Why KU Law? World-class faculty

Professor Stephen McAllister, L'88

PROFESSOR ENRICHES CLASSROOM WITH SUPREME COURT EXPERIENCE
Stephen McAllister, Professor of Law, L'88
"Every time I enter the classroom, I strive to challenge the students to engage in intellectually sophisticated thinking about the law, but also to recognize and appreciate the pragmatic and practical concerns and limitations that lawyers often face in handling actual cases."

A nationally known authority on constitutional law, Stephen McAllister, L’88, co-authored the definitive casebook on state constitutional law. He was a two-time clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court – for Justices Byron White and Clarence Thomas – and has argued before the high court five times. McAllister also serves as Solicitor General of Kansas.

McAllister enriches his law school classrooms with his ongoing experience in both academia and the practice of law.

“Good lawyers need to be able think about and analyze their clients’ cases in an analytically rigorous and objective fashion while also recognizing and working within the real-world situation they confront,” McAllister said. “Every time I enter the classroom, I strive to challenge the students to engage in intellectually sophisticated thinking about the law, but also to recognize and appreciate the pragmatic and practical concerns and limitations that lawyers often face in handling actual cases.”

A respected teacher, scholar and appellate lawyer, McAllister received the Dean Frederick J. Moreau Award in 1997, a W.T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence in 1999 and the Steeples Award for Service to Kansas in 2008. He served as dean of the law school from 2000 to 2005. In his role as solicitor general, he assists the attorney general’s office with important constitutional litigation, including recently briefing, arguing and winning for Kansas the case of Kansas v. Ventris (U.S. 2009). In November 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court appointed McAllister to defend the judgment below in Bond v. United States, No. 09-1227. In that capacity, McAllister filed a merits brief and presented oral argument to the court.

“My own experience litigating Supreme Court cases makes me a more effective teacher of constitutional law because I have not just read the end product – a Supreme Court opinion – but actually have participated in the creation of that product. Standing in front of the justices, looking them in the eye and responding to their questions, gives one a deep appreciation of the human aspects of Supreme Court litigation, aspects that I hope to convey to my students,” McAllister said. “Those aspects include the personalities of the justices, the nature of the decisional process and the difficulties and anxieties that lawyers face when appearing before the Court. 

“I hope my appellate experiences convey a couple of other points to our students, too, including that KU Law graduates have the skills and talent to appear before the Supreme Court and that even the students’ professors continue to learn about the law and tackle new challenges. Legal education does not end with law school; in many ways, it only begins.”

And thanks to McAllister’s strong connections to the U.S. Supreme Court, well over a dozen of its justices have visited the law school in recent history, including Sonia Sotomayor, John Roberts, Sandra Day O’Connor and Clarence Thomas.

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