“The pandemic has compelled us for health reasons to adjust the mode of delivering legal education. However, the mission of Cal Western remains the same—to provide the best education possible under any set of circumstances.”
As Sean M. Scott officially begins her tenure as California Western’s new President and Dean, the above statement gives some insight on how she will lead the law school going forward.
“I am excited about joining the California Western community,” says Scott. “Its commitment to academic excellence, to producing culturally competent lawyers, and to creating an inclusive, diverse community confirms to me that this is a community that shares my values.”
Scott joins California Western from the faculty of Loyola Law School, where she taught Contracts, Law of Sales, and Race, Gender, and the Law. An innovator inside her own classroom, students have responded by giving her numerous honors, including the Student Bar Association’s prestigious Excellence in Teaching Award and the Black Law Students Association’s Distinguished Faculty Award.
Scott begins her tenure at an unprecedented time for higher education, as it comes to terms with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. She approaches it in a very pragmatic way.
“The pandemic is just a reminder, on a macro level, of what we as lawyers do on a micro level—we help our clients manage a crisis, and adapt to unanticipated change,” says Scott. “This current global challenge, while extraordinary, is a good reminder that people will be seeking us out in times of crisis and in times of need, and we have to do our best to respond with all the resources that we have available to us. Students are learning that early on, that we have a crisis and we have to marshal our resources, adapt, and not be dissuaded from accomplishing our mission.”
As California Western nears its centenary, Jeff Lewin, Chair of the law school’s Board of Trustees, says Scott brings a new and bold leadership style to California Western. “As only the second woman of color to be named President and Dean of an American law school, her fresh perspective, along with her wealth of experience in every facet of legal education—in the classroom, as an administrator, as an academic industry leader—will serve the law school well, particularly in the challenging times we find ourselves in today,” states Lewin.
Scott currently serves on the Board of Governors of the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) and is a past member of the Board of Directors of the California Women’s Law Center (WLC). Before joining academia, Scott was an associate in the Los Angeles office of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP. She earned her Juris Doctor from New York University School of Law.
Longer term, beyond COVID-19, Scott wants the law school to develop academic programming that takes advantage of San Diego as a location and the market opportunities that the area presents for students in terms of educational programming, externships, and ultimately job placement.
“In everything we do,” reiterates Scott, “the first question has to always be, how does this help our students, how does this enhance the experience of our students, holistically, not just academically.”
Despite the current conditions, California Western’s new President and Dean remains hugely upbeat and optimistic about the future with a positive message for the entire Cal Western community.
“It seems to be part of human nature to crave certainty, and these days the only certain thing about certainty is that there isn’t any,” says Scott. “So, what do we do in its absence? We remind ourselves and those around us that we can adapt, that we are resilient, that we are creative and resourceful.”
“This is my reminder to all of you,” adds Scott, “that collectively, the Cal Western community is all of these things and that together we will find a way for us to thrive despite this time of great uncertainty. I look forward to serving you as President and Dean.”