Thursday, August 25, 2005
*STUDENT GUIDE 2005* Life's Lessons
The typical Monterey College of Law student lives atop a 5,000-foot Hawaiian volcano in a one-room shack with no electricity.
Or he did. Before Ron Granberg could realize a dream of teaching and practicing law in Monterey County, he says, he needed to “flip out, run around the forest.”
“I was sick of school,” says Granberg, who graduated from the University of Michigan in 1970. “I grabbed my guitar and backpack and hitch-hiked around the country. I ended up scraping together money for a ticket to the Big Island.”
Not long after his time picking fruit, though, he relocated to Monterey. “It was time to make something out of myself,” he says. His experience on his high school debate team still resonated—learning to argue effectively was fun, and could be financially rewarding. But the closest law school was Lincoln School in San Jose.
Enter the infant Monterey College of Law.
Granberg is clear about the role the school played in his transformation from mile-high farmhand to successful lawyer, mediator and revered professor.
“Without Monterey College of Law, I wouldn’t have graduated from law school,” he says. “I owe a tremendous debt to this school.”
The school was a little different in 1972, when Granberg joined the first MCL class ever, which included 52 students in two classrooms. Earlier this month, MCL traded its still-modest one-building digs in downtown Monterey for what Granberg calls “a gorgeous, functional physical plant” on the former Fort Ord.
But MCL’s fundamental philosophy was present at the start and remains intact today: Compile a faculty made up of high-caliber practicing judges and lawyers to provide non-traditional students (like professionals, parents and ambitious vagabonds) the opportunity to gain a law degree at night, usually over four years.
“Of the first six teachers, three became judges,” recalls Granberg, who himself runs a flourishing family-law and civil-law firm that specializes in mediation. “And one was Leon Panetta.”
Today, MCL’s professors and trustees include eight judges and three county commissioners.
Attorney Justin O’Connell, who graduated in 2003, says the background professors bring to the table makes for unparalleled learning.
“They provide experience you can’t buy at other law schools—what a practicing attorney really needs to know,” O’Connell says, “not just what hoops [students] need to jump through to become an attorney.”
But experience isn’t the only prerequisite to teach at the nonprofit college—passion for law, and the opportunity to share it, is equally important.
That passion is strikingly evident in Granberg, who—since he couldn’t find one himself—wrote a book about legal research when he graduated, and then jumped immediately into teaching legal research. These days he also teaches Intro to Law and Computer-Assisted Legal Research.
“I love to see the lights go on,” he says, and moves into a nuanced discussion of how the foundation of American democracy was forged by the Marbury v. Madison decision. “How can you not get excited?” he says. “We’re talking about the underpinnings of our democracy!”
Part of the rush for Granberg is the type of students he gets to work with. “It’s a room of 35 people with life experience. Brokers, accountants, doctors, pharmacists, MBAs. Think of the life experience and intelligence. We’re talking about what really matters: real people and real problems.”
And they like working with him. He’s been voted Outstanding Professor six times by graduating classes for, as Director of Admissions Wendy LaRiviere says, “contributing the most to their experience at MCL.”
Granberg believes no other job could be as rewarding as practicing and teaching law. “It’s not even close,” he says. “It’s the best of both worlds.”
He goes on to say that he particularly enjoys the fact that, exactly like him, entire graduating classes have indicated that they would never have graduated from law school without MCL.
And besides, he adds, “I might lose a case, but I never lose a class.” *