'Expertise and Empathy' Win Leslie Kendrick an All-University Teaching Award

Alumna Has Walked in Her Students' Shoes
Leslie Kendrick

Students find torts aren't so bad, and every student has free speech, under Professor Leslie Kendrick's instruction. The 2006 alum is the Albert Clark Tate, Jr., Professor of Law.

April 27, 2017

Professor Leslie Kendrick, a 2006 alumna of the University of Virginia School of Law, has earned UVA's All-University Teaching Award. She was nominated by former students who say she reached them on a deeper level.

Kendrick, who joined the faculty in 2008 after clerking for U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter, is the Albert Clark Tate, Jr., Professor of Law. She teaches courses in torts, property and constitutional law. She will assume the role of the school's next vice dean, starting July 1.

"I feel very humbled by this award," Kendrick said. "My students mean a lot to me, and their effort and kind words mean more than I can say."

Having first met Kendrick at an informal dinner for female students at the professor's home, third-year student Casey T.S. Jonas was eager to take Kendrick's course Constitutional Law II: Freedom of Speech and Press. The class itself had a reputation.

"I had heard it was 'the best class at the law school,' and I was not disappointed," Jonas said. "She taught a difficult and mercurial topic with mastery. She was clear and concise, open to contributions from students, appropriately but cuttingly hilarious, and able to connect her teaching to current events and developments like social media better than any professor I have ever had. Her knowledge of Taylor Swift ("T-Swizzle") and defamation law made the class approachable, relevant and current."

Kendrick won over another fan, first-year law student Raphaëlle Debenedetti, in her Torts class.

"Professor Kendrick's passion for Torts is contagious," Debenedetti said. "While some might find the subject tortuous, I quickly became 'a torts fan,' — as she playfully refers to her students. Not only was Professor Kendrick's grasp of torts inspiring, but she also taught a dense topic with unique humor and lightness that pushed me to enthusiastically prepare and go to my [8:30 a.m.] class."

Third-year student Adam L. Sorensen said his adoration for Kendrick's teaching is shared by many.

"Not long ago, I overheard two first-year students discussing which classes they were enjoying in their first semester at UVA Law School," he wrote. "'I love Torts,' one said, 'although I can't tell whether I love Torts because it's Torts, or because it's taught by Professor Kendrick.' The other student replied, 'I know exactly what you mean.' Anyone who visits Leslie Kendrick's classroom will understand the sentiment."

Kendrick taught Hunter Landrum, a 2011 graduate who now serves as a vice president at a New York investment management company, both torts and constitutional law. He said although he had different political views and interpretations of the Constitution than Kendrick, she encouraged him.

"I felt like I learned an enormous amount [in her classes] and my thoughts were always freely welcomed," Landrum said. "Most importantly to me, I consider Professor Kendrick a great friend. Eight years after being required to take a class with her, I view that as the highest compliment I can pay her."

Landrum said Kendrick continues to be interested in how his life is progressing, and to root for him.

"She has written letters of recommendation for me and still reaches out to see how I am doing," Landrum said. "My day is always a little better when I hear from her."

Vice Dean George Geis said Kendrick's ability to meet students where they are in terms of understanding legal concepts — and in life — is what sets her apart.

"Professor Kendrick is revered by her students for her unique combination of expertise and empathy," Geis said in his faculty letter of support. "The two are, of course, related. She is able to teach so effectively because she excels at recalling the nervous plight of a first-year law student and building her classes over the term to match her students' rise in confidence and comprehension. Students are comfortable expressing their opinions in her class and eager to do so."

Geis' letter was joined by those of professors Kenneth S. Abraham and John C. Jeffries Jr., both of whom said they've had the pleasure of co-teaching classes with her.

Kendrick also holds a master's and a doctorate in English literature from Oxford University, where she studied as a Rhodes Scholar. In law school at UVA, she served as essays development editor for the Virginia Law Review and won numerous awards for her scholarship. Before clerking for Souter, she clerked for Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

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