Thomas Geraghty steps down as Bluhm Legal Clinic director after 41 years


Source: Thomas Geraghty

School of Law Prof. Thomas Geraghty.

Erica Snow, Campus Editor

When School of Law Prof. Steven Lubet received an 18-month grant that brought him to Northwestern, he never thought he would stay for more than 40 years –– but then he worked with School of Law Prof. Thomas Geraghty.

“Tom is a legendary law professor,” Lubet said. “There are generations upon generations of law students who’ve benefitted from his kind, wise and generous teaching. I certainly would not be the professor I am without Tom’s leadership. … If you have the chance to keep working with Tom Geraghty, you take it.”

After serving as the Bluhm Legal Clinic’s first director for more than 40 years, Geraghty (School of Law ’69) retired on Aug. 31. The clinic, which opened in 1969, allows law students to gain experience trying cases while providing legal help to those in need, Geraghty said.

Geraghty said he is especially proud of his cases involving juvenile rights and the abolition of the death penalty in Illinois.

School of Law Prof. Juliet Sorensen succeeded Geraghty as the clinic’s director on Sept. 1. She said about 140 law students are enrolled in clinical classes during the year, and 91 percent of Pritzker School of Law students graduate having participated in some clinical program.

Sorensen said even though Geraghty’s shoes are “impossible” to fill, it’s exciting to serve as the new director and continue to grow its programs.

“He is a legend in the greater Chicago legal community, and frankly, beyond that,” Sorensen said. “I have attended international human rights conferences and been approached by people conveying their warm regards to Tom Geraghty.”

Under Geraghty’s directorship, Sorensen said the clinic has been on the “cutting edge of social justice.”

Geraghty said he’s proud of how much the clinic has grown since its inception. Original grant funding paid for the clinic to have two lawyers, he said. Now, the clinic has expanded to about 35.

“I hope that the clinic will continue its work to provide access to justice to underserved communities in Chicago,” Geraghty said, “and that we continue to focus on the implementation of human rights standards locally, nationally and internationally.”

School of Law Prof. Bob Burns has tried cases with Geraghty and said working with him has been a “complete pleasure” because of his technical proficiency as a trial lawyer, his diplomacy and his dedication to social justice.

“He just has enormous energy and real enthusiasm for the work that he’s done,” Burns said. “Gracefully is a word that comes to mind when you think of Tom in his trial law persona, but also in his leadership role as the head of the clinic.”

Although he has retired from the clinic, Geraghty said he is still teaching at NU law school. Sorensen, the new director, said she’s glad Geraghty will be nearby in case she needs his guidance.

Overall, Geraghty said he’s proud of the opportunities the clinic has provided to students.

“(I hope) … that we continue to provide a combination of experiences to students involving work on individual cases, as well as on projects that are designed to achieve systemic reform of our justice system,” Geraghty said.

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