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.


A Brief Overview of Workers’ Compensation

After graduating cum laude from Providence College with a BA in political science, Kristin Swanson-Mace earned her juris doctor from the California Western School of Law, where she received awards in trusts and estates, and in civil procedure. Kristin Swanson-Mace today is a sole practitioner in Orlando, Florida, where her practice concentrates on defending employers and insurance companies in workers’ compensation cases.

At the outset of the Industrial Revolution, workers had to file civil lawsuits for compensation for on-the-job injuries, but employers had strong legal defenses. If it was determined that the worker or a co-worker was even slightly at fault, the employer bore no liability; likewise, workers were assumed to know and accept the risks inherent in any particular job, again relieving the employer from liability in all but the most egregious of cases. Nevertheless, these lawsuits gradually became more successful, and defending them became more costly and troublesome to manufacturing interests.

Prussia’s Chancellor Otto von Bismarck proposed the first set of formal workers’ compensation laws in 1871 and 1875, and other Western nations gradually adopted similar legislation, although they generally met with fierce opposition from manufacturing interests. Great Britain’s WC law, for example, was enacted in 1897 only after four years of vigorous struggle.

In the United States, the Employer Liability Acts of 1906 and 1908 weakened employers’ defenses, but the conventional wisdom in Congress was that except for workers engaged in interstate commerce, WC was an issue best left to the states. The first comprehensive state legislation didn’t appear until 1911, when Wisconsin and nine other states passed WC laws. Most states enacted their laws by 1920; the last state to do so was Mississippi, in 1948.

Claims in most states are handled by special WC boards established for that purpose, whose decisions can be appealed to the courts. They have evolved from defining compensable injuries as sudden industrial accidents to much broader language; Kentucky, for example, defines an injury as “any work-related harmful change in the human condition.” The system provides both for wage replacement and for employer payment of injured workers’ treatment and rehabilitation costs.

Kristin Swanson-Mace: Short- and Long-Term Effects of Ecstasy

Kristin Swanson-Mace is the president of the Law Offices of Kristin Swanson-Mace in Orlando, Florida, where she focuses on cases involving workers’ compensation. She is also committed to educating youth about the dangers of doing drugs, especially ecstasy.

Ecstasy is a stimulant and synthetic drug that comes in tablet form and is often branded with familiar logos. Like all drugs, ecstasy has some severely damaging side effects. Short-term effects include involuntary teeth clenching, blurred vision, nausea, chills, sweating, and increased heart rate and blood pressure. Many users take the pill for boosts in energy so they can dance at raves in hot and crowded conditions, which can lead to muscle breakdown, dehydration, or cardiovascular failure. After the drug’s influence has worn off, users may experience depression, anxiety, and sleep problems.

Less is known about the long-term effects of ecstasy but research suggests that continuous usage can affect memory. Additionally, many repeat users may damage the cells that produce serotonin, the chemical that regulates mood, appetite, and pain.

Kristin Swanson-Mace: Three Tips to a Safer Workplace

Kristin Swanson-Mace is a workers’ compensation attorney named among Orlando Home & Leisure’s Top Women Lawyers in June 2011. Here, she provides tips to help increase safety in the workplace.

1. Develop a safety plan: Tailor a specific safety protocol that takes into account both your workspace and the nature of your job. Develop evacuation routes in case of emergency, accident protocols in case of slip-and-falls, etc. Make sure each employee receives a copy and post the protocol in a public place, such as the break room.

2. Appoint a safety representative: A safety representative, ideally one who receives workplace safety training, helps ensure that employees have a go-to person for safety issues. He or she should conduct workplace safety inspections to help ensure there aren’t any obvious dangers.

3. Make sure safety and medical gear are readily available: Make sure fire extinguishers, first-aid kits, and possibly more specialized equipment such as portable defibrillators and spill kits are available. It’s also important to ensure that employees know where each piece of equipment is located, as well as how to properly use them.

While these tips won’t ensure that your workplace will be free from accidents, they may help reduce the likelihood or severity of accidents if they do occur.

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.