Law: Defining His Own Agenda

By Lum, Lydia | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, January 10, 2008 | Go to article overview

Law: Defining His Own Agenda


Lum, Lydia, Diverse Issues in Higher Education


GOODWIN LIU

Title: Assistant Professor of Law and Co-director, Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute for Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity, University of California-Berkeley

Education: J.D., Yale Law School; M.A., Psychology, Philosophy & Physiology, Oxford University; B.S, Biological Sciences, Stanford University

Age: 37

Goodwin Liu jokingly refers to his academic foray into medicine as "the path of least resistance." After all, both his parents were doctors. While they never pressured him to follow in their footsteps, he didn't consider doing anything else. So he diligently studied biology and the sciences as an undergraduate, while pursuing politics, public education and social issues as side interests.

Until he became a Rhodes Scholar.

At Oxford University, he studied philosophy, which he considers a bridge between science and law.

And one summer, he worked as an intern for an attorney who practiced education law.

Liu was inspired to go to law school, not medical school. And in another epiphany, he realized he wanted to teach at a university, where he could research and write as much as he wanted.

"In academia, you're your own boss," he says. "You're defining your own agenda without having to work for the clients."

However, he quickly adds that the two years he spent as an appellate litigator for a Washington, D.C., law firm was valuable in showing him how private practice works. He was also a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2000.

"The firm knew my ambitions all along," he says. "They were very supportive of my academic leanings."

Currently, he is co-director of the University of California-Berkeley law school's Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity, which launched in 2005. His expertise is in constitutional law, education policy, civil rights and the Supreme Court. Since joining the Berkeley faculty in 2003, he has taught courses such as fundamental rights, constitutional law and educational law and policy.

Liu encourages young scholars "to be true to what you're interested in."

"There's a point at which your passion becomes more than just a hobby," he says. …

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