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Bringing Corporate Law and Teaching Face-to-Face: Meet Professor Barbara Black

While some law students dream of making the move from Cincinnati to New York to pursue a career in the “big city,” in 2006, Professor Barbara Black found herself leaving New York behind for a new opportunity in Cincinnati. After 28 years teaching law and directing the Securities Arbitration Clinic at Pace University Law School, Black transitioned into her new role as the Charles Hartsock Professor of Law and Director of the Corporate Law Center at UC Law.

Black, who studied History and Classics at Barnard College, didn’t start thinking about a legal degree until her junior year of college. Luckily, Columbia Law School at Columbia University was “right next door” and offered a high quality legal education. “At the time, I never thought I would teach,” she explained. Black spent her time in law school taking a variety of courses to prepare her for practice. “I liked law school,” she said. “Nobody goes into law school teaching unless they liked law school,” she added.

Prior to beginning her academic career, Professor Black was in private practice at two east cost law firms: Kaye Schoier Fierman Hays & Handler (New York) and Rogers & Wells (Washington D.C.). After five years working in private practice, she found the perfect avenue for her talents in creating the Securities Arbitration Clinic at Pace Law School. “The clinic was the first one in the country where students had the opportunity to represent customers who had disputes with their brokers,” Black stated. “These were people who would otherwise have been unable to secure legal representation based on the small size of their claims,” she continued. Students were charged with explaining the situation to the clients and guiding them through the arbitration process in an industry-sponsored arbitration forum. 

In addition to her work at Pace, her professional experience includes visiting professorships at the University of Illinois School of Law, Vytautas Magnus University Law School in Lithuania, and New York University Law School. She also served as deputy director of the Association of American Law Schools, as well as vice dean and acting dean at Pace.

Since joining the faculty at UC three years ago, Black has been the director of the Corporate Law Center in addition to teaching Corporations I, Corporations II, and Securities Regulations. Although the Center existed prior to her arrival, it was being maintained by the faculty collectively and had not been assigned a director for a number of years. “When I interviewed, it was clear that they wanted a director to re-invigorate the project,” Black explained. “They left it to me to do things that would advance the interest and reputation of the law school and serve the students.” As a result of her appointment, Black works with four to six student fellows on a variety of projects. The students help organize the fall symposium, which is co-sponsored by the Southwest Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel, and the annual spring symposium, which is an academic conference. This year’s day-long symposium, “New Models of Regulating the Financial Markets,” will be held April 3 at the law school. It will also be available via webcast.   

“I love teaching!” exclaimed Black. “I love teaching technical courses like Securities Regulations; but there is a special place for a large course like Corporations I where students have varying degrees of interest,” she continued. The importance of good teaching is clear to Black as she was one of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s students at Columbia. “It is just as much the professor as the subject matter that keeps students interested,” she explained. Justice Ginsberg was the first tenured female professor at Columbia and Black took her course in sex discrimination—the first of its kind at Columbia Law. “It was exciting and cutting edge,” Black said. Along with her electives, Black enjoyed tax classes based on the professors.

Professor Black is a prolific writer. She has authored numerous law review articles on securities arbitration, securities fraud, and RICO claims that have been frequently cited, including by both the majority and dissenting opinions in the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion, Basic, inc. v Levinson, on fraud on the market.  She is also the 2008 recipient of the Harold C. Schott Scholarship Award.  

When she’s not explaining the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Black can be found in the gym or biking around the Queen City. “I just took up biking last summer for the first time since I was a child,” she explained. Last summer she took a five-day biking trip to France where she rode for four to five hours a day through the valley. Making her home in downtown Cincinnati, Black enjoys being able to walk to many local attractions including the Aronoff Center. During her time in Cincinnati, Black has taken notice of the Midwestern feel. “I find people here to be so friendly,” she laughed. “I came from New York were everyone was hurried and didn’t always take the time to get to know each other. Now, when you go to the bank, the teller asks you about yourself. It’s wonderful!”