ALSA Project Master

Community-Building

Professor Wilson and his Passion for Building Communities

in Neighborhoods, in Cities, and across Borders

社群營建 (TCN); コミュニティーの構築 (JP); 社群营建 (SCN)

By Yen-Chia Chen, Photos by Hiroo Suzuki

March 8, 2011

           

            Life sometimes turns out different than we planned.  It happens to you and me, and it also happened to Lloyd T. Wilson, Jr., who is currently a Professor of Law at Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis.  “Before I ever gave any thought to law,” Professor Wilson said, “my goal was to be an English professor.”  So in the early stage of his life, he studied literature and received a B.A. from Wabash College and an M.A. from Duke University.  However, “graduates in the humanities at that time were experiencing a job market much like that faced by law graduates today,” he noted.  On the other hand, “the market for law graduates was booming.”  So he decided to go to Indiana University School of Law – Bloomington (Indiana University Maurer School of Law) and begin developing a new career in the legal profession.  “Sometimes the closing of one door makes it possible for another door to open,” said Professor Wilson. “I have always wanted to be a professor,” he added.  “I just ended up in a different field that I anticipated.”

            When looking back on his career path, Professor Wilson feels extremely fortunate to have been mentored by a series of extraordinary people in the early stage of his legal career.  One of these mentors is Judge Ted Najam, who Professor Wilson noted, “gave me a job after my first year of law school and with whom I formed a law firm a dozen years later.”  Professor Wilson’s other mentors include Judges William Garrard and William Steckler, with whom he clerked for his first three years after law school.  “Each of these mentors not only taught the law,” Professor Wilson emphasized, “they also modeled the characteristics of professionalism, humility, and respect for the dignity of all people.”

            Upon graduating from law school, Professor Wilson clerked at the Indiana Court of Appeals for a year and clerked for another two years at the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.  When asked why he decided to seek a judicial clerkship as his first job in the legal profession, Professor Wilson smiled and answered, “To be frank, I’m not sure I knew much about judicial clerkship when I applied for the first one.  What I did know was that my professors thought highly of clerkships, and they encouraged me to apply.”  In Professor Wilson’s opinion, it was not until his clerkship was well underway that he began to appreciate the remarkable value of the opportunity he had been given.  “Day after day,” he said, “I was exposed to the most talented lawyers in the state and to the most conscientious judges.”  Today, when looking back on his legal career, the judicial clerkship turned out to be a perfect choice as his first job in the legal profession.  “My clerkship had a positive impact on my character,” Professor Wilson mentioned, “and I would tell any student that a judicial clerkship is an excellent foundation for any career path.”

           

            After clerking for three years, Professor Wilson practiced law for eight years.  He became a partner at an Indianapolis-based law firm and co-founded a firm in Bloomington before switching his legal career to the academy.  Private practice allowed him to experience and to observe the law from a new and different perspective.  “I had experienced the law as a student and as a judicial clerk,” Professor Wilson recalled, “in private practice I was exposed to new challenges and new rewards.”

            Becoming a law professor has added a fourth perspective to Professor Wilson’s legal career.  As a law professor and a leading scholar in real estate transactions in the United States, Professor Wilson’s scholarship focuses on real estate law and land use law.  He found real estate law and land use law fascinating because “those fields provide opportunities for community-building.”  In addition, his interest in these real estate law and land use law accompanied his career development.  “I was able to appreciate these aspects of real estate and land use law while in law school through my employment with then-lawyer Ted Najam,” he recalled. “Some of his principal clients were involved in real estate finance and development, and I was able to work on their projects.”

            In Professor Wilson’s opinion, the word “community,” inside the term “community-building,” has two different meanings:  One operates at the level of a city or town while the other relates to the human scale.  “How a city or town implements its zoning laws and land use policies defines its quality of life,” he noted.  “Developers who take their jobs seriously know that their projects will impact the identity of the city and its citizens’ lives for at least several decades.”  With regard to the sense of “community” on the human scale, he noted that “real estate law can be a powerful tool for developing relationships, empowering residents, and improving neighborhoods.”  To Professor Wilson, these two senses of community-building also explain why it is important to pass down his knowledge to new generations.

            In addition to the teaching and research of law, Professor Wilson regularly engages in international law-related activities at Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis.   As a supporter of Asian law studies and a firm believer in promoting international relations at the human level, Professor Wilson is currently the director of the Joint Center for Asian Law Studies and the director of the Chinese Law Summer Program.  He found Asian law studies particularly interesting because Asia is such a vibrant area of the world.  “Economically, politically, socially – there is so much going on now in so many places in Asia,” said Professor Wilson.  His interest in Asia is also part of a larger interest Professor Wilson has in international relations.  In his opinion, it is hard to perpetuate stereotypes about other peoples when we have actually met them, shared a meal with them, and seen the ways that their daily lives and concerns are very much like our own.  “Overseas travel is thus another means of community-building,” Professor Wilson noted. “That is the reason I so strongly encourage students to participate in our school’s summer study abroad programs.”

            Professor Wilson emphasized that the Chinese Law Summer Program at Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis is special because of the school’s long-standing affiliation with Renmin University of China Law School (中国人民大学法学院) and because of the personal relationships that both schools have developed.  “The quality of these relationships results in an extraordinary summer program,” he noted.  “We were one of the first law schools to establish a summer program after the “opening-up” of China,” he said, “and our affiliation with Renmin University of China Law School is that school’s longest continuous international partnership.”  Professor Wilson considers this relationship to be a good thing for Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis because Renmin University of China Law School is one of the most prestigious law schools in China.*

            The long-standing affiliation between two schools also helps develop close personal relationships.  Professor Wilson mentioned that his counterpart at Renmin University of China Law School, Ding Xianshun (丁相顺), was once his student and is an alumnus of the LL.M. program at Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis.  “Ding is now an Associate Professor and the Dean for Foreign Affairs at Renmin University of China Law School.” Professor Wilson added. “He is also my close friend.”

            Throughout the fourteen years of teaching career (twelve years at the law school and two at the Kelly School of Business), Professor Wilson has deeply loved his job as a professor.  “Seeing impressive work from students, prompted by their own internal motivations and values, is one big reason I love my job,” he said.  When asked to provide advice for law students on pursuing a career in law, Professor Wilson humbly said that he hesitates to give too much advice as he is not impacted by the conditions of today’s world in the same way they are.  But if he were to offer a piece of advice for current law students, he would suggest they “remain confident even amid difficult times.”  “In my career I have seen at least two other cycles where law students were faced with discouraging job prospects,” he recalled. “Each of those cycles was relatively short-lived and was followed by a period of prosperity.”  In addition, he also encourages students to recognize the transferability of legal knowledge and skills to a variety of vocations, such as business, politics, and not-for-profit organizations.

           

            In addition to advice on pursuing a career in law, Professor Wilson also offered his opinion that law students should try to strike a balance between law school and other aspects of their lives.  “My undergraduate alma mater, Wabash College, charges all its students and alumni to ‘think critically, act responsibly, lead effectively and live humanely,’” he said.  “I think we would all do well to ensure that some meaningful part of our lives is dedicated to each of these actions.”

* According to the information provided on Renmin University of China Law School’s website, the Chinese Ministry of Education ranked Renmin University of China Law School as the top-ranked law school in China in 2004, 2009, and 2010.

 

 

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