The Pepperdine School of Law has announced a pacesetting gift by benefactors Carrol and R. Rex Parris to formally endow the Parris Institute for Professional Formation. The Parris Institute, established in 2014 with an initial gift of $1 million, is dedicated to the professional development of first-year law students at Pepperdine Law. An additional $2 million presented in 2019 names the Parris Institute in perpetuity and firmly establishes the Parris family legacy at Pepperdine Law.
A national model for professional leadership training, the Parris Institute is committed to enhancing the core internal character competencies that have marked the great contributions of lawyers throughout human history.
“We are humbled by the continued generosity of Rex and Carrol Parris in funding the critical work of the Parris Institute for Professional Formation, which continues to provide one of the finest law school programs in ethical leadership training for our students," said Paul L. Caron, Duane and Kelly Roberts Dean of the School of Law.
Led by institute director Danny DeWalt, the institute provides all first-year students with training in character and professional development, assistance with planning their law school experience, and exposure to different legal professionals as mentors across practice areas including judges, notable alumni, and entrepreneurs. With the latest gift from the Parris family, the program will expand to serve second- and third-year students as well.
“Our family is proud to announce that we are expanding the reach and impact of the Parris Institute," said R. Rex Parris. “The commitment to fostering the human and professional skills that take a lawyer from great to distinguished is what sets Pepperdine Law apart.”
The institute’s programming is designed to foster the character development, leadership, and professionalism integral to students’ success as members of the legal profession. The four cornerstone areas of the institute are Launch Week, an Introduction to Professional Formation course, the Preceptor Program, and the Parris Awards.
Students kick off their law school experience with Launch Week, a training program focused on legal analysis, academic success, legal ethics, and professional character. In collaboration with the Career Development Office, Introduction to Professional Formation helps students develop their identity as future professionals, learn presentation skills and how to interview, and begin to form their academic and career plans.
“It is an honor to have the opportunity to shape the character of the young men and women who come to Pepperdine Law for a premiere legal education,” said Carrol Parris. “Beyond expanding the skill sets of these students, the Parris Institute perhaps most importantly connects future lawyers with current legal professionals who give them practical advice on how to use those skills.”
All first-year students are automatically enrolled in the Preceptor Program, an initiative that connects students with an attorney or judge in the local area. These preceptors agree to serve as mentors for the students throughout their first semester of law school. Since 2014 the program has grown from 75 preceptors to 210, allowing expansion of the program to upper year students.
The Parris Awards, held at the close of each spring semester, seeks to honor third-year students who exhibit the highest order of the pillars of courage, competence, and civility.
Founders of Parris Law in Lancaster, California, the Parrises and their children are fully immersed in the legal profession. Rex is a successful trial attorney and has served as mayor of Lancaster since 2008. Carrol is the law firm’s administrator.
The Parrises’ contributions to Pepperdine through the years have had a deep impact on the University community. Both Rex and Carrol are members of the Crystal Wave Society, which recognizes donors who have given lifetime gifts of $1 million or more. Their first major gift was to Pepperdine’s International Programs in support of the refurbishment of the Pepperdine campus in London where the Parris Family Office has been dedicated in their honor.
Their daughter, Ashley (’01, JD ’05), and sons, Khail (’12, JD ’15) and Rutger (JD ’16), are Seaver College and School of Law alumni.
We are proud that we have raised over $20 million in new endowment gifts over the past two years (the most in any two-year period in our law school's 50-year history) for several of our centers and institutes: