Researching Law Volume 30 Issue 1 - Page 17

Christopher J. Ryan, associate
professor of law at Roger
Williams University School
of Law and former ABF/
AccessLex Institute Doctoral
Fellow in Legal and Higher
Education from 2017–2018)
Photo provided by Ryan.
Christopher J. Ryan, associate
professor of law at Roger Williams
University School of Law and
former ABF/AccessLex Institute
Doctoral Fellow in Legal and Higher
Education from 2017–2018) Photo
provided by Ryan.
CJ Ryan is an associate
professor of law at Roger
Williams University School of
Law and was an ABF/AccessLex
Institute Doctoral Fellow in
Legal and Higher Education
at the ABF from 2017–2018.
While at the ABF, Ryan was
pursuing his Ph.D. in policy
studies at Vanderbilt University,
from which he graduated in
June 2018. His research focused
on law and policy, specifically
issues of organizational and
VOL 2 9 | N O 2 | FALL 2 018
individual decision making in
legal education, business and
intellectual property. In addition
to teaching as an Associate
Professor of Law at Roger
Williams University, Ryan
focuses his research on trust,
estates and intellectual property
law. He is currently engaged
in several research projects
examining current issues in
American legal education
as well as a project that
evaluates the legal and financial
ramifications of endowment
divestment from fossil fuels.
Prior to pursuing his Ph.D. at
Vanderbilt University, Ryan
worked in law and university
administration. He has also
served as a higher education
policymaker and gubernatorial
appointee to the Kentucky
Council on Postsecondary
Education. He received his A.B.
from Dartmouth College, his
M.Ed. from the University of
Notre Dame, and his J.D. from
the University of Kentucky.
What Is Your Research
Focused On?
“I’ve always had this interest
in law and policy. I have been
trained in using econometric
and quantitative methods, and
I wanted to put that to use to
investigate questions of the
law. So, folks at the ABF like
Beth Mertz, Bob Nelson, Steve
Daniels, and many others
used econometric methods
to investigate questions
on legal academe and the
legal profession. I’m sort of
following in their footsteps
to some degree, but they’ve
blazed the trail for how to do
that. Doctrinally, my expertise
is in trust and estates and
intellectual property, but what
has always been central to
my research is looking at the
university as a firm and the
way that it interacts with the
law and the broader economy,
the knowledge economy as
well as the fiscal economy, and
makes decisions about its assets
and capital, including human
capital. The methods that I have
been trained in, both law and
quantitative methods, were able
to be refined at the ABF because
there were so many like-minded
scholars who could push me
further in my research and that
was a tremendous benefit. I’m
standing on the shoulders of
giants, and I couldn’t be here
without them.”
How Did the ABF Fellowship
Support Your Research?
“I believe, firmly, that I would
not have been as strong a
candidate on the AALS law
school market had I not been a
fellow at the ABF. The reasons
are manifold, but the support I
received from colleagues at the
ABF is invaluable to me. For
instance, the AALS, which is
the clearing house for hiring all
law faculty in the country for
doctrinal positions, has a very
idiosyncratic method of hiring.
You put your information into
the AALS [national database]
and law schools that have a
particular need in a certain area
will find this information and
contact you to meet with them
for about 15 minutes during
one weekend in October or
November. You have 15 minutes
to make a good impression on
a law school hiring committee
to get a fly-out interview, which
is another can of worms. The
AALS meeting interviews
were fast paced and grueling,
but I went into it with a level
of confidence because I had
colleagues like Janice Nadler
and Tom Ginsburg and Beth
Mertz [at the ABF] and Pete
DiCola [at Northwestern Law]
who did a mock interview for
me. They simulated what that
situation would be like because
it’s a rather unique hiring
process, and I was prepared in
a way that I wouldn’t have been
Additionally, Steve Daniels put
together a panel for the ABA
mid-year meeting in which
we presented our research
alongside juggernauts like Barry
Currier (the ABA’s Managing
Director for Legal Education
and Admissions to the Bar),
Judith Welch Wegner (Professor
Emerita at the University of
North Carolina Chapel Hill
School of Law and the Section
Chair for the AALS Section
on Empirical Study of Legal
Education and the Legal
Profession), and Rachel Van
Cleave (Professor of Law and
former Dean at Golden Gate
University School of Law). This
was an amazing opportunity for
me to share my research with a
wider audience, and I could not
have imagined a better platform
to present the initial findings
from my dissertation. So the
investment that my colleagues
made in me was substantial. I’ve
tried to, through my research,
return that investment and
spread the goodwill of the ABF
and its brand widely.”
What Have You Found To Be
Most Rewarding About the
“The central element of the
ABF is this collegial, scholarly
environment, and I think
its best exemplified by the
Wednesday speaker series. We
have these great minds and this
great exchange of ideas from
varied academic disciplines
that we have come to expect
every Wednesday, and there’s
nothing like that as far as I
know at many other places. I
have a wonderful community
of colleagues here at Roger
Williams, with whom I have
forged great relationships in the
last six months, but what the
ABF has is really unique. I’m
lucky to remain a part of it as
an affiliated scholar.
My colleagues, the other
fellows, are also a remarkable
group of people that I want
to acknowledge. As I looked
around the room at any of our
fellows meetings last year, I saw
sociologists, anthropologists,
historians, political scientists, a
higher education administration
and policy expert, and me, and
I’m sort of an academic mutt
as a quantitative methodologist
and legal nerd. Those were just
the disciplinary backgrounds
of the fellows in my short year
as a fellow. So, just in terms of
disciplines, the diversity was
incredible. Our cohort had
fellows trained in nearly every
investigative method in social
science that exists all under one
roof, and the perspective that
diversity provided made all our
work better.
In terms of racial, ethnic, and
gender diversity, it was so
refreshing to be able to enter
a room of young scholars and
not be the only minority in
the room. I am half-MexicanAmerican. It’s something that I
am sort of subconsciously


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