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Mark Brodin

by vicki sanders


Mark BrodinNo Better Role Model

Brodin enjoys a reputation as a great teacher. Making his case the old-fashioned way, with blackboard and chalk, he animates his civil procedure class with lessons from his experience in practice.

Professor Mark Brodin is one lucky guy. Every time misfortune has barred his way to a desired goal, circumstance has handed him a fine alternative. Take the time, on the eve of a Vermont federal district court clerkship, when the judge for whom he was to work died, leading Brodin to Boston and a position doing criminal appeals at the public defender’s office. Or the time a mentor warned him off a job, which made Brodin available for a federal district court clerkship. Or the time when, skipping the second day of a disappointing conference in New York, he boarded a plane and met his future wife, Andrea.

“In retrospect,” he says, “every time something happens to me when I think, ‘Oh boy, that’s not what I planned,’ somehow it’s always worked out in a way that almost makes me think there’s some kind of scheme going on.”

Even his coming to Boston College Law School had a touch of serendipity. Turned down for a clinical teaching position here in 1979, he discovered an aptitude for scholarly pedagogy while teaching at New England School of Law, penning the muchcited “The Standard of Causation in the Mixed Motive Title 7 Action: A Social Policy Perspective.” Then came the invitation to teach civil procedure as a visitor at BC Law. “By happenstance again, my wife and I had just moved to Newton Center, with our new daughter Rachel, and I was pondering how to pay the mortgage,” Brodin laughs. Better still, he was hired full-time the following year, 1985.

Brodin forgot little of what he picked up in his years of practice, and his deep knowledge of civil procedure has earned him the abiding respect of his students. Last semester, the Law Students Association named him Faculty Member of the Year. “You don’t have a better role model here than Professor Brodin,” says his research assistant, Meredith Ainbinder ’04.

Brodin himself enjoyed quality mentoring. Under the tutelage of Joseph L. Tauro, for one, the federal judge for whom he clerked in the early 1970s, he worked on patent, antitrust, criminal, and civil cases. “The job confirmed my interests were primarily in civil rights and civil liberties,” he says. “It gave me the opportunity to learn how the court system works from the inside, but also to see dozens of different styles of trial lawyers and to be able to work with a uniquely talented judge.”

In 1974, Brodin became a staff attorney for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. His expertise grew in the areas of employment and housing discrimination, police misconduct, racial violence, equal educational opportunities, and the like. “I had the golden opportunity to do the kinds of cases I wanted to do with the assistance and guidance of veteran lawyers and with the resources of an office like that,” he says.

For someone who has spent most of his working life before an audience—be it in the courtroom or the classroom—Brodin Faculty Profile: Mark Brodin (continued from page 27) confesses to having been terrified of public speaking in his youth. “I was phobic in law school [at Columbia] about being called on,” he admits. Famous among his students for his class preparedness, Brodin says the habit was motivated by fear. “A response to fear is often to attempt to exercise control over what you can, and what I can control is the level of preparation and knowledge and confidence I have when I go into class.”

Students describe Brodin as supportive and passionate about his subjects (he teaches Evidence and Employment Discrimination Law in addition to Civil Procedure). They say he has a knack for untangling complicated material. “Sometimes you read and you are so confused and then you go to class and afterward you think, ‘How could that have been confusing to me?” says Ainbinder. “His Evidence class is packed, because you know you’ll get Evidence, that you’ll be able to use it forever.”

Brodin often uses anecdotes when explaining procedures to students. “I try to implant a memory so when they retrieve the memory they’ll also remember the important point,” he explains.

From the time he was eleven and inspired by his “bigger than life” Uncle Moe [Tandler], a community practice and civil rights lawyer, Brodin knew he wanted to be an attorney. He also admired the intellectual rigor of his law professors, among them Michael Meltsner, and aspired to teach one day himself.

As luck would have it, Brodin got both his wishes. “There’s tremendous excitement in engaging in dialog with students,” he says, “and seeing how dramatically their analytical abilities and perception of legal issues develop.” Says Ainbinder, “He’s exactly what a law professor should be.”