Thank You UCI Law, and Don’t Change

Phil Keithley Syers
J.D. Candidate 2013, UCI Law

I found myself saying “UCI Law changed my life” a lot while meeting admitted students last week. After uttering that a few times, what I was saying took hold of me, and I marveled at how true it is.

I am going to leave here with opportunities that were entirely beyond my grasp three years go. What’s more, I am going to leave here with a new confidence, with an abiding feeling that I belong in conversations that would have seemed abstruse, intimidating, and otherwise inaccessible to me three years ago. And I’ve made lifelong friends with students, faculty, and administration. While this is likely true of many law school experiences, I can’t help but believe that it’s particularly true of UCI Law.

This is very much what I hoped for when applying here. I thought that the newness of the school would allow me unique access and influence, and that the venture would engender a culture of cooperation that wouldn’t be available anywhere else. That is exactly what I experienced, and I think that is what students can continue to experience for many years to come.

I often wonder how and in what directions the school will change after we leave. As an institution it is still incredibly young, and lots of it still needs to be built. However, its character and culture, as I have experienced things, are nearly perfect. It’s full of enthusiasm, courage, compassion, and gumption. These qualities are what it takes to be a new law school in tough economic times full of negativity for legal education.

What I hope for is that this place keeps that character and remains “new,” even as it ages. I hope students in the coming years show up planning to build, rethink and, if necessary, rebuild any and every facet of the place as an institution. That sense of responsibility and enthusiasm is what made this place so rewarding throughout my three years here.

As more students pay more tuition, and as institutional scholarships grow less common, it will be inevitable that more will show up expecting the institution to be built for them, to guide and direct them in traditional ways. As graduating students, current students, faculty, and administration, let’s do everything we can to counter that. Let’s remind everyone that shows up here why we chose it and what our goals are. Let’s remind them, as often as possible, why the absence of tradition is a good thing and of all the opportunities that come with making oneself responsible for institution building. Basically, let’s keep UCI Law as UCI Law.

Looking back at my time here, I can sincerely say that I wouldn’t have gone to any other school, no matter what it offered me. If I could capture the fundamental reason why this is so and preserve it for future students, it would be to keep this place new, and to keep it from reverting to the mean. I promise to do everything I can—from a distance, admittedly—to help make that happen.

Thank you for the opportunities UCI Law, and please don’t ever change!

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