Happy New Year!
I have just returned from the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Annual Meeting, where I was asked to speak in the deans' section program on "the new normal." As you likely know, our strategic plan has attracted attention nationwide. Even though legal education has been described by critics, as well as supporters, as being in "crisis," one institution is being cited consistently for its leadership. Your school, UC Hastings, is reinventing legal education.
Most recently, I was humbled to be selected by the National Jurist as the most influential dean in legal education (among the three most influential persons overall). Their article emphasizes much more than the reduction in class size. It also notes the launch of online courses and the innovation of the UC Hastings-UCSF Consortium. We are increasingly oriented toward practical skills training and positioned as a Pacific Rim institution.
I wanted to take a moment, however, to reflect on the meaning of influence. Influence of this nature is meant to be exercised to benefit the public interest. In our case, it ought to be devoted to our students. The better we become, the better off they will be.
Meeting with students on campus, and as I travel to see so many of our 20,000 alumni, I am heartened that they report the highest level of enthusiasm about UC Hastings. They recognize how their reputation is bound together with our reputation.
Yet the goal of having influence is much more than to advance our own institutional self-interest. We also hope to bring about reform within legal education.
The rule of law is more crucial than ever. Lawyers who represent clients and judges who are independent form the foundation of our diverse democracy. Everything else, whether the enforcement of contracts or the protection of civil rights, depends on legal systems that are effective and fair. Legal education continues to be worthwhile, despite what must be done to make it true to its ideals.
Above all, I'd like to express appreciation for all of you. I happen to be the individual who is receiving recognition. What is being done here is being done by the talented faculty and staff, with the support of our alumni and volunteers. The positive publicity itself is the work of the Office of Communications & Public Affairs, with the assistance of the Alumni Center.
Both higher education as a whole and the legal profession are undergoing profound transformation. As the first law school of the American West, we have an obligation to set an example. We are adapting, and we will continue to be as dynamic as the marketplace.
Here's to the changes of 2013.
-Frank H. Wu
Frank H. Wu
Chancellor & Dean