Anahid Gharakhanian

Vice Dean | Professor of Legal Analysis, Writing, and Skills | Co-Director of the Externship Program

Vice Dean Anahid Gharakhanian headshot

B.A., magna cum laude, Philosophy, University of California, Los Angeles, 1989
J.D., cum laude, Harvard University, 1992

Phi Beta Kappa

Member, California State Bar


Anahid Gharakhanian is a champion of experiential learning and legal writing and has played a key role in Southwestern’s innovative Legal Analysis, Writing, and Skills (LAWS) program, and in building one of the most extensive and highly regarded externship programs in California. Southwestern’s past Board Chair, Charles Fairchild ’09, has established an endowment in Vice Dean Gharakhanian’s honor to recognize her contributions to his education and to Southwestern. The Anahid Gharakhanian Endowment supports three annual awards: Excellence in Teaching Award; Award for Outstanding Staff Service; and the Gharakhanian Scholarship.

Vice Dean Gharakhanian began her legal career with the firm of Chadbourne & Parke LLP in Los Angeles where she was responsible for all phases of complex litigation in state and federal courts as well as arbitration proceedings, ranging from defense of class actions and shareholder derivative suits to prosecution and defense of insurance and reinsurance, employment, business transaction, high-profile family law, and various commercial matters. 

She joined Southwestern’s full-time faculty in 2002, teaching legal writing. She was instrumental in the redevelopment of the law school’s groundbreaking three-track LAWS program, including bringing a professionalism focus to LAWS. In 2005, Vice Dean Gharakhanian assumed the role of Externship Program Director, expanding the program to be one of the largest in the country. Last year, she transitioned to the Externship Program Co-Director position. She served as Vice Dean from 2012 to 2016 and returned to the Vice Dean position in fall 2020.

"Law students are professionals-in-training. Legal writing and externship placements are great opportunities to start thinking like a lawyer and get a feel for the profession; they are extremely helpful in transitioning to the practice of law." 

In addition to her teaching, Vice Dean Gharakhanian has greatly enjoyed other opportunities to work with Southwestern students, which over the years has included serving in such positions as the faculty advisor for the Armenian Law Students' Association and the PLEAS Program.

Vice Dean Gharakhanian is an active member of the Southern California Externships Consortium – SoCalEx –which includes the externship directors of Southwestern, Loyola, Chapman, Pepperdine, UC Irvine, USC, and UCLA law schools. She’s recently served on the Law School Admission Council’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. She’s also served as co-chair of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Externships group (2019-2021). Her previous service with AALS was with the Balance Section, including serving on the Executive Committee, and she has been involved with the AALS Section on Empirical Study of Legal Education and Legal Profession. Over the years, she’s also worked closely with the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, including on the Building a Better Bar project, as well as serving on the Foundations for Practice Advisory Committee.

Vice Dean Gharakhanian is committed to pro bono work and civic activities in the profession and greater community, most recently facilitating the creation of Southwestern’s collaborative efforts with the Human Rights Defender’s Office of the Republics of Armenia and Artsakh. She also spearheaded the establishment of the 2012-14 Southwestern Armenia Fellowship with the Ministry of Justice in Armenia to work on the development of the rule of law. She has also served as a temporary judge in Los Angeles Superior Court's Small Claims Court and has worked on a pro bono basis in the areas of domestic violence, and other family law matters.