California Western School of Law

An attorney in private practice in Orlando, Florida, Kristin Swanson-Mace primarily defends employers and insurance companies in workers’ compensation cases. Kristin Swanson-Mace earned her bachelor’s degree from Providence College, and her juris doctor from the California Western School of Law in San Diego.

Established in 1924, the California Western School of Law began training lawyers as the Balboa Law College in San Diego, California. It was chartered by Leland Ghent Stanford, who was no relation to the Leland Stanford who founded Stanford University. The school expanded to include undergraduate and graduate programs in other disciplines, and became Balboa University. Ironically, the law school closed in 1946, but reopened in 1952 in Point Loma after Balboa University established an affiliation with the Southern California Methodist Conference and became California Western University.

In 1975, two years after it relocated to its current campus in downtown San Diego, California Western Law School became an independent secular law school, ending its affiliation with the university. It currently serves about 780 students in a variety of programs, including the traditional juris doctor, master of laws programs in English and in Spanish, an LLM and master of comparative law for foreign lawyers, and several joint degrees, such as a JD/MBA, offered in partnership with area universities.

In addition to its academic offerings, California Western is well known for its advocacy in using the law to solve human and social problems. In 1999, it opened the California Innocence Project, dedicated to identifying wrongly convicted individuals and securing their release from prison. The project annually reviews more than 2,000 claims of innocence and manages to get many innocent people released from prison.

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Kristin Swanson-Mace: CWSL Attorneys Honored for Innocence Project

A graduate of California Western School of Law (CWSL), Kristin Swanson-Mace is now a practicing lawyer. She is the President of the Law Offices of Kristin Swanson-Mace in Orlando, Florida, and enjoys keeping up with news from her alma mater.

CWSL Professors Justin P. Brooks and Jan Stiglitz and alumni attorneys Michael A. Semanchick and Alissa L. Bjerkhoel were recently honored as the Attorneys of the Year by California Lawyer, the state’s top legal magazine. The four were recognized for their outstanding service on the California Innocence Project (CIP) to exonerate Brian Banks, a former California high school football star who had served over five years in prison after being wrongfully convicted on a number of serious charges. 

Stiglitz, who serves as the director of the CIP, led the efforts to uncover new evidence and conduct more thorough investigatory work in Banks’s case. The CIP began in 1999 as a clinical program for CWSL students, and it exists to release wrongfully convicted California inmates. Since its foundation, the CIP has achieved the exoneration of nine wrongfully convicted individuals.

Female Lawyers in Florida

Finding a good female lawyer in Florida is not difficult nowadays.

Take the case of Kristin Swanson-Mace, an Orlando-based attorney. A graduate of the California Western School of Law, Swanson-Mace has over 25 years of experience. Testament of her abilities lies in the fact that Orlando Home & Leisure’s June, 2011, issue listed Kristin Swanson-Mace as one of Orlando’s top women lawyers.

However, women lawyers, such as Swanson-Mace, constituted a rarity in the early 1900s.

It took talented, hardworking women to break the mold and advance in a largely male-dominated profession. Louise Rebecca Pinnell, a 60-year-old veteran of the legal profession, pioneered the way in 1898. Pinnell waited five months before a Supreme Court ruling made it possible for her to work as a lawyer. Soon after, Mary Stewart Howarth-Hewitt became the first female graduate from a law school in Florida. An accomplished multitasker and entrepreneur, Howarth-Hewitt started an assortment of businesses, including a daycare center and a bank, in addition to raising three daughters.

Women who thought differently, such as Pinnell and Howarth-Hewitt, laid the groundwork for today’s female lawyers to enjoy acceptance and success in Florida.