The University of California, Irvine School of Law announced Thursday that legal scholar and teacher L. Song Richardson has been named as the school’s new dean, becoming the only woman of color to serve in this role among U.S. News & World Report’s top 30 law schools.
Richardson, who has been serving as the interim dean since July, replaces the school’s founder and former dean, Erwin Chemerinsky, who stepped down in May to head the UC Berkeley School of Law. She is set to officially begin her duties on Jan. 1.
“Song Richardson is a brilliant scholar and inspirational leader, and we are excited that she will become the second dean of UCI Law,” Chancellor Howard Gillman said. “She is the perfect person to work with our great faculty, students, staff and community partners to accelerate the law school’s ascendancy as one of the country’s most important and influential institutions of legal education.”
UCI Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Enrique Lavernia said that Richardson was selected after a nationwide search following the departure of Chemerinsky, who was named by National Jurist magazine as the “most influential person in legal education in the United States.”
“We’re proud and pleased to find the ideal candidate within our campus,” Lavernia said. “The law school is lucky to be able to draw on the energy, brilliance and leadership of Dean Richardson, especially during this time of change in the nation and in legal education. I am grateful to the search committee and its chair, Professor Bryant Garth, for their thoughtful work in helping us select such an exemplary new dean.”
The UCI School of Law became first public law school in California in nearly 50 years when it started classes in the fall of 2009. It has since risen to become one of the top law schools in the country, ranked No. 28 overall by U.S. News & World Report and 10th among public universities.
“UCI Law is extraordinary,” Richardson said. “It’s rare to find an elite law school with a world-class faculty that excels at both teaching and scholarship, a creative and multidisciplinary approach to legal education, and a commitment to creating and disseminating knowledge that improves lives and communities around the world. I am passionate about redefining, reinventing and reimagining the future of legal education with the faculty, students and dedicated supporters of UCI Law.”
Richardson has been a member of UCI’s law school faculty since 2014, was senior associate dean for academic affairs from 2016 to 2017 and interim dean from July to December this year.
She earned a J.D. at Yale Law School and an B.A. in psychology at Harvard University, and previously held law professorships at DePaul University, American University and the University of Iowa. She was also a partner at a boutique criminal law firm, worked as a state and federal public defender in Seattle, and served as an assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
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