UC-Irvine's proposal to launch a law school got the thumbs down today from the California Postsecondary Education Commission (.pdf). Commissioners' reasoning? California already has enough lawyers, thank you very much.
UC-Irvine leaders had argued that Southern Californians deserved another UC law school. Heck, Northern California already has three — Hastings, UC-Davis and Boalt Hall — and who wants to go to UCLA when you can stay in the O.C.?
So UC-Irvine proposed construction of a 92,000-square-foot facility for up to 600 law students, with the first class starting in 2014, perhaps. Supporters portrayed an idyllic $70 million legal center where students could pursue joint-degree programs while immersing themselves in a curriculum with a heavy emphasis on social justice and minority rights.
But the commission wasn't buying Irvine's offer, citing labor projections that conclude California already has more lawyers — about 50,000 more — than jobs that require legal degrees.
"Labor market data does not show that Orange County is undersupplied with attorneys," a commission report concluded.
And if you want more public-interest lawyers, commission staff said, you ought to look at programs that entice new attorneys into those fields — like tuition or loan reimbursements — instead of building another law school.
The commission's decision isn't the final word on UC-Irvine's legal future, but it doesn't bode well for its future in Sacramento.
— Cheryl Miller