Over the past decade and a half, California Western School of Law has undergone one of the most remarkable transformations in the history of legal education.
A 16-Year Journey of Excellence
When Steven R. Smith was named dean in 1996, California Western was a solid law school ready and eager to advance to a higher level. Under Smith’s leadership, the school's dedication to faculty scholarship and research increased dramatically. The school launched a host of innovative programs, accomplishing everything from freeing wrongly convicted prisoners to shaping national health care law.
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Entering the 21st Century
The year was 1996 and California Western was at a crossroads. Dean Michael Dessent was retiring after a highly successful decade in which one of his key contributions was turning around the school financially. Who would be given the reins to take the school into the 21st Century?
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Supporting the Faculty
A law school is only as strong as its professors, and over the past 16 years, the quality of California Western’s faculty has improved significantly on multiple fronts, whether through the stronger credentials of new teachers, the expansion of faculty research and scholarship, and the professors' ever-increasing expertise on major national and international legal issues.
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Commitment to Students
The exciting news came this past March: National Jurist magazine recognized California Western as the 20th best law school in the nation for bar performance in relation to LSAT scores.
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Expanding Clinical Programs
Few experiences during law school are more valuable than sending students out in the community as soon as possible so they can see how the legal world actually works.
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Strengthening the Rule of Law
Since Dean Smith arrived in 1996, California Western has promoted the rule of law around the world, helping Latin American countries reform their judicial systems and training foreign lawyers and judges to be better legal professionals.
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Improving Campus Resources
Among the many contributions to California Western during Dean Smith's era, few generate more pride and benefit more people than the Law Library, dedicated in 2000 by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
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The Best is Yet to Come:
A Personal Reflection from Dean Smith
"The last few years have been a good time for California Western. Much of this issue recounts the past advances of the law school. It is great to reflect on these good days, but I want to take a few lines to consider the future: The best days of the law school should be ahead."
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Dean John F. O'Brien of New England School of Law, former associate dean Dennis Avery '70, executive director and CEO of Association of American Law Schools Susan Westerberg Prager, major donor Harold Brown, and others reflect on Dean Smith's contribution to California Western and legal education.
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Looking back at Dean Smith's tenure and the recent history of California Western, 1996-2012. We examine the development of the renewed LL.M. program, dedication of the law library, the launch of Proyecto ACCESO and California Innocence Project, establishment of MAS degree program in Health Law with UC San Diego, and much more.
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When Steven R. Smith was named dean in 1996, California Western was a solid law school ready and eager to advance to a higher level. Under Smith’s leadership, the school's dedication to faculty scholarship and research increased dramatically. The school launched a host of innovative programs, accomplishing everything from freeing wrongly convicted prisoners and shaping national health care law, to creating dual advanced degree programs with San Diego State University and UC San Diego and helping reform legal systems in Latin America.
Classrooms and other facilities were upgraded, including construction of a world-class law library dedicated by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
A deep commitment to thousands of hours of pro bono work annually by faculty and students complemented the creation of a number of programs to assist San Diego's economically disadvantaged and disenfranchised, making California Western an integral part of the community.
A testament to these efforts: California Western was recently honored as one of the top 20 schools in the nation for bar performance in relation to LSAT scores, and ranks highest among San Diego's three law schools.
In the pages that follow, you'll get a closer look at how the dedication and talent of faculty, staff, and students - fueled by the energy and inspiration of Dean Smith - have helped California Western become one of the finest independent law schools in America.