Visions of Change

Occasional Notes from the Dean during Startup

A Dream Come True

As I write this, it is a month until students arrive for orientation and the University of California, Irvine School of Law will officially open. Our founding faculty and administrators arrived a year ago and have spent a year planning and getting ready for this historic moment. It has been an amazing year in which so much has been accomplished.

We have recruited and admitted our entering class of students. Our goal was 60 students. We received 2,743 applications, from which we accepted 110, and 63 have enrolled. The students are tremendously impressive in every way. For example, their median LSAT of 167 and median GPA of 3.65 put them solidly in the top 20 in the country among law school entering classes. But these numbers do not begin to convey their diverse backgrounds and tremendous accomplishments. Nor does it convey the great enthusiasm they have shown for coming to be part of creating a very special law school.

We have recruited seven new faculty members who began on July 1, 2009, to join the founding faculty who arrived last July. The biographies of both the new and founding faculty are available on these web pages, but I have no doubt that this is a faculty equal to any in the country. Indeed, University of Chicago Law Professor Brian Leiter, in his influential Leiter Report, ranked our faculty as tied for 10th in the country (with the University of Pennsylvania Law School) in per capital scholarly impact.

We have hired spectacular, experienced staff for administrative positions throughout the law School. For example, I am particularly proud of our student services team which is deeply committed to assisting our students in every way possible. Dean Victoria Ortiz came after 10 years at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, and her team includes Registrar Mary Kelleher-Jones (who also came from Berkeley Law), Director of Career Services Elizabeth Schroeder (an NYU Law graduate who comes after 15 years as Associate Director of the ACLU of Southern California), and Director of Financial Aid Veronica Wilson (who comes after 20 years at UCLA Law School).

We have designed an innovative curriculum that focuses on preparing students for the practice of law at the highest levels of the profession. In the first year, students will take a year-long course in Lawyering Skills, which will focus on teaching skills such as negotiation, interviewing and fact investigation. All first-year students will be required to do in-take interviews of actual clients at the Legal Aid Society of Orange County, the Orange County Public Defender or the Public Law Center. There also will be a year-long course in the Legal Profession, as students learn about professional ethics from the beginning of law school, as well as about the economics of the profession and the psychology of being a lawyer.

The other first-year courses will focus on methods of analysis that all lawyers use. In the fall, students also will take Common Law Analysis: Private Ordering (focusing especially on contracts), Statutory Analysis (focusing primarily on criminal law), and Procedural Analysis (focusing largely on civil procedure). In the spring, first-year students also will take Common Law Analysis: Government Regulation (focusing on torts), Constitutional Analysis, and International Legal Analysis.

In the upper-level years, all students will be required to complete a one- or two-semester clinical experience. Also, there will be a strong focus on bringing skills instruction to courses throughout the upper-level curriculum.

This year, there was substantial work done in converting Berkeley Place into a law school. The law library, on the first two floors of the south building, is in the final stages of completion and is a truly stunning and user-friendly work space for students and faculty. Seven additional faculty offices were completed in June to accommodate our arriving colleagues. An administrative suite opened in February and will allow students to meet all of their administrative needs in one place. Two new classrooms were just completed. There will be an outdoor student lounge, with a food service, as well as an indoor lounge near the students’ lockers and offices for student organizations. Additional classrooms and space for the clinics will be completed in the next few years.

Over the course of the year, the faculty adopted policies for grading, for exams, for pro bono work by students, and for many other aspects of the operation of the law school. A student handbook will be available on this web site. We have designed an innovative orientation for our students to introduce them to the law and law school.

I am very grateful to all of our donors who have generously supported the law school. Thanks to their commitments, we were able to promise a full scholarship to every student in our entering class for their three years of law school. Also, we received $2 million gift for an Environmental Law Clinic and are nearing completion of commitments to fund an International Commerce and Law Institute.

Looking back, it has been a year of tremendous accomplishments. The coming year, with the arrival of students and the beginning of classes, promises to be even more exciting.

July 17, 2009

Erwin Chemerinsky
Founding Dean and Distinguished Professor
University of California, Irvine School of Law