Fulfilling a Plan

UC Irvine School of Law opened in August 2009 as the first new public law school in California in more than 40 years. Since the inception of the University of California, Irvine, which celebrated its 50th birthday in 2015, a law school was envisioned as part of the plan to become a full-service, interdisciplinary research institution.

Origins of the School

After earlier efforts to start a new law school in Irvine, the UC Board of Regents approved a plan for UC Irvine School of Law in November 2006.

A gift of $20 million in August 2007 from business leader and philanthropist Donald Bren—a longtime visionary donor to the University of California, Irvine—provided the financial wherewithal to help quickly bring to fruition UC Irvine’s goal of creating a top-tier law school. “This gift provides tremendous momentum for our new Law School,” said UCI Chancellor Michael V. Drake, M.D. “The endowment will help us attract renowned legal scholars who will educate future leaders, serve the Orange County community, and help our university quickly ascend the ranks of leading law schools in the country.”

In fall 2007, nationally renowned professor of constitutional law and federal civil procedure Erwin Chemerinsky was named founding dean, effective July 1, 2008. Chemerinsky had been the Alston & Bird Professor of Law and professor of political science at Duke University since 2004. Previously he was the Sidney M. Irmas Professor of Public Interest Law, Legal Ethics & Political Science at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law for 21 years. The school opened its doors to its first class of 60 law students on August 24, 2009.

Further Reading: UCI Law: The First Half Century, by Joseph F.C. DiMento

Click here for a historical timeline chronicling the origins and accomplishments of UCI Law.

Call for Change

UC Irvine School of Law had the opportunity and mission of creating the ideal law school for the 21st century. We achieved this by aiming to do the best job in the country of training students for the practice of law at the highest levels of the legal profession. The profession today demands lawyer preparation that effectively integrates the traditional teaching of legal doctrine with the development of real-world practice skills. With our blank canvas, and faculty recruited from top-tier law schools around the country, UC Irvine School of Law built a new school that is relevant to law practice and legal scholarship in the 21st century and that pushes the frontiers of the profession.

The Association of American Law Schools, practicing attorneys and judges, law school deans and faculty, journalists and scholars continued to call for dramatic new models for the preparation of lawyers for the practice of law. But changing ingrained and longstanding approaches is a daunting proposition for even the best law schools. Our founding faculty came from those leading institutions and were attracted to the UC Irvine School of Law in large part because of our clean slate and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to rethink and transform legal education.

Further Reading: The Ideal Law School for the 21st Century, by Erwin Chemerinsky

Making History

Most of the 18 founding faculty and senior administrators, which Dean Chemerinsky dubbed his “Dream Team,” arrived in the summer of 2008. This gave the school a full year to plan a curriculum and develop policies before the school opened to students in August 2009. From the very start, the Law School has enjoyed tremendous support from UCI Chancellors, the campus, and the legal and business communities.

Within a few short years, UC Irvine School of Law was already making history. The law faculty has been ranked three times in the top 10 in the country in terms of scholarly impact, most recently coming in 6th behind Yale, Harvard, Chicago, New York University and Stanford.

  • The Inaugural Class of 2012 passed the California bar at a rate of 90 percent, second only to Stanford among state law schools.
  • The Class of 2012 was also ranked in the top 20 of The National Law Journal’s list of Go-To Law Schools, which measured percentage of students obtaining jobs at the nation’s 250 largest law firms.
  • The class also ranked 11th in percentage of students in full-time law jobs, according to The National Law Journal.
  • And the class was second in the country behind only Yale in the percentage of students landing federal judicial clerkships, according to The National Law Journal.


The Law School has 47 full-time faculty members and 350 students. The Law School ranks highly and receives tremendous accolades.

  • In January 2017, National Jurist magazine again named Dean Chemerinsky as the most influential person in legal education in the United States.
  • In 2015, its first year of eligibility, UCI Law ranked No. 30 by U.S. News & World Report out of the 200 ABA-accredited law schools in the country. This was the highest debut ranking by any newlaw school in U.S. News history.
  • UCI Law ranked No. 28 overall in 2016 and 2017. In 2017, U.S. News also ranked UCI Law No. 15 in Clinical Training, No. 17 in Intellectual Property Law, in the top 14 in student diversity  and tied with Yale for third for best student/faculty ratio.
  • Professor Hasen was named one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America by The National Law Journal in 2013.

Other national accolades include:

  • A 2015 study by the University of St. Thomas School of Law measured the scholarly impact of law school faculties. UCI Law ranked No. 6 behind Yale, Harvard, Chicago, NYU and Stanford.
  • The National Law Journal ranked UCI Law No. 5 in the country for placement of our students in government and public interest jobs.
  • In the National Jurist 2017 list of Best Schools for Practical Training, UCI Law ranked No. 6 overall with an A+ grade, one of only nine law schools nationally to receive top honors.
  • UCI Law ranked No. 7 in the nation in a recent ranking of student placement in prestigious federal judicial clerkships, and No. 2 among California law schools 
  • In the 2016 Law School Survey of Student Engagement, the vast majority of our students rated their entire educational experience as “Excellent,” far exceeding our peer schools and the national average.