We put you on notice that the new UC Irvine Law School could be a force to be reckoned with right out of the gates with its inaugural 2009 class. Now we have our first confirmation of this new program’s validity, in the form of Brian Leiter’s faculty rankings, which places the scholarly impact of UC Irvine’s law faculty in the top 10 in the nation.
The announcement that a brand new law school without any students currently occupying its building could rank in the top 10 in any list seems insane, but Leiter is one of the most respected individuals in the rankings game. That said, this particular placement of UC Irvine has to be taken with a grain of salt, as Leiter acknowledges that less than half the faculty has been staffed at the program. Since the rankings are based on “scholarly impact,” and therefore, the number and prestige of academic citations, it is entirely possible that the front half of the Irvine roster is stacked with great researchers and writers, which would inflate the impact of the final faculty. Of course, it could go the other way as well, and Leiter has appeared to take great pains to assess this as fairly and accurately as possible, even diluting the impact of Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, one of the world’s most prolific and respected constitutional law scholars.
Either way, this is yet another sign that UC Irvine is probably going to buck the trend of a slow road to accreditation and respect, and come out of the gates as a legitimate top law school option.