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Susan N. Gary

We asked Susan N. Gary, Orlando J. and Marian H. Hollis Professor of Law, University of Oregon School of Law, what has inspired and motivated her throughout her career. This author spotlight gives a glimpse into her passions and what brought her to where she is today.

What or who motivated you to study law?

[SNG] My father, Holland M. Gary, was a role model for me throughout my life.  He believed I could do anything I set my mind to, and he encouraged me to enter a field of study that was still predominantly male when I began to consider it (in middle school).

Did you have a favorite professor in law school?  If so, who was the person and what made them stand out?

[SNG] I remember enjoying Prof. Willis Reese, because he made Torts fun.  First year was scary, and the classes were hard, so it was nice to have a course that was enjoyable--as well as scary and hard. 

What law school course did you enjoy the most?

[SNG] In my third year I participated in a clinic and worked on an equal-pay-for-equal-work project.  I remember the thrill of being involved in something important and path-breaking, and the challenge of applying my other coursework to something “real.”

What are your primary areas of writing and teaching? What fascinates you about these areas of law?

[SNG] I focus on the definition of family related to the transfer of property at death, the intersection of trust law and charity law, and fiduciary duties as they relate to investment decision making.  My recent work looks at ways fiduciary investors can use investments to generate environmental and social benefits as well as purely financial benefits.  I like to explain sometimes confusing legal rules in ways that can assist decision-makers in complying with the law while doing good in the world.

Do (or did) you have a mentor or someone that has inspired or encouraged you in your writing or teaching?

[SNG] When I was in law practice, I worked closely with Howard M. (Scott) McCue, a partner in my department.  He taught me how to practice law, encouraged me when I decided to enter academia, and continued to support my professional development throughout my career. After I entered academia, the scholarship of Professor John H. Langbein influenced and inspired me, and his generosity with comments on my writing improved my own scholarship.

What motivated you to write a casebook?

[SNG] I wanted to teach trusts and estates in a more problem-focused way.  Working with excellent co-authors has been a terrific way to learn more about the subject. 

What has been the most influential or pivotal moment in your career?

[SNG] When I graduated from law school I did not plan or expect to become an academic.  The decision to go into academia turned out to be a pivotal moment, one that was more important than I realized at the time.  The opportunities to work with students and to engage in law reform work have been rewarding beyond my expectations. 

What changes in legal education excite you?

[SNG] The focus on practice-ready skills is a big improvement from when I was in law school.  I enjoy working with students on drafting estate planning documents and on writing in general.

What advice do you have for today’s law students? 

[SNG] The most important skills to learn in law school are still legal analysis and writing.  Take courses that force you to work on those skills, even if the courses are demanding.  Then take courses that help you develop other legal skills and take a couple of courses just for fun.

How do you hope to be remembered by your students or law school?

[SNG] I would like to be remembered as someone who cared deeply about the law school and its students.

What are your interests outside of law? 

[SNG] My focus outside the law school is my family—my spouse and two children.  I enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking and walking, which makes the Pacific Northwest the perfect place for me.  I have enjoyed living abroad during sabbaticals from the law school, and I enjoy travel, both to familiar places and to new ones.


Susan N. Gary is the Orlando J. and Marian H. Hollis Professor of Law, University of Oregon School of Law and is the author of the new textbook, Wills, Trusts, and Estates in Focus

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