Visions of Change

Occasional Notes from the Dean

Feeling Truly Thankful This Season

As the fall semester draws to a close, it is possible to look back on what has been a great start to the school year and to look forward to May 5, 2012, when we will celebrate the commencement of our inaugural students.

We have just been through our first placement of students in judicial clerkships and it has gone better than we could have imagined. As of now, 13 students in the class of 2012 have accepted judicial clerkships, which puts us behind only Yale and Stanford among top 20 schools in the percentage of students who will be clerking in the year after graduation. Our Career Development Office, under Director Charles Song, is working hard to place all of our graduating students, as well as to find summer jobs for our second- and first-year students.

This year, of course, is the first time we have had all three classes of students. By all measures and accounts, the 89 students in the class of 2014 are the equal of the two classes that have preceded them. I have consistently heard wonderful things about our first-year students from their professors this semester.

Our admissions staff and admissions committee, under the leadership of Assistant Dean Janice Austin, is already hard at work recruiting the class of 2015. We are seeing a significant increase in applications, which we are hopeful will continue throughout the admissions season.

We have added nine new faculty members who joined us on July 1, and they are superb teachers and scholars. We are now in the process of recruiting five additional faculty members. Over the course of the fall, the faculty will interview 20 candidates for these positions and we expect to hire another group of outstanding professors. The plan is to continue to hire about five new faculty members a year for the next five years until we are at a full-time faculty of about 55.

Many wonderful programs have begun this semester. We require a clinical experience of all students for graduation, and every third-year student will participate in a clinic this year. I have been amused to read of the recent newspaper articles lamenting the lack of experiential learning for students, because that is exactly what we provide. Our third-year students this year are enrolled in one of four clinics: an appellate litigation clinic, where students are briefing and arguing cases in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit; a community and economic development clinic; an environmental law clinic; and an immigration law clinic. Also, we have several clinics open to second- and third-year students, though they don’t fulfill the clinical requirement: a family violence clinic, a human rights clinic, and a clinic on employment and housing discrimination in conjunction with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

From the outset, the goal has been that the Law School will be highly interdisciplinary. Under the direction of Prof. Chris Tomlins, we have created concurrent degree programs with departments across the campus. This year, four students are enrolled in the J.D./M.B.A. program and four are enrolled in J.D./Ph.D. programs.

We are moving forward in the development of the John S. and Marilyn Long U.S.-China Institute for Business and Law. Jack Hsu, our first Executive Director of the Institute, began on Nov. 1. We have decided that innovation and intellectual property will be the first focus for collaboration, which will involve a three-year project undertaken together with Fudan University in Shanghai. We will welcome two professors from Fudan for a year visit beginning in January.

The spring semester promises to be exceptionally busy. We will have a number of lectures, including Prof. Barry Friedman of New York University delivering a lecture in conjunction with inaugurating the Raymond Pryke Chair in First Amendment Law; Harvard Professor Richard Lazarus delivering the keynote for our new Environmental Law Center; Harvard Professor Charles Ogletree delivering the second annual Al Meyerhoff Lecture; former federal judge and Harvard Professor Nancy Gertner delivering the third annual Mark Robinson lecture; and former White House Counsel Fred Fielding delivering the first John and Mary Carrington Lecture. We will have several symposia, including one on international law, one on legal history, one on critical race theory, and a student-organized symposium on legal issues concerning Asian-Americans.

On May 4, we are planning a gala to celebrate the Law School and our inaugural students who will graduate on Saturday, May 5. Details about both of these events will be forthcoming soon. As one semester and year ends, and as we look forward to the next, there is a tremendous spirit of excitement at the Law School and an enormous amount to be thankful for.

Nov. 30, 2011

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