When the UC Irvine School of Law first opened its doors in August, and perhaps even before, some were speculating that the presence of another Orange County, Calif., school — a public school no less — would put a stop to the private Chapman University School of Law's plans to make it to the Valhalla of law schools: the U.S. News and World Report's Tier 1.
But after Thursday night's "Battle of the Law School Deans" — a debate between Dean Erwin Chemerinsky of Irvine and Dean John Eastman of Chapman — I don't believe that a neighborhood rival is such a bad thing for Chapman or Irvine, which also has its sights set on a top spot.
Moderated by California district court Judge Andrew Guilford, who sits on the Dean's Advisory Council at UC Irvine and on the Board of Visitors at Chapman, the debate centered on the Constitution and the power of the Supreme Court.
Namely, the two deans discussed whether the document was intended by the Founders to be static, or if they intended it to evolve based on society's changing values and the interpretation of the Supreme Court.
Eastman advocated for a strict adherence to the text of the Constitution, while Chemerinsky championed the current system.
While it was rather interesting to see two legal minds duking it out, what was more interesting than hearing the deans debate was imagining what the presence of two deans from far ends of the political spectrum could mean for Orange County.
Namely: the "rivalry" between the two could spur healthy competition, thus making the schools and their student pools stronger.
The relationship between the two, who have debated on Chapman professor Hugh Hewitt's radio show in the past, may also help the two schools and their big dreams.
Here's what Eastman said to Susan Valot of 89.3 KPCC:
"The number of top students in our applicant pool is growing because of the national focus. So we’re no longer drawing from an exclusively regional market. Both UCI and Chapman are drawing from a much larger national market. And the pie that we’ve created is therefore much bigger than it was before. ...
There will be a lot of collaborative efforts in sponsoring conferences. And I suspect that we will become the focus of some national conferences that neither of the schools could have pulled off alone. And I think partly that’s because of Erwin’s and my relationship, partly because of the two schools and our specialties"
Think about the law schools at Stanford and Berkeley, and at USC and UCLA.
Maybe Chapman and Irvine, because of their friendly cross-town rivalry, could someday join their ranks.
Listen to the debate here.