Former Yuman settles into her role as head of UCLA's law school
Rachel Moran needs little prompting to praise the School of Law at the University of California.
While it's the youngest in the nation, the law school is one of the most sought after, she said.
For the current academic year, it received the fourth highest number of student applications among all law schools in the nation, with 8,745, Moran said.
And since the applicants were competing for 310 slots, she adds, that made it one of the most selective. The Huffington Post placed UCLA in the top 10 in its ranking of the toughest law schools to get into, Moran noted.
But those who make it through the door can look forward to being groomed to find, fill and finally thrive in their particular niches in an increasingly specialized profession, she said.
If the former Yuman is a booster for UCLA's law school, it's because it's her job, what Moran calls wearing her “external hat.” The other part of her job as the new dean of the law school is backing up her words with results, or wearing the “internal hat.”
No two days have been alike for Moran since she assumed the helm on Oct. 15, she said in a recent telephone interview, fit in at the end of a long day packed with meetings.
Lately she's been on the road, traveling as far away as the East Coast to reconnect with alumni, who collectively represent one the largest, most dependable sources of financial donations to the law school as it enters the final stretch of campaign to raise $100 million for the school's endowment fund. Given changes in the financing of higher education, says Moran, the law school will need to rely increasingly on public-private partnerships for funding to invest in “human capital.”
That, she says, includes providing support to the law school's “cutting-edge” research centers whose investigations enable the school to tailor its programs and curriculum to prepare students to practice law as the legal profession is becoming increasingly fragmented and complex.
The law school, for example, is renowned for its research in entertainment and environmental law, she said, and “I want to keep all our research institutes strong, and I want to make sure the word gets out about all the important work they're doing.”
Investing in human capital also means providing financial aid to promising students, and offering alumni mentoring, internships and other programs to ensure students “find themselves in the profession.”
At the heart of her efforts, Moran says, is building on the law school's tradition of “excellence, innovation, access and service.”
Moran oversees a school with more than 100 faculty members to whom she can “delegate with confidence.”
The eighth dean of the law school founded in 1949, Moran has spent her legal career as a professor or visiting professor at public law schools around the nation, and was a founding faculty member of the law school of the University of California at Irvine. She comes to UCLA from Berkeley Law School in California.
Moran attributes her success to the “solid foundation” she got as a child and teen at the Yuma schools she attended and in the library system she frequented in her spare time.
Born in Missouri, she moved with her family at age 10 to Yuma, where her father Thomas Moran practiced criminal law for many years before passing away in the early 1990s.
“At a very early age, we heard about the trials,” Moran said. “It was exciting.”
Her mother, Josephine, served as her husband's interpreter and continues to work as an interpreter in the Yuma court system today, she said.
Moran attended Palmcroft School in the elementary grades, then Woodard Junior High School and Kofa High School, and went on to Stanford University, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa in her third year with a degree in psychology.
Torn between psychology and law as a career, she recalled, she chose law after seeing firsthand how it could bring about positive change: when a legal challenge forced a rewrite of hiring guidelines that had served to exclude women from working in the construction industry. Moran went on to graduate from Yale University's law school.
She joined Berkeley Law School's faculty in 1983, and aside from teaching there, she served over the years as a visiting professor at the law schools of UCLA, Stanford, New York University, University of Miami, University of Texas and Fordham University.
Moran says she returns for periodic visits to Yuma, where her mother; brother, Thomas Glen Moran; and nephew, Zackary Norris Moran, live.
“I feel fortunate to have had a chance to grow up in a small town such as Yuma that was so supportive,” she said. “I feel I got a very good start in Yuma.”