Visions of Change

Occasional Notes from the Dean

Legal Education Beyond the Classroom

As I write this on November 2, the first semester of classes in the Law School is almost two-thirds over. We could not possibly have gotten off to a smoother or better start. The faculty uniformly rave about our students and the students are equally praising of their teachers. The innovative first-year curriculum has been well received by both students and faculty.

In addition to formal instruction, Prof. Henry Weinstein has created a speaker series that once or twice a week brings prominent lawyers and judges to the Law School. Last week, for example, on Tuesday, the students heard Thomas Saenz, the president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and on Thursday, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas spoke. Also, as part of the Legal Profession course, students hear panels of attorneys in specific areas, such as recent panels of criminal defense lawyers and prosecutors.

The Law School also co-hosted its first symposium, an environmental law conference on Oct. 9, which was held in conjunction with the Newkirk Center for Science and Society. The program, “Toward a Sustainable 21st Century: Stopping the Pollution of the Planet,” including major papers by Prof. Alejandro Camacho and Prof. Joseph DiMento from the Law School, as well as top scholars from other law schools. The papers from the conference will form the first issue of volume one of the UC Irvine Law Review. Three other symposia are planned for the remainder of this academic year.

On Oct. 23-24, the Law School co-hosted a major continuing legal education conference, “Courtroom Solutions for Today’s Lawyers,” in cooperation with the Orange County Trial Lawyers Association and the American Board of Trial Advocates. A number of prominent judges and lawyers spoke, including California Supreme Court Justice Ming Chin and Howard Miller, president of the State Bar of California. Many students attended, especially to hear the closing event, a debate between Dean Kenneth Starr of Pepperdine University School of Law and me. The program supported the UC Irvine Law Scholarship Fund.

A great deal of attention is now being paid to next year. Recruiting for our second class, the Class of 2013, is well under way, with Assistant Dean Victoria Ortiz and other administrators visiting college and university campuses all over the country to speak to prospective students. Applications are already starting to arrive. We are working hard to raise money to meet our goal of providing all students in the second entering class a significant scholarship.

We also are working hard to recruit several additional members of the faculty to join us in July 2010. A number of potential faculty members are interviewing on campus, and a group of students will meet each candidate and share their views with the faculty. The faculty is in the midst of planning for our curriculum for the second and third year. We will be soon holding a forum to solicit student views and giving students a survey to get a sense of what courses they would like offered. Our hope is to provide a curriculum that fulfills our vision of preparing students for the practice of law at the highest levels of the profession.

It is tremendously exciting to be part of creating the new law school. Ultimately, any school is a product and reflection of its faculty, staff and students. We could not possibly have a more impressive or nicer group of faculty, staff and students to create what I believe will be a very special law school.

Nov. 2, 2009

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