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Mission

Students walking outside of the campus

California Western School of Law is committed to using the law to solve human and societal problems. Our mission is to train ethical, competent and compassionate lawyers, representative of our diverse society, who can use the law effectively and creatively.

We recognize that, in the 21st century, the rapid rate of change will accelerate and create further problems. We also recognize the pervasive perception, and partial reality, that the legal system and lawyers have helped to create, rather than solve, the problems our evolving society confronts.

While continuing to graduate lawyers well-equipped to practice law, we also seek to graduate creative problem solvers committed to the improvement of our legal system and society. Our graduates will not merely react to problems, but will anticipate them and be ready to devise innovative and responsible solutions to serve the needs of their clients and the broader community.

Further, by contributing to legal scholarship, participating in public deliberations about legal matters and serving as a community legal education resource, California Western School of Law will make significant, measurable contributions to the solution of problems in our community, our society and our world.

History

California Western School of Law, located in downtown San Diego, is among the few independent, nonprofit law schools in the country.

Chartered in 1924, California Western was accredited by the American Bar Association in 1962 and became a member of the Association of American Law Schools in 1967.

In 1960 Dean Robert K. Castetter took office. Dean Castetter is credited with the founding of the modern California Western.

In 1968, California Western University, which included undergraduate studies, changed its name to the United States International University (USIU). The law school retained the name California Western School of Law.

In 1973, the law school relocated from its Point Loma location to the first of its three downtown campus buildings at 350 Cedar St. In 1975, California Western ended its affiliation with USIU and became an independent law school.

In 1980, the new trimester system was announced, allowing two entering classes in one academic year, reducing individual class size and further increasing the quality of education.

In 1986, President and Dean Michael H. Dessent took office, Dean Dessent was experienced in business and established a strong financial foundation for the law school that exists still today.

In 1993, the law school opened a new administrative and campus center, housing faculty and administration offices, including student affairs, admissions, and financial aid.

In 1996, President and Dean Steven R. Smith took office. He served the law school in this role for 16 years. He was an excellent ambassador bringing California Western to the national stage.

In 1999, the law school launched the California Innocence Project, dedicated to the release of the wrongfully convicted.

In 2000, the law school created Proyecto ACCESO, a nonprofit legal think tank that trains lawyers and educates the public in Latin America about legal reform and the rule of law.

Also in 2000, California Western proudly opened its new, state-of-the-art Law Library, which was dedicated by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.

From 2009 to the end of the program in 2014, California Western was the only law school named to President Obama’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction, in recognition of the school’s strong history of community engagement.

In 2010, the State Bar of California presented California Western with the President’s Pro Bono Service Award, the first pro bono award presented to a law school by the State Bar.

In 2012, President and Dean Niels B. Schaumann took office. He served in this role for eight years.

In 2014, we celebrated our 90-year history in San Diego, the remarkable journey, and our nine decades of successful alumni outcomes.

In 2020, President and Dean Sean M. Scott took office, becoming only the second woman of color to be named President and Dean of an American law school.