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Alumni take on community, professional leadership

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At California Western School of Law, the emphasis is on teaching students to use all the tools of creative problem solving to achieve the best possible outcome in clients’ legal matters. For a number of graduates, the skills learned at California Western have boosted them to leadership positions within legal, business and political communities.

“The complexity of today’s world requires that lawyers-to-be understand not only legal theory and practice, but also the broader social context of legal issues so that they can explore a wide range of solutions,” said Jeffrey D. Lewin, a California Western alumnus and trustee. “California Western students who graduate with this outlook have a springboard to leadership positions in both the legal profession and also the broader community.”

A few examples of California Western alumni leaders include:

• More than 100 alumni are judges, including numerous San Diego Superior and Municipal Court judges. Appellate level justices include Justice Judith Haller of the California 4th District Court of Appeal in San Diego and Thomas Brady, a justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.

• Nine of 17 positions on the San Diego County Bar Association’s current board of directors are held by California Western alumni, including President Wells Lyman. It is the second time in three years a California Western alumnus has served as president of the county bar. Christopher Todd led the association in 2003, the same year James Hermann served as president of the State Bar of California board of governors and Patrick Flanagan headed up the Nevada state bar association.

• Donna D. Melby was elected recently as the first woman president of the American Board of Trial Advocates, a national association of more than 6,000 experienced lawyers and judges. She is a partner with the national firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal and practices out of the firm’s Los Angeles office.

• Sandra Morris recently completed her term as president of the American Matrimonial Lawyers, an organization of the nation’s top 1,600 divorce and family law attorneys. She was the second California and first San Diego attorney to hold the position in the organization’s 43-year history.

• San Diego City Councilman Brian Maienschein has represented the 5th District since 2000.

“The education I received at California Western has served me well throughout my time as a City Council member,” Maienschein said. “My experience there prepared me to be a more creative thinker and to take a broader view of issues to evaluate all possible solutions. Those tools are necessary to make informed decisions and strengthened my ability to provide leadership to the people that I serve.”

Mark Mandell, chief executive officer of the San Diego development firm SquareOne, said his business leadership philosophy began to emerge while a student at California Western.

“The most special thing about my experience at California Western was the deep concern for each other shown by the entire school community (students, faculty and administrative staff) and their real desire to promote each other’s success,” said Mandell, who serves as a school trustee. “From my observations, that sort of collegial environment is not a common phenomenon in other law schools. I have carried that philosophy into my experience as a CEO. It is important for us to create the conditions where each of our employees has an opportunity to succeed and grow, both in their business skills and as people. Much of that philosophy came out of my experience at California Western.”

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