February 18, 2018 Articles

UC Irvine Law Names Woman of Color as Its New Dean

L. Song Richardson is the only woman of color serving as dean at a top-30 law school.

By Robert K. Dixon

On January 1, 2018, L. Song Richardson became dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law. Richardson, according to the school’s press release, is the only woman of color serving as dean at a top-30 law school.

Howard Gillman, chancellor of University of California, Irvine, described Richardson’s appointment as follows: “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.” And even before her appointment, Richardson had the support from Erwin Chemerinsky (the school’s previous dean): “ … I think she’ll be a terrific choice for the permanent dean.”

UCI Law alumni are also excited about Richardson’s new position. Nicole Ambrosetti (class of 2013), said the following about the school’s new dean: “My fellow alumni and I are excited about this new chapter in the story of UCI Law. The naming of Song Richardson as dean is just another example of how UCI Law continues to be a frontrunner in legal education.”

Richardson commented to the Recorder (subscription required) about her position as the only woman of color at a top law school: “Through my life I have been inspired by other women and the incredible work they’ve done, and I hope with me in this position it will potentially inspire other women to dream big and work hard to achieve their dreams.”

About Dean L. Song Richardson
Richardson is a graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School. After law school, Richardson was a Skadden Public Interest Fellow with the National Immigration Law Center in Los Angeles. She also worked for the Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Law Unit in New York. Her long illustrious legal career also included a partnership at a boutique criminal law firm and work as a state and federal public defender in Washington, D.C. She was also an assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

In addition, she is one of the nation’s leading experts on racial bias and the criminal justice system, according to September 2017 profile in Orange Coast magazine. Currently, she is working on a book that examines the legal and moral implications of mind sciences research on policing and criminal procedure. Previously she appeared in Hidden Injustice: ‎Toward a Better Defense, which is a 10-minute training video designed by the ABA’s Diversity and Inclusion 360 Commission to help create a fair system of justice for all Americans.

Before joining UCI Law faculty in 2014, Richardson taught at various law schools, including the University of Iowa College of Law and American University Washington College of Law. In 2011, she was recipient of the American Association of Law Schools’ Derrick Bell Award, in recognition of her contribution to legal education as a junior faculty member.

At UCI School of Law, Richardson teaches and writes in the areas of criminal law, criminal procedure, and law and social science. She has also taught courses on race and the criminal justice system as well as the law of policing. In the short time since joining the school, she has been the senior associate dean for academic affairs, on the faculty advisory committee of the Center on Law, Equality and Race, and she has also worked with the school’s Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy. Following the departure of the school’s founding dean, Erwin Chemerinsky, she served as the school’s interim dean from July 2017 through December 2017.

About the University of California, Irvine School of Law
UC Irvine School of Law opened its doors to students in August 2009 and is the first public law school in California in nearly 50 years. The first class of students graduated in 2012 and passed the California bar exam at a rate of 90 percent. Since opening its doors in 2009, the school has become one of the top law schools in the country, ranked No. 28 overall by U.S. News & World Report in 2017. In 2015, the first year it was eligible for U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking, it debuted at No. 30 among the 200 ABA-accredited law schools in the country—the highest debut by any law school in the ranking’s history. The school is also ranked in the top ten among public universities according to U.S. News & World Report. According to the school’s website, the faculty at UCI School of Law was ranked sixth in the country in scholarly impact. In addition, the school has an innovative curriculum that stresses hands-on learning, interdisciplinary study, and public service.

Robert K. Dixon is a partner with Wilson Turner Kosmo in San Diego, California. He also serves as editor of the Section of Litigation's Diversity & Inclusion committee.


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Robert K. Dixon – February 18, 2018