Editor’s Note: Today marks a new feature on the blog: the “Why I Teach” series, which profiles KU Law professors and gives you the opportunity to learn more about their backgrounds and teaching philosophies.
Quinton Lucas has compiled an impressive resume in a relatively short time – he’s been educated at two prestigious schools, appeared on a death penalty case, clerked for a Court of Appeals judge, and practiced as an associate at a leading small firm in Kansas City. Along the way, he has maintained his focus on shaping policy and creating societal change, ultimately leading him to join KU Law as the school’s youngest faculty member.
“One thing that I thought was particularly exciting about law teaching is that we have this fantastic opportunity to train advocates in all types of areas, and also to look at the state of certain issues, and be a player in areas of public policy,” he said.
A Midwest native, Lucas lived in Hutchinson and Kansas City before pursuing an undergraduate degree at Washington University in St. Louis. Although his professors encouraged him to enter academia, he decided to follow his lifelong interest in the legal profession and attend law school at Cornell, where he engaged in-depth with a range of issues and sharpened his skills.
“I had a professor who would notice you, even in a class of 100, and that was special,” he said. “Despite the fact that the professors were brilliant, they tried to make the classes accessible and interesting.”
Lucas impressed his professors early on and was asked to get involved in a death penalty case during his second year. He spent his entire winter break researching in Atlanta, and appeared before the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles. Although the case ultimately ended with an execution, it taught him the importance of clinical opportunities and sparked a new way of thinking about broader issues. After graduation and his clerkship, he spent some time practicing business law and working with white-collar clients who faced stiff penalties. Again, he realized the importance of familiarizing himself with broader trends and advocating consistency, and he decided that the best place to do that was in the academic world.
“As I visited with a number of different law schools, I thought, ‘Where can I get a mix of so many people who are expert in their fields, who are amazing scholars, a place that also really cherishes strong teachers?’” he said. “Beyond that, a place that is, frankly, a well-run law school with a strong alumni network and people who really seem to like it. There’s something special about the civility that still exists in this market.”
In the end, he was drawn back to Kansas and joined KU Law last fall as a visiting professor, converting to an associate professor in January. Currently he teaches Administrative Law and Contracts, and strives to engage his students through a question-and-answer format, the Socratic method, and focusing on an individual student each class period.
“Teaching is a lot like practicing law,” he said. “You take sophisticated concepts and explain them to your audience, getting them to think about new arguments or approaches. I hope my courses give students the substantive background and the legal reasoning to help their clients in the future.”
Although he’s still a first-year professor, Lucas has already found himself impressed with numerous aspects of his new work setting. He noted the congeniality and caliber of his students, the many extracurricular opportunities available, and the breadth of career choices by alumni.
“KU Law is a community of alumni, teachers and students who love the place and try to make it a better place every day,” Lucas said. “And I wanted to be a part of that.”
For more information on Quinton Lucas, visit his faculty profile page.