Two Baylor Law Professors Recognized with Outstanding Professor Awards

May 18, 2009

Contact: Julie Carlson, Baylor Law School, (254) 710-6681

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Two Baylor Law School faculty members received outstanding professor awards from Baylor University during commencement ceremonies Saturday, May 16. Rory Ryan and Jim Underwood, both associate professors, were recognized as the University Outstanding Professor (Untenured/Research) and the Outstanding Professor (Untenured/Teaching), respectively. Each received a citation and a $2,500 cash award.

"Members of the Baylor Law faculty always have prided themselves on their ability to balance great teaching with excellent research. They not only engage in cutting-edge legal scholarship but also, because of their skill in the classroom, they are able to pass on these concepts effectively to our students," said Baylor Law Dean Brad Toben.

Baylor University awards one non-tenured (tenure-track) teaching award and one non-tenured (tenure track) research award from all schools of the university.

Ryan joined the Baylor Law School faculty in 2004. While earning his bachelor's degree with honors from Morningside College in Iowa, he also won letters in both football and baseball.

Ryan graduated first in his class, summa cum laude, from Baylor Law School. While attending Baylor, he was a member of several moot court teams, a member of the Order of the Barristers, an officer of the Harvey M. Richey Moot Court Society, and the Senior Executive Editor of the Baylor Law Review.

After graduating from Baylor, Ryan clerked for the Honorable C. Arlen Beam of the United States Court of Appeal for the Eighth Circuit. Ryan's scholarship, which has been published in numerous scholarly journals, focuses primarily upon forum selection and federal subject-matter jurisdiction. He is also the coeditor of the well-respected Civil Procedure Blog.

As a member of Baylor's Law faculty, he teaches courses in Federal Courts, Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law and Appellate Advocacy.

When he is not teaching or conducting research, Ryan can be found working with his (or someone's) dogs. He also works with McLennan County's Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program.

"Professor Ryan is a prolific, quickly rising scholar," Toben said. "His publications have been well-placed, well-received, and have impact. His work has appeared in top journals at top schools and in national casebooks. His work is relied upon as authority by judges around the country, including those with the Supreme Courts of Texas, Kansas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma, and federal courts in multiple jurisdictions. His articles appear in national treatises and encyclopedias and have been favorably reviewed by prominent academics in his field. He writes very often and very well, and I am delighted he has been rewarded for that."

Underwood has been teaching Torts and Complex Litigation at Baylor Law School since 2006. Prior to coming to Baylor, he was a member of the faculty at Stetson University College of Law in St. Petersburg, Fla., where he taught Civil Procedure, Complex Litigation, Pretrial Practice and Trial Advocacy. He also received teaching awards at Stetson.

"Professor Underwood is a natural educator," Toben said. "He delights in helping his students find the light in the morass of difficult legal problems they encounter in their legal studies. He brings unbridled energy to the classroom, simultaneously challenging, stimulating and encouraging the students. His methods bring life to the material and enable the students to learn how to learn for themselves."

Underwood received his undergraduate degree from Oklahoma Baptist University in 1984 where he was a Kerr Scholar in Public Affairs. He graduated first in his class from the Ohio State University College of Law in 1987 where he served as the executive editor of the Ohio State Law Journal and was the author of an award-winning case comment. He served as an extern to the Honorable Alan E. Norris of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Following graduation he was a law clerk for the Honorable Jerry Buchmeyer, United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

After 14 years as a Texas trial lawyer, Underwood entered academia. He spent 10 years (including five as a partner) with the firm of Thompson & Knight in its Dallas and Houston offices and then four years as a partner in the Dallas office of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld. He handled a wide variety of cases during that time, including extensive representation of doctors in medical malpractice cases to the prosecution and defense of complex commercial litigation matters. Included among his successes were obtaining a federal court jury verdict in Midland, Texas, in 1990, of $175 million in a business fraud case (the largest jury verdict returned in the United States that year) and a 1998 jury verdict in Houston in excess of $28 million in a suit on an indemnity agreement. His last four years of practice consisted primarily of defending against putative nationwide consumer class actions. His pro bono efforts included providing legal representation to defendants in federal criminal prosecutions.

Underwood has published extensively in the area of complex litigation, pretrial practice and the subject matter jurisdiction of the federal courts. He also recently authored a textbook titled Fundamental Pretrial Advocacy: A Strategic Guide to Effective Litigation. Additionally, he has has been actively involved in coaching various moot court and mock trial teams in nationwide competitions.

In addition to the awards received by Ryan and Underwood, Baylor University honored eight other faculty with awards during commencement - three tenured teaching awards, four tenure scholarship awards, a teaching award to contract faculty or lecturer, and an award for significant contributions to the university in ways other than teaching or research.

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