Loyola Law School Dean Michael Waterstone launched his Dean’s Centennial Speaker Series in January with the Deans’ Fireside Chat, a forum in which five generations of LLS leaders opined on the opportunities and challenges they confronted during their tenures as Loyola Law School dean.
In the coming months, Dean Waterstone will use the series to explore a variety of topics:
- Impact of COVID-19 on Law & Business. The session will focus on the impact of the coronavirus on the legal system, underserved clients and small businesses with guests Assemblyman Richard Bloom ‘78, Loyola Social Justice Law Clinic Director Elizabeth Bluestein, plaintiffs’ attorney and Board of Directors Chair Brian Kabateck ‘89, entrepreneur Charles Lew ’01 and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf ’93. We’ll continue these through the end of the year with sessions on the Diversity on the Bench, Loyola Law School’s Impact on L.A., Women Trailblazers and more.
- Diversity and the Bench
- Women Trail Blazers
- Loyola Law School’s Impact on Los Angeles
- Next 100 Years of Legal Education
Series Debut: Five Generations of LLS Leaders Gather for Deans’ Fireside Chat
To start off LMU Loyola Law School’s Centennial Year Celebration, Dean Michael Waterstone established an LLS first: He invited four past deans to join him in a conversation spanning the school’s last quarter-century. Past deans featured included the Hon. Frederick J. Lower, an alumnus of both the LMU undergraduate campus and the law school and he was dean for two periods 1973 through 1979 and 1990 through 199; David Burcham, alumnus, LLS dean from 2000 to 2008; then an executive vice president and then the president from 2010 to 2015. Victor Gold served as dean from 2008-2015. Serving most recently prior to Waterstone, Paul Hayden was dean from 2015 to 2016 – “a year but a very important year,” as Waterstone noted.
Q: Why did you want to become a dean?
Lower: Because somebody needed to do something. We had 1,300 students in the building next door that was built for 550. There was a great surge between 1960 or1968. People decided they wanted to be lawyers because there was a lot of interest in social justice and equality. Women were becoming very interested in law school. I put my name in.
Burcham: It is a service, and these three (gesturing to Deans Gold, Hayden and Lower) have heard me say that any times. You don’t do it for stock options, you don’t do it for a salary and you sure don’t do it for fame. I say that you are on a good day you’re the first among equals with your faculty.
Gold: David walked into my office and said, “The president of the university has asked me to become provost,” and he wanted me to be the dean. During the course of the next few months, it was apparent that we were in a terrible global recession. I thought, “I can do this; it will be a good thing for the school. So let’s see what the faculty and president want.”
Hayden: I was Victor’s associate dean. He has mentioned the crisis situation that we were in for years. Victor was the leader, and I was there for key meetings for two years and I think not putting words in Victor’s mouth.
Waterstone: Paul and I were associate deans together, so we kind of have that experience helping in that capacity working on the same team and that really was a true delight for me to work with Paul in that capacity. Institutionally it can’t be stressed enough we all been benefited from the relationships that Paul built during his year. I was so much the beneficiary of the relationships that Paul established. It made it much easier for me to come in and pick up where he left off but that really was a service that he claimed for the entire community.
Victor was the one who asked me to be an associate dean. I’ll always be grateful fro Victor for doing that and having faith in me. I also have the real honor sitting in the office next to Victor for a lot of years and a lot of them were hard years. I saw someone serve without ego and I saw someone wake up every morning and try to make the school better and judged himself every night by how he did that day. That was incredibly inspirational, so I’ve learned a lot of that as a person.
David is the one who helped guide that decision on the other end and believed in the law school and really was there in a critical moment in life at the law school. And we all owe Fred for the space we are in.
I like being in service and I like being pushed out of my comfort zone. I like experiencing new things. This job gives you all of that and more. But to get to do it in service of an institution you truly love is a great pleasure.
Q: Service is clearly a theme here in terms on why you wanted to become dean, and you mentioned the amount of challenges you faced. I want to bring us to a positive place. Can you talk about one of your meaningful interactions or something you had to do that made you feel good?
Gold: I was a professor here for 24 years before I became a dean; I thought I knew the law school. Certainly I knew me colleagues, my students and the staff. When I became the dean is when I really learned what Loyola Law School was. I got to work with the entire staff, and I got to work with and know the alumni. The alumni, in addition to supporting the school, I’ve learned what these kids who walk in these buildings do when they leave us, and it is amazing stuff.
Burcham: It’s a meaningful interaction with a student, but I didn’t know it was meaningful as it turned out to be. As professors, we don’t know frequently the impact we have on our students. It is very rare to hear much from them 10-20 years after they are gone. But there was one were a first-year student had plagiarized part of a writing assignment. He appealed his year suspension to me, and it was an unpleasant meeting. This would’ve been in the year 2001 or 2002. A year or two ago, I got a single-spaced essay saying how that was the most meaningful event that had happened in his law school career. We have no idea what effect our words and actions have on our students and staff and faulty.
Waterstone: You get to see some beautiful moments that other people don’t get to see. The staff member who will cover for somebody else because they are going through something, faculty member who volunteers to do extra when somebody is sick, the way the students have each other’s backs. And you get to see these amazing things. Just to answer the question: For me, it was a client of one of the clinics. I was in my office, and the folks of the Project for the Innocent came in. I got to meet Mr. Andrew Wilson, who had been in prison for 32 years for a crime that he didn’t commit. He was the happiest, upbeat human being that I’ve ever met in my life. This team of student lawyers students surrounded him. That was a good day, and that will stick with me for the rest of my life.
Q: Finish this sentence – “I wish Loyola ____________.” What is it that you wish to see from Loyola Law School?
Hayden: I would like to see Loyola continue to strengthen its public service. That is where we distinguish ourselves. Tthat is where we will continue to distinguish ourselves. That is who we are and that is who we should always be.
Burcham: I would like Loyola to really emphasize and to capitalize on a positive environment with committed and gifted teachers and motivated students who have a love for learning for the purpose of helping others solve problems. And that is what lawyers do: problem solve.
Gold: Well I think we are all pretty much in an agreement but I would want Loyola to be true to itself. That means public service, and it means training people well.
Waterstone: I think whatever the future brings, our place in that future include keeping our core and our values: social justice, teaching, empathy. And the world as I see it needs more of those things not less of those things.