Dean Lisa Kloppenberg

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The important lesson from Judge Dorothy Wright Nelson is that we need to continue to talk with people who disagree with us to find common ground together . . . we are trained to do that as lawyers.”

— Dean Lisa Kloppenberg

MONTEREY, CA, UNITED STATES, September 17, 2023/ — SideBar podcast on The Legal Talk Network welcomes Law Professor and Dean Emerita Lisa Kloppenberg of Santa Clara University School of Law as our guest to discuss her book, The Best Beloved Thing is Justice: The Life of Dorothy Wright Nelson. Kloppenberg’s biography of Nelson is the story of a glass-ceiling-breaking and highly respected California jurist and law school dean. Judge Nelson’s fascinating biography is a reminder of the important role that she and other twentieth-century women lawyers played in transforming legal education and the federal judiciary from an all-white, all-male enclave.

Cohost Jackie Gardina noted, “Dean Kloppenberg is considered an academic’s academic. Throughout the distinguished journey of her career, she has served as a law professor and law dean, as well as a university provost, vice president, and president. But her job titles alone do not define her contribution to higher education. At the heart of her legacy at Santa Clara University is Lisa’s belief that access and affordability as well as increased diversity, equity, and inclusion are critical to the mission of higher education in general, and legal education specifically.”

“Jackie and I have had the chance to work together with Lisa as a law school colleague,” said SideBar cohost Mitch Winick. “She has worked with us to continue to challenge barriers in California to access to the legal profession. Therefore, it is no surprise to us to learn that Judge Nelson was her mentor. Lisa is the perfect individual to take on the role of the official biographer of such an impressive lawyer, academic, and judge.”

Judge Nelson was not only the first woman dean of USC School of Law, she served as dean during one of the most tumultuous periods of U.S. history that encompassed the civil rights era, anti-war movement, Watergate, and the advancement of women’s rights. When Nelson became interim dean in 1967, there were only two other women deans of ABA-approved law schools. By the time she became the permanent dean in 1969, she was the only woman in that role and would be for the next five years. In 1979, after more than a decade as dean, Nelson became one of 23 women nominated to the federal bench by the Carter administration. At one point, she was even considered to be on the shortlist for the U.S. Supreme Court.

To listen to Lisa Kloppenberg’s SideBar episode about Judge Dorothy Wright Nelson with law deans Jackie Gardina and Mitch Winick, hear previous episodes, read our blog, learn about future guests, and contact the co-hosts with ideas, comments, or questions, go to

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