50 for 50 Spotlight: Lavinia Osilesi (JD ’19)

“I hope to see Pepperdine Law continue to strengthen diversity initiatives and work to uplift underserved communities.”

Inspired. Ambitious. Resourceful. 

These are the three words that Lavinia Osilesi uses to characterize Pepperdine Law alumni. “Our alumni community is willing to be there for us; it’s a true Pepperdine quality to use the knowledge and skills we have to invest back into our own.” Since graduating in the spring of 2019, Lavinia worked as a summer associate for Reed Smith LLP, and this fall, she began as a new associate for the Downtown LA firm. She attributes her nearly seamless transition from being a student to practicing attorney to professors that instilled the value of hard work. Lavinia explained how she was able to take the skills from her work as a research assistant to Professor Harry Caldwell, teaching assistant to Dean Ferrell, and member of the Law Review and parlay that experience directly into her practice.

Inspired by her own classmates, Lavinia describes how there is a “greater air of willingness to help others” at Pepperdine. Lavinia also credits her family for the advice and support that ultimately inspired her to pursue a JD at Pepperdine. “They encouraged me to attend because of the close-knit community and the school’s commitment to students and the surrounding community,” Lavinia says. She adds that Professor Caldwell, Dean Farrell, and Professor Ogden were instrumental in her growth and success as a student and that they continue to play a role in her professional development.

While in law school, Lavinia was a member of the Black Law Students Association, Advocates for Public Interest Law, secretary for the Women’s Legal Association, and a 2L class representative. She also clerked for the LA District Attorney’s office and served as a judicial extern for the US District Court for the Central District of California.

Ambitious is just the right word to describe Lavinia. This week, an article co-authored by Lavinia, “California Wage And Hour Ruling Weakens Insurer Exclusions,” was published on Law360, material she is thrilled to have included on her firm profile before Bar results are even posted. Lavinia had set a personal goal to be published within her first year of practice, and she calls the writing process a “rewarding experience.” The article considers insurance politics in the wake of a recent California Court of Appeal decision.

Lavinia uses the word resourceful to describe her fellow alumni, but the word aptly applies to her own networking tenacity. In the summer between her first and second year of law school, Lavinia met with between three and five alumni every week to learn about their various practices and firms. She notes how our alumni continue to invest into our own Pepperdine community making it possible to secure jobs and improve initiatives for underrepresented students.

When asked how she hopes to see the law school grow in the next fifty years, Lavinia said, “I hope to see Pepperdine Law continue to strengthen diversity initiatives and work to uplift underserved communities. Additionally, I hope to see Pepperdine Law alumni breaking down legal barriers and making an impact in the greater legal landscape.”

This is all the more possible thanks to a historic $50 million commitment made this week by alumnus Rick J. Caruso and his wife, Tina.

“The lack of affordable education in our nation and the student debt crisis is not only inhibiting underprivileged students from gaining equal opportunity to education, but also discouraging potential students from exploring careers in public service, roles that have a critical impact on society,” said Caruso. “My sincere hope is that this gift will be one of the first steps towards reducing the barrier to entry for these students and will inspire the next generation of public servants.”

Lavinia calls this financial commitment to the law school “incredibly exciting news” and feels confident that the gift will go to fantastic use for students: “I am happy to see the school growing and continuing to do amazing things for students from all walks of life.”

This milestone gift comes at a propitious time for the School of Law as it celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Speaking as Lavinia’s professor and mentor, Dean Farrell commented, “I am happy students in my class had the opportunity to learn from and be inspired by Lavinia. I’m sure she is already shining her light and inspiring others in her new role as an associate for Reed Smith.”