“What attracts me to teaching is the interaction with students, and that I get to challenge them, and they, in turn, get to challenge me. So this iterative process where we both end up growing is just the best.”
California Western’s new President and Dean Sean M. Scott has been involved in legal education for more than 30 years, and her statement above reveals her passion for teaching and interacting with students is as strong today as it was when she began her teaching career.
After receiving her J.D. from New York University School of Law, Scott joined the corporate law firm of Weinberg and Green in Baltimore.
“I decided to practice corporate law because of the dearth of both women and people of color, and certainly women of color, practicing corporate law,” says Scott. “It was important for me to push through that boundary and resist the limitations imposed on my professional choices due to my race and gender.”
Two years later, Scott joined Los Angeles-based corporate law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. She found the work intellectually interesting and satisfying, enjoying the collaborative nature of corporate work, and she appreciated and valued the mentorship that she received during this time.
Much as she enjoyed the work, Scott found that practice did not give her the time to engage intellectually in a way that she discovered she wanted to.
“Going into the legal academy gave me the luxury of time to think deeply about things that I thought were intriguing and interesting,” says Scott. “And that’s what appealed to me about teaching law students. I treasure the perspective that students bring to cases and to the law more broadly, and value the ability to further develop their critical and analytical skills. I encourage students to consider the social, political, and economic context within which laws and judicial decisions are made, and to consider whether those laws and decisions continue to make sense in the current milieu.”
Scott joined Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. There she enjoyed a long and distinguished career on the faculty, serving for a year as the Associate Director of the Association of American Law Schools and serving as the Associate Dean for Faculty from 2008 to 2013. She was also the inaugural Faculty Director of the Master of Legal Studies program.
Popular with the students, Scott was awarded the Excellence in Teaching award in 2006, and in 1998 was awarded the Distinguished Faculty Award by the Loyola Law School Black Law Students Association (BLSA).
Scott’s scholarship centers on the subjects of legal education and race, gender, and the law and what she refers to as “invisible communities.”
Scott’s most recent published scholarship, Contractual Incapacity and the Americans with Disabilities Act focuses on one of those invisible communities: people with disabilities.
“Engaging in scholarship has enabled me to hold up a mirror to society; in doing so writing has provided me with the opportunity to make visible the invisible,” says Scott. “Scholarship is a tool by which we can question the way in which law functions as a social institution, one that can both create oppression and eliminate it.”
Currently, her research is focused on the issues of diversity in faculty hiring in law schools. “I am researching how this has evolved over the past 10 years, and what are the trends that we are ignoring. Again, it's making visible the invisible,” adds Scott.
Outside of academia, Scott has a passion for travel as well as being a foodie, with a particular penchant for Italian cuisine. Growing up in a military family, Scott moved around a bit and subsequently introduced her two daughters to the joy and education of travel.
“I believe one of the biggest gifts you can give your children is that of travel,” says Scott. “When my daughters were younger, they are now 29 and 26 and college graduates, we traveled from Egypt to Turkey to London to Paris, to Rome, and Venice and beyond,” continues Scott. “They have grown into young women who appreciate that people live their lives in ways that differ drastically from one another, and yet we remain bound by our common humanity. They also discovered (as did I) the joy of having multiple servings of gelato each day. There is and will always be something new to discover.”
As Scott begins her new role, she feels that California Western has positioned itself to be really innovative in its programming, and believes the timing of her appointment is mutually beneficial.
“Cal Western recognizes that it needs to be way more entrepreneurial in a sustainable way; it is a good fit for me as I welcome innovation, love programmatic change, and I am not afraid to take what I would call calculated risks,” says Scott. “Everything that I have learned about California Western demonstrates that it is ready for that kind of innovation and risk taking.”
In her own words, Sean Scott became interested in pursuing a career in law because, “knowledge is power.”
“Not only have I used that “knowledge” to manage my own personal life, but I look forward to using that to manage and enhance the education of all my California Western students.”