Focus on Faculty Profiles

David Shipley

David Shipley
David Shipley

Law professor David Shipley wears many hats – from chairing the university’s Curriculum Committee to serving as UGA’s Faculty Athletics Representative to the NCAA and SEC.

Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?

My B.A. is from Oberlin College (1972), where I majored in history, and my J.D. is from the University of Chicago Law School (1975). I practiced law for two years in Providence, Rhode Island and then applied for a visiting assistant professor position at the University of South Carolina School of Law. USC made me an offer, I accepted, and in August of 1977, six weeks before my 27th birthday, I moved South and started teaching. It was much harder than I ever anticipated, but I was hooked by the end of my first semester in the classroom. My current duties include teaching a standard load, chairing the law school’s admissions committee, administering our Oxford program, serving as the university’s Faculty Athletics Representative to the NCAA and the Southeastern Conference and as secretary for the Athletic Association Board of Directors, and chairing the university’s Curriculum Committee. I joke that I have earned tenure on that committee because I’ve been chair since 2008.

When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?

I came to Athens in 1998 as dean of the law school. I had regarded UGA Law as an excellent school since I had started teaching in the late 70s, and learned much more about the program after I became dean at Ole Miss in 1990 and then at Kentucky in 1993. I was nominated for the UGA deanship in 1997, interviewed for the job in 1998, and accepted the position a couple of days after President Adams extended the offer. Saying yes was a “no brainer” in my opinion.

What are your favorite courses and why?

Civil Procedure I and II. I have been teaching this required two semester, first-year course for over 30 years. It is insider’s law that is of special importance to the administration of our legal system. It describes the steps in civil litigation: the initiation, development and conclusion of a lawsuit. Every lawyer needs to know and appreciate this complex subject whether or not they litigate. Civil Procedure also requires hard thinking about fairness, justice, acceptable ways to settle disputes, and how judicial authority is divided between state courts and the federal courts. It is a challenging subject for me and my students because it is a mix of hard technical law and large theoretical issues. Moreover, it introduces students to what it means to be a member of the legal profession, and it draws on material from several other courses in our first-year curriculum.

What interests you about your field?

Everything! I have been a generalist throughout my career, teaching and writing about a variety of subjects including Copyright Law, Administrative Law, Remedies and Domestic Relations as well as Civil Procedure. Whether the topic is the rule of law, the legislative process, judicial review, federalism concerns, protecting works of authorship, or the strategic choices lawyers make during litigation, I am interested and enthusiastic.

What are some highlights of your career at UGA?

First, since I returned to full-time teaching in 2003, three classes have presented me with the law school’s John C. O’Byrne Memorial Student-Faculty Award in appreciation of my contributions to student-faculty relations. Also, three classes have selected me to be one of the Honorary Marshals at our graduation; the two faculty marshals read the graduates’ names as they cross the platform. I care deeply about our students so this special recognition is very rewarding. Second, the entire spring semester 2007 was fantastic because my wife and I lived in Oxford, England while I taught two courses to 20 students in the law school’s Oxford Program. The experience was wonderful for us in all respects. We would return in a heart beat. Finally, my service since July 1, 2010 as the university’s Faculty Athletics Representative to the Southeastern Conference and the NCAA is icing on the cake, as well as proof that an old dog of a law professor can learn some new tricks.

How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?

It has always been a two-way street for me. My first publications resulted from a deep interest in certain topics and issues that I covered in courses I taught during my first year in the classroom. The research I did in preparing those articles gave me a better understanding of my subjects and more confidence in my ability to teach the material effectively. Things have not changed since I wrote those articles. If I am turned on by an issue or problem and dig into it in order to write about it, I am better able to help my students understand those critical issues and problems. I hope that my enthusiasm for the topic arouses their interest.

What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?

I want them to gain a solid understanding of the subject matter and also appreciate how they might use and apply their knowledge when they start practicing law. I also want them to become confident in their ability to communicate clearly and effectively to their clients, judges and fellow lawyers. After all, it is difficult to be a successful lawyer if you cannot explain a concept or make a good argument or state your position.

Describe your ideal student.

Prepared for class, enthusiastic about the materials, eager to participate in class discussions and not afraid to be challenged in those discussions.

Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is…

I am an avid runner and my favorite route winds through all parts of our beautiful campus including up or down River Road and around the fields and trails at Lake Herrick. There are lots of tough hills, but the scenery is great.

Beyond the UGA campus, I like to…

Spend time at home with my wife and work in the yard. We both wish we could see more of our daughter and son-in-law in Atlanta and spend more time at an old cottage on Block Island, Rhode Island that my late parents bought in 1951. In addition, I am sort of an exercise nut so I like to run, bike and swim, and I really wish I could improve my golf game.

Community/civic involvement includes….

I am a trustee at Athens First United Methodist Church and in the teaching rotation for the Tumbleweeds Sunday School Class. On the professional side, I am serving on the NCAA’s Amateurism Cabinet, and about every other year I chair a law school accreditation team for the American Bar Association.

Favorite book/movie?

My favorite book is The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. It is an excellent historical novel about the Battle of Gettysburg. It is hard to pick a favorite movie because there are several I’ll watch again and again like Sean Connery in The Man Who Would Be King and The Wind and the Lion, and Russell Crowe in Master and Commander and Gladiator.

Proudest moment at UGA?

Seeing my daughter Shannon graduate from UGA’s Franklin College in 2003 and then from our School of Law in 2006. She is a successful lawyer in Atlanta and recently married Nick Hinson, another 2006 graduate of the UGA School of Law.