Professor Fischer reflects on teaching career as retirement approaches

Professor Judy Fischer is retiring from Brandeis School of Law at the end of the school year. She joined the faculty in 2000 after a somewhat unconventional path.

Professor Fischer grew up in Peoria, Illinois, and received her undergraduate degree from Bradley University. At that time, she said, there were very few women enrolled in law schools, so receiving a J.D. wasn’t on her radar.

Instead, she taught English and French on and off for 14 years, mostly at the high school level. She also spent some time teaching religion, teaching Head Start students and teaching at Bradley.

"I really loved teaching, but eventually I wanted to do something else because the pay was low," Professor Fischer said. "I wanted to be able to buy a house and to travel."

Also, she said many teachers were treated "mechanically," not professionally. This inspired her to consider law school.

"By that time, more women were represented at law schools. It made sense to me because I am interested in everything that goes into the study of law — verbal and written expression, political and sociological issues," Professor Fischer said.

In 1978, she began her legal studies at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. She ended up on the West Coast simply because she wanted to explore new places. Plus, "there were no law schools in Peoria."

After graduation, Professor Fischer took a job at a large law firm headquartered in LA and Long Beach. She worked mostly in civil litigation for 10 years, with cases ranging from criminal to personal injury and from real estate to savings and loan cases.

She liked it a lot, but things were changing.

It was becoming more of a business. I had envisioned being in a profession more than a business," Professor Fischer said.

So, she returned to her roots and began teaching again. She spent four years at the University of Cincinnati Law School, beginning in 1991, then moved to Chapman University School of Law in Southern California, where she spent five years.

At the time, Chapman’s law school was brand new and was experiencing some growing pains that motivated Professor Fischer to send her resume into a national clearinghouse for law professors.

She was contacted by Brandeis Professor Kathy Bean, who retired last year.

"One of the things that interested me about Brandeis was its long history. It was nice to have that and was the opposite of Chapman," Professor Fischer said.

In 2000, Professor Fischer joined the faculty at Brandeis School of Law, with a focus on legal writing, legal skills and women and the law. From 2005-09, she chaired the Professional Skills Program Committee, which proposed and facilitated the opening of the Robert and Sue Ellen Ackerman Law Clinic. The clinic provides law students an opportunity to represent clients who are victims of domestic violence or who have eviction cases.

"The trend at that time was to have more skills training opportunities in place. I felt we needed to be more proactive," Professor Fischer said.

From 2002-05, she also chaired the International Committee, which brought in professors from law schools around the world.

Additionally, Professor Fischer is a contributing editor to the Legal Writing Prof Blog, which was listed among the ABA Journal’s top 100 blogs for both 2012 and 2013. She was also on the editorial board of a national journal titled "Legal Writing: Journal of the Legal Writing Institute" from 2006-2014, and is currently a member of the Kentucky Bench & Bar publications committee.

Professor Fischer said her favorite part about teaching is conveying to students all of the skills that will help them in their professional life.

Last year, her colleagues nominated her to receive the Blackwell Award, calling her a "tireless champion for her students" and "a selfless, unassuming expert who is generous with her time and wisdom."

"I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be on the faculty here. I have taught some excellent students here. It is a pleasure to see many of them blossoming and doing great work," Professor Fischer said.

Professor Fischer said she has no immediate plans on the horizon. She may focus on her hobbies — gardening, reading, sewing and painting. She may also volunteer teaching children how to read or for an ESL program. The use of language, she said, has always been an interest.

Professor Fischer often shares her favorite piece of advice to her students: "Do well and do good."

As she embarks upon new adventures, those of us at Brandeis School of Law wish her the same.