Visions of Change

Occasional Notes from the Dean

An Exciting, Historic Year

The 2011-12 academic year was a special one for UC Irvine School of Law. For the first time, the school had all three years of law students. The expansion of the student body was met by nine wonderful new faculty members. It was a year filled with exciting events.

None, of course, was more important than the first commencement which occurred on May 5, 2012, when we celebrated the graduation of 58 inaugural students. On the night before commencement, we had a dinner to celebrate the graduates and some of the individuals who did so much for the Law School: Chancellor Michael Drake, Executive Vice Chancellor Michael Gottfredson, and key volunteers Joe Dunn, Andy Guilford, Tom Malcolm, Mark Robinson, and Jim Swinden. No words ever can express appreciation for all that these individuals have done for UCI Law.

Commencement was a very special occasion and included terrific addresses by student speaker Jean Su, and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Harry Edwards. Each captured the uniqueness of UCI Law and the pivotal role played by our inaugural students.

Throughout the year, the Law School had a rich intellectual life with many speakers and conferences. Former federal judge and now Harvard Law Professor Nancy Gertner delivered the third annual Mark Robinson Lecture. Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree delivered the second Al Meyerhoff Public Interest Lecture. Former White House Counsel Fred Fielding gave the first John and Mary Carrington Lecture. NYU Law Professor Barry Friedman gave the first Raymond Pryke First Amendment Law Lecture. Harvard Professor Richard Lazarus gave a lecture to inaugurate the Law School’s Center for Land, Environment, and Natural Resources.

There were a number of symposia on topics such as business law as public interest law, international law in state courts, and legal history. The student-organized symposium focused on legal issues concerning the Asian Pacific American community. In addition, there were one or two lunch speakers for students each week, coordinated by Professor Henry Weinstein, and a series of faculty workshops organized by Professors Katie Porter and Shauhin Talesh.

One of the most exciting developments in the Law School was the implementation of our clinical requirement. UCI is one of the few law schools in the country that requires a clinical experience of all of its students. This year, third-year students chose from among four clinics – an Appellate Litigation Clinic, which had 10 students argue in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit; a Community Economic Development Clinic; an Environmental Law Clinic; and an Immigrants’ Rights Clinic. We also offered three other clinics that second-year students participated in: a Family Violence Clinic, a Fair Employment and Housing Clinic, and an International Human Rights Clinic.

Almost every student did pro bono work. Collectively, our 58 graduates logged more than 5,600 hours of pro bono service during their three years of law school. To name just a few examples: Our students successfully represented an Iraqi refugee in immigration court, foster families in administrative hearings and people seeking public access to beaches. In our clinics, students litigated and won cases in the federal court of appeals and in many other tribunals, and prepared the documents necessary for community organizations to receive non-profit and tax-exempt status.

As we complete this academic year, there is great excitement for 2012-13. Our applications were up 105% this year, which is stunning because nationally applications were down 16%. We will again be able to expand the size of our student body while maintaining, and even increasing, its quality.

Five individuals have accepted our offers to join the faculty: Bryant Garth, recently the Dean of Southwestern Law School and previously Director of the American Bar Foundation, who will begin teaching at UCI after his 2012-13 sabbatical provided by Southwestern; David Kaye, a clinical professor from UCLA Law School; David Min, who will join us from practice; Ezra Ross, a lawyering skills professor from UCLA Law School; and Gerald Torres, a professor at the University of Texas Law School. These appointments require campus administration approval before they become official. This will bring our faculty to 34, with the plan being to expand this to 55 over the next several years.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not conclude by again thanking Michael Gottfredson, who will be leaving UCI to become President of the University of Oregon. He has been unflagging in his support for the Law School. I know that whatever success this Law School has will be a result of his leadership and commitment. I know that I speak for everyone at UCI Law in saying how much we will miss him and how much we wish him well in his new, exciting position.

June 25, 2012

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