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Judge Reveals Why CWSL Students Excel as Externs

Judge Anthony Battaglia

“I look for students eager to learn about the practice of law and litigation in Federal Court. They need to demonstrate a strong work ethic and inquisitive nature.”

U.S. District Judge Anthony Battaglia ’74 outlines the qualities he looks for in selecting externs—and it comes as no surprise that California Western students have had 75 percent of his openings in the last five years.

“Cal Western students are well prepared to do the work as an extern,” continues Battaglia. “Their course work is thorough, and their involvement in the Stepps Program gives them the extra tools to immerse themselves quickly in the practical problems we face in court.”

Battaglia began his long relationship with California Western’s Clinical Externship Program as a student at the law school. He externed in the City Attorney’s Office, an experience he describes as one that shaped his desire to be a litigator.

“Years later as a judge, I saw the opportunity to provide an externship opportunity in my Chambers,” recalls Battaglia.

In 1998, while a Magistrate Judge, Battaglia took his first student extern from California Western— Lisa Widdecke ‘00.

“Lisa found it rewarding,” says Battaglia, “and I found it personally valuable in teaching very practical skills and concerns to an aspiring lawyer.”

Limited in space, Battaglia continued with one student per term. In 2005 he increased to two students. When he became a District Judge in 2011, with more space, an expanded civil and criminal trial calendar, and a huge number of applications from law students, he increased to four students per term.

“Four and sometimes five students per term (Spring, Summer and Fall) continue to be my year to year program,” says Battaglia.

To date out of 136 students he has taken on as externs, 73 have come from California Western. “I always give first shot at the openings to California Western,” says Battaglia, “but if other qualified students apply and I have openings, I take them as well.”

Professor Mark Weinstein, the Director of the Clinical Externship Program at California Western is full of praise for Battaglia and his belief in the program. “Judge Battaglia has been a wonderful teacher and mentor to our externs. He has provided a unique and valuable judicial externship which has allowed our students to view the court’s role in our system of justice.”

Battaglia was first attracted to a career in law when in high school he went on a field trip to the San Diego Superior Court. He grew up in Point Loma, close to California Western’s old campus and he liked its beautiful setting near the surf spots he frequented as a child.

“Once I met the Dean (Robert Castetter) I felt very confident and comfortable about attending there,” says Battaglia.

Battaglia recalls that Dean Castetter was especially helpful to him as he journeyed through law school.

“It was Dean Castetter who accepted me as a student. Back then he personally interviewed every candidate and made the final choice,” says Battaglia. “He was a great role model for professionalism and commitment to the practice of law.”

Battaglia is grateful for his time at California Western and makes it a priority to stay connected with the law school.

“As an alum, and father of a 2017 graduate, I have a strong affinity for the school and always will,” he says. “Without the opportunity to attend, and the great preparation I received, I would not have had the wonderful career I have enjoyed. I learned to practice well, with civility and a sense of professionalism.”

Battaglia continues to be a huge supporter of California Western’s Clinical Externship Program stressing its importance to students’ professional development.

“It [the program] provides real-world context to the doctrinal courses, and exposes students to the crossover their classwork has in practice,” says Battaglia. “Working on cases where procedure, evidence, substantive law, and remedies all converge advances their critical thinking and prepares them for the Bar and practice.”

Battaglia stays in touch with many of his former externs and is happy that they continue to tell him the high value the externship was to their professional growth.

“As long as it is valuable to the students, and I am able,” concludes Battaglia, “I will continue to offer the opportunity.”

The Clinical Externship Program is an essential component of the curriculum at California Western School of Law. Since its inception over 30 years ago, more than 4,500 students have participated in the program. For more information, contact Ruth Briscoe, Program Administrator, at or at (619) 525-1438.