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The Women of 50 For 50: Michelle Hiepler (JD ‘89)

"At Pepperdine, both in law school and in the personal mentorships that you receive while you are there, you are encouraged, and your heart is stirred to help others and seek justice."

Pepperdine Caruso Law alumna Michelle Hiepler (JD '89) is a founding partner of the law firm Hiepler & Hiepler. She served as co-counsel in the landmark case Fox v. HealthNet, obtaining a record-setting verdict. Prior to forming Hiepler & Hiepler, Michelle served as Associate General Counsel of Pepperdine University and as an associate attorney at Adams, Duque & Hazeltine. At Caruso Law, Michelle served on the Pepperdine Law Review via top ten percent class placement and on the Law Review editorial board. She graduated cum laude and was the recipient of American Jurisprudence awards for academic excellence. Her publications include California Supreme Court Survey, published in the Pepperdine Law Review. Michelle currently serves on Pepperdine University's Board of Regents, the governing board of Pepperdine University and all of its schools and programs.

How would you like to see the 50 For 50 scholarships make a difference for students?

Most students are concerned about student debt and the stress that it creates. Some students are married and that creates stress for two people to be incurring debt. I hope this program can help alleviate the financial stress that students feel in law school.

When I came to Pepperdine as a law student, I had received two scholarships which covered my tuition. But I had many expenses besides tuition. I had to eat. I had to buy a computer. I had to drive and get to my clerkship. I can distinctly remember as a second year student, I applied for a Terry Giles Scholarship, which I received, and it was like taking a breath of air, like when you feel you've been underwater. Very few people are able to be at law school without the component of being stretched financially, and so, it's important to help where we can.

What kind of special or meaningful support or encouragement did you receive along the way?

Ron and Jamie Phillips were among the most important people to me during (and after) law school. They hosted a Christian Bible study at their home where they build a safe sanctuary for law students. It was built on hospitality and love. I just remember how important those hours were to me, to be able to get away and get to their Bible study. They taught me how to revere God, how to exercise the freedoms that we've been blessed with, how to treat everyone you meet with dignity, and how to love your Christian family.

One of Ron's keystones in life is how to keep from breaking the rules, no matter how small the rules are; and that played out many times in my life. Like when you're tempted to cut a corner here or there, or bend the rule in even the smallest way, and he really instilled in us the importance, not just as Christians, but as Christian lawyers, in keeping the rules. Even if there's a sign that says don't walk on the grass, then don't walk on the grass. Ron would be at the top of my list of people who supported me and made me feel like a valuable member of our community, and he still does to this day. Ron gave law students a Biblical platform to stand on and inspired us to use that platform to honor others.

How has Pepperdine Caruso Law factored into your success?

It gave me, first of all, that brain transplant in law school that students experience by seeing the world in a whole different way, and it helped me to become a productive member of my community.  As it says in Isaiah 1:17, having a law degree allows you to seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, and plead the widow's cause. At Pepperdine, both in law school and in the personal mentorships that you receive while you are there, you are encouraged and your heart is stirred to help others and seek justice. That's the most important way that Pepperdine shaped me.

Also, I happened to meet the most important person in my life at Pepperdine, which is my husband Mark. Our "chance" encounter with each other was courtesy of our Dean, Ron Phillips, who was literally our matchmaker.

Pepperdine has helped Mark and me in so many ways. It provided us with an excellent legal education which we use every day as trial attorneys. But then also, Pepperdine helped us solidify our personal lives in terms of our relationship with God and our relationship with each other as humans. Also, we made lifetime friends here. So, Pepperdine has benefited us legally, spiritually, and socially.

I worked at Pepperdine as an employee for five years and became friends, not just co-workers but partners, with people with whom I'm still friends to this day. I serve with them now as a Regent of the University. I am the head of the Governance Committee of the Regents, which is the committee that rolls out processes for the governing board. I would never be qualified to do that absent having a legal degree, and the experience that I had as an attorney in the General Counsel's Office. In so many ways, Pepperdine has prepared me for exactly what role God needed me to fill at the time.

What is most meaningful to you about your experience at Pepperdine Caruso Law?

The kindest people I've ever met, I met at Pepperdine. The smartest people I've ever met, I met at Pepperdine. The most inspiring people I ever met, I met at Pepperdine. The most sincere people I've ever met, I met at Pepperdine. The most brilliant people I've ever met, I met at Pepperdine. My Pepperdine family exudes wisdom and goodness, and I'm so grateful for that.

It was such a positive life-changing experience for both Mark and me to attend law school at Pepperdine. We are now doubly blessed because both of our sons are attending the Caruso School of Law. Ryan is a 3L and Paul is a 1L. Our sons have some of the same impactful professors that we've had, like Professor Harry Caldwell. It is wonderful that our sons have been grafted into the Pepperdine family.

The Pepperdine Caruso Law 50 For 50 Scholarship Campaign raises funds in order to alleviate the burden of student debt and to reinforce Pepperdine's place among America's leading law schools. Many of the campaign's founding partners are women, which reflects a nationwide increase of women in philanthropy. The Surf Report is featuring the female founding partners of the 50 For 50 campaign and what it means to them to support this special initiative.

Learn more about the 50 For 50 Scholarship Campaign.