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Tuition Free in the OC: Irvine Opens its Doors

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  • Tuition Free in the OC: Irvine Opens its Doors

    It feels like it’s been quite a lengthy run-up, but it’s finally here: On Monday, the new school at UC Irvine will open its doors to students. That’s right. As of Monday, they’ll be studying criminal law in one of the safest cities in the country. Click here for a Page One story in Friday’s LAT.

    The launching of the law school couldn’t have gone gotten off on a worse step — the public relations debacle that was the hiring and — and firing, and rehiring — of Dean Erwin Chemerinsky from Duke back in 2007. (Click here and here for another stroll down that lane.)

    But the school has also done a ton of things right, including putting at least some of a $20 million donation from Orange County developer Donald Bren toward tuition for the first class. The offer of free tuition, which will stay with those students all three years, boosted applications and gave the school an instant patina of prestige. It allowed the school to boast that it was more selective than Yale, and helped impress folks who track all-things-law-school, like Chicago’s Brian Leiter. Leiter, according to the LAT story, said that based on the quality of its faculty and the entrance exam scores of its first class, UCI should be ranked among the nation’s top 20 law schools.

    But can and will UCI maintain its elite stride over the long haul? Or, once the tuitions come into play, will it simply settle into an echelon of very good schools, but schools that few would choose over the Harvards and Columbias?

    Partly, says Leiter, it will depend on how its graduates fare in the job market. “The economy is the question mark over the whole enterprise,” said Leiter, who said he believes that job cuts at law firms nationwide may lead to some law schools closing. “There’s nothing certain here.”

    Still, for now, expectations are running high. “Traditions are lovely things, but a lot of traditions get in the way of change,” said Charles Cannon, assistant dean of development and external affairs, who jumped from UCLA Law School, where he held the same position. “My profile is the same as all of us who came here. . . . The chance to do something different at an elite institution. . . . It’s only going to happen once in our lifetimes.”

    Want a little more on the folks who’ll be starting at UCI? Click here.
    Welcome to our discussion forum!

  • #2
    UCI Law has status, not tradition

    Innovations at the new school, which opens Monday, attract national attention.

    Founding dean Erwin Chemerinsky will open UC Irvine's law school on Monday. (Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times / August 18, 2009)

    In a challenging fundraising climate, the first new public law school in California in more than a generation begins classes Monday at UC Irvine with 61 top-flight students, a highly regarded faculty and the goal of becoming a model for an innovative legal education emphasizing hands-on experience and public service.

    It has been less than two years since the school's founding dean, Erwin Chemerinsky, was hired, fired and rehired by UCI Chancellor Michael Drake during a weeklong fiasco that focused attention on Chemerinsky's outspoken liberal politics and whether conservative critics had quietly lobbied for his ouster. The resulting national uproar over the sanctity of academic freedom threatened to derail the law school.


    UCI Law has status, not tradition --
    Welcome to our discussion forum!


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