We asked Laurie L. Levenson, Professor of Law & David W. Burcham Chair in Ethical Advocacy at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, what has inspired and motivated her throughout her career. This author spotlight gives a glimpse into her passions and what brought her to where she is today.
What or who motivated you to study law?
[LL] I wanted to help people. I always saw the law as a means to make people’s lives better. As a prosecutor, I tried to make the world better one case at a time. Now that I run a Project for the Innocent, I feel the same way. I help wrongfully convicted defendants regain their freedom.
Did you have a favorite professor in law school? If so, who was the person and what made them stand out?
[LL] I loved my Civil Procedure professor because he was so passionate about the law. He had a huge amount of energy and made even arcane principles come alive for us.
What law school course did you enjoy the most?
[LL] Frankly, I loved most of my law school courses. I found criminal law and procedure to be fascinating, but I also enjoyed constitutional law, civil procedure, federal courts, and civil rights.
What are your primary areas of writing and teaching? What fascinates you about these areas of law?
[LL] I write and teach in the areas of criminal law, criminal procedure, advocacy, and ethics. I am fascinated by how the legal system becomes a forum for addressing some of the most challenging issues in our society today. I also believe that we can and should have systems that respect people’s rights but make us safer.
Do (or did) you have a mentor, or someone who has inspired or encouraged you in your writing or teaching?
[LL] Professor Steve Yeazell at UCLA School of Law served as my professional mentor and encouraged me to explore teaching and writing.
What motivated you to write a casebook?
For decades, I have been teaching criminal law and criminal procedure. I wanted to create a casebook that gave students a solid foundation for understanding criminal procedure but allowed me and other professors to supplement that learning with our own materials regarding the actual application of the basic rules. Many books on the market were so dense with notes, comments and articles that I think it was hard to get students to focus on fundamental issues.
What has been the most influential or pivotal moment in your career?
[LL] Serving as an Assistant United States Attorney was key to my career. It showed me the “real world” of the criminal justice system. I am also very grateful for my clerkship because I worked for a wonderful judge who understood the human aspects of our criminal justice system.
What changes in legal education excite you?
[LL] I am excited by the innovations in legal education, including the growing focus on practical experience for students. All of my criminal procedure students engage in “real life” experiences, such as jail visits, police ride-alongs, preliminary hearings, trials, or helping with the Project for the Innocent. They quickly see how they will use what they learn in class.
What advice do you have for today’s law students?
[LL] Love the law. Don’t just read the cases. Try to put yourself right into the scenarios and think about what you would do, what problems are raised, and how will this decision affect people’s lives.
How do you hope to be remembered by your students or law school?
[LL] I hope my students remember me as someone who cared deeply about their learning and futures. I have had thousands of students in my career. I stay in touch with many of them. Their pictures are on my door. I hope they remember me for instilling in them a love for their future career.
What are your interests outside of law?
[LL] I have three wonderful children, a husband, and a cat. We enjoy the outdoors, traveling, helping in our community and meals with good friends.