Origins of the School
The University of California is facing unprecedented growth in enrollments, and although the population of California is expanding rapidly, the best schools of law in the state have reached their maximum capacity and have no plans to expand. The University of California, Irvine therefore renewed our determination to establish a School of Law.
A school of law associated with a major research university is more capable of providing the kind of education necessary to fulfill the intellectual and professional demands society is increasingly placing on the best lawyers. Evidence of unmet demand for lawyers with such training is already accumulating: starting salaries at most good law firms are at record highs, as are salaries for beginning assistant professors at the best schools of law. Law firms have reported a lack of qualified candidates, and there is a tragic shortage of highly trained lawyers available to lower-income people through pro-bono work, government programs and privately supported public-interest law. In addition, Southern California—the most populous region in the country—has a dramatic need for another top-tier public law school. UCLA is the only public school of law south of San Francisco.
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 the University of California, Irvine’s goal for creating a top-tier law school.
“This gift provides tremendous momentum for our new law school,” said 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 has 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. Read more about Dean Chemerinsky’s background and vision.
Left to right: Erwin Chemerinsky, Charles Cannon, Chancellor Michael V. Drake