TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Sunday, March 4, 2018

45th Annual Pepperdine Law School Dinner: Our Place In The World


I was honored to speak last night at the 45th Annual Pepperdine School of Law Dinner at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills.  The theme of the dinner was Our Place in the World, which is particularly appropriate this year in light of the $8 million gift we received in September to support our global justice program (the largest single endowment gift in the law school's history).

In my remarks, I of course wove Hamilton clips into the tapestry of Pepperdine Law School's story:

  • Non-stop, to highlight Alexander Hamilton's scholarly work writing 51 of the 85 Federalist Papers to showcase our upcoming symposium on Federalism: Past Present, and Future as an example of the extraordinary scholarly work produced by our faculty.
  • My Shot, to show that Pepperdine is a "young, scrappy, and hungry" law school that has made enormous strides since our founding in 1970.
  • The Room Where It Happens, to describe the core of the Pepperdine student experience as what happens in the classroom, especially in the 1L year, as attested by our #6 ranking in best law professor-teachers by the Princeton Review from a nationwide survey of 20,000 law students (behind Virginia, Duke, Boston University, Stanford, and Chicago, and above Washington & Lee, Notre Dame, and Boston College).
  • I could not find an appropriate lyric in Hamilton, so I used photos and maps to illustrate how our 2Ls and 3Ls take what they are learning in the classroom and apply that knowledge in the real world helping real clients, as attested by our #5 ranking in practical training by the National Jurist (behind Northeastern, St. Thomas, Yale, and Arizona, and above UC-Irvine) and our #1 ranking (for 12 of the past 13 years) in alternative dispute resolution by U.S. News & World Report (above Ohio State, Harvard, and Missouri).
  • Right Hand Man, to share some very personal feelings about becoming dean ("Can I be real a second? Let my guard down and tell the people how I feel a second?").

I concluded by using Alexander Hamilton's words in The World Was Wide Enough and George Washington's words in Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story to reflect on U.S. District Court Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell ('90), who died on October 8 at the age of 52:

What is a legacy?
It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see

Let me tell you what I wish I’d known
When I was young and dreamed of glory
You have no control:
Who lives
Who dies
Who tells your story?

Here were my closing reflections on those verses:

Part of Judge O’Connell’s legacy, and the legacies of students, alumni, staff, faculty, and friends here tonight, are intertwined with the story of Pepperdine Law School.

The country and the world have never needed Pepperdine-trained lawyers, counselors, and peacemakers more.

We need your help to bring the very best students to our law school, provide them with a transformative legal education, and send them out into a hurting country and world to do their part to bring about peace, justice, and reconciliation.

So what is our place in the world?

My answer is everywhere.

The world will be a better place when we have more Pepperdine-trained lawyers in every corner of the globe.


There was great karma last night, as Lin-Manuel Miranda was staying at the same hotel before his appearance at tonight's Oscars.  A member of the law school staff saw Lin in the lobby and invited him to stop by the dinner and meet Pepperdine's Hamilton-obsessed dean.  I took up the cause on social media:


Some Tax Prof friends tried to help:


Unfortunately, Lin apparently had better things to do last night than join 650 Pepperdine alumni, students, staff, faculty, administrators, and friends at our dinner.

The highlight of the evening was the keynote address by Gary Haugen, CEO of International Justice Mission.  Before founding IJM in 1997, Gary was a human rights lawyer for the U.S. Department of Justice. In addition to his work across the globe on human rights issues, Gary is an author of several books and a visiting professor at Pepperdine.  He tore the roof off the Belverly Wilshire with his remarks.  You can get a flavor of the power of his words in his 2015 TED Talk:


Gary closed his dinner remarks with International Justice Missions's breathtaking remix of Peter Gabriel's wonderful The Book of Love:

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