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Sherman J. Clark, the Kirkland & Ellis Professor of Law, joined the Michigan Law faculty in 1995 and teaches courses on torts, evidence, and sports law. His current research focuses on the ways in which legal rules and institutions may have an impact on character, and thus on the extent to which we thrive. Law and politics, Professor Clark believes, can have an impact—often indirect and inadvertent, but real—on the kind of people we become; and that, in turn, can have an impact—difficult to describe and quantify, but potentially profound—on how well and fully we are able to live. In this vein, drawing on classical philosophy, modern positive psychology, political theory, literature, and law, he has written about institutions and practices ranging from direct democracy to the jury to criminal procedure. Professor Clark is also interested in legal education, and seeks to reject the false dichotomy between practical and theoretical ways of approaching the study of law—between pragmatic professional training and humane liberal education. He has argued that being a good lawyer and being thoughtful about the law are not opposites, or even things to be balanced, but are rather things that can and ought to go hand in hand. In addition to his teaching and research interests, Professor Clark served as an adviser to lawyers for Wayne County, Michigan, and the City of Detroit in their efforts to hold gun manufacturers liable for allegedly negligent distribution practices. The legal theory he articulated, known as willful blindness, focused on the manufacturers' alleged knowing exploitation of a thriving secondary market in the indirect sale of firearms to felons and minors. He is a graduate of Towson State University and Harvard Law School, and practiced in Washington, D.C., with the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis.
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