For nearly 15 years, California Western has shared a special relationship with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who dedicated the state-of-the-art Law Library in 2000. Shortly after the high-profile event, the law school launched its Kennedy Scholars program in coordination with the California justice.
Each year, prospective Kennedy Scholars visit California Western from around the nation. It was on his visit to the law school in 2006 that Kennedy Scholar Drew A. Lautemann ’09 realized that this was the law school for him.
“The admissions staff, faculty, and students all seemed very welcoming and interested in helping me get where I wanted to go with my professional goals and aspirations,” says Lautemann.
“I obviously liked the location; I’m from Central Illinois, so getting to a warmer climate was nice. While I was offered several other scholarships and a couple of other full scholarships, the Kennedy Scholarship—with its additional mentorship opportunities and trip to meet Justice Kennedy—put California Western over the top.”
Lautemann remembers feeling slightly anxious the night before meeting Justice Kennedy in October 2007. At a dinner including fellow Kennedy Scholars, faculty, and law school administrators, the discussion included the type of questions students should and shouldn’t ask. While Lautemann remembers a recommendation to not discuss pending cases, only one previous case was called out as a no-no: Bush v. Gore, the highly controversial 2000 decision in which Kennedy was the swing vote.
The following day, Lautemann and his fellow students waited nervously to meet one of the most influential men in modern legal history. At once, Kennedy put them at ease with his friendly demeanor and genuine interest in their career goals. The discussion included theories on deciding legal cases and the justice’s literary interests.
Today, Lautemann remains active with California Western, serving as Supervising Attorney for the City Heights Community Law Project and Program Manager for A.I.M. for Law, a program for UC San Diego and SDSU students interested applying to law school. He attends receptions for current and prospective Kennedy Scholars, where he shares his story of a non-traditional legal pathway, and the personalized support he received at California Western.“My career goals didn’t always fit into the typical law student box, but the law school really did make an effort to figure out where I wanted to go and how they could they help me get there,” he says. “At California Western, you’ll get to know the administrators and professors personally, and you will have a whole law school behind you, helping you get where you want to go.”