By Gwyneth K. Shaw
Eight professors have just joined the Berkeley Law faculty, continuing a transformational run of hiring during Dean Erwin Chemerinsky’s tenure.
Senior scholars Hanoch Dagan, Dhammika Dharmapala, Ofer Eldar, Veronica Aoki Santarosa, and Ayelet Shachar have decades of research and teaching experience among them. They’re joined by José Argueta Funes, Elena Chachko, and Diana Reddy, who are in their first faculty jobs but also come to the school with impressive backgrounds.
“I am thrilled by the outstanding new faculty joining Berkeley Law,” Chemerinsky says. “They are both terrific lateral hires and great entry-level faculty, and they teach and write in many different disciplines and thus strengthen the law school’s coverage in many areas. Each had many other opportunities and it is very affirming of Berkeley Law that they chose us.
“The quality of any educational institution is largely determined by the quality of its faculty and we simply could not have had a better year in our hiring. Berkeley Law long has had one of the very best faculties in the country and I am so proud of how we have strengthened it in the last six years.”
Thirty-four professors have joined the school since 2017, when Chemerinsky was hired as dean, bolstering an already impressive faculty with an infusion of new ideas, scholarly agendas, and methodological chops. More than half hold doctorate degrees in law or another social science, including all eight new hires.
Professor Daniel Farber, who led the appointments committee, says the hires were a massive effort by its members and Chemerinsky — and the stellar group was well worth it.
“Their areas of expertise span the law school curriculum: employment law, contracts, property law, law and economics, legal history, national security law, and corporate law,” he says. “All of them come to Berkeley with records of exceptional achievement, including international reputations in many cases.
“These incoming faculty will enrich Berkeley’s teaching and research for years to come.”
Assistant Professor José Argueta Funes
Born and raised in El Salvador, Argueta Funes moved to the United States to attend college at the University of Virginia. An interest in Latin American history led to a conversation that changed the course of his career: His advisor suggested he speak with renowned legal historian Charles McCurdy, who promptly declared Argueta Funes should get a J.D. and a Ph.D. and become a law professor.
Argueta Funes was instantly hooked.
“From that moment, I started to ask questions about how law exists in society and how people use it as a tool for a variety of means and how it changes and how it constrains sometimes and how it enables in other times,” he says. “That’s really kind of been the through line for a lot of my work — I study how law functions as a language and as a tool, how that tool itself changes over time, and how people try to channel their wishes and desires and intuitions into law.”
He attended Yale Law School and plans to defend his dissertation at Princeton this fall. It studies the history of adoption laws in Hawai‘i as a way to illuminate his main research focus: How American law developed in the context of empire and racial subordination.
Argueta Funes was drawn to the Berkeley Law faculty’s deep roster of social scientists, particularly in the fields of history, sociology, and philosophy, as well as scholars like Professor Seth Davis who examine questions of sovereignty and indigeneity. After his Princeton adviser compared his work to that of the late Berkeley Law Professor David Lieberman’s, Argueta Funes became a fan. Although they never met, that legacy drew him to the school.
“This is the best fit for me intellectually,” Argueta Funes says. “There are just so many people here doing great work, and it’s also clearly a place where the students are really driven to make the most of their education. That’s really appealing.”
Assistant Professor Elena Chachko
During her year as a fellow at the Miller Institute for Global Challenges and the Law beginning in December 2020, Chachko got a taste of Berkeley Law’s vibrant intellectual life and forged a fruitful scholarly relationship with Professor Katerina Linos, the center’s co-director.
“I found it to be an incredibly open, vigorous, and lively academic community, both in terms of the scholarship that’s being done and the student body,” she says.
After finishing her Doctor of Juridical Science degree and becoming the inaugural Rappaport Fellow at Harvard Law School — she earned her LL.B. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem — Berkeley seemed like an ideal place to begin her career as a professor.
Chachko developed an interest in the interface between law and geopolitics after spending several years in diplomacy and intelligence analysis. Her work spans a variety of fields, from administrative law to online platform governance. This spring, she’s teaching National Security Law, and she and Linos are teaching a seminar on law and geopolitics.
“Berkeley is basically a leader in all the things I’m interested in: administrative law, national security law, law and technology, and international law,” Chachko says. “I can find colleagues in every single one of those areas, and I think Berkeley is a perfect place for me to pursue my scholarship and to see where I can take it.”
Professor Hanoch Dagan
Dagan, who taught at Tel Aviv University for almost three decades, is a world-renowned scholar of private law theory. He’s also the founding director of the new Berkeley Center for Private Law Theory, which will study and foster dialogue about the legal building blocks that most profoundly affect our social and economic life — property, contract, and tort law, as well as central aspects of family law, trust law, work law, and more.
Private law governs our relationships with each other in arguably the most important spheres of our lives, Dagan says: In the marketplace, the workplace, our neighborhoods, and in our relationships with one another. As a scholar, he tries to offer a compass to navigate between the positive and the normative — the law as it is and as it should be — pointing the way to reforms towards a more just and fair society.
“The touchstone for my work is to show how private law can better support our individual ability to plot our own life’s course,” he says. “At its best, law can help each of us to exercise our self-determination, while respecting others’ right to self-determination and to substantive equality.”
Dagan is the author of seven books, including A Liberal Theory of Property, published in 2021. He’s at work on a new book, Relational Justice: A Theory of Private Law, which will be published next year.
Dagan, who has an LL.B. from Tel Aviv University Law School and an LL.M. and J.S.D. from Yale, says he’s excited about building relationships with Berkeley Law’s faculty, which he calls “inspiring and generative,” and its students.
“I can already see opportunities for scholarly projects with my new Berkeley colleagues,” he says. “And for me, Berkeley students are also a strong draw. I’m impressed by the quality and diversity of the student body, and I love that Berkeley is a public institution serving the public interest.”
Professor Dhammika Dharmapala
An expert on taxation and public finance, the economic analysis of law, and corporate finance and governance, Dharmapala comes to the law school after nine years at the University of Chicago, and it’s a homecoming: He earned his Ph.D. in economics at UC Berkeley.
Like Dagan and Shachar, Dharmapala arrives as a highly experienced scholar with a long list of publications and accolades. Most recently, his 2022 American Law and Economics Review article “Estimating Firms’ Responses to Securities Regulation Using a Bunching Approach” won that peer-reviewed journal’s Distinguished Article Award.
He says several things drew him to Berkeley Law: Its historical and current strength in law and economics and business law, the extraordinary campus-wide depth in public finance, and the opportunity to teach and advise in the school’s Ph.D.-granting Jurisprudence and Social Policy (JSP) Program.
Dharmapala will begin teaching in the spring semester, with an Income Tax course and a JSP seminar on Law, Economics, and Inequality.
“Law and economics has a great tradition at Berkeley Law, from which I benefited immensely as a Ph.D. student,” he says. “Berkeley Law also has an outstanding current cohort of scholars in law and economics and in business law.”
Professor Ofer Eldar
Eldar, who earned a Ph.D. and a J.S.D. from Yale, is also an economist. Working in the realm of corporate governance and entrepreneurial finance, he’s interested in studying the growing influence of firms that combine profit and social missions, and studying government policies to encourage corporations to pursue social goals.
“We’re shifting from a world in which only nonprofits were involved in this to a world in which every form of organization is expected to have a social impact,” he says. “My work is partly about what kind of organizational structures are best suited for this new footing.”
Coming from Duke, where he was a professor of law, economics, and finance for seven years, is a big change. But the concentration of venture capital firms in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley was a big lure, as was Berkeley Law’s longstanding and ongoing roster of law and economics scholars and its Berkeley Center for Law and Business.
In the spring semester, he’ll teach Venture Capital Finance and a seminar on designing corporations for social impact. Eldar says he’s eager to get started.
“Berkeley has one of the most prolific business law faculties in the world, and obviously it’s a school that has a very strong commitment to social justice,” he says. “So it’s a perfect combination for somebody with my interests.”
Assistant Professor Diana Reddy
For Reddy, who received her Ph.D. from the JSP Program in May — she also holds a law degree from NYU and a master’s degree in sociology from Stanford — joining Berkeley Law’s faculty is a dream outcome. After spending time working with the school’s professors as mentors and advisors as she developed her dissertation on labor law and public perceptions of labor unions, she finds it “extraordinary” to now be their colleague.
“I am thrilled by the intellectual and methodological diversity at Berkeley Law, ” Reddy says. “Having been trained in the JSP Program, my scholarship is instinctively interdisciplinary; it invokes sociological theory, political science methods, legal doctrine, legal history, and more. At Berkeley, there are experts in each of those individual areas and profound excitement about using interdisciplinary work to look at longstanding social problems in new ways.”
Reddy describes herself as a scholar of “work as an institution,” focusing on “how the regulation of work matters for economic inequality, social stratification, and the quality of our democratic institutions.” Doing that, she says, requires a wider lens.
“Traditionally, the way we studied work in law schools was siloed: labor law, employment law, and employment discrimination law,” she says.
Based on her experience as a labor and employment litigator at the AFL-CIO, Altshuer Berzon, and the California Teachers Association, she says those silos no longer work as well. “The lives of workers and employers are shaped by all of those laws, and their advocates need to be prepared accordingly.”
Reddy will teach Work Law this spring as well as a seminar on organized labor and civil rights, and eventually will also teach Contracts. She’ll serve as a faculty co-director of the Center for Law and Work, alongside Catherine Albiston ’93 and Catherine Fisk ’86.
Reddy was close to the center’s third founding co-director, the late Lauren Edelman ’86, adding a bittersweet tinge to a triumphant moment.
“She was an incredible mentor and someone who showed me what you could do as a sociologist of law, and she fought so hard for me and my work,” Reddy says. “I’m really grateful for the time I had with her.”
Professor Veronica Aoki Santarosa
An economist whose research incorporates the additional threads of law and history, Santarosa is another in the law school’s long line of distinguished interdisciplinary scholars.
Her research is deeply rooted in original archival sources and draws on all three disciplines for theory, methodology, and paradigms to understand how the law creates and supports markets, with a focus on the role of legal innovations in the rise of financial capitalism.
“History is a powerful form of comparative law and we can gain insights by looking at previous common and civil law jurisdictions,” she says. “Pre-modern Europe has a rich legal and financial history that is essential for understanding the emergence of modern markets and the spread of global trade.”
Santarosa is teaching a course on law and the history of economic institutions of capitalism in the undergraduate Legal Studies Program. In the spring, she will teach the law and economics sequence in the JSP Program, which she considers “a rare opportunity to be able to train and support the new generation of legal scholars who will become professors.”
What lured her away from the University of Michigan Law School, where she was a professor for 12 years, was the chance to teach and advise graduate students at the JSP Program, the diversity of Berkeley students along many dimensions, and the powerhouse faculty with wide-ranging scholarly interests.
“Research is a collaborative enterprise and so inspired by conversations. And the Berkeley Law faculty has a tradition of rigorous and innovative interdisciplinary and creative thinking,” she says.
UC Berkeley’s economics and history departments offer another layer of excellence, Santarosa adds. “It will be exciting to build on the existing intra- and interdepartmental ties and to explore possibilities to create new bridges and synergies.”
Among other degrees, including from her native Brazil, she holds an LL.M. and a Ph.D. in economics from Yale.
Professor Ayelet Shachar
Shachar is an internationally renowned scholar who has taught and published on an exceptionally wide variety of topics, including citizenship theory, immigration law, highly skilled migration and global inequality, multiculturalism and women’s rights, law and religion in comparative perspective, and the tenuous relationship between human rights law and territorial conceptions of sovereignty.
As an international and comparative law scholar, she says she’s benefited greatly from studying and working in multiple countries and legal systems. Shachar clerked for Chief Justice Aharon Barak of the Supreme Court of Israel before earning her LL.M. and J.S.D. from Yale. She comes to Berkeley after a distinguished tenure at the University of Toronto.
Shachar served as Director of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity and is a recipient of the Leibniz Prize — one of Europe’s most prestigious research awards — for her groundbreaking work on citizenship and legal frameworks of accommodation in diverse societies.
“Partly what I want to do coming to Berkeley is really bring all of that knowledge and expertise and share that with new students, whom I’m very excited to meet and see what we can do with this comparative work,” Shachar says. “I also like the fact that it’s the best law school at a public university because I’m strongly committed to public education worldwide.”
The author of more than 100 scholarly articles and book chapters, Shachar has also authored several influential books, including Multicultural Jurisdictions: Cultural Differences and Women’s Rights, which won an award from the American Political Science Association, The Birthright Lottery: Citizenship and Global Inequality, and The Shifting Border: Legal Cartographies of Migration and Mobility.
When Berkeley Law came calling, the intellectual draw was irresistible, she says, from the cutting-edge work done at the school to leading interdisciplinary research centers across the Berkeley campus.
“It’s a very, very rare law school in the sense that for me there’s a strong group of people working on topics that are so closely related to my fields of expertise,” she says. “Given all of these dimensions, I just hope I’ll have enough hours in the day for everything I want to do.”