Organization: Southwestern Law School

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Express Interest

­­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 woman to become a judge in California, the Hon. Vaino Spencer; the first African American woman 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 Tom Bradley, who attended Southwestern’s evening program while working as a police officer in the LAPD. In fact, Soutwestern grads continuously occupied the L.A.’s Mayor’s office, beginning with reform mayor Fletcher Bowron and ending in 1993 with Tom Bradley’s unprecedented 20 year service.

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 J.D.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 one of the very recent presiding judges 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 regularly 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, near the heart of Los Angeles’ legal community attracts distinguished adjunct faculty and offers students extensive externship and public service opportunities.

Position Summary:

Southwestern Law School seeks an experienced, “hands-on” financial leader to serve as Chief Financial Officer (CFO). The CFO will serve as a key member of the senior administrative team and oversee all financial activities related to the Law School’s $51M operating budget and $20M endowment. Reporting to the Chief Operating Officer (COO), the CFO oversees an experienced Controller along with an accounting team of four. The CFO will interface and present regularly to school leadership and the Board of Trustees.  As the key financial leader advising the Dean, COO and Board of Trustees, the CFO will provide critical insight and analysis to support strategic planning, goal-setting, and key policy and administrative decision-making.

This leader will have the opportunity to analyze, assess and provide recommendations and solutions for resource allocation, budgeting, and best practices across the financial function. Among the key priorities for the Law School are: assessing and restructuring the school’s financial and accounting systems to create a best-in-class internal structure that serves Southwestern; overseeing the institution’s annual budgeting and compliance processes; working closely with the COO and Enrollment Management to project revenue and evaluate tuition; and monitoring and advising on investments and new initiatives.

Key Responsibilities

Responsibilities for this role include oversight and administration of all financial operations on campus, including hands-on and detailed assessment, development and integration of systems, and thorough accounting and financial reporting.

The CFO will play an active role in the day-to-day management and strategic guidance of the following key areas:

  • Overall Finance and Accounting
  • Budgeting and Financial Projections
  • Financial Reporting and Regulatory Compliance
  • Monitoring of Investments
  • Additional project coordination as identified and assigned by the Chief Operating Officer and Dean

Core Competencies:

The ideal candidate will be strategic and results-driven, with strong leadership skills and a proven record of success in positions of progressively greater responsibility. This leader will have a robust background in financial compliance, analysis and forecasting; strong relationship-building capabilities; impeccable verbal and written communication skills; and an entrepreneurial approach to seeking and analyzing financial opportunities for Southwestern. The CFO will be relied upon for good business sense, clear and transparent analysis and evaluation abilities, flexibility and adaptability to shifting priorities or needs, sound and influential decision-making abilities, as well as a high level of integrity.

Candidates drawn to the opportunity to support the mission of Southwestern Law School may come from the nonprofit, higher education or private sectors, with at least 10 years of management experience in a similar or related finance and administration role. The CFO will have the business savvy, applicable financial and administrative expertise, and sound judgment needed to establish trust and credibility with the Dean and senior administrators, Board of Trustees, faculty, staff, students and external partners. A natural change agent, the CFO will have the opportunity to direct, innovate and improve systems in a proactive and hands-on way. The CFO will be a nimble and strategic doer, and will bring thoughtful, well-reasoned perspectives based on industry best practices. It is preferred that candidates are licensed CPA’s; an MBA or other advanced financial or business training is highly desirable.

Ideal candidates will have the following core competencies, personal qualities and qualifications:

Finance and Administration Expertise: The Chief Financial Officer will have had strategic oversight for finance with a measurable record of practical success in developing and implementing effective and streamlined strategies, policies and processes. This executive will have knowledge of industry best practices, technology, standard tools and metrics. This leader will anticipate, understand and respond to the needs of the campus community, and will understand and provide key financial advice and counsel around strategic and tactical decision-making, along with administering day-to-day financial functions at a high level. The CFO will serve as a thought partner to Southwestern’s Board of Trustees, Dean and COO, providing reasoned, metrics-based, focused insight on overall organizational strategy as well as various initiatives in a clear, collaborative manner.

Strategic and Entrepreneurial Leadership: In partnership with the Dean and COO, the Chief Financial Officer will have the ability to develop and implement clear, action-oriented, innovative strategies aimed towards elevating the overall financial functions of Southwestern Law School. The CFO will be a self-motivated team player who will partner with the senior administration, Board of Trustees and across the Southwestern community in identifying key needs, opportunities and strategy.

Critical to success in this role, the CFO will be flexible in adjusting as priorities emerge and change, and a nimble problem-solver who is able to balance a complex array of constituent needs efficiently and effectively. The CFO will have a high level of business acumen and judgment, with the ability to make practical, realistic, data-driven, and timely decisions, diagnosing and problem-solving complex problems in a sophisticated and transparent manner. A high-level change manager, the CFO will be entrepreneurial and collaborative in analyzing and planning for large-scale change, including with the Law School’s financial systems and tools, reporting, and technology systems, working closely with the COO to implement effective solutions.

Relationship Builder and Collaborator: The Chief Financial Officer will have demonstrated success in developing, managing, cultivating, and leveraging major relationships and partnerships with a proven record of ‘closing deals.’ The CFO will establish, cultivate, and maintain excellent working relationships with staff, faculty, outside consultants, advisors, and colleagues and will earn the respect and confidence of Trustees. Able to synthesize divergent views and coalesce all community members around a shared plan, the CFO will be a collaborative partner with the Dean and COO across all administrative functions.

With strong facilitation and negotiation skills, the CFO will communicate clearly and effectively with diverse constituencies, skilled with adjusting presentation and language to various audiences. The CFO will be a bridge-builder and collaborator internally, who will share information with appropriate direct reports. The CFO will inspire quality performance and enhance morale, and provide the leadership in building, nurturing and retaining a strong team of professionals that is focused on excellence, accountability and efficiency.

Passion for the Mission: The Chief Financial Officer will have a passion and commitment for Southwestern Law School’s mission, history and its work, and will understand and appreciate how his or her role contributes to the overall mission. The CFO 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 CFO will be an inspiring and empathic individual of unquestioned integrity, ethics and values, who treats 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 Sheila Hennessey. Please submit a compelling cover letter and resume here or email Michelle and Sheila at the following:

Michelle R.S. Bonoan
Managing Director

Sheila Hennessey

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 mission-driven organizations, institutions of higher education 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, visit