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Afton Cavanaugh

Assistant Dean for Law Success | Service Professor of Law


Contact Information


  • J.D., magna cum laude, St. Mary’s University School of Law, 2013
  • B.A., St. Edward’s University, 2010
  • A.A.S., Austin Community College, 2008

License to Practice

  • Texas

Specialties and Courses

  • Estate Planning and Probate
  • Contracts law
  • Business law
  • Legal education
  • Bar exam preparation
  • Legal research and writing


Dean Cavanaugh joined St. Mary’s School of Law in January 2017 as a Law Success Instructor. He served as Director of Law Success from June 2019-May 2021. Since June 2021, he has served as the Assistant Dean of Law Success. He focuses on academic support, legal education, legal research and writing, and bar preparation. He works closely with the bar prep team and bar examinees to help them as they study for and take the bar exam.

As Assistant Dean of Law Success, Dean Cavanaugh also works closely with the law school’s Director of Assessment and Statistics to guide the Law Success team in taking an innovative, data-driven approach to student growth by using the data-gathered to plan legal skills development, bar exam initiatives, and individual academic counseling. Dean Cavanaugh has served as a board member for the AALS Section on Academic Support and the Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE), and continues to serve AASE as the chair of several committees.

Dean Cavanaugh graduated magna cum laude from St. Mary’s School of Law and went on to practice property, estate planning, probate, and business law for a few years before joining St. Mary’s as an instructor. Besides his law career, Afton is a dedicated community advocate. He has served on the Board of Directors for the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO), a non-profit organization that aligns resources for community stakeholders to utilize in combating homelessness. He also served on the Board of Directors for the Council on At-Risk Youth and the board for the Austin Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.



  • Afton Cavanaugh and Sigrid Vendrell Polanco (2022, May). Building Communities for the Bar Exam. AASE Annual Conference, San Antonio, Texas. Conference Host.
  • Cavanaugh, Afton (2021, Oct.). The Bootcamp Model: A Path to Giving First Generation Students a Head Start. AASE Bi-Annual Diversity Conference, City University of New York School of Law. Virtual Conference.
  • Cavanaugh, Afton (2021, May). Imposter Syndrome in the Classroom: Starting the Mental Health Conversation from Day One. AASE Annual Conference, American University Washington College of Law.
  • Cavanaugh, Afton (2020, July). Panel Moderator, Difficult Conversations on Racial Equity When Educating Law Students. AALS Section on Academic Support. Virtual Webinar Series.
  • Cavanaugh, Afton (2020, June). Meetings in the Age of Social Distancing: Using Virtual Small Group Meetings to Advance Classroom Objectives and Help Students Feel Less Isolated. Excellence in Teaching Legal Research & Writing Online Conference, William and Mary University. Virtual Conference.
  • Cavanaugh, Afton (2019, Oct.). Developing Conscious Lawyers: Using the 1L Skills Curriculum to Increase Awareness Student Sensitivity to Poverty and Homelessness. AASE Bi-Annual Diversity Conference, Chicago, Illinois.
  • Cavanaugh, Afton (2009, Nov.). Growing Up Homeless & Hungry in Austin. St. Edwards University. Meeting, Austin, Texas.
  • Cavanaugh, Afton (2013, Mar.). Bluebook Basics. St. Mary’s University. Guest Lecturer, San Antonio, Texas.
  • Cavanaugh, Afton (2016, Apr.). Working with Trans Clients: Insight for Future Counselors. Texas State University. Guest Speaker, Round Rock, Texas.
  • Cavanaugh, Afton (2016, May.). Make Your Contracts Work For You. Real Estate Staging Association. Guest Speaker, Austin, Texas.