In Memoriam: Leo J. O'Brien

Leo J. O'Brien

Former LLS Dean Leo J. O'Brien passed away last year after a long and distinguished career as a lawyer, law professor, and law school administrator. O'Brien served as dean of the law school from 1969-73, a period that saw a spike in student population: the 1970 graduating class was 101, and the 1973 graduating class was 335. O'Brien's tenure also saw the advent of a focus at the law school on clinical experiential training. A faculty fellowship, currently held by Professor Eric Miller, is named in O'Brien's honor.

O’Brien grew up in San Francisco and graduated from the University of San Francisco Law School. During the Korean War, he served in the Pentagon as a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army in the Judge Advocate General's (JAG) Corps. After the war, he received his LLM from Georgetown University and joined San Francisco law firm Hoberg and Finger. He began his career in legal education at his alma mater, USF Law School, and served as dean of Gonzaga University School of Law before he was appointed ninth dean of Loyola Law School following a national search.

O’Brien is remembered as restoring steady leadership and long-term planning at Loyola Law School following a succession of short deanships. The need for an expanded campus footprint to accommodate the rapidly growing student body became clear during his tenure, and he was dedicated to providing opportunities for lower-income students. Students began to gain clinical experience providing free legal aid to local residents and working with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.

After leaving Loyola in 1973, O’Brien went back to teaching. Throughout his career he taught on the law faculties of Georgetown, U.C. Berkeley, University of Michigan, University of San Diego and Washington and Lee, and taught specialty programs at Princeton, University of North Carolina, and Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.