Western State College of Law is renowned for fostering a collaborative and family-oriented atmosphere that has drawn numerous families to choose this esteemed institution for their legal education. We are excited to share inspiring stories of families who have established enduring legacies at our law school, with multiple generations earning their J.D. from Western State.

The Shapiro Family and Western State College of Law: A Legacy of Legal Excellence

western state william d shapiro head shotWestern State class of 1978 alumnus, William D. Shapiro has achieved a remarkable career in law, founding an Inland Empire-based firm specializing in catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases. His legal contributions and dedication have not only made him a highly respected and renowned figure in his practice area but led to his induction into the Western State Hall of Fame and the honor of receiving the university’s coveted Lifetime Achievement Award. Beyond his practice, William’s work has significantly impacted community safety through legal initiatives such as freeway improvements and traffic regulation changes. He’s even recently been elected as the national vice president of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). At home, William’s engagement in law significantly influenced his family environment. His discussions about legal cases and strategies intrigued his sons, Matt and Brian, fostering a deep appreciation for the field, even though they initially didn’t intend to pursue a career in law.

western state brian shapiro headshotBrian Shapiro, motivated partly by a family friend’s advice about the benefits of earning a legal education for business, was William’s first son to follow in his footsteps and attend Western State. After earning a bachelor’s degree in social sciences from California State University, Long Beach, he chose Western State due to a scholarship opportunity and the university’s local and family ties. Post-graduation, he joined his father’s firm where he continues to flourish.

Next, Matt Shapiro, influenced more by the scholarship and academic opportunities offered by Western State than his family’s history with the school, also found himself at his father and brother’s alma mater just a few years later. His decision was solidified through the school’s reputation for producing skilled trial lawyers and judges, which closely aligned with his future career aspiration of becoming a trial lawyer. After graduation, Matt pursued a career at a local law firm, diversifying his family’s legal industry presence.

The Shapiro family’s multi-generational connection with Western State College of Law illustrates not only a continuation of a family legacy but also the individual choices that defined their careers. It highlights the evolution of Western State as a significant institution in the legal community that is formative in shaping the careers of its students. The Shapiro’s Western State legacy story is a testament to the institution’s enduring impact on its alumni and their contributions to the legal field.

Legacy of Law: Briana Heiting Embraces Her Grandfather’s Legal Career Path

western state james otto heiting head shotWestern State alumnus, Hall of Fame member and Chair of the Dean’s Counselors, Jim Heiting is a highly respected Riverside-based personal injury lawyer whose firm holds an AV rating by Martindale-Hubbel and a perfect 10/10 from AVVO attorney rating services. Although his legal legacy includes impressive accomplishments like serving as the former president of the Riverside County Bar and being the only previous president of the State Bar of California ever elected from the Inland Empire, establishing a career in law wasn’t his original plan. Initially aspiring to be a physician, Jim discovered he was color blind, which led him to pivot toward accounting and business studies. However, it was a personal experience with an underwhelming lawyer hired by his family that steered him toward pursuing a legal education. Recognizing an opportunity to make a meaningful impact, Jim, already a family man, chose to attend law school at Western State for its convenient location and night class offerings.

Inspired by her grandfather’s remarkable legal journey and successful 40+ year career, Briana Heiting is currently forging her own path toward practicing law. As a second-year law student (2L) at Western State, her choice of school was greatly influenced by its proximity, dedication to student success and her grandfather’s positive experiences. Jim’s wisdom about the importance of networking, nurturing professional relationships and the value of an American Bar Association (ABA)-accredited law school greatly impacted Briana’s academic and career decisions—pushing her to establish outstanding connections throughout her time at Western State with university leaders, event planning and production teams and even forge relationships with key members of the bench from her time as an extern at the Superior Court of Orange County.

Briana’s legal career pursuit is imbued with a sense of fulfillment, gratitude and inspiration— deeply rooted in ties to her grandfather’s legacy. For her, this journey is not simply about personal achievement but also about honoring and building upon the impressive foundation laid by Jim Heiting’s distinguished legal career. As she progresses through law school and beyond, Briana carries forward a legacy of commitment, integrity and service to the legal profession.

The Simis’ Western State Tradition: From Race Car Mechanic to Lawyers

western state micole simis head shotMicole Simis, a Western State alumnus of 2001, made a significant career transition from being a professional race car mechanic to a lawyer. Seeking a profession with less travel to better support his young family, Micole earned his J.D. and embarked on a legal career. He initially joined a medium-sized construction defect litigation firm, then transitioned to a sole proprietorship in real estate litigation. He now brings his expertise to a specialized real estate litigation team at a firm in Newport Beach.

His son, Addison Simis, is currently shaping his own path in law as a first-year student (1L) at Western State. Graduating from UCLA in 2022 with a degree in political science and a minor in philosophy, Addison initially grappled with solidifying his career direction. The decision to pursue law was influenced by its practicality and the valuable skill set it offers. His father’s advice about the rigorous process and challenges of law school also resonated with him. Factors like cost, location and scholarship opportunities were pivotal in Addison’s decision to choose Western State, a college he was already familiar with through his father’s experiences. While still early in his legal education, Addison shares engaging discussions with Micole about their varied experiences at Western State, both having the unique opportunity to study property law under Professor Keller.

Micole Simis’ journey paved the way for the foundation of a family tradition of attending Western State, and Addison’s positive law school experience thus far could further influence his younger siblings to follow. Stay tuned to see how this family legacy evolves.

Libutti Family: A Lineage of Legal Education at Western State

Western State alumnus, Michael J. Libutti chose the path of legal education based on his belief in the versatility and value of a law degree. His decision to pursue this field was also influenced by his father and fellow Western alumnus, the Honorable Michael R. Libutti, who earned a spot in the school’s Hall of Fame and served both as a deputy district attorney and a judge.

Michael’s choice of law school was significantly influenced by Western State’s impressive bar passage rate, in addition to its convenient location. After earning his degree and successfully passing the bar exam, he ventured into civil litigation and later founded a real estate brokerage firm in San Diego.

Guided by Michael’s mentorship and inspired by his example, his sister too embarked on a legal career, continuing the family’s tradition in the field. Like her brother, she was drawn to Western State’s distinguished reputation and proven excellence in legal education.

The Libutti family’s collective experiences at Western State have not only allowed them to thrive in their respective careers but have also reinforced the value of legal education to pave diverse professional paths. Their stories highlight Western State’s role in nurturing legal minds and empowering its graduates to succeed in varied fields.

Ryan Schley’s Path to Law: A Journey Shaped by Service, Family and Resilience

western state ryan schley head shotWestern State graduate, Ryan Schley’s professional journey took him on a unique and inspirational path that led him from serving as an Army officer to a stint in the corporate world and ultimately to fulfilling a career in the legal profession. Initially, Ryan showed an interest in law but saw it as an unattainable goal, given the trajectory of his work experience. However, when his sister Heather Schley– a fellow Western alumni and current adjunct faculty member– was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, she reminded him of life’s fragility and the importance of pursuing one’s true passions. This conversation left Ryan with a new perspective that led to his decision to embark on a legal career.

Emboldened by his sister’s strength and their shared dream, Ryan made her a promise: To become an attorney and establish a law practice together upon her recovery. The day she found out she was cancer-free, Ryan signed up for the LSAT and was enrolled at Western State a few months later. His decision to go to Western was influenced by his sister’s experience at the school, its flexible night program and impressive bar exam pass rates.

western state heather schley head shotAfter graduating, Ryan and his sister founded “The Schley Firm,” a personal injury law practice in Huntington Beach, California. This venture not only realized their dream but also set a precedent for the next generation. Ryan’s conversations about his positive experiences at Western State, from its dedicated faculty to its robust programs, inspired his niece to also enroll at his alma mater.

Ryan Schley’s story, blending military service, family resilience and a late but passionate entry into law exemplifies the diverse and inspiring journeys that converge at Western State.

If you have a similar story of transformation and achievement, we encourage you to share it with us. Contact alumni@wsulaw.edu to tell us about your experience at Western State College of Law.