Legal scholar and teacher L. Song Richardson officially begins her tenure Monday as head of the University of California, Irvine School of Law, making her the only woman of color to serve as a dean among U.S. News & World Report’s top 30 law schools.
Richardson, who’d 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.
“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 earlier this month. “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 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.”
The UCI School of Law became the 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 when her appointment was announced. “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 and was senior associate dean for academic affairs from 2016 to 2017.
The Yale Law School graduate, who earned her undergraduate degree in psychology at Harvard University, previously held law professorships at DePaul University, American University and the University of Iowa.
Immediately upon graduation from law school, Richardson was a Skadden Public Interest Fellow with the National Immigration Law Center in Los Angeles and the Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Law Unit in Brooklyn, New York.
An accomplished pianist who won nine major competitions, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition, Richardson has also been 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.
Richardson teaches and writes in the areas of criminal law, criminal procedure, and law and social science. She serves on the faculty advisory committee of the Center on Law, Equality and Race and is also a faculty affiliate in the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy.
Richardson’s co-edited book “The Constitution and the Future of Criminal Justice in America” was published by Cambridge University Press in 2013.
—City News Service
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