IRVINE — Distinguished legal scholar and teacher L. Song Richardson is the new dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, effective Jan. 1, becoming the only woman of color to serve in this role among U.S. News & World Report’s top 30 law schools.
“Song Richardson is a brilliant scholar and inspirational leader, and we are excited that she will become the second dean of UCI Law,” said Chancellor Howard Gillman. “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.”
UCI Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Enrique Lavernia said that Richardson was selected after a nationwide search following the departure of founding dean Erwin Chemerinsky in May.
“We’re proud and pleased to find the ideal candidate within our campus,” Lavernia said. “The law school is lucky to be able to draw on the energy, brilliance and leadership of Dean Richardson, especially during this time of change in the nation and in legal education. I am grateful to the search committee and its chair, Professor Bryant Garth, for their thoughtful work in helping us select such an exemplary new dean.”
Gary Singer, senior vice president and general counsel of RSI Holding and a UCI Foundation trustee, said, “Song Richardson is the perfect person to take UCI Law into its new era. The greater community will benefit from her expertise and dedication to public service – which is at the very core of UCI Law’s mission – and her inspirational leadership will continue to inspire future generations of attorneys.”
The UCI School of Law is the first public law school in California in nearly 50 years, opening its doors to the initial class in fall 2009. In the short time since then, it has become one of the top law schools in the country, ranked No. 28 overall by U.S. News & World Report, 10th among public universities. UCI Law faculty members are accomplished thought leaders from around the country with a broad range of expertise.
Committed to public service, students served more than 60,000 hours of clinic, pro bono and externship work in the past academic year, and upon graduation, they are in demand for large, medium and small law firm employment and public interest legal positions locally and nationally.
“UCI Law is extraordinary,” Richardson said. “It’s rare to find an elite law school with a world-class faculty that excels at both teaching and scholarship, a creative and multidisciplinary approach to legal education, and a commitment to creating and disseminating knowledge that improves lives and communities around the world. I am passionate about redefining, reinventing and reimagining the future of legal education with the faculty, students and dedicated supporters of UCI Law.”
The daughter of an African American father and a Korean immigrant mother, Richardson has been an esteemed member of UCI’s law school faculty since 2014 and was senior associate dean for academic affairs from 2016 to 2017 and interim dean from July to December 2017. She earned a J.D. at Yale Law School and an A.B. in psychology at Harvard University.
With a joint appointment in criminology, law and society, Richardson teaches and writes in the areas of criminal law, criminal procedure, and law and social science. She serves on the faculty advisory committee of the Center on Law, Equality and Race and is also a faculty affiliate in the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy.
A member of the American Law Institute, Richardson is the 2011 recipient of the Association of American Law Schools’ Derrick Bell Award, which recognizes a junior faculty member’s extraordinary contributions to legal education, the legal system or social justice through mentoring, teaching or scholarship. Her article “Police Efficiency and the Fourth Amendment” was selected as a “must read” by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Richardson has published extensively. Her co-edited book “The Constitution and the Future of Criminal Justice in America” was published by Cambridge University Press in 2013. She also frequently presents her work at academic symposia and nonacademic legal conferences and is invited to speak across the country for judges, prosecutors, public defenders, police officers and private industry.
As a researcher, Richardson uses lessons from cognitive and social psychology to study criminal procedure, criminal law and policing. Her scholarship has been published by law journals at Yale, Cornell, Northwestern, USC and the University of Minnesota, among others.
Richardson brings an outstanding career to the deanship. She previously held law professorships at DePaul University, American University and the University of Iowa. In addition, she was a partner at a boutique criminal law firm, worked as a state and federal public defender in Seattle, and served as an assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Immediately upon graduation from law school, Richardson was a Skadden Public Interest Fellow with the National Immigration Law Center in Los Angeles and the Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Law Unit in Brooklyn. She also won first place in nine major piano competitions, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition.