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UCI Law School: Above and Beyond

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California Bar exam scores instill confidence in faculty and students at the UC Irvine Law School.

With the recent release of California Bar exam scores, the UC Irvine School of Law’s first graduating class has achieved a 90 percent pass rate — ranking the legal education institution second in the state of California right after Stanford University.

This recent accomplishment comes alongside news of one-third of the inaugural class’s students achieving prestigious judicial clerkships after graduation.

“I was very pleased,” Erwin Chemerinsky, the founding dean of the law school, said. “I think it’s a wonderful reflection of the quality of our students and the quality of our educational programs.”

The California Bar examination, administered by the State Bar of California in July and February, lasts three days and tests students on 17 legal subjects, including torts, wills, trusts, and constitutional laws among others. It is often considered one of the most difficult bar examinations given nationally.

Graduating law students aspiring toward a legal career must take and pass the Bar exam in order to earn their qualifications to practice law.

“When you are talking about Bar pass rates, you are talking about, most of all, the quality of the students,” Cherminsky said. “We’ve been able to track, from the beginning, students of the caliber of a top 20 law school, that if you have those kinds of students, they’re gonna do well on the Bar.

“I think we have a really strong curriculum that prepares students for the practice of law, and in doing that, helps prepare them for the Bar exam.”

Chemerinsky asserts that the law school’s smaller class size and heavy emphasis on early participation in the legal fields for all students, contributed to students being motivated to excel.

“Every student has to represent clients in what we call clinical experiences under the supervision of a faculty member,” Chemerinsky said.

UCI Law is one of few law schools in the country and currently is the only one on the West Coast with a requirement for every student to participate in such clinics.

First-year students have to participate in legal aid of a public defender, and do intake interviews.

The required legal clinics include focus on appellate litigation, where students have to represent real clients appealing to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals; consumer protection; community and economic development; international human rights; immigrant rights and more.

Dean Chemerinsky is currently supervising a legal clinic wherein UCI students are participating in a case involving anti-war activists protesting outside of a military base.

“I think it becomes emotionally a pretty high point, because they are actually representing real clients with real problems,” said Rex Bossert, Assistant Dean for Communications and Public Affairs and former editor-in-chief of The National Law Journal.

Bossert also pointed to the latest victory in a legal battle where UCI law students working in their international human rights legal clinic, helped attorney Paul Hoffman argue his case before the US Supreme Court (the first case of the new Supreme Court Term) over the pertinent issue of human rights violations in Africa.

Along with clinics, law students close to graduation must also participate in extensive Bar preparation programs, with law school faculty helping them prepare.

“We do a program for our students in the last semester of law school one Sunday a month to help them get ready for Bar study, and we give them some practice with regards to all the different parts of the Bar exam,” Cherminsky said.

“We also work intensively with the students who haven’t done so well in law school, because they are the most likely to struggle with the Bar exam. It’s really up to the students. They’re the ones that have to study hard, and ours did.

“Our goal from the beginning was to create one of the top law schools in the country, and I think the Bar pass is a reflection that we are succeeding in doing that,” Chemerinsky said.