California Western's campus has welcomed hundreds of new faces recently as the fall term gets underway. A richly diverse group of students from all over the world came together during the week of August 24 to a welcoming and supportive environment.
"It is a momentous time for California Western having so many students on our campus at once, studying across the full range of our academic programs,” said Barbara J. Cox, vice dean for academics. “Not only did we welcome our incoming JD students for their first week of class but we also welcomed three groups of LL.M. students, many of whom have traveled long distances to study at California Western. We are fortunate to have created a welcoming environment where all of these students can join together in a truly collegial way.”
There more than 220 first-year students on campus and more than 100 Spanish-speaking attorneys and judges are on campus for the law school’s Spanish-language LL.M. in Trial Advocacy. More than 30 students who were the first class in the program have also returned for their graduation ceremony on August 29.
"This is a wonderful time of year for the law school," said Traci Howard, assistant dean for admissions. "This new 1L class is filled with people who come from diverse backgrounds and experiences! It is very exciting to imagine all of the ways this will enhance the discussions that occur throughout the law school both in and out of the classroom."
Forty-three percent of the new students identify themselves as racial and/or ethnic minorities and they speak 28 different languages from around the world. Fourteen are former military, 12 students self-identify as LGBT, and they range from 21 to 53 years of age.
At California Western, no matter how old a student is, or what their background is, they will find the support services they need to succeed in law school.
"Our support system for students is our highest priority to ensure that they have a productive experience at California Western," said Susan G. Finster, assistant dean for student and diversity services. "The benefit of a small, independent law school is that we are able to support our students on an individual level and give them one-on-one attention."
Students can take advantage of both academic and non-academic counseling, mentoring, and get support by joining one or more of the student organizations where they can be part of a group with similar backgrounds and interests. All of these services help create an enriching law school experience.
The first year of the Spanish-speaking LL.M. program was an unqualified success.
"I am so proud to graduate our first class of LL.M. students,” says Professor Justin Brooks, director of the program. “I've seen tremendous improvement in their skills over the past year and am confident they are prepared to serve their clients throughout Latin America."
California Western School of Law is playing a key role in justice reform at the ground level by training lawyers to deal with all of the changes in justice systems throughout Latin America, and as Brooks says, "The impact of this program will be felt for years to come."
The Master of Laws in Comparative Law LL.M. program also welcomed its new and returning students to campus in the same week—students from eight different nations who came to study the U.S. legal system.
"We are very excited to have such a diverse group of people where we can learn about our culture and legal system as we move towards globalization," said program administrator Chinthana Konganda. "Here at California Western, they are looking forward to taking classes with the J.D. students and to learn the law of the Unites States."
As with the new 1Ls and the Spanish-speaking LL.M. students, it's important to make the comparative laws students from different countries feel at home.
"Studying in a foreign country can be an interesting and exciting experience but sometimes, it can be daunting," said Konganda. "In order to make our students feel welcome, we offer more than administrative support to help them transition smoothly. We offer superior services to our LL.M.s—they have their own lounge in which to hang out; academic tutors just for them; LL.M. graduates offer support to our new students by sharing their experiences on how to prepare for the bar exam and to be successful attorneys; or someone to call if they just need to talk."
“Our blend of students reflects our values and demonstrates our international reach. Diversity is a core value at California Western,” said Niels B. Schaumann, president and dean of California Western. “Additionally, California Western has a very substantial international presence, with students from around the world and an online program created to serve lawyers whose native language is Spanish. Our law school is on the front lines of legal reform in Latin America, and this has helped us create an international culture not often found in American law schools.”
California Western welcomes all of our students and wishes them great success.