The University of San Francisco School of Law is launching its 100th anniversary celebration today with a keynote speech by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at an evening convocation.

Kennedy, an environmental lawyer and law professor at Pace University in White Plains, N.Y., is expected to talk about the role of legal education and lawyers in ensuring justice around the world, law school spokeswoman Anne-Marie Devine said.

The 5 p.m. convocation at St. Ignatius Church on the university’s campus at Fulton Street and Parker Avenue, near Golden Gate Park, is open to the public.

The private, nonprofit Jesuit Catholic law school was founded in a building at Seventh and Market Streets on Sept. 18, 1912, with 39 students and three professors.
Today, it has 700 students taught by 40 professors.

Dean Jeffrey Brand said that, in keeping with Jesuit tradition, social justice is a cornerstone of the school’s identity.

“Our centennial celebration is about far more than longevity,” Brand said.

“It’s about 100 years of offering an education with a conscience, and graduating top attorneys who empower the powerless and help change a world plagued by injustice,” he said.

“As we begin our second century in this magnificent city, we rededicate ourselves to our vital mission of educating for justice,” the dean said.

Brand said that last year, USF law students provided 22,000 volunteer hours of legal work to underserved communities.

The school has seven free legal clinics in which students can work to earn academic credit.

The clinics focus on the areas of child advocacy law, criminal and juvenile justice, employment law, international human rights, Internet and intellectual property justice, investor justice and mediation.

Devine said most of the school’s first class of 39 men were first- or second-generation Irish-American Catholics.

Today, the law school is rated by U.S. News and World Report as the nation’s 10th most diverse.

Nearly half of the students identify themselves as people of color. Women were admitted beginning in 1927 and now make up 53 percent of the student population, Devine said.

Over the century, 300 alumni of the law school have become judges.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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