Prof. Dave Owen Takes on New Role as Research Dean at UC Law SF

headshot of Professor Dave Owen

Professor Dave Owen will mentor, support and promote other faculty members engaged in scholarly work  as Associate Dean for Research at UC Law SF.

Professor Dave Owen, one of the country’s leading environmental law scholars, is assuming a new role at UC Law San Francisco this year as Associate Dean for Research.

The holder of the Harry Sunderland ’61 Professorship, Dean Owen’s own scholarship has recently been published in Duke Law Journal and Stanford Law Review (twice in the past two years).  He has recently focused his research on the use of negotiation in implementing environmental laws and the need for better rules and enforcement to encourage more sustainable management of groundwater.

“Doing research helps us become better teachers,” Owen said. “It lets us bring fresh knowledge and insights (both our own and those we read about) into the classroom, and it also sometimes helps us correct flawed but widely taught conventional wisdom.”

Owen, who has been teaching law for 16 years, joined the UC Law SF faculty in 2015. He won the Rutter Award for Teaching Excellence in 2017 and the Morrison Prize for the top sustainability-law article in 2016. Five of his articles were also recognized by peers as among the top environmental law articles of their respective years.

In his new role as Associate Dean of Research, Owen will support and publicize other faculty members’ scholarship, bring other top scholars to campus to share cutting-edge research, and mentor new research faculty. He will also continue to oversee student journals, as he did in his previous position as Faculty Director of Scholarly Publications.

“Research helps build and sustain the reputation of the school, particularly because our research work is more visible to people outside the law school than almost anything else we do,” Owen said. “And being a vital center for research helps us recruit and retain very smart, talented, driven people who want to be part of a thriving intellectual community.”

Owen described UC Law SF as an especially attractive place to conduct research because of its accomplished and ambitious faculty, ability to support projects with fewer layers of bureaucratic review as a stand-alone law school, and its geographic location. “Whether your interest is biotech, startup finance, climate change, or criminal law, California is a phenomenal laboratory,” he said.

Reflecting on his objectives for the coming year, Owen said he hopes to build on the successes of his immediate predecessors – Professors Jodi Short, Scott Dodson, and Ruel Schiller. “My main goal is to sustain what they have built,” he said. “I also hope to strengthen our internal culture of supporting and celebrating each other’s research.”

Provost & Academic Dean Morris Ratner said he expects Owen’s deep expertise and accomplishments in the field of legal research will help propel the law school’s already outstanding research program to new heights.

“Professor Owen connects the dots among our mission elements – teaching, research, and public service – and understands how to build community around shared values of inquiry and academic rigor,” Ratner said. “He will be an outstanding research dean.”

Before teaching law, Owen clerked for the late U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti in San Francisco and practiced with a Bay Area law firm that specialized in complex water resource and land use litigation. He has a law degree from UC Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree in geology from Amherst College.