Professor Alina Ball Wins Rutter Award for Teaching Excellence

Provost & Academic Dean Morris Ratner presented Professor Alina Ball with the Rutter Award for Teaching Excellence at a ceremony on Sept. 20.

If turning dense legal subjects into fun and engaging lessons is an art, then many UC Law SF students agree that Professor Alina Ball is a skilled artist – and one whose commitment to her craft extends far beyond the classroom.

Megan Wilhelm ’24 praised Professor Alina Ball’s dedication to student success and wellbeing.

“What makes Professor Ball an outstanding educator is her dedication to the success and wellbeing of all students on campus,” said Ball’s research assistant Megan Wilhelm ’24. “She’s dedicated to making UC Law SF an inclusive, progressive and well-rounded institution.”

Ball, winner of the 2023 Rutter Award for Excellence in Teaching at UC Law SF, was praised at an award ceremony in September for her innovative teaching methods, devotion to student success, and efforts to make legal education a vehicle for social change.

The Rutter Award is given out each year to a professor chosen by a four-person committee, including a student, recent alum, the Provost & Academic Dean, and the prior year’s winner.

Last year’s winner, Professor Scott Dodson, applauded Ball for using entertaining and inventive approaches to explain complex legal issues in her lectures, including by playing Saturday Night Live clips and comparing business partnerships to relatable concepts like spousal relationships.

Professor Scott Dodson was the 2022 Rutter Award winner at UC Law SF.

“I have to confess that I love watching master teachers like Alina,” Dodson said. “Not only does it reinforce how strong our teaching faculty is, but I always learn so much myself.”

Ball joined the UC Law SF faculty in 2013, the same year she launched the law school’s Social Enterprise and Economic Empowerment Clinic, in which students provide pro bono corporate and transactional legal services to nonprofit and for-profit social enterprises. She also teaches Business Associations and American Legal Education and co-teaches the Business Tax Practicum. Additionally, she is founding Co-Director of the Center for Racial and Economic Justice at UC Law SF.

One of Ball’s former students, Ursula Lindsay ’17, recalled feeling disillusioned in law school until she took Ball’s clinic and realized that she could serve the public interest through transactional law. In the clinic, Lindsay represented an urban tenant association fighting displacement and rural farmworkers seeking access to safe drinking water.

“Professor Ball imparted that there are lots of smart lawyers out there, but our expertise is really only valuable insofar as it can make a meaningful difference in the communities in which we live,” said Lindsay, who now works as Senior Staff Attorney and Investigations Coordinator for Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California.

Ursula Lindsay ’17 said Professor Alina Ball helped her find her path in law school.

Ball was also awarded a prestigious new title this year as the UC Law SF Bion M. Gregory Chair in Business Law. She was previously recognized as a 2015-2016 American Association of Law Schools (AALS) Bellow Scholar and won the AALS Shanara Gilbert Award in 2018.

Beyond her work in the classroom, Ball has produced important research on topics including business law, social entrepreneurship, and racial justice. Her most recent works include articles on the Tulsa Race Massacre and “transactional community lawyering,” which were published in 2022.

At the ceremony, Ball modestly accepted the award and thanked her former students and colleagues.

“I do not take for granted for one moment that I have this opportunity to teach at UC Law SF,” she said. “Our students are passionate and earnest. They are hungry for knowledge and open to feedback and mentorship. My colleagues are consistently generous with their time. It’s so clear to me that we have a special community here.”

Founded by law-guide publisher William Rutter in 1979, the award honors outstanding professors at California’s top law schools. The Rutter Endowment provides UC Law SF an annual award of $10,000 for its winner.