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Harnessing the Practical Power of Experiential Learning

Deborah Dixon

“Participating in mock trials and moot court competitions was the highlight of my legal education.”

Summing up the impact California Western had on training her in the practical aspects of the law, Deborah Dixon ’07 speaks glowingly of the importance the law school puts on experiential learning.

“I believe it was the reason I got a job at a prestigious firm straight out of law school,” she says. “Because I had those practice skills and opportunities.”

Dixon wanted to become a lawyer to advocate for people. She took an undergraduate “pre-law” constitutional course and loved everything about it. “It was taught using the Socratic method, and the issues were fascinating,” says Dixon. “I was compelled by the notion that as lawyers, we get to speak on behalf of those who can’t.”

She chose California Western because it had the most practical approach to law, and as she describes, “real” training to become a lawyer. Dixon cites the invaluable experience she gained being part of the mock trial teams led by Professor Mario Conte and the moot court team taught by Professor Justin Brooks as being hugely instrumental in preparing her to practice law. “I really believe the professors I had were top-notch and I felt prepared to take the bar and become a lawyer.”

Today, as co-founder and partner of San Diego-based Dixon Diab and Chambers, Dixon focuses on complex class actions relating to corporate mislabeling/misrepresentations and defective products. She also represents people, local businesses, and public entities relating to the devastating 2017 and 2018 fires in Northern and Southern California.

Currently, she is in a multi-year lawsuit against Apple relating to defective iPhones, in her role as Of Counsel at Gomez Trial Attorneys. The case is a certified class action and one of the first consumer class actions relating to an Apple product to be certified in California. The case has already been up to the Court of Appeal and back again, and there is a trial scheduled in October.

“This case is hard-fought litigation, as you can imagine when suing Apple, but is important because we want to hold every corporation, even the largest, to their warranty representations,” says Dixon.

Her motivation to move into class actions and to work with survivors of the fires, as well as employment litigation, was her desire to work to help multiple people at the same time. “It is very satisfying to be able to help individuals in a time of need, but also equally important to help many people in class actions, many of whom I may never even meet, to obtain a legal remedy and relief.”

Among many accolades she has received through the years, Dixon, most notably, was named a Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers Magazine from 2016 through 2019 and recognized as a Super Lawyers “Rising Star” in 2014, 2015, and 2016. In 2017, Dixon was also named the Distinguished Alumni “Rising Star” by the California Western Alumni Association, an honor awarded to one alum each year.

“After completing my undergraduate degree at UC Santa Barbara, it was Cal Western that brought me to San Diego, and I am so grateful I found this amazing legal community and fellow practitioners who equally inspire me and push me to be better.”

Despite having a full caseload, Dixon still finds time to give back to California Western. She has served on the Alumni Association Board of Directors for six years, even serving as its president, and teaches the Distinguished Advocates Trial Skills Course and serves as the class coordinator. She also serves as a coach for the mock trial teams, as well as a guest judge for the intra-school team competitions.

“I believe giving back is important because it is our obligation to help train the next generation,” says Dixon. “I gained so much from many alumni who have given back and want to set an example of giving back for the law students who I am fortunate enough to interact with.”

Dixon unequivocally believes that to be fully prepared for the rigors of being a lawyer, a student has to do more than just study to do well in law school—they have to participate in clinics, practical classes, and other hands-on opportunities.

“These experiences will enrich your education and set you apart when applying for a job.”