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Lawrence Joseph

Tinnelly Professor of Law
J.D., University of Michigan Law School, 1975
M.A., Magdalene College, Cambridge University, 1972
B.A., University of Michigan, 1970

Professor Lawrence Joseph was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1948.  His grandparents were Lebanese and Syrian Catholics, among the first Arab immigrants to Detroit.  He was educated at the University of Michigan, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa with High Honors in English Language 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 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. His poems, prose, essays, and criticism have appeared, and his work has been featured, in national and international publications, and has been translated into several languages. Described by David A. Skeel, Jr. in Legal Affairs magazine as “the most important lawyer-poet of our era,” he is the author of six acclaimed books of poems: So Where Are We? (Farrar, Sraus and Giroux, 2017), Into It (FSG, 2005), Codes, Precepts, Biases, and Taboos: Poems 1973-1993) (FSG, 2005), which collects Professor Joseph’s first three books of poems, Before Our Eyes (FSG, 1993), Curriculum Vitae (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1988), and Shouting at No One (University of Pittsburgh Press,1983). Professor Joseph's poetry is widely anthologized, reviewed and written on. His poetry is included in the Oxford Book of American Poetry (edited by David Lehman). Professor Joseph is also the author of Lawyerland, an internationally acclaimed  non-fiction novel (which was optioned for a film by Mr. Mudd Productions,whose partners include John Malkovich, Russell Smith and Lianne Helfon), and The Game Changed: Essays and Other Prose (University of Michigan Press, 2011).

Professor Joseph's writings have become uniquely both a part of, and the subject of over twenty articles and essays in Law and Literature and Law and Humanities scholarship. The legal scholarly articles and essays on Professor Joseph's work include the Columbia Law Review symposium "The Lawyerland Essays" (Volume 101, No. 7, November 2001), with essays by Robert Weisberg, Robin West, David Luban, Pierre Schlag, David A. Skeel. Jr., and Sarah Krakoff; and a second law review symposium in the University of Cincinnati Law Review,"Some Sort of Chronicler I Am: Narration and the Poetry of Lawrence Joseph," (Volume 77. No. 3. Spring 2009), with articles and essays by Joseph P. Tomain, Lee Upton, John Lowney, Eric Murphy Selinger, Frank D. Rashid, Lisa M. Steinman, Thomas DePietro, and David A. Skeel, Jr. His work has been taught in universities and law schools in the United States and internationally.   

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.