The litigation list

I am interested in collecting a list of law professors who litigate in the trial courts of this country while also teaching law. I don’t care whether such litigation is civil or criminal in nature. I don’t care whether the litigation takes place in state or federal court. I understand and appreciate that busy law professors only have so much time. As a result, I don’t expect the list to contain law professors who are constantly in our trial courtrooms. But, I do want to know about law professors who try enough cases on a fairly regular basis that one might conclude that they are presently competent to sit at the first chair representing a client before a jury or a trial judge.

So, dear readers, if you would be so kind, send me your “nomination” via a comment, including the details (who, what, when and where) about your favorite litigating law professor. I am solely interested in tenured or tenure track professors, no adjuncts please. Additionally, I am only interested in law professors who litigate while they also teach law. Exclude professors who were once trial lawyers but who no longer spend time in the trial courtroom.

One caveat: Please, please, please, no snark. I honestly have no interest in picking a fight. On the contrary, I am sincerely hoping to recognize and praise law professors who litigate in the many trial courtrooms of our nation while also regularly teaching law. 

I look forward to hearing from you.  Thanks.


39 responses

  1. Just about every adjunct family law professor is an active family law practitioner. Or when you say “law professors” do you mean something more restrictive like tenured professors, professors at elite schools, or something like that?

  2. I’m curious why you wouldn’t be interested in adjuncts that litigate. There’s not exactly a shortage of practitioners who teach.

  3. John S. Allen, University of Iowa Clinical Law professor and Bouma Clinical Fellow in Trial Law. Excellent trial attorney who regularly appears in both federal and state court.

  4. Most clinical faculty litigate, Kate Mahern at Creighton is excellent. If you want snarky clinical people describe the rest as standup professors and it goes down hill from there.

  5. I was going to say, it’ll be pretty easy to find “clinical” professors who appear in trial courts, but if I’m not mistaken they are generally considered lesser status “professors”. Same with “adjuncts”, of course.

    Regular tenured professors wouldn’t be caught dead practicing in trial courts. In fact I think there’s a rule against it. In fact, I think as far as they are concerned they only appear for amicus and even then only in federal appellate courts. I think state appellate courts are considered beneath them, except maybe a state’s highest court here and there.

  6. Michael Axline spent 15 years teaching at the University of Oregon while still regularly working as a trial attorney. He taught civ pro, admin, and environmental related classes, and litigating, yes, disputes about government environmental policies. He went back to full time practice about a decade ago. He was a regular professor, not a clinical or adjunct.

    Eugene Volokh at UCLA goes to court sometimes, perhaps more on the appellate level, as well as teaching & blogging.

  7. Jake,

    I was an adjunct teaching trial ad for over five years. I have great respect for them. But, and among other reasons for my list-request, I am trying to get a feel for whether trial lawyers who actively litigate have the benefit of tenure or tenure track postions. All the best.


  8. John, see my comment to Jake about why I don’t want adjuncts. Also, the status of the law school does not matter to me–I would like to compile a list of tenure or tenure track professors who litigate in trial courts while teaching at an accredited law school regardless of how the school ranks. All the best.


  9. repenting lawyer,

    Yes, Kate fits and she is excellent (even though we have butted heads). She is the Connie Kearney Endowed Chair in Clinical Legal Education (2001) at Creighton.

    All the best.


  10. This is way off point, but it deals with a law professor in a courtroom. I had a case defending a local attorney in a legal malpractice jury trial in western Nebraska (real cowboy country) back in the late 1980’s. One of the plaintiff’s experts called to testify was a full-time assistant professor at the the University of Nebraska Law School – I had even had him as my professor in legal ethics class some years before. Anyhow – presenting himself in preppy bow tie and all – he testified against my client – and was the consummate eastern, very precise, Ivy-League type as he told us all how things worked ethically in the case. I was ready to go ballistic when it came out that the guy wasn’t even a member of the Nebraska Bar Association – couldn’t even practice in the courts of the state – yet, HE was telling us how to practice law properly, he set the standard of practice for those of us in the trenches! I should have asked the Judge to kick his ass out of the witness box, but I didn’t. The case resulted in a verdict against my client – the plaintiff appealed because he didn’t think the damages award was enough. I cross-appealed on a couple of issues. The Nebraska Supreme Court reversed the whole thing – threw out the plaintiff’s verdict and said the trial court should not have sent the case to the jury. Saddest part of the case was that the plaintiff died of cancer just after the Supreme Court’s decision; he lived long enough to see his verdict go down the drain. After it was all over I felt sorry for him, but not for his mercenary attorneys who could have taken the money and run.

  11. JMJR In theory the accreditation rules now bar discrimination against clinical faculty and with increase in skills courses they probably do not seem as odd to the standups.

  12. I was tenured and appeared in appellate courts in Iowa, Ne. and Minn. In addition to 8th Cir. I also appeared in or consulted on tort, insurance, and local government cases. Even appeared once in front of the Judge when he was a humble magistrate. Not all my fellow faculty members saw me as degraded and my children had expensive tastes.

  13. MOK Not only off the point but incites tne rest of us to tell war stories. I remember when…

  14. Sorry about that. As you well know, the uncontrollable need to tell a war story is a common affliction. 🙂

  15. Mark Lemley, a tenured (named!) professor at Stanford, regularly appears in cases at the district and appellate court level. He’s also a partner at a law firm.

  16. I was an associate or adjunct professor at VT Law School. After Judge Helen Toor held me in contempt, I lost my position. Queerly, the argument of the Supreme Court in my contempt conviction, one which I served jail time, was held in the moot court room where I had taught. My lawyer didn’t show up. My students sat and watched, along side my wife. We went to the Supreme Court. Cert. Denied. I never recovered. No longer practicing, teaching, judging.

  17. By the way, a video exists of judge toor holiding me in contempt. wish videos existed of my performance on the bench.

  18. John Banzhaf is a Professor of Law at George Washington University who teaches a Legal Activism course where he works with his students to bring public interest legal actions. He also founded Action on Smoking and Health, which filed several lawsuits to get smoking bans and tobacco advertising off television. More recently, he filed a petition with the FCC, asking for them to deny a Washington, D.C. radio station a license due to their use of a certain football team’s name during game broadcasts (although that isn’t really trial work, and he wrote that petition on his own behalf). Link to his George Washington faculty page:

  19. It’s notable that full-time faculty members who hold the rank of clinical professor are being kept off your list. These professors teach the law students who will become “competent to sit at the first chair representing a client before a jury or a trial judge.”
    Suppose your limitation is a way to front-load some conclusion or contention about tenured or tenure-track professors, who teach the law that students need to learn to become competent litigators.

  20. Bob Destro and Mark Rienzi of CUA Law are both active litigators. Mark recently took a couple of contraception/religious liberty cases from trial through SCOTUS.

  21. Chicagolawyer,

    Thanks very much. It is sad that he is gone, but Professor Melvin Lewis’ students live on secure in the knowledge that they were taught by someone who has been there and done that. They are very lucky.

    All the best.


  22. CleeT,

    Perhaps I was not clear, but tenure or tenure track clinical faculty are included in my list solicitation. I excluded adjuncts.

    All the best.


  23. Bryan Stevenson is a professor at NYU and his achievements as a criminal defense and public interest lawyer are too numerous to mention in a comment.

  24. Alex Tanford at Indiana-Bloomington did the trial and appellate litigation challenging various wine statutes, leading to Granholm v. Heald.

  25. My favorite litigating law professor is Kevin Ruser, who teaches civil clinic right here in Lincoln at UNL. I did both semesters of my third year of law school with him. Unfortunately law schools can’t allow students to participate in criminal defense work for fear of effective assistance issues, or Kevin might have been featured in this blog before Professor Schmidt. Kevin can only practice and teach in civil matters such as divorce, custody, paternity, child support, bankruptcy, estates, immigration, collections, landlord/tenant, etc., but combined with the corresponding general practice courses, I think Kevin prepared me well to open a solo law office on day one of swearing in to the bar. I can’t comment on Professor Schmidt from a student point of view, but I have been adverse to him and his students many times in many state court criminal matters.
    My partner in civil clinic, Thayne Glenn, wanted to do criminal clinic but the county attorney at the time would not let him do so because as Art Hovey said, Thayne was “too hirsute to prosecute.” Mr. Hovey’s LJS article followed my DN opinion column of a day or two (as I recall) earlier, which a copy desk staffer headlined “Sign Said Long Hair Freaky People Need Not Apply.” The DN paid me $15 apiece to write one a week; I did so my entire third year of law school.
    Ever since then, I have never had an interest in serving the prosecutorial function in criminal matters, and prefer to keep sharpening my trial lawyer skills doing primarily civil bench trials and the rare criminal jury trial that private, general practice attorneys like me get the opportunity to do through our court appointed work.
    Getting back to the topic at hand, though, I have to say that the number one reason Kevin is my favorite litigating law professor is that he stood by me all of that third year of law school in spite of the heat that rained down on me (and Thayne) over the criminal clinic issue.
    Thanks again Kevin.

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