Susan Bahkshian Converses in Courtroom

The Professor Who Turns Classmates into Family

Teacher & Leader Susan Smith Bakhshian

After 25 years as an LMU Loyola Law School professor, Susan Smith Bakhshian ‘91 knows the school’s evening law students as well as anyone. They hail from just about every background and career imaginable, she says, from Grammy-winning songwriters to tech startup engineers to non-profit warriors. 

“One of my students was missing class a lot, and I started to worry,” she says. “So I mentioned it to him. He said, ‘Oh no, I'm always listening to your lectures on the plane. It's basketball season, and I’ve got three guys on the Lakers.’ Turns out, he’s a high-profile agent.”  

Her students are diverse, but there’s a common thread: They’re all determined to level up; to make a bigger difference in their lives and in the world. Because of this drive, they fit right into Loyola Law School’s Hybrid JD program – the school’s century-old and perennially top-ranked JD Evening Program rebooted with a schedule requiring a regular on-campus commitment of just one night a week (Monday). LLS prepares a new kind of lawyer for a new kind of world — an elite hybrid of real-world experience with a world-class legal education, ready to take on today's complex challenges with power and purpose. 

Bakhshian was a first-generation college graduate who enrolled at Loyola Law School because of her ambition. Years later, she returned to teach because of love for the community that forged her. 

A family that takes care of its own

Early in her career, when Bakhshian was working as a trial attorney, a letter arrived in the mail. It was from Debbie, one of those close friends from her Loyola Law School days. Debbie was reading a legal newspaper and she noticed an ad that LLS was hiring a legal writing professor. She cut it out of the newspaper and dropped it in the mail. 

Bakhshian got the job, and upon her return, a warm welcome. “I came back to teach after being away from Loyola Law School for years,” she says. “I pulled into the parking lot, and the security agent stopped me. He said, ‘I remember you!’ It was the same experience in the cafeteria. Years later, all the same employees and the same sense of community was still there. We remember our own.” 

“I tell my students all the time: Get to know everyone in the room. These are your colleagues, forever. Someone sitting in this room will be able to help you answer any legal question you will face for the rest of your career,” she says. “I always joke that these are the only lawyers that will ever talk to you for free for the rest of your life.”

“Do you want to live in a better city? A better world? You gotta change it from the inside. Lawyers are problem solvers. That's what we do.”


Susan Bahkshian Lectures at Podium

A dynamic, transformative education  

For many students — including the sports agent watching lectures at 30,000 feet — the Hybrid JD program fits perfectly into their busy lives. "It's perfect because the in-person night on campus will give you that evening community we've always had," Bakhshian says. "And classes on Zoom will save you from the Los Angeles commute, which will be the end of all of us. We've created the perfect way to preserve an ability to get a JD while you're working."

As a prospective student herself, Bakhshian was attracted to Loyola Law School because of the smaller size of its JDEvening Program. But don’t be mistaken, she says, because no matter what you’re passionate about, there’s a course that covers it. “A lot of folks come for one reason, and they end up doing something very different because they discover something here,” she says. “That's the beauty of Loyola Law School. You can go to the small Evening Program at night, but take a look at our full offerings of courses. It's huge. You will discover something you didn't even know existed in law. And it might be your dream niche.” 

Loyola Law School graduates often speak enthusiastically about the community and lifelong friends made here. But equally as important: Professors like Susan Bakhshian changed the way they interact with the world around them. "I'll make you write better. I'll make you think better," Bakhshian says. "Once I teach you, you are going to be a better, more effective communicator in both written and oral form for the rest of your life."

Bakhshian’s students directly benefit from her practical know-how, as a lawyer and as an active leader in the California law community. She currently serves on the Supreme Court of California's Blue-Ribbon Commission on the Future of the Bar as well as the California State Bar's Law School Council. At LLS, she directs the bar exam programs and teaches bar exam classes. 

Bringing her real-world experience advising the bar – and also acting as a pro bono attorney – to both the virtual and in-person classrooms, Bakhshian sees the Hybrid JD as a look into the future of law practice. As she sees it, a hybrid class model will prepare students for the increasingly hybrid legal world they are joining. “The world is changing. Our profession is changing,” she says. “It’s more diverse. it’s dealing with more complex problems. This is the new reality that lawyers are facing and the LLS Hybrid JD is uniquely suited to prepare them for it.” 

Beyond sharing practical advice, Bakhshian sees a greater purpose to her work. “My gig is making better lawyers. I've long thought that's really the way you transform the profession. It's the way you transform society. If you want to live in a better world, if you want to live in a better city, if you want the courts to be more effective, you gotta change it from the inside. At the end of the day, lawyers are problem solvers. That's what we do. We take an issue, we look at it, and we fix it.” 


About LMU Loyola Law School 

Located on an award-winning Frank Gehry-designed campus in downtown Los Angeles just minutes away from Southern California's legal, financial and entertainment epicenters, Loyola Law School is home to prominent faculty, dedicated students and cutting-edge programs. The law school strives to instill in students the knowledge they need to excel on their chosen paths. It dedicates itself to preparing students for the rigors of practice with an extensive portfolio of practical-training opportunities, a 19,000-strong alumni network and a focus on social justice. The LLS JD Evening program is the No. 1 evening JD program in the West for over a decade, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

Merrifield Hall & Burns Building at Loyola Law School

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