What drew you to the law?
It wasn’t planned. There were no lawyers in my family or in the neighborhood where I grew up. I began my career as a radio news reporter and sportscaster, and had pretty much decided it was my future. But I got interested in legal issues covering city and county governments and interviewing state legislators. I wanted to know more, and decided to give law school a try. I found that law gave me much more satisfaction than journalism, because I was helping people instead of just reporting on what they were doing. Lawyers are servants of their clients, and that concept of service really drew me.
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
Teaching is great, but the best part is the mentoring. Every student — like every human being — has extraordinary potential to do amazing things. I don’t want students to try to be “good lawyers.” I want them to become totally freaking amazing lawyers, whose clients will trust with the most important issues in their lives. Helping students to unleash their inner amazingness is the best part of the job.
What do you hope students gain from your courses?
They need to understand the basic material. There’s a basic body of knowledge that every lawyer has to possess, and I need to make sure they get that. Next, they need to be able to do what lawyers do, which is use the knowledge to solve hard problems. Students have to become comfortable with the fact that sometimes there aren’t clear answers — and those are the very situations in which we lawyers are most likely to be needed. Finally, I want students to be able to see how they will be able to use what they’re learning in their own practices. Students are much more willing to work hard and learn when they understand why it’s going to be important to their clients.
What did you do prior to entering academia?
I grew up in L.A. during the Beach Boys era. My first career was in radio. When I graduated from law school, I spent a year as a law clerk on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and then joined the Washington, D.C., office of a major international law firm, Latham & Watkins. There, I did litigation and corporate acquisition work with a variety of high-technology businesses and defense contractors. I made partner at the firm in 1991, but resigned not long after that. I moved with my wife to a depressed area of upstate New York, where I did “mom and pop” small town law and wrote a few stories for Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. Up there I did a lot of work with tiny startup businesses, and when I started teaching I wanted to use what I learned working with entrepreneurs to help train lawyers who could represent them.
What are you passionate about outside of the law?
Well, I’ve been getting involved in the marijuana legalization movement and in the growth of the new cannabis industry. It’s fascinating being present at the birth of a whole new industry where all the rules have to be invented from scratch. I’m a father of two teenaged boys, the husband of a brilliant marketing professor, a practicing Catholic, a libertarian conservative and a naturalized Texan. I love Jane Austen, honky-tonk country music, Gulf Coast beaches, C.S. Lewis, most alcoholic beverages, 19th century American art and good mystery stories. I founded and was principal owner of two independent minor league baseball teams. I also play the banjo, although not very well.
What are your research interests?
- Changes in the global legal profession
- Business and regulatory aspects of marijuana legalization
- Entrepreneurship in law practice
- Contract law and policy
- Business management theory and law practice