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Alexis Anderson: She’s in Our DNA

The beloved clinical professor leaves behind a generation of well-trained lawyers and a legacy of kindness and empathy.


One need only look down a list of her legal articles to get a picture of Associate Clinical Professor Emerita Alexis Anderson’s moral character. The papers spoke of ethical issues in immigrant juvenile court proceedings, in interdisciplinary collaborations, in externships, in the profession, and in much more. She was a practical legal thinker, looking throughout her career for behaviors, processes, systems, and policies that would provide her students with the understanding and skills to uphold the highest standards of lawyering.

But that was only one dimension of the work life that Anderson, who passed away on September 20, lived for 36 productive years at BC Law. There was her collegiality, intelligence, compassion, and commitment to what was good in people and what was right in the study and practice of law. These beliefs made the world more equitable. They offered the less fortunate a chance. They gave the bad guys a hard time.

“It is impossible to overstate the impact that Alexis had on generations of BC Law students, as well as on faculty, staff, and members of the local community,” said BC Law Dean Vincent Rougeau. “She had a brilliant legal mind, but perhaps her greatest gift was her ability to see the human side of the law, and to operate with the highest professional and ethical standards while treating every living soul she encountered with kindness and empathy.”

Anderson took her lessons everywhere. Some summers she served as project director for the State Department’s Fulbright Summer Institute for International Scholars, a six-week graduate level course for foreign university professors. She once taught a seminar on the development of free speech theory at the University of Nanterre in France. She offered courses in law school and university programs in London, Paris, Beijing, and Tashkent.

Put her in a classroom or a clinical setting and questions started to fly, her back-and-forth with students a pedagogical joy. In Anderson’s beloved Boston College Legal Services Bureau—known to most simply as LAB—she taught hundreds of aspiring attorneys the complex language of real-world lawyering. She remained a big presence when LAB relocated to the new Center for Experiential Learning on campus in 2014.

From the beginning, she was a role model for her colleagues. Speaking at Anderson’s retirement party in June, Clinical Professor and Dean’s Distinguished Scholar Paul Tremblay, a member of the team who hired her for LAB in 1983 (despite doubts about bringing in a “corporate litigator from a white shoe firm”), described what happened next: “She was not just a superb supervisor and terrific lawyer, but we notice how she’s subtly, but powerfully, in charge of everything, including our move to Crescent Street. …And if I remember right, [she] also started a legal history seminar, which at the time was unheard of for clinical faculty with our nonexistent status.”

Associate Dean of Experiential Learning Judith McMorrow captured Anderson’s special contribution. “We have been inexorably changed by her professional excellence and character,” she said. “Alexis’ imprint is now in our DNA. May we live up to the example she has set.”

A celebration of Anderson’s life will be held on December 7, at 2 pm at the Law School in East Wing Room 120. A reception will follow. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Boston College Legal Services LAB.

Read her obituary here.