Faculty Profile - Professor Lissa Griffin

July 16, 2018
Professor Lissa Griffin

So, you have been at Pace since 1985—was that the plan?

I have been here 32 years. Growing up, I always wanted to be a teacher. I first practiced law, and that was very exciting but I guess the old desire to teach was still there. So in some ways it was the plan. I was and am always happy to be teaching. Of course, no one ever expects to stay somewhere 32 years, but it just happened. Each year is different, each year is interesting and exciting. And so, time goes by. Teaching resonates for me.

What about teaching resonates with you?

Teaching is very challenging, but it’s also a lot of fun. It’s really special to have the responsibility of helping someone learn something you think is important and it requires you to really focus on the students and put yourself in their shoes. What’s been great for me is that I teach several different courses in several different formats—it never gets dull.

Can you speak about any challenges you encountered once you became a lawyer?

You know, I didn’t go to law school, but once I passed the bar and was admitted, I was a lawyer like anyone else. I really didn’t have a peer group so I didn’t know if I knew what everyone else knew. Going into court was a challenge, because going to court in any context requires a lot of confidence. So I worked hard, pushed through my insecurity and tried to learn from watching and talking to more experienced attorneys. I learned quickly that you have to resist any inclination to hide from new learning experiences because that is the worst thing you can do. You have to talk to people, you watch and you listen, you seek advice and eventually you build your confidence.

What made you start the Criminal Justice Institute?

The faculty’s strategic planning committee recognized the real heavyweights we have in criminal law and recommended that all of our expertise be brought together. Together with two other faculty members who have since left Pace, I helped to do that. We hold several symposia each year and we work closely with the Criminal Justice Society, a student organization at Pace. We also have a frequently updated blog where we try to post at least twice a week. We provide analysis and comparative writing; we give perspective and background on cases and issues. There are scholars involved, policymakers, practitioners, students, faculty, and alumni. The Institute is the forum that brings all of these communities together to discuss criminal justice and advance justice.

What is special about Pace and the faculty at Pace?

I have been here a really long time. And, a lot of people have. I really treasure that. I really treasure the community. So many of the faculty are former practitioners. We know that being a lawyer is very hard work and we can appreciate what it takes to be a practicing lawyer. It is challenging. As former practitioners, we know what we are preparing people for and it is so valuable to have that experience. On the other hand, those who have not practiced bring a whole different set of skills from academic standpoints that are absolutely necessary. You need both former practitioners and solely academics to get a full rounded legal education. Pace has that.

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