In 2007, I accepted the position to be the founding dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law. I decided from the outset to create a law school with a strong emphasis on public service. The Chancellor, Michael Drake, and the Provost, Michael Gottfredson, who hired me agreed to the importance of this. But this, of course, was not the only objective. Several other goals also affected what we could do.Yes, like making money, burnishing his "legacy", and creating job opportunities for people like Carrie Menkel-Meadow. Together, they will do for law school what Korea did for pop music.
First, the primary goal articulated by Chancellor Drake and Provost Gottfredson was to create a law school that would be ranked in the top 20, by every measure, from the outset. They were terrific in providing the resources to allow us to pursue being a top 20 law school, but this required that our primary criteria in admission be focused on LSAT and GPA numbers. These are a substantial part of every law school's ranking. Commitment to public service, of course, could be a plus in admissions decisions, especially among those with the requisite grades and test scores. But ultimately our admissions decisions would not be very different from other schools that wish to be in the top 20.
Erwin insists that he is changing the game while still measuring success by metrics that exist in a zombie magazine that has no reason to exist besides telling students where they should be spending those easy to come by loan dollars. How about actually innovating instead of just pretending?
Second, we needed to cultivate close relationships with the large law firms in our area. I spent a great deal of time thinking about how to attract terrific students to a brand new law school. The law school hired 10 founding faculty, all stars from top 20 law schools, to arrive a year before the students. My hope was that this would send a message to prospective students of the quality of the new school.
Erwin isn't telling us how these professors fit in with his vision to develop a law school specializing in public interest law. A clear plan to implement this vision is more important than recruiting “stars” for his faculty. His obsession with “star” faculty is like a young kid who claims he loves a shoe simply because of its name brand.
We obtained commitments from 75 *4 employers - law firms, government offices and public interest organizations - that they would come and interview our students. This was to communicate to students that they would have job opportunities if they came. My best idea, though, was to offer a full scholarship for all three years of law school to every student in the inaugural class. This received national publicity, and we received about 2,800 applications for the 60 slots and had students turn down many top schools to come. The scholarship money came largely from large law firms in the area. Their incentive was to bring great students to Orange County with the hope they would stay and come to work at their firms. And, of course, we wanted to do all we could to help our students who wanted to go to large firms pursue this.So after all that deep thought (during time for which he was paid, I'm sure), the best ideas Erwin came up with: get employers to promise to participate in OCI and let the first class attend for free. With the legal field rapidly shrinking, I don't see how simply getting firms to promise to participate in OCI is such a momentous triumph. I know of many people who will sit through time share presentations with no intention of buying simply to get a free trip. How long until these promises are recanted? Or perhaps firms can send the associates at the bottom of the barrel and turn OCI into a glorified mock interview process. I'm sure that the career center will work tirelessly to get jobs for this first class of students, and then fall off as more dopes are reeled in by Erwin's pitch. It all sounds like the lifecycle of the law professor pre and post tenure, doesn't it?
Third, once the founding faculty arrived, major decisions about the school were made by them and then by the faculty who were subsequently hired. There was no assurance that they would share my vision of the school, especially with regard to an emphasis on public service. We were hiring a founding faculty that would make us a top 20 law school; their views on public interest law really did not play a role in the hiring process.So, in an article about how Erwin created a law school that emphasizes public interest law, he admits that he had no interest in prospective professors' views on public interest law. Erwin tips his hand here. He is only interested in building a cash machine that will redistribute Federal student loans to himself and UC Irvine.
Within these constraints, though, there was a great deal of opportunity to create a law school that put more of an emphasis on public interest law. This essay is a description of some of the things we have done in this regard.The last sentence is the type of lukewarm statement that indicates that Erwin doesn't have any particular interest in advancing his alleged mission beyond paying it lip service. Erwin, there are ways to measure outcomes. It's called doing a job survey of your graduates.
It is too soon to know whether we have succeeded in producing law students who will pursue public interest careers. We have had only two graduating classes and a significant number of students are doing judicial clerkships. We have some students working full-time in public interest, some in government and many at law firms. We have a large number of students doing public interest work during the summers and doing pro bono work during the school year. We will need more time before assessing whether what we have done makes any difference. I know there is more that we can do.At this point, Erwin's lost the thread. He admits that he has no idea if his first class will pursue public interest law. Isn't that what he opened this law school to do? Again, the absence of innovative thought is very evident here. Erwin's law school has simply produced graduates who have the same kinds of outcomes most law schools' graduates have.
This essay describes what we have done in terms of our curricular decisions, our financial assistance, our pro bono program and *5 our career services office. These are not all of the components for designing a law school oriented towards public interest law, but they are certainly crucial aspects of doing this.Admittedly, I was unable to read the full article. Maybe Erwin articulated a truly innovative vision in the rest of the article. But I suspect he didn't. All this essay seems to have are platitudes that don't really mean anything. The prestige chasing and emphasis in building that prestige quickly is ultimately designed to create the most efficient system possible to put a spigot in the student loan barrel. The false prestige Erwin wants to quickly create is only to entice students to come and spend entirely too much money for an education that has been proven to be largely worthless in today's job market. Erwin, just admit you're in this because you want to live in the sunshine and maybe buy a Ferrari. That would at least make respect you.