Journal of Leadership and the Law

Elon Law Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Scott Gaylord

By Christopher Hall L'Dec.'17

Law students across the United States elected to attend law school for various reasons. Some students may have anticipated to help the less fortunate, or counsel a major corporation about how to mitigate risks, or aid in cleaning up the community by becoming a criminal prosecutor. However, what pushed me to pursue a career in the legal profession was the various constitutional law courses I took in undergrad. The different interpretations the United States Supreme Court Justices could pull-out of the same clause of the Constitution astounded me. The intense curiosity in constitutional law has not strayed away from me yet. I remember, after two long trimesters at Elon Law, walking into my first law school constitutional law class, having read and briefed the first day’s cases, including Marbury v. Madison. I was enthusiastic to begin the journey. The course, and more importantly, the professor did not disappoint. Professor Scott Gaylord guided the class through the challenging, yet thought-provoking material that constitutional law entails. While absorbing the course information, I found Professor Gaylord’s insight to be astonishing. I knew I wanted to learn more about him and his academic and professional interests and views.

That interest led me to have a conversation with Professor Scott Gaylord to understand what made him pursue a career in the legal profession and about his experiences. The obvious first question I inquired about was his interests in pursuing a legal career. Professor Gaylord took me back to his time at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, when he was pursuing his doctoral degree in philosophy. He mentioned a class in bioethics that he was enrolled in. The class discussed many issues (social, legal, ethical) that were important and relevant to the times and the problems the world faced. He noticed that the Courts around the United States were called to solve these hard-hitting issues. He was enamored at the question “how do you use legal analysis and techniques to come to an outcome that is ‘just.’” Professor Gaylord was determined to dive deeper into questions like physician-assisted suicide, and not only what the family should consider, but also, what the hospital consider.

While at the University of Notre Dame Law School, Professor Gaylord, not only managed but succeeded in academics, graduating summa cum laude as the salutatorian and a member of the Law Review. His academic successes should seem more impressive because he achieved them while being a husband and a father. Professor Gaylord earned his masters and doctoral degrees in philosophy before entering law school. He attributes much of his success in law school and in his legal career to his training as a philosopher. The critical reasoning, analytical skills, and clarity in writing in particular were advantageous.

Moreover, his writing skills were on display from 1999 to 2000 while clerking for Judge Edith Jones of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Houston, Texas. Professor Gaylord asserts that clerking for a federal circuit judge gave him the opportunity to participate in the judicial process and see “how the sausage is made” behind the scenes. The Honorable Edith Jones is a champion of the federalist system. Professor Gaylord claims that he has portrayed upmost professionalism in the practice of law, and she has left a lasting impression on the way he interprets law and goes about his academic life.

Finally, I asked Professor Gaylord what his greatest leadership role held was. Without hesitation he proclaimed that being a husband and father is his most important vocation. Secondary, he claims is his role as a teacher; being a prime example of professionalism for students. Educating students as constitutional thinkers is his best role as a professor. The Leadership Fellows commend Professor Gaylord on his ability to lead Elon Law students to becoming constitutional and ethical lawyers, as well as active United States citizens.