Q&A: Legal Writing Professor of the Year Roberta Thyfault

By Nick Ahadzadeh and Varun Sabharwal

Roberta Thyfault, center, with colleagues William Aceves and Robert DeKoven

Professor Roberta Thyfault needs no introduction, but she’s a legendary appellate attorney and one of the best legal writing professors at California Western School of Law. She may seem reserved at first glance, but very quickly she smiles and puts you right at ease.

Professors like Thyfault may expect a lot from us as students, but we should be grateful for these types of academic challenges. With perseverance and determination, we can gain a lot from the experience and effectiveness that these professors exemplify on a regular basis. Coming from a student’s perspective, we’re sure that all of the students who had Professor Thyfault thought about this when making their decision to vote for her.

Professor Thyfault would like to thank all of the students, whether current or past, for the privilege of being able to teach them over the past two decades.

In an exclusive interview with The Commentary, Thyfault shared her thoughts about being named Legal Writing Professor of the Year at Barrister’s Ball on March 2. 

Q: Could you tell us a few facts about you that may not be generally known?

Well, I was an appellate attorney in San Diego. I went to Cal Western and then worked in court-appointed criminal appeals. I also clerked for a few federal judges after graduating Cal Western. San Diego was and still is a very close-knit legal community. So, invariably, I went up against people I knew. I had an extremely collegial relationship with the Attorney General. I recall one time where the AG made a phone call for me to gain evidence. AGs usually have an easier time getting evidence, so I was very grateful they went out of their way. 

Q: How long have you been teaching? 

I have been teaching for twenty years and have been a full-time Cal Western faculty member since 2001. When I started as an adjunct, the Legal Skills course was a little different, because there was a Legal Skills III course rather than the STEPPS program we have today.

Q: What factors do you think played a role for you receiving this accolade?

Honestly, you would have to ask my students that, since they were the ones who voted. I’d like to think that I have the respect of my students because I expect a lot from them, and I prepare them for the practice of law. Students have come back saying that they were better prepared for what they were doing in either their externships or their first jobs out of law school. They know I care about them and that I’m working really hard to help them improve their ability to write and advocate effectively. I am honored to receive this accolade.

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