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By Laura Ewald
Photos by Julie Woodford

When associate professor Amanda Tyler interviewed with different law schools in 2004, transitioning from a successful appellate practice in federal and state courts with Sidley & Austin back into academia, she saw something different at GW Law. “I noticed when talking to the faculty here that, although they were all interested in questions of scholarship and asked about my writing and scholarly agenda, they also talked a lot about teaching,” Tyler says. “The craft of teaching is so important here, and I had not seen that kind of emphasis at some of the other schools I visited.”

Amanda Tyler, in her second year at GW Law, teaches civil procedure and federal courts and the federal system.

Now in her second year at GW Law, where she teaches civil procedure, federal courts and the federal system, is a member of the clerkship committee, and serves as faculty adviser to the Van Vleck Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition, Tyler is enjoying the role of mentor. She also works to bring inspiring visitors—such as Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who will visit in the spring, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who delivered the keynote address at the symposium on the legacy of Chief Justice William Rehnquist in October.

In addition to learning from instructors at Stanford and Harvard Law, she enjoys the lasting impact of clerkships with Guido Calabresi of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit and Ginsburg. Perhaps because they had been educators themselves, Calabresi a former dean of Yale Law School and Ginsburg a professor teaching civil procedure, Tyler says each took a personal interest in her educational and career development.

“I encourage my students to clerk as an extension of their law school careers. I describe the range of cases I saw, the lifelong career mentors I gained,” Tyler says. “My experiences as a clerk certainly inform my teaching. It was interesting—and a heck of a lot of fun—to be a fly on the wall of the Supreme Court.”

Tyler inspired 3L Jennifer Mascott to apply for a clerkship and supported her during the application process—Mascott will clerk for 4th Circuit Judge J. Michael Luttig next year.

“Professor Tyler’s clerkships at the highest levels of the federal judiciary and her participation on the GW Law School’s clerkship committee helped to encourage me in my application for a federal clerkship position,” Mascott says. “Professor Tyler is very accessible to students outside of the classroom. Her wide-ranging experience makes her a great role model for her students. She is kind and insightful, and on a personal level, Professor Tyler has provided me with beneficial advice on professional issues ranging from judicial clerkships to more foundational matters such as the balancing of work and family.”

Tyler offers advice to 3L Jennifer Mascott, who says Tyler is “very accessible to students outside of the classroom.” With Tyler’s help, Mascott secured a clerkship for 4th Circuit Judge J. Michael Luttig.

Inside the classroom, Tyler is interested in bringing practical experience to legal education. As a clerk for Calabresi in 1998, Tyler gained exposure to a major decision involving the Prison Litigation Reform Act; under Ginsburg in 1999, during what Tyler calls “one of the most exciting Supreme Court terms in recent history,” she worked on a range of cases involving, among other things, First Amendment issues and statutory interpretation. During her time at Sidley, colleagues noticed the impact of her clerkship experience on her performance.

“Certainly, the appellate clerkship experiences were invaluable for the appellate projects Amanda handled at Sidley; but more importantly, Amanda brought a rigor and discipline to her work that I am certain reflect her time with both of her former bosses,” says Carter Phillips, managing partner of Sidley’s Washington office and Tyler’s former colleague. Phillips also says Tyler’s enthusiasm, intellect, and charisma will translate well into her teaching career.

Having practice experience from Sidley has been invaluable as she helps her students expand their knowledge of the law and of the practice of the law. “Law school inherently prepares students for their careers because what we are trying to do is teach the students how to think like lawyers, write like lawyers, and master the art of time management,” Tyler says. “But I also try to prepare them for what I experienced when I entered the professional world that I don’t think can be learned in a classroom.

“In the last 10 years, there has been a greater emphasis on billable hours and baseline requirements. Your productivity within the firm is monitored, and that makes how you use your time very important. It has become even more important to learn to balance all the different factors in your life, be they personal obligations or scholarly interests or the desire to do pro bono work. As an educator, I try to make my students aware of this balancing act and prepare them for that aspect of the practice culture.”

James Youngs, a 2L who last summer worked for Tyler’s former law school roommate Rachael Brand, assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Policy in the Department of Justice, says he enjoys the practical advice he gains in her classroom.

“It was always Professor Tyler’s focus to relate the issues that we were dealing with in class back to real legal problems. Her recent experience in private practice offered a refreshing look into life as an attorney. She used examples from ‘real-life’ lawyering to give us confidence, as well,” Youngs says. “As a practical matter, Professor Tyler impressed upon us the fact that being a great lawyer means having a good sense of humor, being a great colleague, approaching whatever you do with a lot of confidence, and ticking off judges as little as possible.”

Tyler with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who delivered the keynote address at the GW Law symposium on the legacy of Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Tyler clerked for Ginsburg after graduating from Harvard Law.

Although much of her time and energy is now focused on her students, Tyler continues to develop her writing and scholarly interests. Although she did take leave from Sidley to conduct research at Georgetown University Law Center in 2003, she says having time to focus on her own scholarship was one reason she pursued a career in education. “Being in an academic setting enhances one’s ability to write—that was hard for me to do while I was still in practice,” Tyler says. “But now, I have the resources of the Law School and have more time to pursue writing.”

She was named co-winner of the 2005 American Association of Law Schools Outstanding Scholarly Paper Award for “Continuity, Coherence, and the Canons,” Volume 99 Northwestern Law Review. The article delves into the challenge posed to courts when they are called on to interpret statues: courts must balance their creative role in improving law with the role of guarding the law’s continuity and coherence. Tyler’s article promotes the guardian’s role as paramount when courts are called upon to interpret ambiguous statutory mandates. Current projects include an article discussing the role of the federal courts in reviewing congressional decisions about the detention of prisoners in the war on terrorism. Tyler expects to continue writing about statutory interpretation and the role of judicial review in our constitutional structure, and likely will continue with her early focus on habeas corpus jurisprudence. She also served as one of the faculty advisers on the fall Law School symposium on Rehnquist.

“Amanda Tyler is a delight to have on the GW Law faculty. She is a great team player—she has helped considerably in organizing the panel on federalism that will be part of the symposium,” says Chip Lupu, associate dean for faculty development. “She has helped us to lure very prominent judges to participate in several GW Law events.”

High on that list of prominent judges are recently confirmed Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who will judge the Van Vleck Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition at GW Law on Feb. 9, as well as Ginsburg, who spoke to a packed house in October (see page 4).

Looking forward to her third year of teaching, Tyler hopes she can “keep up the level of energy and enthusiasm I’ve had for the Law School in my early days here.” As a mentor from Harvard Law once told her, “Great legal legacies are often most visible through the work of those you teach.”