Where were you teaching before joining the UCI Law faculty and why did you choose to come here?
I was at Case Western Reserve and then visiting at UCLA immediately before I joined the UC Irvine founding faculty. But I jumped at the chance to help launch the new UCI law school. Dean Chemerinsky’s vision for the school - emphasizing experiential learning, interdisciplinary approaches and public service - fits my own interests perfectly.
Which areas of law are you most interested in and why?
My research and teaching focus primarily on the legal profession and lawyers’ ethics. The law that governs lawyers includes a bit of everything, including rules of professional conduct, statutes and regulations that apply to lawyers who practice before agencies, civil and criminal procedure, and constitutional law. But my field also includes a broader set of concerns that go beyond law - concerns about ethics and lawyers’ roles in our legal and political processes.
In your book, Lawyers of the Right: Professionalizing the Conservative Coalition, you discuss the differences and similarities among lawyers associated with the Republican Party. What drew you to this topic and what does the book conclude?
As I was finishing an empirical project on civil rights and poverty lawyers, a colleague suggested that I should study a phenomenon that had received very little attention from scholars: lawyers who serve causes of the political right. It took me less than a minute to realize that I had found my next big project. I was attracted to its freshness, scale and relevance to my long-standing interest in the relationship between law and social movements.
My book shows that the lawyers who serve the major constituencies that have united behind the Republican Party for the past three decades - business interests, libertarians and social conservatives - are divided by values, class and geography, just as their clients are.
Which do you prefer - researching and writing or teaching - and why?
I’m glad that I don’t have to choose! I love research and writing and easily lose myself for hours in them. But teaching nicely complements those solitary activities. It relates to questions that drive my scholarship, but it allows me to interact with young prospective lawyers who have a big stake in the future of the legal profession. I love the exchange, and I especially enjoy learning about students’ backgrounds and aspirations.
You teach a class called “The Legal Profession” with Professor Catherine Fisk. Can you elaborate a little bit on the curriculum and experience of this class?
The course is designed to prepare UCI law students to chart successful, rewarding and responsible careers in the legal profession. It teaches them about the great variety of practice settings in which lawyers work, and the professional opportunities and challenges of each. It arms students with tools they will need to resolve the legal and ethical issues that lawyers confront in practice and to navigate the enormous legal, cultural and economic forces that are reshaping the legal profession.
Panels of lawyers and judges discuss their work and experience, and role-playing exercises give students opportunities to tackle difficult problems without risking real consequences. While virtually all other law school courses focus primarily on issues of concern to clients, this course revolves around issues of primary concern to our students.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge in starting up the law school, and what is the best thing about starting this program from scratch?
Unlike most schools, where entrenched expectations make it difficult to innovate, we face no such obstacles. Dean Chemerinsky has encouraged our faculty and administrators to seize this rare opportunity to get things exactly right. But deciding what aspects of the standard curriculum and culture of law schools work well and what should change requires a huge investment of time and effort. We have been working hard to deliver an excellent program for our students.
We have assembled a terrific team of administrators and faculty and admitted an amazing first class of students. We’re well on our way to launching a great new law school. I’m thrilled to be part of this grand adventure.