The University of San Diego’s School of Law will bestow degrees to 395 students at Saturday morning’s graduation ceremony in the Jenny Craig Pavilion. The Class of 2010 will hear inspiring words from featured speaker, Leonard Armato ‘78 (JD), chief marketing officer of Skechers and president of its Fitness Group.
Perhaps Kevin Cole, dean of the law school, will even top the entertaining text message contest he held during last year’s graduation address that can be found on YouTube.
To be sure, one of USD’s oldest academic schools — the law school opened in 1954 — is in a festive mood as another successful academic year winds down.
The best reflection of that success is the release of U.S News and World Report’s annual rankings. The law school earned its highest-ever national ranking, a tie for 56th, from the publication, a five-spot jump from last year. Cole credits the rise in the rankings to the school’s “expansion of the career services office, rapid improvement in the credentials of our incoming class and the growth of the law faculty and programs.”
The law faculty, in a recent survey of more than 150 top legal scholars nationwide, was ranked 22nd in the United States for scholarly reputation. Some faculty members of note this year include Lawrence Alexander, Roy Brooks and Michael Devitt. Alexander earned the Thorsnes Prize for Excellence in Teaching. Brooks (pictured, top right) won the Thorsnes Prize for Outstanding Legal Scholarship and Devitt, a visiting professor, garnered an excellence in teaching award. Robert Fellmeth, a USD law professor and founder/executive director of the Center for Public Interest Law and its Children’s Advocacy Institute, was honored by the Remarkable Leaders in Education Program, which is hosted by USD’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences. Michael Perry, an expert on international human rights law and theory, became USD’s first Distinguished Visiting Professor for Law and the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies.
The law school is known for its quality curriculum which is enhanced by its centers and institutes. The resources produce innovative research, attract prominent guest speakers to campus — Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin G. Scalia was here in September to speak about constitutional originalism — and students are the beneficiaries.
A university-wide focus on sustainability awareness, heightened in 2009 with the opening of USD’s first LEED-certified building, the Student Life Pavilion, has been bolstered by one of the law school’s most effective centers. The Energy Policy Initiatives Center (EPIC), led by director Scott Anders, released its findings on local government options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in October. EPIC sponsored a live webcast and an on-campus panel discussion following the California government representatives’ presentation at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.
In December came the release of the inaugural San Diego Journal of Climate and Energy Law. It’s the nation’s first student-run journal on climate and energy law. It featured scholarly articles from USD’s inaugural Climate and Energy Law Symposium in February 2009. The second annual symposium, held last month, will be showcased in the journal’s second issue.
Much like the journal, the best way for law students to learn is through hands-on experience. Members of the USD Moot Court program showcased this point very well in competitions held throughout the nation. Dane Voris was the overall winner and earned the Best Oralist Award at USD’s own Paul A. McLennon Sr. Honors Moot Court Competition at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice. Clint Engleson and Tyler Lopez took first place for Best Brief Petitioner and Best Brief Respondent categories, respectively. Other notable performances were turned in by Courtney Randall and Derek Hecht (National First Amendment Moot Court Competition); Randall and Seth McCutcheon (Wechsler First Amendment Moot Court Competition); Kristy Hewitt and Randy Freeman (Emory University School of Law Civil Rights and Liberties Moot Court Competition); Jamie Altman and Jamie Duitz (Duberstein Moot Court Competition); and Sean Flaherty and Chris Rhoads (Saul Lefkowitz Moot Court Competition). Furthermore, Henry Chen and Irina Goldberg, both LLM students, fared well in the American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Taxation Law Student Tax Challenge.
Successes in the law school were many this year, but it isn’t too early to look ahead to 2010-11. One new avenue is the Technology Entrepreneurship Clinic, headed by Ted Sichelman, who joined the law faculty in 2009. The clinic announced it has partnered with CONNECT to give students access to mentoring from practicing attorneys and real-world experience working with technology start-ups.
— Ryan T. Blystone