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LOS ANGELES � Erwin Chemerinsky has a busy year ahead of him. As the founding dean of the University of California, Irvine Donald Bren School of Law, Chemerinsky plans to hire about a half-dozen law professors and several academic administrators while tackling tuition decisions and rounding up financial donors � all before he officially takes the post on July 1, 2008. “There’s so much that has to be done this year,” said Chemerinsky, a professor at Duke Law School who was hired last month following a week of national protests. His on-and-off-again hiring, ostensibly prompted by his political views, raised questions about the school’s adherence to academic freedom and the influence of its donors. As the dust from that debacle begins to settle, Chemerinsky has raced forward. He envisions a law school, eventually housed in its own building on the U.C. Irvine campus, with courses focused on public interest, intellectual property, technology and environmental law. He also wants clinics and centers at the school designed to prepare graduates for the real world. But Chemerinsky faces a number of obstacles. There is already concern that his liberal credentials may make it tougher to recruit professors with conservative viewpoints, depriving the school of a fully rounded faculty. Also, those same liberal leanings may not help fundraising for a law school located in Orange County, a bastion of political conservatism. In addition, U.C. Irvine became the first California law school approved without the blessing of the California Postsecondary Education Commission, which questioned whether the state needed another law school. The commission’s lack of approval may impede financial support from the state. Full speed ahead Despite any perceived obstacles, Chemerinsky is plunging into the task of building a law school. He plans to hire six to eight faculty members and several administrators, including directors of development, admissions and the law library. The school already has begun recruiting for those positions. Next year, he will start looking for additional administrative staff, including directors of communications and career services. The first batch of faculty are critical. “They will be key to attract other faculty and students,” Chemerinsky said. Other founding deans agreed. “The most important thing, in my opinion, is to put together the right team around you,” said Ron Phillips, dean emeritus and founding dean of Pepperdine University School of Law. “Your initial faculty members, who set the tone for the school, cast long shadows that touch an awful lot of people for a long time.” Dick Morgan, founding dean of the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said hiring administrative staff allowed him to delegate tasks so that he could focus on community support, including financial donations, which provides some assurance to potential faculty. Chemerinsky, however, would probably face additional questions about the recent events surrounding his own hiring, said Morgan, now of counsel to Lionel Sawyer & Collins in Las Vegas. On Sept. 11, U.C. Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake withdrew an offer to Chemerinsky to become dean of the law school because, according to Chemerinsky, he was “too politically controversial.” After a week of protests, Drake reoffered Chemerinsky the dean position. “What happened with your hiring and firing and rehiring? Are there pressures there that will make the law school unable to do what it’s going to do? He’ll have to respond to those things,” Morgan said. “He and the chancellor have to get on the same page.” Chemerinsky and Drake have represented a unified front in the weeks following his rehiring. Neither has amply explained the reasons behind Drake’s withdrawal, although Drake denied that his decision was forced by outside pressures. “What happened was an incredibly hard week, and certainly very strange,” Chemerinsky said. “But it means we have the most well-publicized new law school ever. I don’t have to tell them we’ve got this new law school at UCI. Everyone already knows that.” The law school already has picked off some existing faculty at U.C. Irvine: Joseph DiMento, a professor in criminology, law and society, and Elizabeth Loftus, a professor in social ecology. Both are members of a hiring committee that includes Chemerinsky and his wife, Catherine Fisk, a law professor at Duke Law School who will join U.C. Irvine’s faculty to teach labor and employment law. Chemerinsky said he is talking to 15 people for the remaining positions. Next year, the school intends to hire another three to six professors, eventually totaling about 35, he said. But Stephen Bainbridge, a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law, said Chemerinsky could have difficulty recruiting legal scholars with conservative viewpoints to a school focused on public interest law. “I would be very worried about going to that law school, speaking as a conservative,” Bainbridge said. “Erwin has his work cut out for him to make it a place that is a hospitable working environment across the spectrum.” Chemerinsky quickly countered those concerns. “I expect the new law school won’t have any trouble getting people of all views, and vehemently disagree that public interest and public service is liberal,” he said, noting the several public interest groups are conservative. The California Postsecondary Education Commission, which advises the University of California Board of Regents, rejected U.C. Irvine’s proposal last year for a new law school. The commission concluded that the state has enough lawyers and questioned the price tag of a new law school. Despite those concerns, the U.C. regents approved U.C. Irvine’s plans � the first time a school was approved without the blessing of the commission. That could be a factor if U.C. Irvine is forced to ask for money from the state, said Murray Haberman, executive director of the commission. Even though U.C. Irvine intends to raise its own funds, he said, “to the extent they can’t, the state will have to step in and create an allocation for a new law school building, which we estimate would be close to $100 million.” Chemerinsky called the commission’s report “irrelevant” because the school would be funded in the same way as other U.C. law schools. Much of the funding for the law school would come from U.C. Irvine’s operational budget, said Michael Clark, vice provost for academic planning at U.C. Irvine. In the future, Irvine officials expect to receive more funds from the state that were originally approved for overall growth projections. Those funds would get diverted toward the law school, he said. In the meantime, U.C. Irvine’s development office has begun a fundraising campaign that includes the law school, Clark said. Future fundraising would go toward the construction of a new law school building, he said. The school has rearranged offices on campus so that faculty and administration at the law school would be housed temporarily in an existing building and students would share larger classroom space. The building is expected to be about 100,000 square feet and cost upward of $70 million. “We’re confident we’ll raise that in the next few years,” Clark said. So far, U.C. Irvine is off to a strong start. The law school’s namesake, philanthropist Donald Bren of Newport Beach, Calif., gave $20 million to pay for the salaries of 11 faculty and Chemerinsky. The school has received several million dollars in additional donations. Chemerinsky said those dollars would go toward student aid, loan forgiveness programs, law clinics and centers focused on areas such as intellectual property, technology, environmental law and public interest law. Chemerinsky said he hoped to have the new building available five years after the law school opens. But, he emphasized, “the first things I want to focus on are money for faculty, for student aid, money for some of our programs � and then we can focus on fundraising” for a building, he said. Just last week, Mark Robinson, founder and senior partner of Robinson, Calcagnie & Robinson in Newport Beach, Calif., donated $1 million to establish an unallocated endowment fund. But critics question Chemerinsky’s ability to attract donors from Orange County’s conservative residents, who “may not be all that enthusiastic about providing funding to hire people who are going to help give the law school an even stronger left, liberal tilt than most law schools,” said Bainbridge, at UCLA. Chemerinsky said the neighboring legal and business communities have shown tremendous support. “We share a common dream, whether the fundraising comes from a liberal or conservative, of building a terrific new law school,” he said. A final source of funding for the school would come from student tuition. Chemerinsky said he currently is working on a recommendation to give to the U.C. regents on how much U.C. Irvine expects to charge students. “We want fees that make it possible for students to be able to do public interest work,” he said. Experiential learning The Donald Bren School of Law plans to offer a Juris Doctor degree, as well as LL.M. and J.S.D. degrees. The school also has proposed interdisciplinary programs that offer dual J.D. degrees with master’s degrees in business or public health. Chemerinsky said the curriculum would be developed over time, as more students enroll. In fall 2009, the school will enroll about 65 students; eventually, the school would have 600 students. While the faculty would be responsible for developing most of the curriculum, Chemerinsky has some ideas of his own. Most importantly, he wants students to have “experiential learning” in a clinic in order to prepare them for the real world. He said too many students graduate from law school without that training. Chemerinsky also has assembled an advisory board of more than a dozen lawyers, law professors and judges to help develop the curriculum. One member of the advisory board, Gary Singer, a partner in the Newport Beach, Calif., office of O’Melveny & Myers, said he expects to discuss what types of service programs are needed in Orange County. The board includes conservatives such as Viet Dinh, a law professor at Georgetown University Law Center, and U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford, who was appointed by President Bush to the Central District of California bench in Santa Ana, in Orange County.

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