Matt Davis ’89 Honored as UC Law SF’s 2024 Alum of the Year at Spring Week

Matt Davis ’89 represents UC Law San Francisco pro bono in litigation and contributes funds that provide crucial scholarships and fellowships for law students and recent grads. He was recognized as UC Law SF’s 2024 Alum of the Year during a Spring Week event at City Hall.

As a successful attorney who has helped countless clients over his 35-year career, Matt Davis ’89 is no stranger to praise and accolades.

But when he was named UC College of the Law San Francisco’s 2024 Alum of the Year in April, he said it was particularly meaningful coming from an institution that he respects and admires.

“I very much appreciate what the law school did for me,” he said. “I got a terrific education from an institution with a great reputation and met wonderful people who became my friends, and I’m very thankful for that.”

Since graduating in the same class as Vice President Kamala Harris in ’89, Davis has remained strongly connected to the College. He’s mentored law students, served as a guest lecturer, supported the school philanthropically, and represented UC Law SF pro bono in litigation against the city of San Francisco over conditions in the Tenderloin neighborhood.

“Matt’s professional achievements are remarkable, and his generosity is all-encompassing,” said Chancellor & Dean David Faigman. “His philanthropic impact over the years has been transformative for our students, our educational programs, and to the success of the growing Academic Village.”

Among the many programs his contributions have funded, his support has helped the law school award retention scholarships to high-performing students and fellowship grants to recent graduates doing public-interest work.

“We are so lucky to have Matt as one of our own,” said Chief Development Officer Eric Dumbleton. “His generous support of UC Law and, specifically, of the Dean’s Priority Fund, has enabled Dean Faigman to direct critical resources to the College’s key priorities.”

Davis grew up in Boston before moving across the country to Sacramento, where he worked at a bar frequented by politicians such as former California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown ’58, who encouraged him to pursue law school and attend his alma mater.

Davis recalled how the College and its strong alumni network helped open doors for him post-graduation. A few years after law school, a fellow alum helped him land a job as a deputy city attorney at the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, which provides legal counsel for the city.

It wasn’t long before Brown was elected mayor of San Francisco and became one of Davis’ clients. At the City Attorney’s Office, Davis played an active role in a major fraud suit accusing Bank of America of improperly seizing San Francisco’s unclaimed bond payments, leading to a $187 million settlement for the city.

He joined the firm Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger in 2001 and is now a shareholder, which is a law firm partner with an ownership stake.

Davis said he likes being a lawyer because he finds the work intellectually stimulating. He said he also finds it fulfilling to help those who were wronged obtain some sense of justice. He has represented immigrants, foreign students, and family members who were badly injured or lost loved ones in accidents caused by negligence.

“I’ve been drawn to doing plaintiff-side work,” he said. “It’s really rewarding when you help someone stand up for their rights, especially someone who is not always given a voice in society.”

When conditions in the Tenderloin deteriorated during the Covid-19 pandemic, Davis and his law firm partners stepped up to represent the law school in litigation accusing the city of treating the neighborhood as a “containment zone” for drug-related problems and homelessness.

“I care about the school, and I care about San Francisco,” Davis said. “Many of the people most impacted by these issues are hardworking people trying to take care of their families on a fixed income.”

Dean Faigman presented Davis with the Alum of the Year award during an All-Alumni Party at San Francisco City Hall on April 5 – part of the Alumni Association’s annual Spring Week. Davis accepted in the rotunda of the building where he once worked.

Davis said he’s excited about the direction UC Law SF is going with new state-of-the-art buildings and partnerships with other universities as part of its Academic Village, allowing law students to live and learn alongside those studying business, medicine, and other fields.

“I think great things will come out of the connections that will be made between people at the Academic Village,” he said. “UC Law San Francisco is on the leading edge of improving the neighborhood. Having a beautiful physical campus near the courthouses, Civic Center, and in the heart of San Francisco will continue to be a great draw.”