Law Prof Explores the Art of the Law

Posted On November 10, 2009 by Renee DeGross Valdes
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While shooting guns with a target team years ago, Jessica Gabel was convinced she would be an FBI agent.

She even studied criminal justice and forensic science in college. It was quite a transition from Gabel’s theater roots.

“That was the Nancy Drew in me wanting to come out,” Gabel said. “I started off college acting in plays and ended up riding along on police busts and interning with crime labs. From theater major to lab rat in three years flat – who knew?”

But her interests eventually turned to practicing law instead of enforcing it. Inspired by cases where DNA proved someone’s innocence years after the conviction, Gabel went to law school.

Following a clerkship and several years of practice, she is now an assistant law professor with Georgia State’s College of Law, having joined the faculty in late July.

“When I wore my Nancy Drew shoes, they tended to get a little uncomfortable because there wasn’t much creative expression,” Gabel said.

She came from an artistic family – her brother is a composer and sister is a photographer and television producer.

Trading her Nancy Drew shoes for Perry Mason footgear, she says, was the best fit, literally.

“Law allows me to meld my analytical and creative sides,” she said.

Gabel most recently spent nearly four years as a litigation associate with Covington & Burling in San Francisco, defending corporations and principals involved in high powered Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission investigations, among her cases.

In her time there, she and a colleague won a multi-million dollar jury verdict in an insurance dispute and she successfully argued a case that ended with getting her client off of death row.

But there was always a nagging interest to teach, she said. In her spare time, she taught law school courses as an adjunct professor.

About her career move to academia – she says, “Outside of trial, the practice of law doesn’t really tolerate creative departures; clients don’t want you to reinvent the wheel.”

For her first academic year with Georgia State, Gabel is teaching bankruptcy and forensic evidence, the latter of which lets her exercise that inner Nancy Drew.

“With teaching and writing, the challenge is to do and think about things in a different way.  What more could I ask for?”

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