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Kim Forde-Mazrui

  • Michigan Law, 1993, JD, magna cum laude and Order of the Coif; Henry M. Bates Memorial Scholarship (highest graduation award); Carl Gussin Memorial Prize (excellence in trial advocacy); First Place: 1992 ABA Regional Client Counseling Competition
  • University of Michigan, 1990, BA, Philosophy, summa cum laude; Class Honors Award: 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990; James B. Angell Scholar; Phi Beta Kappa; Golden Key National Honor Society

Kim Forde-Mazrui's resume is impressive, the accomplishments seemingly endless—not surprising for someone who studied law at a top 10 school and is now teaching at another.

Kim Forde-Mazrui, '93Since 1996, Forde-Mazrui has been a member of the University of Virginia School of Law faculty, becoming a full professor in 2001. The Mortimer M. Caplin Professor of Law and Earle K. Shawe Professor of Employment Law teaches Constitutional Law, Employment Discrimination, Criminal Law, and Racial Justice and Law, and his scholarship focuses on equal protection, particularly as it applies to race and sexual orientation.

In addition, Forde-Mazrui served as the Barron F. Black Research Professor and the Justice Thurgood Marshall Distinguished Research Professor of Law. In 2003, he was appointed the inaugural director of the Center for the Study of Racial Justice and Law, a position he held until 2010, and resumed in 2016.

A Dream Job

"It's a dream job," Forde-Mazrui said of working in academia. "Intellectually, the work is very rewarding. I get to choose what subjects I want to teach, what readings I want to assign, and what issues I want to research and write about. In a sense, it's about being a lifelong student. It feels purposeful helping to impart to students not only the skills and knowledge to be a lawyer, but also my perspective on how best to understand the issues that we study. It's also rewarding to work with such smart and engaging students and colleagues."

On Becoming a Lawyer

Forde-Mazrui's interest in becoming a lawyer was fostered at a young age. He was fascinated by law, enjoyed debates and arguments, and had an understanding of social justice and civil rights issues, thanks to his parents, who were of different races and religions and from different countries. Dinnertime conversations, the Ann Arbor native said, centered on world events and politics, which instilled in him a desire to pursue "human-focused law."

At Michigan, Forde-Mazrui was a student-attorney with the Family Law Project and a notes editor with the Michigan Law Review, which "opened his eyes" to the possibility of a career in academia. That interest was nurtured by several Michigan law professors who recognized Forde-Mazrui's affinity for understanding and thinking about the theoretical aspects of law.

After law school, Forde-Mazrui served for a year as a judicial clerk to Judge Cornelia G. Kennedy of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, then practiced for two years at Sidley & Austin in Washington, D.C., before joining Virginia Law.

How the Darrow Scholarship Helped Him

Being a Darrow Scholar, Forde-Mazrui said, not only eased the financial burden of going to law school, but enabled him to "stay in a place I love" and expanded his choices: "If I had more debt, I would have had to perhaps work in practice longer to pay off those debts, and it may have reduced my opportunity to go into academia." Most importantly, it gave him "a vote of confidence that I would do well at Michigan Law.

"I can say unequivocally that you get an outstanding legal education at Michigan, and it absolutely expands one's opportunities in pursuing a legal career," he said. "In addition, Ann Arbor is great. It's a mix of a college town that is fairly small and manageable but large enough to have a variety of cultural and social events. If someone has the opportunity to attend Michigan, they'll have an embarrassment of luxuries."

Story written by Lori Atherton.