We asked Naomi Cahn, Harold H. Greene Professor of Law at George Washington Law 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?
[NC] My father left Germany in 1939, and he was never able to finish 8th grade. He has a strong belief in justice and fairness. My mother became an educator, so I have combined their two interests!
Did you have a favorite professor in law school? If so, who was the person and what made them stand out?
[NC] I had favourite subjects, and I think the professors helped keep me committed to those subjects. I loved family law, trusts and estates, and clinics. The topics affected real people, and the professors recognized that. I had chosen my law school because RBG taught there, but I was never able to take a course with her because she was nominated to the bench.
What law school course did you enjoy the most?
[NC] In addition to the clinics, family law, and trusts and estates, I liked my seminars, including a very special one taught by a lawyer at [what was then] the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
What are your primary areas of writing and teaching? What fascinates you about these areas of law?
[NC] I am delighted that I have been able to write articles and books in numerous fields: family law; feminist jurisprudence; international gender issues; reproductive technology and adoption; and trusts and estates and elder law. What fascinates me in each area is the impact of the law on people’s lives.
Do (or did) you have a mentor or someone that has inspired or encouraged you in your writing or teaching?
[NC] I’ve been fortunate to work with amazing colleagues and co-authors who are generous in their support—and criticism.
What motivated you to write a casebook?
[NC] I wanted to teach trusts and estates from a problem-oriented perspective, so writing a casebook was a good way to force me to develop the materials to teach in that way. And finding good co-authors who are committed to the same goal has been key.
What has been the most influential or pivotal moment in your career?
[NC] Learning that there is no one influential or pivotal moment! My career is a continuum, and looking back, everything has fallen into place, but I could not have predicted my current position when I graduated. Several people whom I have met along the way have alerted me to key job openings and served as advocates, and I appreciate each.
What changes in legal education excite you?
[NC] I am excited by the emphasis on skills. GW now has a new Fundamentals of Lawyering program that integrates doctrine and practice.
What advice do you have for today’s law students?
[NC] Take courses in which you have interest, learn from professors who are passionate about teaching, remember why you came to law school, figure out what you want to do with your law degree and pursue that. I hope you can find happiness in the law!
How do you hope to be remembered by your students or law school?
[NC] I want to be remembered as a teacher who cares about my students and is passionate about the subjects that I teach.
What are your interests outside of law?
[NC] My family! I bike to work year-round (apart from when there is ice); I have taken up running over the past decade, and love it. Living in Africa for two years has helped deepen my appreciation of travel and expanding horizons.
Naomi Cahn is the Harold H. Greene Professor of Law at George Washington Law and is the author of the new textbook, Wills, Trusts, and Estates in Focus