Professor Lawrence Joseph was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1948. His grandparents were Lebanese and Syrian Catholics, among the first Arab emigrants to Detroit. He was educated at the University of Michigan, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa with High Honors in EnglishLanguage and Literature in 1970, and received first prize in the major Hopwood Award for Poetry; Magdalene College, Cambridge University, where he received both Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees with Honors in English Language and Literature, in 1972 and 1976 respectively; and the University of Michigan Law School, where he received a J.D. in 1975. He then served as law clerk to Justice (later Chief Justice) G. Mennen Williams of the Michigan Supreme Court. From 1978 to 1981, he was a member of the School of Law faculty at the University of Detroit. In 1981, he moved to New York City, where he was associated with the firm of Shearman & Sterling. At Shearman & Sterling, his practice included securities, bankruptcy, anti-trust, mergers and acquisitions, products liability, and real estate litigation. Professor Joseph has been at St. John's School of Law since 1987. He has taught, and teaches, courses in Torts, Employment Law, Jurisprudence, Law and Interpretation, and Advanced Torts. In 2003, he was named The Reverend Joseph T. Tinnelly, C.M., Professor of Law.
Professor Joseph has published and has lectured extensively in areas of labor, employment, tort and compensation law, jurisprudence, law and literature, and legal theory. He has served as Consultant on Tort and Compensation Law for the Michigan State Senate's Commission on Courts, and as Consultant for the Governor of Michigan's Commission on Workers' Compensation, Occupational Disease and Employment, and has received a grant from the Employment Standards Division of the United States Department of Labor to write on workers' compensation. He has been invited to speak at law schools throughout the country, including Stanford, Columbia, Harvard, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, New York University, Northwestern, and Georgetown, and is the former Chairperson of the Association of American Law School's section on Law and Interpretation.
Professor Joseph is also an internationally acclaimed poet and writer. He has been described by David Skeel in Legal Affairs magazine as “the most important lawyer-poet of our era.” His fourth book of poems, Into It, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in Fall 2005, has received widespread attention and praise. Farrar, Straus and Giroux also published, simultaneously with Into It, Codes, Precepts, Biases, and Taboos: Poems 1973-1993, which collects Professor Joseph’s first three books of poems, Before Our Eyes (1993); Curriculum Vitae (1988), and Shouting at No One (1983). Both books were chosen as “Best Books of the Year” by Joyce Carol Oates in the Times Literary Supplement. In 1997, Farrar, Straus and Giroux published Professor Joseph’s prose book Lawyerland, which also received national and international acclaim. Lawyerland is the subject of a Columbia Law Review symposium, "The Lawyerland Essays" (Volume 101, No. 7, November 2001), which includes articles and essays by Robert Weisberg, Pierre Schlag, David Luban, Robin West, David Skeel, and Sarah Krakoff. Lawyerland also is being developed into a film by Mr. Mudd Productions, whose partners are John Malkovich, Russell Smith and Lianne Helfon. Professor Joseph’s poems, prose, essays, and criticism have appeared, and his work has been featured, in both national and international publications. His work has been widely anthologized, most recently in The Oxford Book of American Poetry (edited by David Lehman), and has been translated into several languages. Professor Joseph’s writings are the subject of a second law review symposium, which appears in volume 77 of the University of Cincinnati Law Review. “Some Sort of Character I Am: Narration and the Poetry of Lawrence Joseph” includes articles and essays by Joseph Tomain, Lee Upton, John Lowney, Eric Murphy Selinger, Frank Rashid, Lisa Steinman, Thomas DePietro, and David Skeel. Professor Joseph's book, The Game Changed: Essays and Other Prose, was published in 2011 by the University of Michigan Press.
Among Professor Joseph’s awards are a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, two National Endowment for the Arts poetry fellowships, and the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize, which he received for Shouting at No One. In April 2006, he was named the third recipient of the New York County Lawyers Association’s “Law and Literature Award” (prior recipients are Louis Auchincloss and Louis Begley). In 1989, Professor Joseph lectured on law and on poetry in Jordan, Israel, and Egypt through the cultural affairs offices of the United States embassies in each country. He has been a member of the board of directors of Poets House, the Poetry Society of America, and The Writer's Voice, and served on the PEN Events Committee. In 1994, he taught in the Council of the Humanities and Creative Writing Program at Princeton University. Professsor Joseph’s literary, professional, and personal papers have been acquired by the Special Collections Library of the University of Michigan, the archive to be held in the University of Michigan’s Hatcher Graduate Library. Married to the painter Nancy Van Goethem, he lives in downtown Manhattan.