Winter 2008 Letter
Dear Members of the Boalt Community:
Although we have sent regular news items and updates, it has been some time since I’ve written a more personal communication. The rhythms of my life are more attuned to fiscal years and academic years than to the calendar. Nevertheless, this is the season for taking stock and making resolutions. That’s a challenge—not because there is anything grim to report, but because I must struggle to tone down my multi-dimensional enthusiasm in order to project gravitas and sustain my credibility.
In this letter, I first provide a recap of Boalt’s strategic plan for achieving galactic supremacy, together with an abridged progress report. Then I drill down a bit on three pieces I hope will be of particular interest to you: the connection between financial aid and student excellence, our innovative focus on think tanks connecting Boalt to the “real world,” and our construction projects. Finally, I offer ruminations about the implications for us of some broader developments in higher education, California, and the world.
When I arrived in July, 2004, Boalt had slipped in the dominant rankings to 13th, largely because it had been starved for resources for 15 years or more while our peer institutions, both public and private, were aggressively raising money and tuition to support program improvements. My chief goal can be summarized as putting Boalt securely back in the top 10 among law schools—if not the top five—in all the dimensions most important to us, but doing so in a manner consistent with our institutional values. We know how to do it: I believe we have a compelling model of what it means to be a great law school for the decades ahead. The foundation is a clear sense of the distinctively public element of our mission.I’m talking about excellence with a purpose that warrants the loyalty and support we need from all of our constituencies. We are now ranked eighth, and I’m cautiously optimistic about further gains.
Step One was to analyze in detail our competitive position, and then work with the faculty, staff, and
students on a detailed investment plan. We needed some elements urgently to keep up with peer public
and private schools:
Strategic Plans and Progress to Date
A dramatic 40 percent expansion of the core faculty
By expanding the faculty while holding admissions steady, we have reduced our faculty-student ratio from
18-to-1 in 2004 to 12-to-1 today.
We enjoyed a third successive year of amazing success on the faculty hiring front. We hired six tenure-track
faculty members—from Yale, Harvard, Oxford, MIT, Michigan, and Texas—bringing to 17 the number we’ve
recruited since 2004, and getting us more than halfway to our goal of 40 percent growth.
This year’s newcomers bring stellar credentials, with specialties that include intellectual property, tax law,
local government law, international law, constitutional law, global health issues, economics, and political
philosophy. Their teaching interests are even broader.
Major renovations and a new building
New seating in major classrooms, renovated bathrooms, art on the walls, offices for new faculty, a remodeled
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Reading Room, and more. Come see our progress, if you haven’t already.
New building plans are afoot, with groundbreaking planned for fall ’08. Nothing around here is as easy as it
should be or could be. Hence my receding hairline.
Expanded student services and better technology
We’ve enhanced career services, remodeled student organization spaces, installed Wi-Fi everywhere,
installed modern teaching technology in some classrooms—with more planned—and expanded the IT staff.
We also added two innovative elements, specifically to reflect our public mission and our strategy for
Major expansions of need-based scholarships and loan forgiveness for students
entering public-interest and public-service work
Financial aid reform: After two years of hard work, we completed a comprehensive overhaul of financial aid
last spring, resulting in the best suite of programs of any top law school in the country. Last year, I reported
instituting a new loan-forgiveness program (LRAP). It provides full relief of law school debt to our graduates
entering public-interest careers and earning salaries of up to $58,000, and partial relief for those earning up to
This year, we launched a new need-based aid program, nearly doubling the size of grants for students from
truly disadvantaged backgrounds. Our old aid policy distributed scholarships widely, but not deeply enough
to provide access in the new fee environment. Now, our program provides substantially more aid to those
who need it most. Grants for California residents have jumped from an annual maximum of $8,300 to about
$16,000, and grants to nonresidents to $22,000 (because of their higher tuition).
Our Summer Fellowship Program guarantees a $4,000 stipend to every first- and second-year student who
takes an unpaid summer internship in the public or nonprofit sector. In the three years since we began
awarding these grants, the number of participants has more than tripled.
New research centers that marshal our excellence—and that of cross-campus
partners—to drive curricular innovations and tackle the most important public- and
The multidisciplinary research centers that bridge the worlds of scholarship, teaching, and action continue to
advance. I remain convinced that this innovative aspect of our strategy is among the most important reasons
Boalt will be America’s leading law school in the years ahead. Indeed, I believe our model of world-class
excellence, distinctive for its public mission of problem-solving, offers a model to help Berkeley and the entire
University of California earn indispensable public and private support.
Getting all of this done carries a price tag equivalent in annual spending to what we could finance with
roughly half a billion dollars in new endowment. Yes, it’s huge. So, Step Two was to devise a “shared
responsibility” plan to fund these investments, with three interdependent components:
From state funding: modest increases in resources from the campus and UC system,
principally to help with the increase in faculty size, effectively restoring some of the
disproportionate cuts imposed earlier in the decade
At the start of this decade, all of UC faced budget cuts, but law and business schools were hit
disproportionately. Recently, we negotiated for Boalt a restoration of almost two-thirds of those
disproportionate cuts. This represents an extraordinary vote of support from Chancellor Birgeneau and his
team. Moreover, UC President Dynes awarded us over $3 million as a gesture of support—money we put to
use immediately in renovations, financial aid, and startup costs for the burst in faculty hiring.
From current and future students: substantially higher tuition, combined with
substantially more investment in financial aid and public-interest loan forgiveness so
that we can ensure both access and freedom of career choice
Last September, the UC Regents approved a modified version of my proposal to raise tuition closer to the
average of other top-10 law schools. They instituted a three-year tuition schedule, at a rate of increase
consistent with reaching the benchmark level in roughly six years. If they continue this policy track, we will
plateau at 10 percent below the market average. Despite the tuition increases of recent years, Boalt is still
fully 30 percent below the market average, while Michigan, our closest public peer, is tracking at 10 percent
From alumni and friends: a $125 million capital campaign—the Campaign for Boalt
Hall—10 times the size of our last campaign
We are on track toward our goal, having raised $46 million thus far—almost triple the amount we raised
in Boalt’s entire previous campaign. Last year, alumni and friends contributed $14.5 million, a 22 percent
increase over the year before. And, remarkably, our 2007 J.D. and LL.M. graduates set a record by achieving
100 percent participation in their class campaign—up from an already astonishing 97 percent from the class
The Dean’s Society of annual $10,000+ donors now numbers over 200. Hence my expanding waistline.
I enjoy describing and detailing each and every aspect of all this activity, but let me focus a bit more on
Student excellence and financial aid: This year’s entering class showed impressive gains in every
respect—an embarrassment of riches we don’t mind suffering. As excited as the faculty continues to be
about our students, it is even more gratifying to see how much the students themselves continue to report
excitement about each other and their Boalt experiences. This year’s incoming J.D. class arrived with
the highest median LSAT score in 10 years—and the most underrepresented minorities in five years. It is
the most economically diverse class in memory, perhaps ever—and one of the most interesting, although
we say that every year. Our 1Ls hail from 35 different countries. Fifty-five percent are women and 36
percent are people of color. Thirty hold graduate degrees, including six with Ph.D.s, mostly in the hard
sciences. Their ranks include a robot designer, glass blower, spacecraft designer, casino floor supervisor, patent agent, salmon fisherman, helicopter pilot, and assistant chaplain at San Quentin. Plus multiple
entrepreneurs, journalists, musicians, biomedical researchers, union organizers, financial analysts, human
rights activists, and single parents.
We can trace our recruiting success to many factors. The most important is probably our climb in the
rankings because applicants these days seem far too focused on such narrow prestige measures, even in
comparison to faculty quality or cost. Nevertheless, it seems fair to assume that our new need-based aid and
loan-forgiveness programs played some role, and will be increasingly vital as tuition climbs closer to the
market average. From the faculty’s perspective, our goal is to have the most generous financial aid and loan
forgiveness programs of any top law school because we are beyond enamored with the talent and character
of our students, and because we believe our mission demands not only world-class excellence but twin
commitments to access and freedom of career choice.
Building and renovation projects: The quantity and quality of space at Boalt has been a longstanding
problem, as most of you know from personal experience. Now, with the rapid growth of our faculty and
our research programs, it’s more pressing than ever. I’m happy to report that we’re tackling the problem
aggressively on two fronts.
We’re well into a project that will transform 25,000 square feet within our existing complex. Over the past
two summers, we restored the Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Reading Room, created four seminar
rooms, upgraded our three main lecture halls, and renovated two large restrooms. Next summer, we will
complete our classroom upgrades, create 19 faculty offices in Simon Hall (formerly Manville), develop
vibrant collaborative space for students on the west terrace level, and renovate the crumbling west terrace
itself—reclaiming usable outdoor space for ourselves, offering a fresh face to the campus, and making it
possible to read the inspiring messages from Cardozo and Holmes.
We’ve had to delay our plans for a new building with the Haas School of Business while the campus
makes temporary use of our site. Calvin Lab, situated in our parking lot, is providing critical laboratory
space to UC Berkeley’s initiative in the energy biosciences until a new facility can be built at Lawrence
Berkeley Lab. Meanwhile, we are moving full speed ahead with an alternate plan that enables comparable
expansion by building below and above ground in a portion of the courtyard facing Bancroft Way. We
hope to begin work this fall.
Together, these projects will have a transformative effect on life at the school, and make possible so much
of what we hope for our future.
Research and policy think tanks: One of my highest priorities is nurturing our multidisciplinary
research and policy think tanks. Last year we added two centers to the family: the Berkeley Center
for Criminal Justice and the Institute for Global Challenges and the Law. We strengthened the three
launched the year before: the Berkeley Center for Law, Business and the Economy; the California Center
for Environmental Law and Policy; and the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and
Diversity. And we expanded activities in our long-established Berkeley Center for Law & Technology and
Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice. On the horizon are two final efforts. One will be devoted
to issues of public law and governance, with particular attention to problems in the three branches of
California state government. The last will be focused on the challenges in health care, where it is safe to
say that lawyerly analysis will be indispensable to addressing myriad problems in reforming a troubled
sector that constitutes over 16 percent of GDP.
Why this dizzying burst of activity even as we work feverishly to patch the roof? A century ago, the case
method and Socratic questioning were transforming legal education. This was heralded by its originators
as a step away from instruction in legal craft in the direction of teaching legal principles and reasoning.
The following generation of leading law schools took yet another step in the direction of their crosscampus
academic research colleagues, and that pattern has continued. At top schools, a decreasing portion
of the law school curriculum is driven by needs of the profession rather than interests of the professoriat,
and most research output is ignored by the profession and actually intended for consumption by other
One would expect all this in a department of philosophy or economics, but our goal should be something
more. Even as elite law schools are ever more central to the life of great universities, we as faculty have
a responsibility to prepare the best students to be the best lawyers, not just to replicate ourselves as
academics. We also have obligations to engage the needs of the profession and the many roles of law,
alongside our academic commitment to advancing the deepest possible understanding of the law.
Our research think tanks are building a two-way bridge between the world of ideas and the world
of action. Within their subject matter domains, they will be “vertically integrated”—reaching from
fundamental research, to applied work, to multiple strategies for training and publication, to various forms
of technical assistance and, in certain cases, research-based advocacy through such means as legislative
testimony or amicus briefs. In sum, one reason for these centers is that they represent a strategy for
moving a great law school closer to the profession and the needs of society, while supporting an evercloser
leadership role for us within the university.
A second important reason for these initiatives is the distinctively public dimension of our mission. It
means more than access and freedom of career choice for our students. Lawyers are problem solvers, and
the hardest problems demand the best lawyers—frequently in the role of general contractors marshaling the
inputs from a collection of professions and disciplines in aid of a client or cause. Similarly, a leading law
school should be harnessing its excellence, and that of the entire university, to tackle problems so complex
and important that they demand the best talent. I believe that in the generation ahead our public mission
requires that we do this with an intentionality and focus that distinguishes us from our private peers. Our
think tanks will engage an evolving set of the most critical public and private sector challenges, and ensure
that Boalt and Berkeley are making critical contributions. Moreover, we want all of our constituents—be
they alumni or legislators, students or taxpayers—to appreciate from those contributions that Boalt makes a
• How can intellectual property rights be defined and enforced in China and developing nations?
• How can we design workplace enforcement of immigration laws to be effective while avoiding
worker exploitation, civil rights violations, or crushing regulatory burdens?
• As researchers in energy biosciences develop new technologies to help avoid climate catastrophe,
what legal and regulatory structures will be needed to create markets, promote private innovation
and investment, control environmental consequences, manage liability issues, and so forth?
• What changes in drug policy and law enforcement make sense analytically and politically?
The third reason for these initiatives smacks of hubris when expressed, and I am reluctant to do so.
In truth, we at Boalt are not content to be among a handful of leading law schools. We suspect that,
notwithstanding our resource limitations, we have it within ourselves and our great university to
be the most exciting and distinctive leader in legal education in the years ahead. By revamping our
relationships with the profession and with our neighboring disciplines, we are knitting together our
professional and academic ambitions in novel ways. We look forward to imitation.
Part of this is anticipating what ought to be the future of legal education, and getting there first. Another
part of it, however, is the contribution Boalt can make to Berkeley and the University of California. In
this state, education in general and higher education in particular are under slow-motion siege. Restoring
public support is vitally important, and our approach to engaged research and professional education is,
not coincidentally, a way of making the case anew for a world-class university animated by a broad public
mission. California, like the nation, needs the contributions of a great university for challenges ranging
from the next wave of Silicon Valley success to the reform of K–12 education, and from global climate
change to new strategies for economic relations with Mexico. If the university is to command support, it
needs a “problem-solving” mode. And for that it needs Boalt.
Truth is my defense to immodesty, as it is for all who share a pride in Boalt Hall’s past, present, and future.
Lawyers are called upon to lead in so many ways—as counselors to clients, community figures, business
executives, public servants, and more. It is no surprise that so many of those now seeking the nation’s
presidency are lawyers; in a way it is more evidence for my proposition that lawyers are problem solvers.
When we think about Boalt’s future we must have one eye on the traditional core of the profession, and
another on the myriad possibilities awaiting our graduates in their communities and around the world.
There has never been a more exciting time to be in the business of creating new lawyers.
I urge you to join in that excitement by following the many developments here closely. We look forward
to your much needed involvement and support. I hope to see many of you in the year ahead, and wish you
the very best for 2008.
Christopher Edley, Jr.
The Honorable William H. Orrick, Jr. Distinguished Chair and Dean