific questions.  Last year, I did a test run of a survey with our third-year students, but this year’s survey is extended to all of our students.

Once the survey concludes in late February and the results are compiled, we should receive fascinating insight into the makeup of our student body and their opinions on all aspects of the law school.  What I find even more exciting is our ongoing use of this survey instrument so that we can track responses from year to year (i.e., if 1Ls’ opinions change as they become 2Ls, and then 3Ls).

Okay, as I re-read my post, I really must be a nerd.  🙂

Happy Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “The Purpose of Education,” Morehouse College Student Paper, The Maroon Tiger, in 1947