On August 14, 158 new JD students, 50 Straus Institute students, and 10 graduate law LLMs descended upon Gulls Way Courtyard for the much anticipated start of the Parris Institute for Professional Formation Launch Week.
In an auspicious start to the week, Dean Paul Caron welcomed his first class as Dean to Pepperdine Law, and Senior Vice Chancellor and School of Law Dean Emeritus Ronald Phillips delivered the Invocation. Dean of Students Danny DeWalt introduced students to the Pepperdine Mission-providing a superior legal education that aligns professional goals and career interests with personal standards and values. Judge André Birotte (JD ‘91), District Court Judge for the US District Court for the Central District of California, then delivered his memorable presentation of “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.”
Launch Week provides new students with a foundation for effective academic skills and offers a professional network that goes above and beyond a typical new student orientation. Pepperdine Law takes pride in the availability of faculty and the investment of leadership in long-term student success. Launch Week emphasizes the inherent community formed between students, faculty, and administration members. The five-day student event also serves to form the relationships that will make for a successful law school experience and eventual career. Launch Week truly helps set a positive tone for the commitment of study at Pepperdine, where students are encouraged to explore who they are as leaders in addition to what they learn in the classroom.
Dean DeWalt stood in front of a room of ambitious and aspiring lawyers and legal professionals urging them to get involved and make mistakes: “The faster you get comfortable with failing, the faster the lights are going to go on.” In a session called “The True Function of Lawyer,” Professor Sukhsimranjit Singh implored students to live responsibly and lead righteously through a combination of confidence and humility. Dean David Humphrey delivered a powerful address in which he added, “Either you are a part of reconciliation or you are a part of division. Humility is the key to your destiny.”
Meanwhile, the top-rated Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution held concurrent sessions for its new students. Under the direction of Associate Dean Tom Stipanowich, Straus enters its 31st year with greater than ever international student interest. Straus’ visibility from the U.S. News & World Report rankings has resulted in a multitude of international opportunities, including strategic alliances with Brazil, China, India, Korea, and Saudi Arabia.
On Friday, Pepperdine University President Andrew Benton met with the incoming class in Wilburn Auditorium for “A Very Corporeal Hereditament,” his reflections on the social responsibilities carried by those equipped with the knowledge, power, and courage embodied by a legal career. And finally, after much anticipation, Judge Jennifer Dorsey (‘97) of the US District Court for the District of Nevada advised 1Ls on the power of their reputations as law students and even more so as practicing lawyers. The morning concluded with the Professional Oath, and students signed their names to commemorate the occasion.
The week was packed with leadership training, professionalism seminars, and tips for getting through the first year of law school. In addition to academic preparation, new students were treated to a week’s worth of delicious meals from local favorites, good music, and festivities overlooking the Pacific. There was even an appearance by the In-N-Out Burger truck! On the final day of Launch Week, everyone gathered in Alumni Park for a BBQ and games. The community convened on the green to watch the new students take on the faculty and staff in a kickball match. Despite the superb 6-3 double play led by Dean Caron (resulting in the Dean’s broken finger), the students ultimately came out victorious.
By the end of Launch Week, one point was clear-students felt confident that they made the right choice to become a lawyer at Pepperdine Law. We wish nothing but success to the Class of 2020.
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