Producing Leaders in the Legal Academy

By Natasha Lacoste, J.D. ’11

Alumni find inspiration in teaching the lawyers of tomorrow.

Along with producing exceptional lawyers and judges, Loyola University College of Law has given the legal community outstanding leaders in academia. It is vital for law schools to have dedicated faculty educating would-be-lawyers due to the ethical and professional responsibilities associated with the legal profession. Robert A. Pascal ’37 (English), LL.B. ’39, H’95, LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center; William H. Byrnes, IV, J.D. ’92, Thomas Jefferson School of Law; Shaakirrah R. Sanders, J.D. ’01, University of Idaho College of Law; and Laura A. Cisneros, J.D. ’05, Golden Gate University School of Law, are such faculty members—committed to educating young lawyers to be outstanding members of the legal community.

Robert A. Pascal ’37 (English), LL.B. ’39, H’95
Professor Emeritus,
LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center

Robert A. Pascal has enjoyed a long and distinguished career (1945 – 1980) as a member of LSU’s law faculty, and even now, at 97 years of age, he can be found almost daily in his Tucker Room office.

Pascal had not thought of an academic career until the Loyola faculty suggested it to him at the end of his third semester—half-way through his LL.B. studies—but he embraced the idea with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, several obstacles prevented him from entering academia right away. So, Pascal went to work for the law firm of Normann and Rouchell in New Orleans, La. However, he soon found practicing law was not the right path for him.

“I didn’t like dealing with clients; they wanted me to get them what they wanted in spite of what the law provided,” he says. “So, I decided to pursue graduate studies with a view to enter the teaching profession.”

Pascal was awarded a scholarship to the University of Michigan as a candidate for the S.J.D. degree. While in the mist of his studies, the United States entered World War II. Pascal was able to complete his studies but not his dissertation. Nevertheless, he and his fellow graduate students were awarded an LL.M. degree for work completed. During the war, Pascal served in the Coast Guard and was assigned to the 10th naval district, headquartered in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

After the war, a fortuitous event led Pascal to LSU. He met with former LSU Law Dean Frederick Beutel, who was attempting to rehabilitate the University of Nebraska College of Law. Pascal was offered a position, but he decided it was not the right fit for him.

Pascal then travelled to New Orleans on October 15, the same day that Dean Paul M. Herbert arrived at LSU. On the 16th, Pascal went to Baton Rouge, La., to meet with Herbert, and, within 20 minutes, became an associate professor. Pascal continued to teach at LSU, and he was named professor emeritus in 1980.

While on leaves of absences from LSU, Pascal taught at the University of Chicago (spring 1951) and the University of Rome (1951 – 1952 and 1963 – 1964). There was one condition for teaching in Rome—that he lecture in Italian. Pascal accepted, and spent a summer learning the language.

Throughout his career, Pascal has taught a wide range of subjects, but his favorites have been interstate and international legislative jurisdiction, philosophy of law, introduction to civil and common law, and private (or family) trusts. His teaching philosophies can be found in almost any piece of his scholarship. The basic principle is: “We are a community of people under God, and because we are a community, each of us must cooperate with everyone else in life.” He is best known, however, for his Tucker Lecture of 1998, “Of the Civil Code and Us,” and his more recent “A Summary Reflection on Legal Education.”

William H. Byrnes, IV, J.D. ’92
Associate Dean for Graduate & Distance Education Programs,
Thomas Jefferson School of Law

William H. Byrnes, IV is a pioneer in online education. The Internet was gaining popularity while Byrnes was working towards an LL.M., and he knew this was the medium through which he could teach the international tax program he had been designing. When lecturing in South Africa, Byrnes began offering his online program via e-mail. By 1995, there were students from around the world enrolled in this program. After returning stateside, he implemented the first online LL.M. program offered by an ABA-accredited law school in the United States.

Currently, Byrnes is associate dean for graduate and distance education programs at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, Calif. He notes that TJSL “is the most technologically advanced campus in the country.” Because he has become so well known in the field of online education, many students are drawn to TJSL specifically to work with him. In addition to his duties as a professor and dean, Byrnes also is a prolific author. He has authored or edited 19 books and compendia of 38 volumes, 25 books and treatise chapters, and 725 articles.

Byrnes was always interested in pursuing a career in international tax, and at age 15, he entered Tulane University with this goal in mind. While at Loyola, a professor encouraged him to leave the country and study abroad. He followed this advice by obtaining an LL.M. from the University of Amsterdam. He then moved to South Africa, where he was a lecturer at Rand Afrikaans University and worked for Coopers Lybrand. While there, he began to build a client practice and teach his international tax program online.

In addition to his teaching career, Byrnes has consulted with various governments on their respective fiscal policies, including South Africa, Botswana, The British Virgin Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Anguilla, and Montserrat. Most notably, he was the primary author of the Economic and Socio-Economic Impact of the European Union Code of Conduct on Business Taxation and Tax Savings Directive Report for the United Kingdom.

Byrnes has an affinity for the civil law and civilian education. He notes: “The insights I received from New Orleans and the civil law allowed me to see different perspectives. At a regular common law institution, I would have never been able to do this.”

Byrnes begins all his courses with the civil law.

“The problem with common law (case law) is that it implies there is only one way to solve a problem,” he says. “Thus, you seem to be stuck in a pigeonhole when a judge rules on a case. But this is not so in the civil law. The civil law really highlights that there are different types of logic that can be used to approach a problem. And if you are persuasive in your logic, you can persuade the judge to rule in your favor.”

Shaakirrah R. Sanders, J.D. ’01
Associate Professor of Law,
University of Idaho College of Law

Shaakirrah R. Sanders never planned on going to law school, much less becoming a law professor. She was raised in the inner city of Detroit, Mich., and attended college on the East Coast. After college, while working as a community organizer in Detroit, she realized that some type of graduate degree was in her future.

“I didn’t have the chops for medical school and wasn’t interested in a M.B.A., so it was law school by default,” she says. “Plus, several people had suggested I go to law school.”

Sanders chose Loyola because of a story she read when she was younger.

“It was based in New Orleans, and ever since then, I had a fascination with the city.”

Sanders notes that the faculty at Loyola were wonderful, and she still enjoys a close relationship with Fr. Larry Moore.

“I haven’t made a career decision without first talking to him,” she says.

After graduation, Sanders obtained a clerkship with the Hon. Ivan R. Lemelle at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Following her clerkship, she remained in New Orleans to work as an associate at Lord Bissell & Liddell. However, her dream was to clerk for a circuit court judge, and she attained a clerkship with the Hon. Lavenski R. Smith at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. After this clerkship, she knew it was time for a change. She had always wanted to live on the West Coast, so she focused her efforts there.

Sanders worked for three years as an associate with K&L Gates in Seattle, Wash., in their appellate, constitutional, and government litigation division. But she soon realized the cases that gave her the most satisfaction were her pro bono cases, and she wanted more control over her work.
“What I really wanted was to make a difference and help people,” she says.

Thus, Sanders joined The Defender Association (TDA). After two years with TDA, she decided to take a year off and accepted a visiting professorship at Seattle University School of Law.

“I had every intention of returning to TDA. But after a few weeks, I realized teaching suited me more than anything else. I felt like I was back in law school,” she says. “I loved analyzing cases and being able to devote time to watching case law develop. I didn’t realize how much I had missed the academic rigors of law school.”

So, Sanders made a decision to pursue a teaching career.

“For the first time in my life, all my prior decisions, that had seemed so random at the time, finally came together.”

This fall, Sanders began her second year of teaching at the University of Idaho College of Law, where she teaches Constitutional Law II, Criminal Procedure, and Freedom of Speech.

Laura A. Cisneros, J.D. ’05
Associate Professor of Law,
Golden Gate University School of Law

Laura A. Cisneros notes that finding her path to teaching began in New Orleans, and specifically at Loyola. Currently, she teaches Constitutional Law at Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco, Calif. She covers the structure and function of the Constitution and institutional power, equal protection and fundamental rights, and the First Amendment.

After obtaining a B.A. in history from the University of San Diego, Cisneros worked as a paralegal.

“The work was interesting, but after a few years I was ready to make a change,” she says.

While visiting New Orleans, Cisneros fell in love with the city.

“I loved the pace of life, the bookstores; really the literary heart of the city, and I knew I just had to live here,” she says.

Cisneros chose Loyola because it was a Jesuit institution and would likely have smaller classes than huge public universities and there also would be an emphasis on community building and social justice. Her first impression of Loyola was how welcoming everyone was.

“From the start, and this feeling never went away, I felt like people knew me and they wanted to know me,” she says.

In her second year, Cisneros knew she wanted to teach. After graduation, she was accepted into the University of Wisconsin’s William H. Hastie Fellowship Program, a two-year research and teaching program, leading to an LL.M. degree. When she completed the program, she accepted an assistant professorship at Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston, Texas.

Because Cisneros teaches, she is often asked if she has always been comfortable in front of large groups.

“Not really,” she replies, “but like I tell my students, practice makes it easier.”

Cisneros also says that early recognition of her scholarly efforts helped. She was awarded the Outstanding Scholarly Paper Award by the AALS in January 2009. The AALS awards this to a junior faculty member whose paper makes a substantial contribution to legal literature. The article was Standing Doctrine, Judicial Technique, and the Gradual Shift from Rights-Based Constitutionalism to Executive-Centered Constitutionalism.

“I was so incredibly excited about the research I was doing that I couldn’t wait to tell my students about it,” she says.

On September 28, 2012, Cisneros presented her latest article, Paging Dr. Derrida: A Deconstructionist Approach to Understanding the Affordable Care Act Litigation, which discusses the federalism issues raised in the judicial opinions, at Loyola’s Faculty Speaker Series.

Cisneros says that going to law school, and specifically going to Loyola, was the best decision she ever made.

“This has made me who I am today,” she notes. “I feel so fortunate to be in a profession that I love, where I’m constantly challenged and able to bring my passion for learning and the law into the classroom to give students the chance to challenge themselves and stoke their intellectual curiosity.”


Tasha Lacoste, J.D. ’11, is the research associate for College of Law Dean María Pabón López.

View College of Law Alumni in the Legal Academy

View College of Law Alumni Teaching Law at Loyola

View the complete fall 2012 issue of Loyola Lawyer.

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