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Get to Know: Thomas Gallanis

Tom Gallanis

Thomas P. Gallanis
Allan D. Vestal Chair in Law, Associate Dean for Research (Director of the Law Library), and Professor of History

Joined Iowa Law:  2009

Hometown:  Chicago

Alma Mater:
BA, Yale University
JD, University of Chicago,
LLM and PhD, Cambridge University

What did you do before joining Iowa Law? I was the Julius E. Davis Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development at the University of Minnesota.

Courses: Property and standard and advanced courses in Trusts & Estates

What does your scholarship entail? With respect to modern U.S. law, my expertise is in trust, succession, property, and fiduciary law.  I’m particularly interested in their comparative and international aspects.  One of my recent publications is part of a book on wealth transfer law that examines will-substitutes, such as life insurance and pension plans, from a comparative perspective.

I’m also active as a legal historian, specializing in the history of English law.  One of my recent articles, in a festschrift for a mentor at the University of Chicago Law School, examined the process(es) by which the English common law evolves.

How did you decide to join the legal profession? Law school was a likely destination for me.  In high school, I was active in debate and forensics.  In college, I was active in the Yale Political Union and other fora for debating ideas and policies. I’ve always been interested in ideas and their real-world consequences.

What do you enjoy most about working in a higher education/law school setting? The opportunity to teach students and to research and write scholarship that will advance knowledge and shape public policy.

What makes you passionate about your work? I’m passionate about teaching and scholarship.  I was the beneficiary of a superb legal education, and I strive to do my very best to prepare my students to be intellectually rigorous lawyers and problem-solvers.  Also, I’m very committed to the world of ideas and to sharing those ideas with the academic and professional communities.

Take us through your most rewarding day at the university.  It’s hard to pick only one day.  I feel most rewarded when a class that I’m teaching has gone well.  As I walk out of the room after a successful class, I’m glowing and energized.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken—and did it pay off? Perhaps the biggest risk was leaving the practice of law at Mayer Brown, which I enjoyed very much, to pursue an LL.M. and Ph.D. at Cambridge.  There was no guarantee of an academic career, but I was fortunate.

If you could spend a day with anyone, from any era, who would it be and why? Speaking professionally, I’d likely choose Sir Dudley Ryder, who served as Chief Justice of the Court of King’s Bench in England from 1754 to 1756.  I’m editing Ryder’s judicial notes and diaries for publication, and the opportunity to spend a day with Ryder would bring the project to life in inspiring ways.

Speaking personally, other than spending a day with one of my family members now deceased, I’d enjoy spending a day with Sir Isaiah Berlin, the polymathic philosopher and historian of ideas.

If you could get rid of one invention in the world, what would you choose? Why? Sinks with separate hot and cold faucets.  They’re prevalent in the U.K. but annoying to use.

What’s your favorite book, or what are you reading right now & why do you enjoy it? I recently read “Four Talks on Legal Education” given in the 1950s by Edward Levi, a former law dean, provost, and president at the University of Chicago.  Even after 60 years, the essays are wise and surprisingly relevant.

Name a few of your favorite things:
1.  British detective stories
2.  The Chicago skyline
3.  Dinner and dessert at certain Oxford and Cambridge colleges
4.  The Bund in Shanghai in the evening

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