Organization: Southwestern Law School

Location: Los Angeles, CA

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About Southwestern Law School

Southwestern Law School is an independent, nonprofit, nonsectarian law school approved by the American Bar Association and a member of the Association of American Law Schools. It was founded in 1911 and is located in the Wilshire Center district of Los Angeles.


The mission of Southwestern Law School is to produce highly skilled graduates who are capable of integrating theory and practice to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. Through excellent faculty committed to promoting the highest level of professionalism, Southwestern seeks to create a vibrant, diverse academic community with a student-centered approach to legal education.


Inspired by a sense of social responsibility, Southwestern was founded in 1911 with a mission to provide access to legal education for those historically underrepresented persons who were otherwise excluded from law school. Strong academic and scholarly ambitions also accompanied the founding. Southwestern was the first law school in Southern California to use the Harvard case method of instruction, and it established a scholarly law review long before student-run journals became an academic norm.

Both founding orientations – access and academic innovation – are well-represented throughout Southwestern’s history. Indeed, Southwestern is a law school of firsts. The first graduate of Southwestern in 1915 was a woman. Southwestern graduates include the first female public defender in the nation, Betty Trier Berry; the first African American judge in California, the Hon. Vaino Spencer; the first African American state court appellate justice in the nation, the Hon. Arleigh Woods; the first Latina trial judge in the nation, the Hon. Frances Muñoz; the first Chinese American federal district judge in the continental United States, the Hon. Ronald Lew; the first Native American judge appointed in California, the Hon. Fred Gabourie; and the first and only African American Mayor of Los Angeles, the Hon. Tom Bradley.

Southwestern’s history of firsts extends to the academic program, which embodies an enduring commitment to the principles of creativity, opportunity, responsibility and excellence, noted above. The Law School achieved national recognition in the 1970s with the creation of the first two-year accelerated program (called SCALE) that integrates theory and skills. Following that same innovative spirit, the Law School developed a cutting edge three-track legal writing program (appellate advocacy, trial advocacy, and negotiations) that offers intensive instruction and skills training in legal analysis, writing, and advocacy. Southwestern established a nationally renowned Entertainment Law Institute that includes highly sophisticated entertainment electives and skills offerings. The Law School institutionalized the first ABA-approved part-time day program in the country in 1981 when it formalized the opportunity for students with child-care responsibilities to attend law school on schedules suited to their lifestyle. Together, with the century-old evening program, these alternative scheduling opportunities are fully supported by the full-time faculty who share the responsibility for teaching in all programs offered.

In addition to embracing values of access and innovation, Southwestern has an abiding commitment to the broader community. Although Southwestern’s reach is national, it is deeply rooted in Los Angeles. Throughout its more than century of service, Southwestern has contributed significantly to the experience and talent of the bench and bar by training a diverse group of highly skilled graduates. Southwestern graduates have consistently made up a significant percentage of the local judiciary, including the current presiding judge of Los Angeles County, the largest trial court system in the country. Southwestern is one of the most diverse law schools in the nation and has more historically under-represented students than any other law school in the state. Further, the Law School’s commitment to the city is demonstrated by the maturity of the public interest programs and by the partnerships Southwestern has developed. The landmark facility at the heart of Los Angeles’ legal community attracts distinguished adjunct faculty and offers students extensive externship and public service opportunities. Finally, Southwestern garners tremendous support from its energized local alumni base in the areas of placement and fundraising.


Southwestern’s enrollment includes 970 J.D. students, two-thirds of whom are full-time, and a small number of LL.M. students. There is a strong sense of community among the students who come to Southwestern from virtually every state and a dozen foreign countries, and represent over 250 undergraduate institutions. About two-thirds have prior work experience or have already completed advanced degrees in diverse disciplines from accounting to urban planning. In the most recent entering class, women represent 56 percent, while 52 percent of the class will contribute greater racial diversity to the legal profession. Students report fluency in over 20 foreign languages.

Faculty and Staff

The 57 member full-time faculty is committed to meeting the needs of their students as individuals. They bring to the classroom an average of 7 years of practice and over a decade of teaching experience, and include nationally recognized legal experts in antitrust, criminal justice, entertainment and media, environmental, family, housing and urban development, intellectual property, and international law, among other areas. A pool of over 65 judicial officers and attorneys bring their real-world experience to the classroom as members of the adjunct faculty.

Southwestern’s 20 administrative departments are managed by a collegial group of dedicated senior staff, many of whom have served the Law School for at least twenty years. They are assisted by a capable and creative support staff, committed to providing a positive and responsive educational environment for all students.

Campus Facilities

Southwestern has created a welcoming student-centered oasis within a campus that encompasses nearly two city blocks in the heart of Los Angeles. The $29-million campus expansion completed in 2004 includes the restoration and adaptation of the world-renowned historic Bullocks Wilshire building and provides award-winning facilities featuring state-of-the-art multimedia technology in the classrooms, courtrooms, and clinics; wireless Internet access; spacious dining facilities and student lounges in restored historic areas; large terraces with panoramic city views; tranquil student commons and promenade plazas; and a 10,000-square-foot, spa-quality fitness center. Southwestern’s Taylor Law Library is the second largest law library facility in California. The law school’s on-campus student residence complex with 133 units accommodating 155 students opened in 2013.

Profile: Susan Westerberg Prager; Dean, Chief Executive Officer and Professor of Law

A legal education trailblazer many times over, Susan Westerberg Prager is Southwestern’s 11th Dean and Chief Executive Officer, and the first woman in the history of the law school to serve in the post. She joined Southwestern in Fall 2013 following five years as Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). Dean Prager previously served in several leadership positions in higher education, including Provost of Dartmouth College and 16 years as Dean of UCLA School of Law.

While at UCLA, Dean Prager became the second woman ever elected as President of the AALS, and also served on the governing boards of the Law School Admission Council and the Council of the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.

Dean Prager was a trustee of Stanford University for 14 years, was a Director of Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Company and later Pacific Mutual Holding Company for 35 years, served on the Access Group (non-profit student loan corporation) and the American Council on Legal Education Boards and was a member of the California Commission on Campaign Financing and the California Community Colleges Commission on Innovation. An outspoken advocate for intellectual and racial diversity throughout her career, Dean Prager has counseled community groups and legislators and testified before committees of the California legislature and the U.S. Congress. She has received numerous honors and awards in her illustrious career.

Position Summary

Southwestern Law School seeks the ideal candidate to serve as Chief Operating Officer (COO). The COO serves as a key member of the senior administrative team and oversees all operational activities related to the Law School’s $51 million budget. Reporting to the Dean and Chief Executive Officer, the COO provides leadership and managerial oversight, overseeing law school staff and vendors across the areas of finance, information technology, human resources, student housing, risk management and insurance (including worker’s compensation), facilities, auxiliary and event services (including security, maintenance, the print shop and school bookstore), business operations, fitness center, parking and budget management, including for capital projects. The COO provides the Dean and Board of Trustees with operational and other pertinent information necessary for making key policy and administrative decisions that are fundamental to the Law School. S/he attends all meetings of the Board of Trustees and of the senior administrative leadership team. The Chief Operating Officer will establish, cultivate, and maintains excellent working relationships with staff, faculty, outside consultants, advisors, and colleagues and will earn the respect and confidence of the school’s Trustees.

Key Responsibilities

Responsibilities for this role include oversight of all campus operations, including the following:

  • Finance, Accounting and Financial Aid
  • Information Technology, Administrative Computing and Instructional Technology
  • Human Resources for all non-faculty staff members
  • Budgeting
  • Purchasing and Contracting
  • Facilities Use and Management
  • Property Management
  • Risk Management and Insurance
  • Regulatory Compliance
  • Student Housing
  • Fitness Center
  • Communications Systems
  • Contracted Services, including , Bookstore, Food Services, Mail Room/Print Shop,  Campus Security, and Building Maintenance
  • Safety and Emergency Operations
  • Parking and Transportation programs
  • Additional project coordination as identified and assigned by the Dean

Core Competencies

The ideal candidate will be strategic and results-driven with strong leadership skills and a proven track record of success in similar roles of progressively greater responsibility. S/he will have a robust operations, administrative and finance background, excellent relationship-building capabilities and impeccable oral and written communication skills.  The COO will be relied upon for good business judgment, an analytical mindset, great capacity for flexibility and adaptability to shifting priorities or needs, and sound and influential decision-making abilities.

The ideal candidate will have at least 10 years of management experience in an operations role at an institution or organization of similar size and budget. Finance and operations executives with corporate, nonprofit or higher education experience who are mission-driven and passionate about education will also be considered. S/he will have both operational and administrative experience, and management oversight and/or background in finance, operations, technology, human resources, and/or facilities. S/he will have the business savvy, financial and operational expertise and good judgment to establish the necessary trust and credibility with the Dean, Board of Trustees, faculty, staff, students and external partners. A natural change agent, the COO will have the opportunity to innovate and improve services. S/he will be nimble, strategic and budget-focused, incorporating internal perspectives while informing decisions based on industry best practices.

In addition, ideal candidates will have the following core competencies, personal qualities and qualifications:

Operations and Administration Expertise: The Chief Operating Officer will have had strategic oversight over finance and operations with a measurable track record of success in developing and implementing strategies, policies and processes. This executive will have demonstrated expertise in a range of administrative functions, and have knowledge of industry best practices, standard tools and metrics. The COO will be a self-motivated team player who will partner with the Dean, Board of Trustees, the senior administration, and the community across Southwestern Law School in identifying key needs, opportunities and strategy. S/he will anticipate, understand and respond to the needs of the campus community. The COO will understand and have the ability to provide advice and counsel around the planning and implementation of large capital projects, human resources management and administration, and be flexible in adapting to emerging needs of the Law School as they develop. S/he will serve as the thought leader in these areas for Southwestern Law School’s Board of Trustees and Dean, providing thoughtful, focused insight on various projects and initiatives in a clear, collaborative manner.

Strategic and Entrepreneurial Leadership: In partnership with the Dean, the Chief Operating Officer will have the ability to develop and implement clear, action-oriented, innovative strategies aimed towards elevating the administrative functions of Southwestern Law School, including in the areas of finance, technology, operations and facilities. S/he will inspire quality performance and enhance morale with the leadership capacity to build, nurture and retain a strong team of professionals that is focused on excellence, accountability and efficiency. Critical to success in this role, the COO will be flexible in adjusting as priorities emerge and change; s/he will be a nimble problem-solver, able to balance multiple tasks efficiently and effectively while balancing a complex array of constituent needs. The COO will have a high level of business acumen and judgment, with the ability to make practical, realistic, data driven, and timely decisions. S/he will understand, analyze and interpret complex problems and utilize appropriate approaches to achieve sustainable solutions with the sophistication to be creative in identifying and developing new strategies to ‘get things done.’

Relationship Builder and Collaborator: The Chief Operating Officer will have demonstrated success in developing, managing, cultivating, and leveraging major relationships, partnerships with a proven track record of ‘closing deals.’ The COO will be a collaborative partner with the Dean across all administrative functions, developing strong working and interpersonal relationships across all levels of Southwestern Law School. With strong facilitation and negotiation skills, the COO will possess the ability to communicate effectively with diverse constituencies, including the Board of Trustees, faculty, staff, students, and external stakeholders. A superior communicator, s/he will be a bridge-builder internally and an effective networker who seeks relationships that further Southwestern Law School’s mission. The COO will effectively share information with appropriate direct reports, keeping the Dean and others up-to-date on matters related to the overall administrative priorities or needs. By leading collaboratively from relationships and partnerships, the COO will be able to synthesize divergent views and coalesce all community members around a shared plan.

Passion for the Mission: The Chief Operating Officer will have a passion and commitment for Southwestern Law School’s mission, history and its work. S/he will understand how his or her role contributes to the overall mission, drawing inspiration for the position of COO from the community. The COO will prioritize the experience of Southwestern Law School’s students, faculty, staff and leadership, endeavoring to raise the quality of the academic and personal environment at the Law School. Driven by the mission, s/he will influence the culture and impact of Southwestern Law School through the modeling and adoption of best practices. The COO will be an inspiring and empathic individual of unquestioned integrity, ethics and values, treating others with respect.


Southwestern Law School has engaged Koya Leadership Partners to help in this hire. This search is being led by Michelle Bonoan and Melanie Damm. Please submit a compelling cover letter and resume here or email Michelle and Melanie at the following:

Michelle R.S. Bonoan
Managing Director

Jackie Hanselmann Sergi
Senior Director, Special Projects
Executive Coach and Career Services

Southwestern does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, age, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, medical condition, pregnancy, marital status, veteran/military status, or any other characteristic protected by state or federal law in connection with admission to the school, or in the administration of any of its educational, employment, housing, financial aid, scholarship, or student activity programs. Nondiscrimination has been the policy of Southwestern since its founding. Southwestern’s policy on nondiscrimination is to comply fully with applicable state and federal law. Southwestern Law School strongly encourages applications from people of color, persons with disabilities, women, and the LGBT community.

About Koya Leadership Partners

Koya Leadership Partners is a national retained executive search and human capital-consulting firm that works exclusively with nonprofits and social enterprises. We deliver measurable results, finding exceptionally talented people who truly fit the unique culture of our client organizations and ensuring that organizations have the resources and strategies to support them. For more information about Koya Leadership Partners, visit