Dean Walters
Dean Walters

Dan Walters, Dean of State Political Reporters, v. Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of UCI Law School

The dean of California political reporters, Dan Walters, didn't like the idea of UC Irvine opening a law school six years ago and, in his syndicated column Monday, expressed vindication for that view thanks to a Los Angeles Times story that reports several law school graduates can't find jobs while holding mammoth student loan debt.

The dean of UCI's law school, Erwin Chemerinsky, fired off a swift counter-attack.

Walters' original objections were based on the state already having 25 accredited law schools, the number of graduates taking the State Bar examination having risen to nearly 7,000 a year, and most of all a California Postsecondary Education Commission staff survey concluding there was no need for another law school.

In his latest column on the subject, Walters clings to the belief that it was more "academic ego and Orange County boosterism" that led to UCI Law's founding than it was a need for more attorneys. This, despite acknowledging in the piece that the same law school had just boasted about 46 of its first 51 grads passing the bar exam.

But Chemerinsky did the opposite of avoiding the jobs bit in a letter published Tuesday by Walters' flagship paper, the Sacramento Bee. The school's founding dean pointed to a different article, this one in the National Law Journal, which ranked UCI Law 11th in the country when it came to the percentage of 2012 law grads who landed jobs.

He also mentioned American Bar Association data that has UCI Law second only to Yale in the percentage of students who landed federal clerkships--"one of the most prestigious jobs for new law graduates."

"The law school's impressive employment record in this deep and prolonged recession is a testament not only to the strength of its curriculum--which emphasizes more than most schools the practical training of legal skills--but also to the quality of the students and faculty it has attracted," Chemerinsky concludes. "In fact, a recent study ranks UCI Law's faculty seventh in the country among all law schools--behind only Yale, Harvard, Chicago, Stanford, New York University and Columbia--in scholarly impact."

Walters is not the only critic of UCI having opened a law school, as the Weekly mentions in these posts:
UCI's First Law School Class Has a Better Cali Bar Exam Passage Rate Than All But Stanford
UCI Law School Professor and Students Fight for Nigerian Activists in U.S. Supreme Court

The veteran Capitol halls darkener's piece does include two other interesting (and local) tidbits: "The Times quoted State Bar Executive Director Joseph Dunn-a former state senator from Orange County, ironically enough-that while there have been lawyer gluts in the past, 'I don't think any of them rival the situation we are seeing today.'" That's followed by the revelation that some unemployed lawyers are reportedly suing their law schools for overpromising their prospects of becoming well-paid attorneys.

By Jove, they're lawyerpreneurs! They're creating case work for themselves. They'll be makers instead of takers in no time.

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