[caption id="attachment_28766" align="alignright" width="360" caption="Terry Robertson with Karin Stoeckenius and Andrew Quinn, second place winners in brief writing at the annual Roger J. Traynor Appellate Moot Court Competition in April 2010"][/caption]

SANTA ROSA – Empire College named longtime faculty member Terry Robertson as its new law school dean.

Mr. Robertson replaced Pat Broderick, who was the dean for more than 13 years. Mr. Broderick was elected as a superior court justice last November.

Mr. Robertson was on faculty for eight years and coached Traynor competition teams and moot court, a simulated court proceeding for law students.

He said Mr. Broderick was a visionary and did some spectacular work to not steer the ship onto the rocks.

“He was the longest-serving dean and is now on the superior court, which was a lifelong dream of his,” he said.

At 63-years-old, Mr. Robertson practiced law for 30 years, and in addition to his current experience in education taught for eight years prior to practicing law.

“Dealing with higher education is not foreign to me. The school had an outstanding group of applicants, and I am honored to be chosen, though any of the contenders would have served the school well,” he said.

One thing he wants to accomplish is to strengthen the clinical offerings the school has for the community.

Students are placed as interns in the district attorney’s office and the public defender’s office, they work as clerks and the school runs clinics that are available to the community in elder law, disability law, immigration law and small claims advising, among others.

“We have assisted more than 10,000 Sonoma County residents,” he said. “And that is a lot when you think about how small the school is.”

Raised in Sonoma County, Mr. Robertson moved away when he was 12 years old then ended up practicing law in Napa.

He moved back to Sonoma County in 1998 and, in addition to his work at Empire, cooperates with Golden Gate University and Hastings Law with their moot courts.

Moving into the role as dean has seemed a bit strange to him.

“I walk down the halls and someone will call me dean, and I don’t even turn around,” he said. “It is clearly not the hands-on that teaching is, but we have a great faculty. I am impressed with everyone here.”

He said it will be different because of the administrative work, but he is glad he will still be involved with students.

“I am here to make sure the educational environment is the best it can be,” he said. “I work cooperatively with teachers to make sure we are giving our students the best education they can get.”

Last year Empire’s law students had an 85 percent pass rate with the Bar Exam.

“That puts us in the top rank of all schools in California,” Mr. Robertson said. "It makes me proud. It is one of the indicators of success.”

Having graduated law school himself in 1980, he said being in education today has been interesting.

“When I was a student we chiseled our briefs on stone and rolled them down a hill,” he said. “And we had to wait in line to see a teacher. When I started teaching, I was amazed the amount of access my students had to me.”

And he considers it a good thing.

“I am not surprised to see things coming in at one or two in the morning,” he said. "And my students aren’t surprised to get responses at five or six. They get rapid feedback on projects while the material is still fresh in their minds.”

Also different these days in education are the databases, he said. “Our students are incredibly competent at reading the databases, but one skill they have to learn is how to weed through it, as not everything is relevant.”

He said he is excited about being able to hire and retain a great faculty.

“In the fields which our instructors teach, most are considered preeminent,” he said.

“I also have the privilege to interview the prospective students and find out what brings them to law school and why now,” he said. “I will miss the classroom, that was an amazing eight years, but I will continue to coach on the moot court team. The challenges will be different, and it is a little different prospective."