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Smith preparing to leave Cal Western in great shape

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Steven Smith

Steven Smith is set to retire as dean of California Western School of Law in August, but he's had precious little time to reflect on his 16-year tenure at the helm.

He's been busy making sure California Western is in great shape for the next administrator.

"The law school does great work and has terrific students," he said. "The last 15 years have been wonderful, but I'm never quite satisfied."

One of his goals is preparing students for both the short term – their first 40 weeks after graduation – and the long term – their next 40 years. He said it involves a balance between teaching the practical and the theoretical.

"When you leave law school, unlike medical school, you don't have four or five years of residency training," Smith said, "so we have to help grads be ready to go into a variety of practice areas."

The first key is getting students to really think about what type of career they want and what it will take to achieve it. Smith said it's not only important to prepare students to take the bar exam but also to help them become problem solvers.

To accomplish this, California Western recently made its highly successful STEPPS (Skills Training for Ethical and Preventative Practice and career Satisfaction) program a mandatory requirement for all second-year law students.

"It's a great advantage for our students in the long run because it gives them practical skills in the short run and a longer sense of professionalism and professional responsibility," Smith said.

The school continues to emphasize the importance of pro bono work and honing interdisciplinary skills.

Additionally, the school is part of a thriving partnership with several other law schools called the Consortium for Innovative Legal Education (CILE). The consortium is holding a constitutional law class in Malta this summer that will be taught by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

Smith said California Western will look at adding some courses for non-lawyers or advanced programs for lawyers.

Upon his retirement from teaching, Smith will take a sabbatical to write a book before returning to California Western to teach.

"I went into this (profession) because I love to teach and I love to write," he said. "So there's this sense of getting back to why I went into it in the first place."

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