Professor Jim Gash, ACU alum and former associate dean of students at Pepperdine University, visited the College of Business Administration Monday to give a presentation to pre-law students.
Gash graduated first in his class from the Pepperdine School of Law in 1993. He is currently in his 15th year as a professor of law at Pepperdine, teaching Torts, Evidence and Legal Ethics. He is also the director of the Global Justice Program in Pepperdine’s Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion and Ethics.
He has a wealth of experience in court as well. After graduation he worked for a small litigation firm before serving as a law clerk to the Honorable Edith H. Jones, United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Before returning to Pepperdine to teach, he spent a few years in the office of Kirkland & Ellis in Washington, D.C., where he focused on appellate and commercial litigation.
In recognition of his work in Uganda, Gash was named the recipient of the 2013 Warren Christopher Award, which is presented by the International Law Section of the California Bar Association to its selection of California’s International Lawyer of the Year. He is recognized by ACU faculty as one of the most successful active graduates of COBA.
“We are very pleased to have Jim Gash here at ACU,” said Dr. Mel Hailey, professor of political science and pre-law adviser. “He’s one of our own. He’s an alum of COBA and I remember this building was brand new when he got here.”
“He was also our quarterback when he came here,” said Dr. Andrew Little, director of Global Initiatives for COBA. “So just like Johnny Manziel, COBA is the house that Gash built.”
Gash presented a new perspective to pre-law students in his speech. He challenged them to consider how to be a Christian lawyer when it seems like an oxymoron. The focus of his speech centered on his missions trips to Uganda, which he did not start until he was 42.
“I never chose to follow the calls from Christ to help those outside my community,” Gash said. “But ever since I chose to go, I’ve been unable to turn away.”
His journey began when one of his students started the first law school chapter of IJM at Pepperdine. He began hosting meetings, and one of the themes the group went over was Ephesians 4:1. The verse challenges followers of Christ to live a life worthy of a calling. Gash chose to act upon that verse and travel to Uganda in 2010 to assist the Ugandan Judicial Conference that had no clerks and no interns. On the first trip, Pepperdine sent four interns. Since then, each summer, the school has sent ten student interns and a professor to assist the court.
In addition to its work with the Ugandan Judicial Conference, the Pepperdine group has helped with remand homes throughout the area to free minors who have been arrested and jailed without a trial. In 2010, Gash prepared cases for 21 children in the Ihungu Remand Home who had been waiting in prison for two years without their day in court. Since then he has done the same for remand homes in several other Ugandan cities, changing the lives of dozens of children.
His work in Uganda has only increased over the last two years. In 2012 his family moved to Uganda for six months, and he became a specialist advisor to the High Court. In March 2013, Gash became the first American to argue a case in the Ugandan Court of Appeals.
Gash’s presentation concluded with him pressing the importance of helping the oppressed. He encouraged his audience to consider what more they could do to make a difference.
“To have this small part in a redemption story on the other side of the world is hard to articulate,” Gash said. “But there’s still a lot of work to do. There’s still people who need help.”
Gash will return to Uganda this summer with his wife, Jolene, and three children.