Moritz College of Law
Topics: Legal Ethics
Professor Christopher Fairman is the C. William O’Neill Professor in Law and Judicial Administration, and is a national expert in civil procedure, legal ethics, and most recently, taboo language. While these areas may appear diverse, Professor Fairman’s scholarly interests can be easily summed up: Words matter.
He makes this point in his civil procedure writings on so-called “heightened pleading” practice published in a variety of law journals including Texas Law Review, Arizona Law Review, and University of California at Davis Law Review. As a leading national expert on heightened pleading, Professor Fairman is critical of requirements by the courts or Congress that force certain types of plaintiffs to say more in their pleadings to stay in court than other litigants. His foundational work in the area has garnered new attention as the Supreme Court appears to be recalibrating pleading burdens in such recent cases as Bell Atlantic Corp v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal.
Words also matter in the rules that govern lawyer ethics. When our current ethical rules prove inadequate, Professor Fairman advocates for new ones that make clear to lawyers, especially those new to the profession, that ethical concerns count. He is a leading voice calling for new ethical rules to cover collaborative law — a growing alternative dispute resolution (ADR) practice area. His interest in the intersection of attorney ethics and ADR is evident not only in his numerous scholarly writings on the topic, but also in his seminar on ADR Ethics, his participation in symposia on the subject, and his service as an Official Observer to the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) Drafting Committee on a Collaborative Law Act.
The importance of protecting words — even the four-letter ones — is at the heart of Professor Fairman’s most recent scholarly work. Professor Fairman celebrates free speech with the publication of his first book: Fuck: Word Taboo and Protecting our First Amendment Liberties(Sourcebooks 2009). The book builds on his scholarship in taboo language found in his highly popular article, “Fuck,” 28 Cardozo Law Review 1171 (2007). Professor Fairman is adamant that our government should keep out of the censorship business: “Words are ideas. If the government can control the words we say, it can also control what we think.”
Professor Fairman is an honor graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. After nine years as a high school history teacher in the public schools in Texas, Fairman returned to the University of Texas School of Law for his J.D. Following graduation, he clerked for Justice J. Woodfin Jones of the Texas Court of Appeals for the Third District and for Judge Fortunato P. Benavides of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Following his clerkships, Professor Fairman was a practicing litigator in the Dallas office of the international law firm Weil Gotshal before joining the Moritz faculty in 2000.
Whether as a high school teacher, a litigator, or now as a legal academic, Professor Fairman is skilled at explaining why things are the way they are. He is a gifted teacher with awards and recognition at the high school, college, and university level, including The Ohio State University’s highest teaching recognition — the Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching. Professor Fairman teaches Civil Procedure I and Legal Writing and Analyses to 1L students and Civil Procedure II, Professional Responsibility, and a seminar on ADR Ethics available to second- and third-year students.
- “Why We Still Need a Model Rule for Collaborative Law: A Reply to Professor Lande,” 22 Ohio St. J. on Disp. Resol. 707 (2007).
- “Fuck,” 28 Cardozo Law Review 1171 (2007).
- “A Proposed Model Rule for Collaborative Law,” 21 Ohio St. J. on Disp. Resol. 73 (2005).
- “House Follies,” Legal Times, June 13, 2005, at 76
- “An Invitation to the Rulemakers – Strike Rule 9(b),” 38 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 281 (2004)
- “The Myth of Notice Pleading,” 45 Ariz. L. Rev. 987 (2003)
- “No McJustice for the Fat Kids,” Legal Times, Feb. 17, 2003, at 42
- “Ethics and Collaborative Lawyering: Why Put Old Hats on New Heads?,” 18 Ohio St. J. on Disp. Resol. 505 (2003)
- “Heightened Pleading,” 81 Tex. L. Rev. 551 (2002)