Three Law Professors Announce Retirement

May 12, 2017

The University of Alabama School of Law announces the retirement of three longtime faculty members: Professor James Bryce, Vice Dean Jamie Leonard and Professor Pamela Bucy Pierson.

Bryce retires after 39 years of service, having joined the faculty in 1978. He has taught hundreds of students  a variety of tax courses, dealing with federal, state and local taxes. Leonard has been on faculty for 19 years at the Law School and spent another 11 years at Claude W. Pettit College of Law at Ohio Northern University. During his tenure, he trained lawyers in courses on disability law, employment discrimination and family law. Pierson retires after 30 years of service, having joined the law faculty in 1987. She has taught generations of lawyers in criminal law and procedure as well as her popular The Business of Being a Lawyer course.

“The retirement of any one of them would be significant,” said Dean Mark E. Brandon. “The retirement of all three measures 8+ on the institutional Richter Scale.

Brandon said they have had an “incalculable impact” on students and left an “indelible mark” on the Law School.

“There’s neither praise nor prose that can adequately express what they have meant to us as teachers, mentors and colleagues,” he said.

As they embark on new journeys, each of the professors reflected on their teaching careers.

Bryce founded and served as editor of the American Journal of Tax Policy for 16 years. He served as reporter to the Alabama Commission on Tax and Fiscal Policy Reform in 1989-1991 and staff member of the Tax Reform Task Force in 1991-92.

“I was the guy in the back room, cranking out drafts,” he said.

He taught courses for the LL.M. in tax, initially driving to venues across the state to meet students for classes.  He said he will miss “trying and sometimes succeeding in getting the fascination of tax and business law across to new, young students.”

Bryce’s wife convinced him to retire while he is healthy. He is looking forward to taking care of his gardens, orchards and timber at Shotgun Hollow Plantation in Eoline. In addition to visiting children, he looks forward to visiting grandchildren.

Leonard was appointed director of the Bounds Law Library at Alabama Law in 1998 and became the James M. Kidd Sr. Professor of Law in 2010. He spent about 10 years studying and teaching about disability law, and he founded the Disability Law Institute. Later, he shifted his interests to employment discrimination and family law. Three years later, he was appointed Interim Vice Dean for the Law School, becoming Vice Dean in 2014, where he was largely in the business of solving problems.

“Because I’ve taught employment law, it actually made a lot of my administrative work easy,” he said. “I know where the land mines are. Usually.”

While he won’t miss the preparation required for delivering lectures, he will miss teaching students on a daily basis.

“Because I’m here and we have such good students, in every class there’s going to be somebody who has either seen something in a case that I didn’t see and gives me a new perspective or just somebody who is smarter than I am.”

Leonard plans to sit on his front porch at his Ohio home and read books for a month or two. After that, he doesn’t have any specific plans.

Pierson fell into teaching. She had been a federal prosecutor in St. Louis, when she moved to Alabama. She wanted to continue with the U.S. Attorneys’ Office in Birmingham, but there was a hiring freeze at the time. Undeterred, she took a teaching position at the Law School, thinking she would do it for a year.

She never looked back. As a professor, Pierson has received the Burnum Award, UA’s top award given to one faculty member each year for research and scholarship, and the university’s Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award.

During her tenure, Pierson founded a number of programs, including the Summer Externship Program in 1992, the Public Interest Institute in 2000, the Shadow Program in 2000, and The Business of Being a Lawyer course in 2014.

All three were geared toward students. Active in the bar throughout her tenure at the law school and always keeping up with former students, Pierson noticed that while many of her former students were happy in their practices of law, some were not.

“I remembered how excited and happy and thrilled about being lawyers when they were in law school and it made me sad to see how unhappy they were now. It had a profound impact on me. I wondered if there was some kind of course I could put together that would help my students choose practices of law that would be personally fulfilling for them.”

Along with dozens of students and hundreds of lawyers, Pierson developed BBL to help students and lawyers develop satisfying careers and love the practice of law.

She will dearly miss watching students come in a first-year law students and progress through law school.

“I have people that I taught 30 years ago that I’ve become good friends with. My relationships with my students are my treasures.” she said.