Professor Leslie Kendrick, an expert in free speech, torts, property and constitutional law, will be the new vice dean of the University of Virginia School of Law starting July 1.

"Leslie Kendrick is a highly respected member of our academic community — at once an outstanding scholar, teacher, colleague and mentor," Dean Risa Goluboff said. "That she has agreed to take on this important administrative task is a testament to her commitment to this institution and its community. As she follows in the footsteps of the impressive group of vice deans who have served before her, I am confident that Leslie's considerable talents will serve us all well."

The vice dean oversees academic matters and helps enrich the intellectual life of the Law School, including by organizing the curriculum and assisting in recruiting new faculty. Kendrick also will help manage the Student Records Office and work with the Office of Student Affairs.

Kendrick, a 2006 graduate of the Law School, said she is thrilled to take on the role of vice dean.

"I love the Law School. As both an alumna and a faculty member, I am excited to support it in every way I can," Kendrick said. "At Virginia, our students and faculty do great work in a great community. I believe you can get the finest legal education in the country while having a full and happy life. We have a tradition of making that possible, and I am looking forward to continuing it."

Kendrick joined the school as a faculty member in 2008, after clerking for U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Hackett Souter and Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III '72 of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

She received a B.A. in classics and English as a Morehead Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She earned her master's and doctorate in English literature at the University of Oxford, where she studied as a Rhodes Scholar.

In law school at UVA, she served as essays development editor for the Virginia Law Review and received the Margaret G. Hyde Award, the Hardy Cross Dillard Scholarship, the Law School Alumni Association Best Note Award, the Brown Award for Excellence in Legal Writing, the Food & Drug Law Institute H. Thomas Austern Short Paper Award and the Virginia State Bar Family Law Book Award.

Her scholarship, which aims to understand the big-picture questions about why we have freedom of speech, has appeared or is forthcoming in the Virginia, Harvard, Columbia and Michigan law reviews. She is past chair of the Torts and Compensation Systems Section of the Association of American Law Schools and is a member of the Harvard Higher Education Forum. In 2014, she received the Carl McFarland Prize for outstanding scholarship by a junior faculty member.

Kendrick succeeds UVA law professor George Geis, who will return to teaching and researching full-time as the William S. Potter Professor of Law. Goluboff thanked Geis, who began serving as vice dean in September 2012.

"I have been lucky to benefit from his wise counsel at every turn," Goluboff said. "We all owe George a debt of gratitude for all he has done for the institution over the past five years." 

Get to Know Leslie Kendrick

What inspired you to be a lawyer?

I like to say I grew up the daughter of a poet and a property lawyer. I tagged along to depositions with my dad from when I was very young. In school, I started out studying English literature, but I was drawn to the law because there are so many different things you can do with a law degree. I imagined I would work for a firm and maybe spend some time in the government. But I liked that there was no limit to what you could do with your legal education. And I actually found that law took some of the best skills that come out of studying literature — reading closely, writing clearly — and opened up a whole world in which to apply them.

What are your current research interests?

I am currently writing on the First Amendment, particularly on what activities implicate the freedom of speech. There is plenty of speech in our society, and in an information economy, the amount of speech is only growing. The question is which "speech" comes under "the freedom of speech." What about SEC disclosures? Search-engine results? Tattoo parlors? Some litigants say these should receive First Amendment protection. These claims force us to think about the meaning of "speech" in "the freedom of speech" and what makes freedom of speech important in the first place.

What excites you about Virginia’s curriculum?

So many things! My experience as a student here was that the Law School teaches you practical skills and critical thinking — both how to do something and how to think about doing it better. For me, that starts with a rigorous first-year curriculum, taught by luminaries like Sai Prakash, Kim Ferzan and Fred Schauer. With those fundamentals in place, students are ready to dig into upper-level courses such as Federal Courts with Caleb Nelson or Civil Rights Litigation with John Jeffries, or intensive seminars such as Deborah Hellman’s on discrimination, or clinics such the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, the Innocence Project, the Appellate Litigation Clinic, or the Environmental and Regulatory Law Clinic. They are ready to do externships, to do our joint J.D./M.A. in legal history, or to take advantage of the Law & Business Program or the Law and Public Service Program. The goal is to equip all our students with the skills to be great lawyers in whatever field they choose. There is something here for everyone, but the unifying theme is a great education.

You recently argued a case in federal court, at a hearing for Stinnie et al v. Holcomb. What did that teach you?

Do your best, take your knocks, get up and keep going. In so many ways, working on the case has been a great experience. I have the privilege to be working with wonderful Virginia Law alumni — Mary Bauer '90 and Angela Ciolfi '03 and their team at the Legal Aid Justice Center, and Jonathan Blank '95 and his team at McGuireWoods. And so many students came to the argument, which was so lovely — though I could not look back at them because I would think about them taking time out of their lives to be there, and I would get choked up.

You earned a master's and a doctorate in English literature before law school. What did you focus on as a scholar of English?

I studied Renaissance English Literature — Shakespeare, Spenser, Milton. My dissertation was on the influence of Virgil’s "Aeneid" on "Paradise Lost." I also loved the Jacobean dramatists. I've gotten back into it a little bit in my spare time and have an article coming out in an English journal this fall.

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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