Professor Allison Orr Larsen '99 of William & Mary Law School has been recognized as an early career "Rising Star" among this year's recipients of the Commonwealth's highest honor for faculty, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) and Dominion Resources announced today.
Larsen is among 12 educators from the Commonwealth's public and private colleges and universities to be selected for a 2014 Outstanding Faculty Award, an honor that recognizes excellence in teaching, research, and service. She is one of two recipients recognized this year as a Rising Star, an accolade given to those who show extraordinary promise early in their careers.
She is the fourth member of the law faculty to receive an Outstanding Faculty Award. Previous recipients include Paul Marcus (2010), Davison M. Douglas (2002), and Ingrid Hillinger (1987). William & Mary continues to be a leader in these awards, garnering 37 since the award's inception in 1987. The University of Virginia follows with 34 awards from their main campus, 37 including recipients at UVA-Wise.
Although only in her fourth year of teaching at William & Mary, Larsen already has earned two classroom awards. In 2013, she received the Walter L. Williams, Jr., Memorial Teaching Award, presented each year by the graduating law class to the faculty member they most admire, and in 2012, she received the Alumni Fellowship Award, given annually in recognition of outstanding teaching to a handful of faculty from across the university. Larsen also is widely acknowledged as an up-and-coming legal scholar. In articles in top law reviews, she has explored topics such as the practice of dissent by judges on controversial cases; negotiation and compromise by jurors in the jury room; and the citation of materials outside the record by courts and the complications this practice poses in the age of the Internet.
William & Mary President Taylor Reveley said that "Professor Larsen's selection is doubly satisfying because she is both a William & Mary alumna and one of our faculty's most extraordinary young stars. We are very proud of her."
Larsen, a Charlottesville, Va., native and magna cum laude graduate of the College of William & Mary, finished first in a class of 360 students at the University of Virginia School of Law. She received the Margaret G. Hyde Award, the highest honor given by the law faculty to a member of the graduating class. She then served as a law clerk for Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and for Justice David Souter of the U.S. Supreme Court. After practicing in the appellate litigation division of O'Melveny & Myers in Washington, D.C., she began her academic career as a Scholar-in-Residence at the Catholic University School of Law. She joined the William & Mary Law School faculty in fall 2010.
Law School Dean Davison M. Douglas said Larsen "has succeeded beyond all our expectations in every aspect of her job. She already has become an exceptionally strong teacher, much beloved by our students, and has emerged early in her time with us as a scholar whose work is influential among other law professors and practicing lawyers and judges." He added that she brings "an infectious enthusiasm to all that she does. I think we all feel very lucky to have her as a colleague."
"I really don't have the words to express how honored I feel to be recognized with the SCHEV award, specifically as a Rising Star," said Larsen. "I have been the beneficiary of such tremendous mentoring throughout my career - as an undergraduate at William & Mary, as a law student at the University of Virginia, while clerking for two great jurists, and now as a member of this amazing Law School faculty. It was an honor to have been deemed worthy of praise by the people who supported my nomination. I am beyond flattered, beyond honored, to receive this award."
Legal Scholar, Professor, and Mentor
Larsen's scholarship has been widely cited and her work has been favorably highlighted in major media outlets, including the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, and the New York Times. And in 2013, she accomplished what many legal academics aspire to but don't often achieve: to have her work cited by a federal court (in the Ninth Circuit's 2013 opinion in Isaacson v. Horne).
Recently she has written about how courts find facts and how that process has been affected by changes in technology. "We don't have to find facts on the record in a trial anymore," she said. "Judges can find facts on their own, through Google, for example. I've spent some time researching whether that is a good development, and what the risks and what the virtues are. I think part of my challenge as a legal scholar writing in 2014 will be to address how the law is affected and will continue to be affected by this revolution in information technology. I think that is going to be the challenge for the next generation of lawyers."
Colleagues on the Law School faculty speak in superlatives about her abilities.
Haynes Professor of Law Paul Marcus said Larsen is gifted in many ways, and thinks that her "greatest strength is as a communicator." She is able "to translate difficult legal issues for a wide variety of audiences. She speaks with clarity and insight to her students, to her colleagues, to judges and to members of the public."
In the estimation of Goodrich Professor of Law and Professor of Government Neal Devins, Larsen is an educator "in the best sense of the word." She does not "push any particular point of view, but rather clarifies issues, identifies consequences of judicial decisions, and helps people think through their own opinions of whether the Supreme Court acted correctly or erred," he said. He added that she is "very skilled both at identifying that which is most important and most vexing about an issue and at translating very complex, very indeterminate legal doctrine, so that experts and non-experts alike can make sense of difficult, complex legal issues."
Recent graduates noted how Larsen's insights and mentoring affected their personal and professional lives.
Jillian Jacobs, J.D. '13, who is a law clerk at Dechert LLP in Boston, said that she and her classmates respected Larsen "not only because she is an accomplished scholar, but also because she is determined to educate and inspire every student in her classroom." Jacobs recalled that at the end of her Constitutional Law class, Larsen challenged students "to work hard and to strive for excellence so that we could reach our goals." The sincerity of Larsen's words and the example she set made a lasting impression on Jacobs, who said, "Professor Larsen truly is a wonderful professor, and I am grateful to have had her as a teacher and a mentor."
Sarah L. Melchior, J.D. '13, was a student in Larsen's Administrative Law and Statutory Interpretation classes and is now a Post-Graduate Fellow in the Virginia Office of the Attorney General. She remembered Larsen's "exceptional legal mind," "commitment to her students," and "enthusiasm and creativity as a teacher." Moreover, Melchior said, "her skill as a teacher is matched by her value as a mentor." Larsen spoke often in class about her family and her career, "providing a wonderful example of a successful professional woman who is able to find balance with her family life. I aspire to be half the lawyer that she is."
Larsen said there are many things that she loves about being a professor at her alma mater: "the relationships I have formed; the mentoring I give and receive; those priceless moments in the classroom where I am able to spark a new passion for the law in someone else. What I love the most about my job, however, is living in a community of students and faculty where the legal puzzles are endless and I can spend my life wrestling with them. I really cannot imagine asking for anything more."
For a list of 2014 recipients of the Outstanding Faculty Award, visit the SCHEV website.
About William & Mary Law School
Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America's oldest law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.