by Logan Quirk
The reputation of Santa Clara School of Law is well known thanks in part to its outstanding alumni. Last April, Governor Schwarzenegger appointed Mark H. Pierce as judge, along with fellow alumnus Derek Woodhouse, to the two vacancies on the Santa Clara County Superior Court.
Before taking his current position, Judge Pierce spent 30 years in private practice focusing on civil litigation. After graduating from SCU, he began his legal career working in small law firms, which he credited for mentoring him and providing invaluable experience. Judge Pierce spent the remainder of his years in private practice as partner at the law offices of Olson & Pierce specializing in personal injury and workers’ compensation.
Influenced by family friends who were judges, Judge Pierce aspired to become a judge while in private practice. Since judges are highly regarded in the community, the process for becoming a judge is an extensive one involving several steps with the candidate’s entire legal career being scrutinized and evaluated. Often this process takes a year or more, but Judge Pierce received his appointment in only six months. Such a short period of consideration is rare, and it is a testament to the candidate’s credentials and reputation in the legal community. Currently, Judge Pierce presides over Department 47 handling criminal cases.
The experience has been both “exciting and rewarding because it allows me to become involved in the community,” said Judge Pierce. He especially enjoys the camaraderie among the fellow judges, some of whom are Santa Clara School of Law alumni. When presiding over the arraignment, pre-trial or trial stages, Judge Pierce utilizes “the human and legal experience” he gained while practicing law in the private sector. Additionally, he emphasized and expressed appreciation for the overall education and experience Santa Clara School of Law provided him and the other students.
He highlighted the success and diversity of the graduates from the law school ranging from judges, legislators and successful attorneys. Judge Pierce commented, “the alumni are a reflection of the quality of the school,” and extended his gratitude for the wonderful faculty and staff for guiding him and providing an excellent foundation for which to succeed in his legal career. Emphasizing the strength of the alumni base in the Bay Area, Judge Pierce attributed the development of this network not only to the atmosphere that the school fosters but also to the character and quality of the students past and present.
After speaking with Judge Pierce, it became evident that Santa Clara School of Law’s reputation stems not only from its education but also from the overall excellence of the staff, faculty and students. Alumni like Judge Pierce are illustrative of the Law School’s mission of preparing its students to excel not just in their legal careers but also providing an environment and opportunities that encourage the complete character development of the student.