Professor Rory Ryan teaches, writes about, and consults in the areas of federal jurisdiction, appeals, and complex litigation. He earned unprecedented academic marks as a student, graduating first in his class and earning more than 20 high As in law school. He then clerked for the Honorable C. Arlen Beam on the United States Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit. Although he had accepted a Big-Law associate position, he was lured back in to the classroom immediately after this clerkship.
Although his teaching career began with little experience in the trenches, that has changed dramatically over the past 15 or so years. Professor Ryan is a frequent consultant on complex procedural and jurisdictional issues, and on appeals of all sorts. He has handled cases as lead counsel, co-counsel, amicus, or consultant in the United States Supreme Court, the Texas Supreme Court, many intermediate appellate courts, both state and federal, and more than a dozen different trial courts. "I can't imagine teaching it without doing it," he says. "I've never handled a case that didn't, in some way, favorably impact what I'm able to provide to my students."
His primary scholarly and teaching focus is federal jurisdiction and complex proceedings. Unlike the casebook-only approach followed elsewhere, Professor Ryan teaches from his own materials, in which the decisions of lower federal courts (where 99 percent of the law is) figure prominently. It is common for his students to learn doctrine from cases decided just days before class. "I've heard frequent objections to this—because supposedly those lower-court cases aren't good teaching cases," Ryan says. "I guess that means that the cases get the law wrong, but I'm trying to teach lawyers what to do with the actual cases that govern their clients. So I'm not sure why I'd only teach cases I like."
Ryan has three kids and one wife, Christie. In the free time he does not have, he studies behavioral economics, rules fantasy football, and collects baseball cards. Before you ask, he'd like to tell you that, no, the cards you have from the late 1980s and early 1990s aren't worth anything.