Leopold makes – and breaks – the mold for law faculty

July 22, 2015

by Jennifer R. Lloyd

Leopold estimates he has touched the lives of about 10,000 law students over the years.

Leopold estimates he has touched the lives of about 10,000 law students over the years.

Professor of Law Aloysius A. Leopold (B.A. ’70, J.D. ’62) espouses the firm opinion that teaching is not learned. “It’s a talent you are born with, but you can always refine it.”

Since graduating from St. Mary’s School of Law in 1962 and joining the faculty in 1967, Leopold has spent 48 years perfecting the craft of teaching law and shaping minds into tomorrow’s legal leaders. Leopold, 81, was named Professor Emeritus and Senior Professor of Law this spring.

Peter Hosey (J.D. ’79), president-elect of the St. Mary’s Law Alumni Association, worked as a research assistant for Leopold in the late 1970s and recalled that all law students “tried to take every class that he offered.”

“He was so much more than a professor,” said Hosey of his mentor. “He’s the most knowledgeable lawyer I’ve ever met and he spent a lifetime imparting that knowledge to thousands of practitioners in the state. … He’s a unique human being, the likes of which everybody should meet at least once in a lifetime.”

Though he was a natural at teaching, Leopold’s path into the classroom was not traditional. Leopold grew up on a cotton farm in Nada, worked on a construction crew, was drafted into the Army for two years and briefly ran a lumberyard, all before entering law school.

When he began his legal studies, he had not yet earned a bachelor’s degree; instead, Leopold used credits from Assumption Seminary and the assistance of Brother Tom Treadaway, S.M., who was the University’s registrar, to get into law school. He had already been a law professor for several years before he earned his bachelor’s degree in History.

Ernest Raba, Dean of the law school during Leopold’s studies, tried to give him a job teaching property law after graduation. Leopold said he did not yet know the field well enough, and that he wanted to work for five years first. Five years later, to the month, Raba visited Leopold at his office to ask again to join the faculty. That time, he accepted.

Leopold has proven his expertise over the years, writing 26 nationally published books on topics such as marital property and real estate transactions without ever foraying into fiction because, as he says, “Fact is strange enough.”

He advises law faculty to excel by knowing their subject matter and finding a teaching method with which they’re comfortable.

“It’s the professor’s job to mold that student into a good attorney, and some students come without the slightest idea of what law school might be,” he said. “You have to get them into the frame of mind to understand what they need to do and what they can be. … Train students to think and write and do whatever it takes to be a proficient and ethical attorney.”

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