College of Law Welcomes Three New Faculty


With Fall Semester 2013 fast approaching, the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law (College of Law) is welcoming three new professors to its faculty. In separate interviews below, each of the faculty members — Shima Baradaran, Andy Hessick and Carissa Byrne Hessick — discuss their teaching philosophies, current scholarship, and outside interests. 

Shima Baradaran
Associate Professor

What inspired to pursue a career as a law professor and what attracted you to come to the College of Law?

Every job I have ever had has involved teaching at some capacity.  I love teaching, I love working with students, and I love the law.  I am thrilled to join the University of Utah College of Law because of the stellar faculty, the diverse and interesting student body and the amazing resources that a Research 1 University can provide.

As chronicled in a 2010 Deseret News profile, your route to academia, and more generally, the U.S., was quite unusual—arriving in Los Angeles from Iran as a young child and learning to speak English through intense immersion, and then proceeding to excel at Brigham Young University before graduating first in your class from BYU Law School.  You’ve spoken in the past about how important your parents’ influence was on your dedication to hard work.  How do you think your experiences inform your teaching and scholarship?

As a first generation immigrant whose parents sacrificed everything to create a better life for their children, I feel a great sense of responsibility to make a difference in the world.  I write about social policy issues in criminal law and international law.  I hope to make a difference and I especially hope to inspire my students to make a difference.  The law is a powerful tool for change. Learning how to speak the language of the law can change a person. Law is an exciting skill to have in a country that is built on the rule of law.

What is your teaching philosophy? (Specifically, what can students who take your classes expect and how does your approach differ from what they might anticipate?)

I was honored to be chosen as Professor of the Year last year at BYU Law School.  I love teaching and engaging with students in the classroom. Some of the most impactful moments in my career have come through interactions with students.  I use the Socratic method, but as my students often say, not to embarrass anyone or to waste time, but in an effort to help the student come to learn the point herself or himself.  I try to stay very organized in class.  I’ll tell random war stories as they relate to the material and show video clips as much as possible so collectively we don’t get bored (not that the law is boring at all). I encourage students to send me videos and memes as they come up with them.

At BYU, where you taught previously, your scholarship focused on criminal law and you also previously were a Fulbright Senior Scholar in Africa. What classes will you be teaching at the College of Law and what is the focus of your current scholarship?

 I will be teaching Evidence in the fall and Criminal law and Advanced Criminal Procedure in the winter semester. My current scholarship focuses on the Fourth Amendment, pretrial detention, drug policy, prosecutors and international terrorism financing.

Given the current uncertainty in the legal job market, many law schools are beginning to put a greater emphasis on practical experience and pro bono service. The College of Law has long been committed to hands-on learning and service to the community. Based on your experiences, do you have any thoughts about the efficacy of this applied model, or advice you can offer to students about how to take advantage of these opportunities to better prepare themselves for practice?

I think pro bono service and clinical learning are an integral part of a law school education.  I think even in core law school classes though, we can do a better job of making the classroom material applicable to real world problems.  I strive to discuss real world criminal issues with my students in class and discuss litigation strategy.  It is always fun to highlight and discuss bad strategic decisions in the cases we discuss in class. 

Do you have any outside interests or hobbies you would like to share with readers?

I love to hike and eat desserts.  I’m learning how to golf so I can one day join the one percent.  I prefer chocolates over apples on my desk.

Any other thoughts you would like to add? 

I’m looking forward to adding a lot more red in my wardrobe. Go Utah! 

Andy Hessick
Professor of Law

You took a somewhat circuitous route to academia, first serving two clerkships, practicing at a Washington, D.C., law firm, and working for the Solicitor General’s Office in the U.S. Department of Justice. Do you believe these experiences inform your teaching? If so, how? Also, on a similar note, what attracted you to teaching?

Those experiences definitely informed my teaching. One of the most important things that those jobs taught me is that law is a tool to be used to accomplish a goal.   I try to convey that through my teaching. I always try to focus on how can we use what we’ve learned to help get our clients want they want.

What classes will you be teaching at the College of Law?

Civil procedure, federal courts, and remedies

What is your teaching philosophy? (Specifically, what can students who take your classes expect and how does your approach differ from what they might anticipate?)

I have a mix of cold calling and lecture. The goal of the cold calling is to keep the students engaged and thinking. I know that cold calling can be traumatic for lots of students (it was for me), but I think it is good preparation for practice. There were lots of times when attorneys are called upon to give answers on the spot, and getting used to that process as soon as possible is useful.

Based on your career experience as well as your experience teaching at Boston University, Harvard and ASU, can you identify one thing legal education does well to prepare students for practice and one area where you believe schools might improve their approach?

Legal education does a lot of things that are useful for practice. One thing that I think doesn’t get praised enough, though, is that law school does a good job at teaching an array of doctrines. Knowing a bunch of doctrines can be very helpful in practice. It helps in spotting issues and drawing analogies when facing legal problems. As for an area to improve: legal writing. Writing is so important to practice. Law schools are spending more and more time on legal writing, and the writing faculty at most schools are great. But I think that even more practice could be good.

What are your outside interests or hobbies?

Right now, I spend most of my time outside work playing with my daughter, who is a year and a half. I also play ping pong, but word is that there are some serious ringers at the law school, so I might retire. 

Carissa Byrne Hessick
Professor of Law 

Welcome.  To start at the beginning, could you relate what drew you to teach at the S.J. Quinney College of Law (“College of Law”)?

One of the things that I enjoyed the most about my own law school experience was the small class size, which translated into more personal attention for students by faculty.  In an era when many law schools have increased their class sizes dramatically to generate revenue, I was drawn to the S.J. Quinney College of Law’s commitment to small classes. 

I was also excited to move to Salt Lake City.  The fact that this is a beautiful city with a lot to offer seems to be a well-kept secret—and I’m very glad to have been let in on that secret!

Your scholarship is wide-ranging, covering everything from criminal law and sentencing to immigration law to veterans’ issues. How did you develop such a wide range of professional interests and expertise? 

My interest in criminal sentencing is a direct result of the judicial clerkship I did after law school. While I was clerking for a district court judge, the Supreme Court handed down a decision that essentially said many modern sentencing systems (including the federal system) were unconstitutional. That was a very exciting time to be a law clerk.  I was able to see firsthand how prosecutors, defense attorneys, and trial judges responded to such a radical change in the criminal justice system. 

More importantly, it made me start thinking about what a fair and constitutional sentencing system ought to look like–that question is the basis for the vast majority of my scholarship.  And because there are so many different types of factors that could influence a sentencing decision, that question has led me to examine a wide range of issues, from veterans’ status to the ethical obligations of defense counsel.

What classes will you be teaching at the College of Law?  

This fall I will be teaching a seminar on federal criminal law.  This spring I will teach first year criminal law, as well as a section of professional responsibility that, in addition to preparing students for the MPRE, will examine ethical issues that arise in the criminal justice system.

What is your teaching philosophy? (Specifically, what can students who enroll in your classes expect and how does your approach differ from what they might anticipate?) 

One of the most important aspects of teaching, in my opinion, is striking a balance between conveying information to students and pushing students to be active learners who are able to form independent opinions from their own observations and analytical skills. That is to say, I try not to hide the ball when it comes to students learning the black letter law, but at the same time, it is my job to make sure that students learn how to distill legal principles themselves–after all, once they graduate, they will have to be able to do that on their own. Although how I strike that balance differs from course to course and topic to topic, I generally try to teach students how to distill legal principles using a light Socratic method, and then I recap those major principles at the beginning of the next class just to make sure that we are all on the same page. (“Light Socratic method” means that I call on students, but I try to keep the questioning relatively painless; for example I won’t grill the same student for an extended period of time.)

Your professional experience prior to entering academia is also wide-ranging, and includes judicial clerkships and work as a litigation associate at a New York firm.  Do you believe these experiences inform your teaching?  If so, how? 

All of those experiences shaped my view of what a lawyer ought to be:  A hardworking, creative problem solver, who is constantly looking to improve him- or herself.  The moment we leave law school, lawyers are expected to be able to do an extraordinary number of things; we’re expected to write well, speak fluidly, find obscure legal precedent, and approach all of those tasks with the strategic ability of a chess master. 

I don’t think that three years of law school can completely prepare anyone for the difficult tasks they will be asked to do as a young lawyer.  But I do think that law school generally, and law professors more specifically, can give students a set of skills to approach these problems, the confidence to believe that they can succeed, and the work ethic to ensure that they do succeed.

During a time in which there has been a great deal of publicity concerning the applicability of legal education and difficulties in the legal job market, the College of Law has focused on hands-on experience, learning through volunteer community service, and the use of blended learning methodologies to better train its graduates. Do you have any predictions about the efficacy of this model, or positive guidance you can offer to students or prospective students during this unsettled time?

I have read a lot of the newspaper stories about the so-called failings of legal education. Although I agree that law schools should always be looking to improve how they educate students, the recent claims that legal education is broken are, in my opinion, overstated. There are two types of stories about the failings of law schools, and I don’t think either story ought to concern students here at the U of U.

The first type of story focuses on whether students are “practice ready” when they come out of law school.  According to these stories, because legal education is outdated, law students aren’t ready to practice law when they graduate from law school.  I disagree with this critique because it ignores how traditional classroom learning helps prepare students for practice.  It also minimizes the many hands-on experiences most law students have before they graduate.  Clinics, externships, and summer jobs all help law students see how what they have learned in the classroom translates into practice.  Of course, no one should graduate from law school and then try a murder case the next day. There will always be a learning curve in practice, and more experienced attorneys will always have something to teach new lawyers.  But I think that legal education–especially the high-quality education at schools like this one–helps flatten that learning curve, making our current graduates as close to practice-ready as one can be after only three years.

The second type of “failings of law school” story is about student debt. Those stories use statistics about average student debt or anecdotes about the debt carried by specific students to imply that attending law school is not a good economic decision. I couldn’t disagree more. As a kid from a working class family, I personally took on a lot of debt to get my undergraduate and my law degrees. I’ll still be paying off my student loans when it is time for my daughter to go to college; and if it weren’t for those loans I’d own a nicer car and much(!) nicer clothes. But I’ve never for a moment regretted my decision to go to law school. Being a lawyer and now a law professor has been a very rewarding professional experience. And even though the legal job market goes through cycles of boom and bust, job prospects are far, far better with a law degree than without.

Anything else?  

I am a life-long Denver Broncos fan.  I’ve read all of the Harry Potter books at least 10 times.  And I have a bit of a television addiction.  Right now my favorite shows are The Americans, Game of Thrones, and The Killing.