You Can’t Rank This

by ursavoice

Michael Klinger

J.D. Candidate 2013, UCI Law


    In choosing to attend UCI Law, I told myself that I wanted to help build an institution. If I’m honest, what I really meant was that I wanted to help to create a community of shared progressive ideals. (This time, progressive doesn’t have to have a political-spectrum connotation—only its definitional meaning of trying new ideas and making new opportunities.)

    There are features in the landscape of legal education that exist in shadow, that have been assumed permanent and unchangeable, even while they are recognized to serve only limited (or no) functional value. We probably all have our opinions about what, in the landscape, we would most like to alter. The multiplicity of ideas about how to change the landscape may account for the wide range of student-led and student-created activities, groups, and research areas among our UCI Law peers.

    This semester, three important events have helped to define more clearly where our community may be heading. First, the Women’s Law Society’s V-Day Vagina Monologues was an inspiration. It was student-led, student-performed, and dedicated in spirit and deed to victims of domestic violence (the two performances raised money to support UCI Law’s new Family Violence Clinic).

    Second, the Black Law Students Alliance brought together a panel, “Progression? Perspectives from the Legal Education.” Several prominent African American attorneys from in and around Orange County came together to share their observations and experiences based on the role that race and their self-identification as black lawyers has played in both their education and careers. In my opinion, the event was an enormous success, not only for the important conversations it started (or continued) here at UCI Law, but also because it took the space of EDU 1111 and altered it for one evening. It became a space for stories of personal challenges and of sometimes overcoming them against steep odds. It was student-organized, student-led, and made an important statement about our community ideals.

    Third, the second ever student-organized symposium, APALSA’s “Reigniting Community: Strengthening the Asian Pacific American Identity” took place last week. The symposium asked important and difficult questions about identity, race, and the often-troubling role of the law and legal thought in addressing (or not) the challenges that racial identity poses. It was a gathering of many of the founders of the movement of API/APA legal theory and scholarship, as well as dedicated practitioners and cross-discipline researchers and activists. The feat of pulling off such a complex program over two days is staggering, and while I am humbled by the organizers’ total intellectual commitment and their ability to provoke thoughtful and deep conversation, we might all be equally awed by the sheer logistical accomplishment.

    In my opinion, a UCI Law education is meant to train us to address the aching human need for legal assistance in our midst and all around us. Also, and relatedly in my opinion, it is difficult to imagine a more meaningless and distracting endeavor than the U.S. News & World Report law school rankings, published last week (something worth removing from the landscape). This year, UCI Law again enjoyed the privilege of not being included in the ranking. Whatever the school’s mandate from its founders and early supporters, the fact that we remain ungraded by that distracting and damaging metric at least for one more year is, to many of us, a relief.

    In the absence of a so-called ranking, we can look instead to our progressive community’s good acts. I am so proud of the budding community of shared progressive ideals that I see growing up all around me, and hope we can continue to build on this foundation. Next up, the Global Justice Summit (student-organized, student-led) and perhaps a postgraduation incubator-project (student-proposed, student-organized). The point of this brief survey of our community today is simply to say thank you to my colleagues and to the school for allowing our shared ideals to become lived. I hope it continues.