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Fall Welcome Message 2014

Posted By Kevin R. Johnson, Aug 25, 2014


Welcome to the incoming Class of 2017, our transfer students, and LL.M. students from around the world.  And welcome back to our returning second and third-year students, and to the King Hall faculty and staff.  We hope that your summers were restful and productive.

If you are a new law student, you no doubt will discover that the study of law is challenging.  You also will find that you have joined a community of people who genuinely care about you and your success, and who will help you every step of the way.  

The Class of 2017 and More

At a time when law school applications are down nationally, UC Davis School of Law experienced a 25 percent increase in applications and enrolled another class of excellent and diverse students.  It is the only ABA-accredited law school in California that reported an increase.  Receiving more than 3,000 applications, we enrolled 165 J.D. students, an increase of more than 20 students from last year.  The Class of 2017 includes students from 14 different states as well as from China, Taiwan, and Singapore.  The class has a median GPA of 3.60 and LSAT score of 162.  Women comprise 56 percent of this class; students of color make up 47 percent.

Seventeen transfer students also joined the King Hall community.  Our very impressive LL.M. class includes 55 students, including lawyers and judges from Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Taiwan, and Turkey.

New Registrar, Other New Staff

After a national search, the Law School named Courtney Hennigan as the new Registrar.  Courtney has been part of the King Hall community for over a decade.  In addition, Veronica Scrivner has joined us from Berkeley Law as the new Associate Registrar.   This year, the Registrar’s Office, along with Senior Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Hollis Kulwin, is engaged in a planning process designed to maximize the King Hall student experience.

Scott Vignos ’11 is the new Associate Director of Admissions and Outreach.  This summer, he directed the King Hall Outreach Program, which is designed to prepare undergraduates for the law school application process. 

The Law School in recent months brought on board Mary Ann Baird, Clinics Paralegal Office Manager; Nick Dolce, Director of Development; Andrea Duff, Faculty Support Assistant; Marian Lee, Assistant Director of Career Services; and Laura Pizzo, Development Assistant.

Career Services Investments

The Career Services Office continues to increase support for internships, job placement programs, and outreach to employers.  Last year, the office hired an additional career counselor to primarily serve third-year students and recent graduates.  The week before last, the number of employers participating in our On-Campus Interview (OCI) program increased for the fourth straight year.  King Hall students and graduates continue to successfully secure state and federal judicial clerkships.

Academic Success

The School of Law is committed to building on the success of our academic success and bar passage program.  The Class of 2013 achieved an 85 percent bar pass rate.  This summer, the Law School offered bar exam workshops and hired a former bar grader to meet individually with students and grade practice essays.  Can the Class of 2014 surpass the bar success of the Class of 2013? 

Support for Students

The School of Law sets aside up to 40 percent of professional fees for scholarships and other student support.  UC Davis ranked second in the latest U.S. News & World Report assessment of the generosity of financial aid at public law schools, and is second among law schools in California for students graduating with the least debt. 

We are committed to increasing support for scholarships and financial aid, expanding the Loan Repayment Assistance Program, and ensuring that our students receive the best value possible for their educational investment.  To that end, the School of Law had another great fundraising year, bringing in about $1.6 million in fiscal year 2013-14.  That total includes a generous gift of $500,000 in support of student scholarships and career services.  During the recently completed Campaign for UC Davis, the School of Law raised more than $17 million, exceeding our original goal by nearly 250 percent and providing 24 named scholarships for students.  In addition, the UC Davis campus provided generous support for student scholarships and post-graduate fellowships.

With the new Law Students Association Budget Advisory Committee, we became the first law school in the UC system – if not the nation – to establish a formal mechanism for students to obtain law school financial information and to advise the administration on the budget.  The Law School administration looks forward to working with the committee.

Wellness Room

For law students who want a quiet space to relax, the Law School has added a Wellness Room (Room 2255) where students can practice yoga and meditation, stretch, or simply unwind.  Your Law Students Association (LSA) helped make this new room available. 

New Law School Website

On August 1, the School of Law launched a redesigned website with a bolder, more colorful look, improved navigation, a better interface for smartphones and tablets, and many other improvements.  The website went live following more than a year of research, redesign, and testing.

New Courses

In response to student demand, we added new courses to the curriculum for the 2014-15 academic year.  In the fall, the additions include Commercial Arbitration Seminar, Lifecycle Business Transactions, and Anti-Discrimination Law.  In the spring, we have new offerings in Voting Rights, Comparative Environmental Law, International Commercial Arbitration, Real Estate Transactions, and Property and Race Seminar.

Experienced bankruptcy attorney Robert Kidd, King Hall ‘77, is the inaugural John D. Ayer Visiting Professor of Bankruptcy Law and will teach Bankruptcy Law in spring 2015.

Our Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) curriculum recently received a prestigious honor.  The School of Law is the 2014 recipient of the ADR Education Award from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  The School of Law’s plentiful ADR course offerings and Professor Donna Shestowsky’s scholarship, as well as the King Hall Negotiations Team, Negotiations Board, and intramural competitions, all helped to bring this honor to UC Davis. 

Excellence, Diversity, and Community

Although it is important not to place undue emphasis on rankings, it is noteworthy that the School of Law rose to number 36 in the most recent U.S. News & World Report rankings.  Importantly, we received our highest rating ever from legal educators and professionals:  King Hall was ranked 22nd in the nation by law school deans and faculty, and 24th by participating lawyers and judges.  The ascendancy of UC Davis in the minds of those “in the know” is an encouraging affirmation of the Law School’s growing national reputation. 

In addition, UC Davis School of Law was ranked 26 in the U.S. News “Most Diverse Law Schools” category, one of very few schools to rank in both the top 40 overall and in the diversity rankings.  To that end, King Hall is proud to be an inaugural member of the “Pathway to Law School” program led by the State Bar of California.  The program pairs community colleges with universities and their law schools in order to provide counseling, support, and access to information about the law school admission process to community college students.

The law faculty continues to impress on the national and international stage.  Associate Dean Vik Amar, among many other scholarly activities, regularly publishes constitutional law and other commentary on Justia.  See http://verdict.justia.com/author/amarSocial Science Research Network:  Legal Studies Research Paper Series UC Davis School of Law provides a snapshot of our professors’ latest research. See our scholarship page.  Professors Jack Chin and Rose Cuison Villazor recently co-authored an opinion piece for “Room for Debate,” a feature of the New York Times website (http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/07/31/do-it-yourself-lawyers/law-apprenticeship-raises-serious-concerns).  Their article appears as part of a group of essays of leading legal scholars responding to the question: “Are legal apprenticeships a good way to avoid excessive law school debt and create different perspectives on the law?”

A TED Talk by Professor Karima Bennoune was selected to appear on the website of TED Global, an honor reserved for less than 1 percent of all TED Talks.  Her talk has garnered nearly 900,000 views in just one month.  Professor Bennoune shared powerful stories of people fighting fundamentalism in Afghanistan to Algeria and beyond.  The stories are from her acclaimed book, Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism.

This year, the School of Law seeks to recruit two new faculty members to bolster its research and curricular excellence.  Stay tuned for opportunities to participate in the recruiting process. 

Endowed Lectures and Special Events

Every year, our named lectures are highlights of the academic calendar.  The next Brigitte M. Bodenheimer Lecture on Family Law on March 18 will feature Linda Greenhouse, who is the Knight Distinguished Journalist in Residence and Joseph Goldstein Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School, a New York Times columnist, and a nationally renowned expert on the U.S. Supreme Court.  The Central Valley Foundation/James B. McClatchy Lecture on the First Amendment on March 12 will feature Jack Balkin, the Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment at Yale Law School.

The School of Law through the Aoki Center for Critical Race and Nation Studies is sponsoring a town hall on August 28 for the King Hall community to share thoughts on the disturbing events in Ferguson, Missouri.  Details will be forthcoming.  This will be the first of dozens of scholarly symposia, lectures, panel discussions, and informal presentations to be held throughout the school year.

The Law School will be sponsoring a King Hall tailgate (with BBQ) at the UC Davis/Northern Colorado football game on November 1.  Details (including about free tickets) will soon be made available.

Last but not least, the Law School shortly will be announcing its Keynote speaker for Commencement 2015.

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Our faculty, deans, and staff are working hard to make the student experience at King Hall the best that it can be.  Thank you all for your dedication to our community.

Kevin R. Johnson
Dean