SWLAW Blog | Awards & Honors

Dylan Gunaratne Headshot

May 12, 2023

Southwestern Law School Student Dylan Gunaratne named a National Jurist Law Student of the Year

Southwestern Law School student Dylan Gunaratne has been recognized as a Law Student of the Year by National Jurist magazine in the Spring 2023 issue. This honor comes as a result of Dylan's exceptional academic accomplishments and his leadership in creating a safe space for students to discuss mental-health challenges.

"Starting law school, I believed I had to strictly conform to what I perceived to be the expectations of others — a mindset that ultimately took a toll on my mental health," said Dylan. "But through my work with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) chapter, I came to (and continue to) realize the importance of self-acceptance and grace. Through the work with our NAMI chapter, we aimed to show other students that it's okay to struggle with mental health challenges, especially in a high-pressure environment like law school. I am honored and humbled to receive this recognition from the National Jurist as a Law Student of the Year."

Southwestern President and Dean Darby Dickerson praised Dylan's exceptional leadership skills, academic acumen, and desire to help other students. "Dylan is one of the best law students and humans I've ever met. He's brilliant, caring, and humble. He builds strong connections with individuals, and students, faculty, and staff seek him out for advice about various projects and issues. He works hard to master the law, but he works just as hard to help other students excel. I am confident that Dylan will impact the legal profession in a positive and profound way."

Dylan, who graduates from Southwestern's SCALE program in December 2023 and was recently named the 2023 Commencement Student Speaker, founded the student chapter of NAMI at Southwestern. He organized an event in collaboration with NAMI and Southwestern's Student Bar Association to celebrate the ABA's Law School Mental Health Day. At the event, student panelists discussed the unique challenges students face when seeking mental-health support and the stigma associated with experiencing mental-health challenges.

Dylan studying in the library

In addition to his work with NAMI, Dylan has excelled academically and immersed himself in many other aspects of campus life. Dylan received the 2022-23 Guerin L. Butterworth Prize for achieving the highest GPA at the end of the first year of SCALE. He served as a Teaching Assistant for six different professors, is the ABA Representative for the Southwestern Student Bar Association, and was an inaugural member of the Dean's Leadership Academy. In addition to serving as President of Southwestern's chapter of NAMI, he was a Student Leader for the Public Service Program's Small Claims Clinic, a Dean's Fellow, a Peer Mentor, a staff member of the Southwestern Law Review, and a Student-Clinician in the Entertainment & the Arts Legal Clinic. He will serve as Supervising SCALE Dean's Fellow for the upcoming academic year.

Dylan has served as a Judicial Extern in the Los Angeles Superior Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In June, Dylan will begin a Summer Associate position at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP in the firm's downtown Los Angeles office. 

Despite his many impressive achievements, Dylan acknowledged that he is just one of the many talented law students in the Southwestern community and that each student deserves recognition for their own merits.

"There are many incredible Southwestern students worthy of this recognition. Take Vanessa Martinez, for example. Vanessa is a 2L in the Moot Court Honors Program, known for her exceptional oral advocacy and legal research skills. Amrita Patil, a Senior Advocate in the Trial Advocacy Honors Program, is a fierce oral advocate dedicated to criminal justice reform. Samuel D. Johnson is a phenomenal legal writer and researcher whose brief won Regional Best Brief at the ABA National Appellate Advocacy Competition Regionals. And Ashley Kim, the President and Founder of the First-Generation Law Student Association, has made an indelible mark at Southwestern Law School through her dedication to advocacy and community building. 

These students, along with many others, are equally deserving of this recognition for their exceptional talents and contributions to Southwestern Law School."

The Southwestern community congratulates Dylan on this remarkable recognition and celebrates his outstanding achievements. #GoBison #LawStudentoftheYear