The heart and soul of what California Western has achieved over the past four decades is embodied in the person of its longest-serving and unquestionably most enthusiastic professor, William C. Lynch.
At 81, and in his 36th year at California Western, Lynch has had an extraordinary teaching career, fueled by the energy of someone half his age. His passion and talent for turning bewildered first-year students into critically-thinking, questioning learners provides a foundation for the rest of their school years, and ultimately for success in legal practice.
Along the way, Lynch found time to serve as associate dean for two years in the ‘90s, coach the interscholastic National Moot Court Team, conduct a bar preparation course, and tutor individuals for the bar. Lynch has also served as tireless ambassador for California Western, traveling throughout the U.S. recruiting students and hosting alumni events.
“What can I say,” Lynch says with a smile. “I’ve had a real love affair with this school. My feelings are that strong and it’s why I’m still teaching. I really like being a part of building something, whether it’s a student’s capabilities or improving the school in some way.”
Remarkably, Lynch’s California Western success came after he retired from an equally impressive 22-year career in the U.S Navy. Before he retired as a JAG officer in 1978, he served as special counsel to the Secretary of the Navy and helped negotiate a treaty with the Soviet navy.
Now, with plans to retire in two years, along with the honor of being selected as commencement speaker at this past May’s graduation, Lynch can begin to see the finish line. As he looks back, he believes one of his most important legacies will be the change in culture and atmosphere he and four other new professors achieved when they arrived together in the late 1970s.
“We were called the ‘gang of five’ and most of us hated law school because it was based on the brutal ‘Paper Chase’-Kingsfield model in which the professors were condescending, if not downright cruel. They were completely inaccessible and often hostile to students,” Lynch says. “Our approach was that the welfare of our students came first; that what we wanted most was for them to succeed. We achieved that with good teachers dedicated to excellence who had open-door policies and made a point of being available. That’s the character of the law school to this day, and it’s what makes California Western special.”
That close connection with students, many of whom have become friends, is what Lynch says he will miss most.
“There’s nothing quite like working with a first-year kid who doesn’t have a clue about anything and watching the light suddenly go on when they finally get it. I’ve enjoyed watching my students go out and accomplish great things. I’m like a proud father, and for a teacher, there’s no better feeling in the world.”