Although Lauren Sudeall Lucas is making her first foray into full-time academia as she joins the College of Law faculty, she's no stranger to Georgia State University or its campus.
She comes to GSU from the Southern Center for Human Rights, located adjacent to GSU's School of Music in downtown Atlanta. While working as a staff attorney at the SCHR, she also taught a seminar on the Supreme Court at the College of Law.
"[Teaching] was always something I had thought about as a possibility," Lucas says, but it only recently came into focus as something with career potential. The Boston-area native graduated from Yale in 1999 with a degree in political science and headed west to work with a community economic development organization focused on investing in and hiring from low-income communities in the Bay Area. In 2002, she enrolled in law school at Harvard University, where she served as treasurer of the Harvard Law Review.
Lucas knew she wanted to pursue public interest law and work in public service in some way, but wasn't sure what the venue would be. She interned at the SCHR during her first law school summer; the second she spent working on the legal side of community economic development. After law school, she landed two high-profile clerkships — first for Judge Stephen Reinhardt on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Los Angeles, then for Justice John Paul Stevens on the United States Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. — before returning to Atlanta and the SCHR, as a Soros Justice Fellow, in 2007.
In her position with the SCHR, Lucas focused on death penalty litigation as well as civil litigation relating to the right to counsel. She connected with GSU Law through faculty members like Anne Emanuel and SCHR colleagues like Gerry Weber who served as adjuncts at GSU. After teaching as an adjunct herself, she began to contemplate making a switch.
"What's frustrating about practice [is that] there are always issues and ideas that pop up in your head, but you never have the time to think about them or develop them because you're working against a constant grind of deadlines, " Lucas says. "I thought it would be nice to have more time to develop some ideas and think about issues I had been working on, but from a different perspective."
During her first year as an assistant professor, Lucas will be teaching constitutional law and capital punishment. Outside the school, the SCHR has invited her to sit on its board of directors, and she also serves on the Indigent Defense Committee of the State Bar of Georgia. Working at GSU, she says, gives her plenty of flexibility and support to engage with the community.
Lucas is excited to become a part of GSU's dynamic and collaborative faculty as a full-time professor. " I'm really looking forward to teaching again in a more focused way," Lucas says. "Immersing myself in the academic environment and working with both students and faculty as a part of this entity as opposed to being someone who is coming in from the outside — I think that will be a fulfilling experience.”
Kathleen Poe Ross