UCLA School of Law professor Scott Cummings has won the UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award for 2023, with an additional citation for distinction in teaching at the graduate level. The honor is UCLA’s highest recognition for excellence in the classroom.
The UCLA Academic Senate has presented the award since 1961 “to increase awareness of UCLA’s leadership in teaching and public service by honoring individuals who bring respect and admiration to teaching, at UCLA.” Each year, only six faculty members across the UCLA campus are so recognized. In addition to the honor for members of the university’s tenure-track faculty, awards go to leading lecturers and teaching assistants.
Cummings is the 35th member of the UCLA Law community to earn this campus-wide accolade.
Cummings is the Robert Henigson Professor of Legal Ethics at UCLA Law, and he teaches courses on legal ethics, local government law and community economic development. He joined the UCLA Law faculty in 2002 and has been a key member of the David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy.
As the many people who offered support in nominating him for the Distinguished Teaching Award stated, Cummings is well known as a dedicated teacher and mentor to countless UCLA Law students, launching them into legal careers of meaning and conscience.
“It has been one of the greatest privileges of my life to teach at the UCLA School of Law. I am deeply humbled to receive this honor, which is even more a tribute to my amazing students — who every day inspire me with their incredible effort, passion and determination to use law to make a difference,” Cummings says. “For the past two decades, I have learned more from them than I could ever teach about the meaning of justice and what it takes to achieve. This has never been more true than over the remarkable past few years, which have taught just how crucial law is to holding our fragile democracy together and making it live up to its promise. As these times call on the next generation of lawyers to rise to the challenge, our students are my hope for a better future.”
Cummings earned his B.A. at UC Berkeley and his J.D. from Harvard Law School.
An expert in legal ethics, access to justice and local government, Cummings is the founding faculty director of the UCLA Program on Legal Ethics and the Profession. In 2022-23, he was honored as the Fulbright-Schuman Distinguished Chair at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, the preeminent center of research on the European Union, and as a fellow at the Stanford Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. His numerous and highly regarded publications include three recent books, An Equal Place: Lawyers in the Struggle for Los Angeles (Oxford University Press, 2021), a landmark study of how lawyers have challenged inequality in Los Angeles; Global Pro Bono: Causes, Context, and Contestation (Cambridge University Press, 2022), the first-ever comparative analysis of lawyer volunteerism around the world; and Blue and Green: The Drive for Justice at America’s Port (MIT Press, 2018), a history of the legal campaign to end labor abuse and environmental damage at the Port of Los Angeles.
In a message to the community announcing Cummings’ honor, UCLA Law Interim Dean Russell Korobkin called Cummings an inspiring teacher and outstanding faculty member, and he cited Cummings’ “keen understanding of what it takes to make a difference in today’s society, his enduring commitment to social justice and conscientious lawyering, and his efforts to establish a model of impactful advocacy for his students.”
“This award is well-deserved,” Korobkin said. “For anyone who has learned from or worked with him, I know that you will agree that he is both a superb doctrinal teacher and a skilled clinical instructor, equally focused on the law itself and the importance of using the law to serve the needs of the community.”