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For one Class of 1968 study group, Reunion comes every year

USC Gould School of Law • June 6, 2024
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In the fall of 1965, the law school introduced a new course taught by Professor Christopher Stone, “Law, Language, and Ethics,” as a requirement for all first-year students. The groundbreaking course took a multidisciplinary approach, encouraging students to examine legal issues through the lens of philosophy, psychology, and economics, and transformed legal education at USC.

The first class of students to experience the new curriculum included four 1Ls – Beverly Falk, Jon Lappen, Walter “Walt” Maxwell, and Lloyd Robinson – who were assigned to a study group during their first weeks in the program. They had no idea that their random grouping would result in friendships that would continue for nearly 60 years. The group has met for lunch almost every year since they graduated.

When the Class of 1968 arrived on campus, Orrin B. Evans was dean, the law school had become home to the Western Center on Law and Poverty the previous year, and the changes at the law school reflected those happening in the rest of the country. As Robinson recalls, “Our ‘Young Turk’ professors were recent graduates themselves and barely older than we students.” The law school was a dynamic, innovative place to be.

The study group bonded as much over their shared interest in the law as their personal differences. Though the law school was early to admit women, Falk was one of the few women enrolled at Gould at the time. She studied mathematics as an undergraduate at UCLA and completed her degree in three years, having taken college courses while in high school. She assumed she would become a teacher and have a family. However, her mother, now 106, attended UC Hastings School of Law (now UC Law San Francisco) in the 1940s and encouraged her to apply to law school. Falk shared that at the time, “I was not thinking about doing anything influential.” She went on to serve as deputy attorney general for the State of California from 1970 through 2010 and raise two daughters, one of whom became a lawyer.

Jon Lappen attended University High School in Los Angeles and UC Berkeley, where he studied social science before enrolling at Gould. Like Falk, law was a family affair for Lappen, whose grandfather, father, and uncle (Sidney Irmas, JD 1955) were all attorneys. “At the time, it was easy to get jobs anywhere, especially if you went to USC.” After graduation, Lappen became a deputy district attorney and later worked in criminal law for 10 years before transitioning to a career in civil law and launching his own practice, Lappen & Lappen.

Before coming to Gould, Walter Maxwell studied engineering as an undergraduate at UCLA on a full-ride track scholarship. He worked in aerospace at McDonnell Douglas for three years, developing software for Saturn S IV as NASA launched its lunar program. He later became a senior partner at the IP firm Christie, Parker and Hale in Pasadena, now Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP, where he worked for 45 years before retiring in 2015. “We were always busy and had great clients. I loved going to work.” His clients included Samsung, Atari, Wham-O (creators of the Hula Hoop), and Raytheon. Maxwell sat on the firm’s employment committee as well and interviewed dozens of USC Gould students over the years.

Lloyd Robinson, a triple Trojan who earned an undergraduate and master’s degree from Dornsife before coming to Gould, founded Suite A Management Talent & Literary Agency. Over the years, he garnered a star-studded list of clients, including Vincent Price and Milton Berle. He even made a guest appearance as himself in the film Brüno, written by and starring his client, Sacha Baron Cohen.

Over the years, the study group’s lunch conversations changed as their families and careers grew. Falk, Lappen, and Maxwell have now retired. Lappen and his siblings manage the Lappen Family Foundation in Southern California. Falk is enjoying grandparenthood. Robinson, the chief connector of the group, continues to run his talent agency and is a regular guest at the USC Gould Alumni Mentor Lunch. Maxwell spends his time between California and Colorado and is still an athlete and avid skier. Not long ago, he took Robinson, the first person he met at law school, for his first ski run at a resort in Big Bear that offers free admission to guests over 80.

Last year, the study group met at Moreton Fig restaurant on campus and took a tour of the “new” Musick Law Building, which opened in 1970, two years after they graduated. Their classes had been held in what is now the Accounting building on Trousdale. It is just one of the more noticeable changes at Gould, in addition to a master’s program that enrolls more than 500 students each year, a new undergraduate program, and a student body now nearly 60% women.


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