Gordon Van Kessel hails from Sonora, California, and received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from UC Berkeley. While a student at Boalt Hall (1962-65), he was a member of the California Law Review and the Assistant Varsity Boxing Coach.
He began his career by clerking with Justice Raymond Peters of the California Supreme Court and subsequently held positions both in civil and criminal practice. In the criminal area, he has worked both as a criminal defense lawyer and as a prosecutor. He joined the Hastings faculty in 1971.