What drew you to the law?
Even as a child I was fascinated by the law, imagining myself as a modern-day Clarence Darrow defending the innocent. In middle school I picked the Sacco and Vanzetti trial as the subject of one term paper and the Nuremburg trials as the subject of another. I was often told that I had an over-developed sense of justice!
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
I especially enjoy exploring with students not only what the law is, but also what the law could or should be. In the courses I teach — particularly criminal law and procedure — I like discussing current events (like the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri) to show students how the law is relevant in people’s everyday lives. The law is not simply a neutral set of rules that even-handedly governs behavior; it can have disparate effects on different groups. Understanding how the law affects people strengthens a lawyer’s understanding of the true impact he or she can have on society.
What do you hope students gain from your courses?
I believe that students need to understand more than the law — including the effects of the law on people’s lives — to be good lawyers. For instance, in my Adoption Law class, we examine the psychology and sociology of adoption so that as lawyers my students can be effective counselors as well as advocates for each member of the adoption triad (birth parents, adopted person, and adoptive parents). As the Rules of Professional Responsibility note, in order to appropriately serve clients a lawyer may need to “refer not only to law but to other considerations such as moral, economic, social and political factors, that may be relevant to the client’s situation.”
What did you do prior to entering academia?
I had the privilege of working as a briefing attorney (the traditional law clerk position), research attorney and staff attorney for wonderful judges at the Dallas Court of Appeals. Working for the court was invaluable experience, perhaps equal in education to law school itself, in understanding the law.
What are you passionate about outside of the law?
My kids. My daughters were adopted from China, which has also sparked an interest in China. We spent a semester in China in 2007, when I was a Fulbright Scholar teaching at Xiamen University Law School.
What are your research interests?
My interests are eclectic. I’ve written in areas as diverse as evidence doctrine and feminist theory, the Constitution’s requirement that the president be a natural-born citizen, prohibitions on attorney-client sexual relations and differences in how American and Chinese lawyers are trained. My most recent articles focus on adoption law.