With Enormous Gratitude

by ursavoice

Dean Erwin Chemerinsky



    Someday, years from now, when the history of UCI Law School is told, one of the most amazing parts will be how the school was able to attract truly terrific students from the outset. Each of our first three classes has been terrific and has set a standard for excellence for all of the classes to come.

    In fact, undoubtedly it was the high quality, by every measure, of the inaugural class that has allowed us to continue to attract terrific students. So many things helped us to attract these great students. Chancellor Michael Drake and Executive Vice Chancellor/Provost Michael Gottfredson agreed to have an entering class of about 60 students and to expand slowly from there. They also agreed to allow us to hire 10 founding faculty a year before students arrived to plan the school and to help recruit students.

    Of course, the promise of full scholarships attracted many to apply and come. Charles Cannon, our Assistant Dean for Development, was crucial in raising the funds for this and the support of the Orange County legal community was essential. Viki Ortiz, then our Assistant Dean for Admissions, played a crucial role in recruiting the inaugural students. And you helped to recruit each other.

    The inaugural class has so exceeded whatever high expectations we had. You truly have been partners in creating this law school. You have created the law review and the moot court program and this newspaper and so many other organizations. You have done enormous amounts of pro bono work and set an example that hopefully will be followed by future students. You have participated in creating the rules and procedures for so many aspects of the school.

    I know that it has not always been easy. All beginnings are difficult and ours, though it has gone spectacularly well, has certainly had tough moments. But through it all you have been enthusiastic partners in creating something special. Most of all, I have been constantly impressed with your kindness to one another and your commitment to making this a very warm and inclusive community.

    As I write this, our third year of classes are coming to a close. We are in a wonderful place as a school. Our applications were up 105% this year, while applications to law schools nationally decreased by 17%. We are continuing to attract terrific faculty and I look forward to announcing our new hires for 2012 very soon. Our emphasis on experiential learning is reflected in our implementing this year the requirement that each student participate in a clinic. Here, too, our inaugural students were the pioneers. By all accounts, the clinics have been a huge success.

    We certainly face challenges in the years ahead. We will run out of space and need to find funds to build a new law school building. We need to continue to attract great students and faculty. Other challenges are more subtle, but no less important. We have created a very warm, nurturing community. Can we sustain it as we grow? We have built a law school with a different vision, especially one that emphasizes experiential learning and pro bono work. Will future faculty and students maintain this commitment? There has been a strong commitment to innovation and taking advantage of our blank slate. Can we continue this as we become older?

    I am tremendously confident as we go forward. Our inaugural class, like the two classed behind them, has set a foundation for a truly outstanding, unique law school. No words ever can express my gratitude to them for coming to UCI and for all they have done to make this a wonderful place.