A Call to Challenge Process at the Law School of the 21st Century

Theresa Bichsel
J.D. Candidate 2012, UCI Law

Luke Boughen
J.D. Candidate 2012, UCI Law

Jean Su
J.D. Candidate 2012, UCI Law

To paraphrase Professor Stephen Lee, You didn’t come to law school for free; you’re here to build an institution. The incredible opportunity to execute our law school’s inaugural student-run conference—A3: A Conference on Climate Justice—has been an adventure into both the glory and grit of institution building. As we have found thought partners in one another, this conference takes the first steps in establishing our law school as a hub for environmental law within the heart of conservative Southern California. Equally important, we are setting some precedent procedures for future student-run conferences, which demand collaboration among students, administration, and faculty.

What it means to be the Law School of the 21st Century is seamlessly intertwined with the procedures that ground this institution. If we are to embrace Professor Carrie Menkel- Meadow’s message from her Chancellor Chair’s Lecture, we need to think carefully about our choice of process because it determines the end outcome. Indeed, if we strive for the ultimate outcome to be a new type of law school, then we must not only be conscious of process; we need to grapple with it, take time and thought to craft it, and challenge assumptions of what some people believe it already is.

All of our student body’s great efforts—in the form of student-organized speaker events, PILF, our law review, and SBA committees—are paving the fundamental processes of working with the faculty and administration. The three of us have realized that we should treat each effort as an opportunity to develop the way things are done here; to question and respectfully challenge the reasons behind limiting procedures, instead of accepting them as stagnant rules.

Each of us in this community— students, faculty, and the administration— bring experiences of process from other institutions. We hope and urge everyone in our community to bring the best processes cultivated from other institutions, but also to be self-aware of carrying over inflexible mindsets. Trying new things is always risky. However, our willingness to embrace risk with the practical ambition of creating something better than the status quo makes UCI Law exceptional.

The power of UCI Law is rooted in the visionary spirit to create a truly different institution. Whatever each of us believes this entity should look like; we hope that all members of the community can embrace this founding spirit in our respective roles. The entrepreneurialism of this school should not only be based in the content of our events, teaching methods, or public-minded aspirations, but also equally in the mechanisms of procedure that will make UCI Law a living, sustainable institution that can respond to dynamic new ideas in years to come.

We hope UCI Law can achieve the ultimate outcome of becoming an institution where process embraces openness and problem solving across our community. Where, especially in these critical founding years, we do not adopt procedures and mindsets without careful consideration first of the structures and outcomes they will produce. And where the sentiment of “I haven’t done it before” is not interpreted as a barrier to action, but a challenge to which we should rise.