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Get to Know: Joe Yockey

Joe Yockey
Professor and Michael and Brenda Sandler Faculty Fellow in Corporate Law

Hometown: Lawrence, Kansas

Joined Iowa Law: Fall 2010

Alma Mater:
BA, University of Kansas
JD, University of Illinois College of Law

What did you do before joining Iowa Law? Immediately before coming to Iowa, I taught as a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois College of Law, my alma mater. Prior to that I was a litigator at Sidley Austin LLP in Chicago.

Describe your role at the university. I teach and do research. Lately, I’ve also been getting more involved in university service. For example, I’m a member of the University Faculty Senate and Faculty Council, and this fall I’ll be starting on the Presidential Committee on Athletics. I really enjoy meeting faculty from different colleges and getting to know the university in greater depth. It’s a fascinating place.

Courses: Business Associations and this spring, two new courses: Unincorporated Business Entities and a seminar on Law & Higher Education.

What does your scholarship entail? My focus is on law’s ability to influence the ways in which organizations affect society. Lately this interest has led me to focus on social enterprises. Social enterprises are for-profit businesses that advance a specific social mission. I like to think of them as making money to solve social problems rather than solving social problems to make money. For example, one social enterprise works to alleviate the sanitation crisis in Africa by franchising affordable public toilets. Others focus on hiring hard-to-employ people or designing products for the clean-energy sector.

Within the past three years, and with near unanimous support of both political parties, more than half the states have enacted specific statutes to promote social enterprises. My recent work analyzes the pros and cons of these laws in an effort to unpack the influence of legal rules on social enterprise behavior.

I’m currently co-editing a book on this topic with Ben Means, who is on faculty at the University of South Carolina School of Law. We are gathering dozens of essays from academics and practitioners that explore the state of the social enterprise movement. It’ll be coming out from Cambridge University Press in 2017.

How did you decide to join the legal profession? Probably more accurate to say that the legal profession picked me. I was an English and art history major in college, and for a long time I really did not know what I was going to do after graduation. But I knew I liked to write, and I very much enjoyed taking critical looks at art and literature. Then, I spent my junior year abroad studying in England. I shared a house with several British law students. As I sat around the dining table and listened to them describe what they working on, I began to realize that law school might be something that I would enjoy. I’m somewhat embarrassed to say this now, but looking back, I don’t think I fully understood what I was getting myself into. Fortunately, though, I took to law school like nothing else—it felt like my natural habitat. There were certainly plenty of anxious, stressful moments, but I loved almost every minute of it. It helped that I had several amazing professors.

What do you enjoy most about working in a higher education/law school setting? I enjoy the freedom to explore the problems and issues that are of interest to me, my students, and the community. And teaching is incredibly fun. I’m fortunate that I get to use creativity in my job. I’m constantly trying to figure out new ways to keep my students engaged and excited. Lately that means spending more time on developing simulations and other semi-immersive exercises.

I also love living in Iowa City and experiencing the rhythm of the academic year. It reminds me of growing up in Lawrence. About a perfect day for me is visiting the downtown farmers’ market, browsing in Prairie Lights, and stopping off at Pullman for a beer.

What makes you passionate about your work? The students. My happiest moments are when I see students successfully work through a tough problem or gain a new understanding of a topic. Hearing students tell me that they’ve found a job is also very satisfying, especially when it is something that they want to be doing, where they want to be doing it. I’ve also made several life-long friends among my colleagues on the faculty.

If you could spend a day with anyone, from any era, who would it be and why? My faith is important to me, so if I could meet anyone I would pick the Holy Family. I’m fascinated by St. Mary, and I have quite a few questions for her Son.

I would also love to play a round of golf with Ben Hogan. He’s my golfing hero, and he might be the only person capable of fixing my swing. I imagine that he could get us onto Augusta National, too.

What’s your favorite book? “The Sun also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway. I studied in England for a year in college and went on backpacking trip through Europe with my best friend from high school. I found the book early on our trip when we stopped at an English bookstore in Prague. I bought it and read it in one sitting. At the time, it felt very appropriate because it’s about a group of young Americans living the expat life in Paris and Spain. It was the perfect book for that stage of my life, but it also hasn’t lost any of its luster. Whenever I’m feeling down, I read the first couple pages and instantly feel better.

Name five of your favorite things.

  • I love travel, especially to Hawaii. Movies are important to me, too.
  • My favorite is film is Drive, from 2011.
  • Then there’s music. Lately I’ve been more into country and jazz than anything else. Sturgill Simpson is my favorite artist today, and I usually listen to Miles Davis in the office.
  • Playing golf would probably be next on the list.
  • My most favorite thing of all is watching my five-year-old daughter as she grows into someone with her own personality and interests. I get a huge kick out of seeing her discover things that I enjoyed as a kid: Star Wars, superheroes, stuff like that.

Is there anything else you want alums to know about you?

I’m thankful for our alumni and for all the support they give to Iowa Law. I love meeting them at the tailgates and hearing about their experiences at school and in practice. They feel like my second law school family.

Joe Yockey