Georgia State Professor of Law Andrea Curcio has always had an insatiable appetite for learning. It’s much of the reason she went into teaching law, and also explains the wide-ranging areas of her expertise.
Curcio’s scholarship stretches from critiquing the bar exam as a measure of competence in lawyers, to gender equity issues, and campus sexual assault. While these topics may appear distinct, Curcio does find a common denominator amongst them.
“I care about all of these topics because in each area, we’re talking about a level of injustice,” Curcio said. “I think that my job as a lawyer and legal educator is to point out areas where injustice exists and to articulate remedies to change structural inequities.”
Being at Georgia State Law for the past 26 years has given Curcio the opportunity to begin those efforts. She teaches Civil Procedure, Evidence and Pre-Trial Litigation, and works to bring a very practical perspective to her students. It’s a perspective she knows first-hand; from spending six years as a civil litigator after earning her J.D. from The University of North Carolina. But Curcio was always drawn to teaching.
“I love being able to think deeply about things,” she said. “The give and take with students, their questions that make me think about things from a different angle, and my ability to help have them figure out answers, is so unbelievably fulfilling.”
Curcio’s work on the effectiveness of the bar exam is currently the forefront of her scholarship, mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s causing officials to immediately find a way to think outside the box for proving someone’s competency to become a lawyer. Curcio is one of nearly a dozen educators and scholars from around the country working to find a solution and they recently published a short essay that made it to the Harvard Law Review blog.
“Many states have said until a bar exam is up and running again, new graduates can practice under the supervision of lawyers,” Curcio said. “But it seems a little backwards to say you’ve been practicing law, but now you have to go back and take this pen and paper test and spend eight weeks studying doctrinal law, in order to show us you’re competent to practice law.”
As for her research on campus sexual assault, she’s hoping her work will help to shift some of the responsibility to universities for their failure to warn that most campus assaults actually occur in college dormitories. She believes that change will result in policies that better protect students. Her research has prompted her to work on a pro-bono basis with a couple of lawyers around the country, on how to frame this information to bring lawsuits.
“We send our kids off to school saying don’t put down your drink at parties, but what we are not warning them is that the vast majority of assaults happen in campus dormitories, where the students live,” she said. “Universities know of this problem and they have a duty to warn students and help them take appropriate precautionary measures.”
Curcio knows big structural changes take time. For now, the goal of her scholarship is to provide people with thoughtful information examining all sides of the issue and present potential solutions. Her hope is that younger scholars will continue to build on what she has done and eventually changes will begin being implemented. Until then, she’s enjoying her research and time in the classroom.
“What led me to become a law professor was intellectual curiosity and a desire to keep learning in different ways than I could learn in practice,” Curcio said. “What has kept me in this job, is the students. They’re what keep me going, they energize me, and are really the best part of this institution.”
Written by Mara Thompson