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Saturday, Feb 24, 2024

Raising the Legal Bar On Manners

What can you buy with $2 million? Professionalism. At least, that’s the latest project of R. Rex Parris. The high-profile Lancaster mayor and owner of R. Rex Parris Law Firm has donated $2 million to Pepperdine University Law School for the Parris Professionalism Institute, which will hold a one-week program in the first semester, events during the academic year and an awards ceremony. Dean of Students Al Sturgeon, who will direct the institute, said the idea came from a 2007 Carnegie Foundation report on the importance of “defining values” in legal education. The program will teach skills that include a willingness to work hard, ethical decision-making, how to civilly discuss and resolve differences, public service and pro bono work, and engagement in public policy. It also encompasses life-work balance and professional communications, including resumes and job interviews. Sturgeon said law schools are re-thinking their purpose. “They need to be in the business of forming professionals – not just teaching in the classroom and administering essay and multiple-choice questions,” he said. “The training should produce an ethical, professional identity.” Pepperdine will combine the institute’s teachings with an existing mentor program that connects law students with a practicing attorney or judge. Parris has two sons enrolled in Pepperdine Law School and a daughter who is a practicing attorney. He recognized the need for a professionalism class when he realized the way he treated his own children. “I can be incredibly aggressive,” he said. But the story of his funding the program proves the value of the soft touch. He and his wife, Carrol, met with Deanell Reece Tacha, dean at Pepperdine. The couple pledged the money simply because Tacha asked for it. “When my wife and I walked out, we looked at each other and I said, ‘Did we just give away $2 million?’” Parris recalled. – Joel Russell

Joel Russel
Joel Russel
Joel Russell joined the Los Angeles Business Journal in 2006 as a reporter. He transferred to sister publication San Fernando Valley Business Journal in 2012 as managing editor. Since he assumed the position of editor in 2015, the Business Journal has been recognized four times as the best small-circulation tabloid business publication in the country by the Alliance of Area Business Publishers. Previously, he worked as senior editor at Hispanic Business magazine and editor of Business Mexico.

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