Professor of Law
For Stephen A. Newman, being a professor could not be better suited to his personality and work style. A voracious reader, a prolific writer, and a skilled lecturer who “enjoys commenting on the issues of the day,” he loves teaching and interacting with students.
“I had thought about teaching and decided to try it for a year. That was 31 years ago,” Professor Newman says with a smile. He joined New York Law School in 1974, when it was expanding and hiring a lot of young and innovative faculty. Over the years, he has developed most of the courses he teaches—Family Law; Persuasion; Divorce: Lawyers, Clients, and Families; Children & the Law—to fill gaps in legal education created by social change.
When Professor Newman first proposed a class teaching the skills of persuasion, it was a novel concept and a course that had not been part of the traditional law school curriculum, but it fit in with what he terms New York Law School’s theme of thinking about the practical skills of lawyers.
“It’s fun to do and is at the heart of the matter for lawyers. The focus is not on research, but on taking a point of view and arguing for it as convincingly as you can,” he explains. A favorite wicked assignment is to pit the students against legendary courtroom persuader Clarence Darrow by having them argue against his speech—90 pages of fine print—calling for life imprisonment instead of the death penalty for his clients, Leopold and Loeb.
Professor Newman started out in consumer protection law after he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1967 and Columbia Law School (where he was on the Law Review) three years later. He worked in the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs pursuing consumer fraud under the city’s new consumer protection law. His work in consumer rights led him to establish a Consumer Law Training Center at New York Law School and later, in 1978, to coauthor the book Caveat Venditor: A Manual for Consumer Representation in New York (Julius Blumberg, Inc., 2nd ed. 1994).
“We were going after clearly bad guys; there was a moral clarity to the job,” he recalls. But he became interested in the nascent area of family law precisely because the cases making headlines in the years of the Reagan presidency, like the Baby M surrogate motherhood case in New Jersey, lacked a moral clarity.
“There was nothing happening in consumer protection, but family law was exploding at that time and it seemed to be where attention should be paid. The issues kept coming up and it was sort of a legal backwater,” Professor Newman says. He decided to look into that area of law for a short while, and again ended up studying it for more than 20 years.
Professor Newman has a special interest in child custody cases and has a particular concern about the use of mental health evaluators in courts, because the effect of their testimony on people’s lives is lasting.
Born in the Bronx, he and his family live in Manhattan. His wife, Catherine Sullivan, was a faculty member at New York Law School, where they met.
University of Pennsylvania, B.A. 1967
Columbia, J.D. 1970 (Law Review).
Addresses personal, often controversial, issues of euthanasia, right to die, cloning, and cases involving children, as well as consumer law. Legal topics columnist, New York magazine, 1980–88.