Southwestern Law School Los Angeles, CA

The SCALE Program: Journeys with a Cohort

Professor Rolnick speaks to students
Professor Rolnick speaking to students

The recent open house for prospective SCALE students was held in the elegant French-inspired Directoire Room of Southwestern's historic Bullocks Wilshire Building.

The particular room had once been a fashionable salon, sporting original wall murals providing virtual views from the middle of a Mediterranean island, surrounded by water with lots of traffic, as fisher-folk and beach-goers arrive and depart in each other's company.

It's an apt metaphor, as the gathering served to remind students that diving into the SCALE program - the longest-running two-year J.D. curriculum in the country - requires not only their own pluck and initiative, but a strong group of traveling companions to take the journey with them.

Indeed, the program is structured specifically for such a cohort, a "unique and cohesive group," in the words of SCALE program director Professor Harriet Rolnick.

This was further emphasized by current SCALE students, who spoke to the group not only about balancing time, interests and "externships" in real world work situations, but about the support they derive from each other, both from a first, and second-year perspective.

SCALE students and professor
SCALE Students Christy Lester, Mackenzie Brown and Orly Ravid with Professor Ronald Aronovsky

Second-year student Orly Ravid mentioned not only the four to six hours of daily study, but the fact that "the bonds are terrific" between everyone in her particular class. One of the many benefits she cited were the truly "useful study groups" that make those long hours of school work both easier and more fruitful.

"We also have parties at each other's houses," she added, while fellow second-year student Mackenzie Brown added the group had "such a strong telephone tree" - which may now actually mean "text tree" - that everyone felt everyone else was available for ready support.

That support continues after SCALE, as each student can be assured of graduating not only with a degree, but a ready-made network.

Second-year student Christy Lester finds her own relief from the reading, deadlines, pro bono work and more, in helping run the school's mountaineering club, and writing a humor column for Southwestern's online student newsblog, the Law Commentator.

In both instances, she is surrounded by the support of her peers: Literally, as SCALE mountaineers take time to decompress and hike some of Southern California's many accessible, spectacular trails and virtually, as she talks of seeing her blog postings - one recent entry humorously stressed the hazards of dating at law school - passed along, retweeted and discussed by her classmates.

"Life feels manageable," Ravid says of what at first appears to be an incredibly hectic pace toward the two-year law degree. And it's made more manageable by each year's cohort, who are all taking the same journey: Initially toward their Southwestern degree, and then - just like the departing island-dwellers in the mural - out into the larger world together.