Professor's focus includes ADR, education law

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

As a child in California public schools, not only did Erin Archerd see classmates receiving different treatment based on ethnicity, her own treatment changed when her mother remarried and Archerd’s surname was no longer Hispanic.

“That stuck with me and inspired an interest in issues affecting Latinos and their education here in the U.S.,” said Archerd, who joined the faculty of University of Detroit Mercy School of Law this fall.   

Archerd, who will teach education law, commercial Law and Alternative Dispute Resolution, is a 2008 graduate of Harvard Law School where she was editor-in-chief of the Harvard Latino Law Review.

She also served as the advanced training director for the Harvard Mediation Program and as a teaching fellow for Prof. Michael Sandel’s Justice course.

Her interest in law grew out of her study of psychology at Stanford University, where she graduated with distinction, Phi Beta Kappa.

Archerd worked in a law and psychology lab that studied jury decision-making.

“I ran so many mock juries that by the time I was finished with my honors thesis I knew both that I was very interested in how people made legal decisions and that I would be perfectly happy if I never had to set foot in front of a jury again,” she said with a smile.

Archerd knew early on that litigation was not her niche.

“In part, I think this came from growing up in Silicon Valley, where relationships and deal-making are of prime importance, and in part from having parents who were both business managers at large companies,” she said.    

Wanting to use legal skills to help make business happen drew her to learning about commercial law. Her interest in ADR — particularly negotiation — came out of a desire to practice transactional law. 

“I found the Harvard Mediation Program was a wonderful way of blending what I’d learned about human behavior studying psychology and the active listening and counseling skills I needed to build as an attorney,” Archerd said.   

She views ADR as a set of techniques that can be used far beyond a courtroom. 

“It’s an expression of our ideals as a society — that people should feel listened to and be empowered to make informed decisions about their lives,” Archerd said. “So many disputes happen because people don’t take the time to consider anything beyond what they want at this very moment. ADR is not an alternative to litigation as much as an alternative to abdicating our responsibility to be thoughtful members of our society.”   

After Harvard, Archerd joined the San Francisco office of Covington & Burling, where she focused on corporate transactions, primarily in the information technology and biotechnology sectors, as well as preparing an amicus brief in Horne v. Flores, a U.S. Supreme Court case about the education of English language learners in Arizona. 

Archerd’s amicus brief argued that No Child Left Behind did not preempt the Equal Educational Opportunities Act, an older federal education statute.         

“The court ruled in favor of that argument, and while the entire case did not turn out as I had hoped, working on the project stoked my interest in language education policy and inspired me to research and write more in the area,” she said.

Archerd later served as program coordinator at Humanities for Everybody, a program of non-credit college-level courses taught by Western Michigan University professors for low to moderate-income residents in the Kalamazoo area, before relocating to Columbus, Ohio to become the Langdon Fellow in Dispute Resolution at Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

Archerd was drawn to UDM by its commitment to social justice.

“Saints Peter and Paul Church next to the law school sponsors a warming station, and once a month students, staff, and faculty from the law school volunteer to cook and serve breakfast next door — it was one of the first things I did once I joined the law school,” she said.   

In the classroom, Archerd enjoys seeing pieces fall into place for 1L students. 

“They come to law school with a superficial, and often artificial, idea of how our legal system works based on what they see portrayed on TV, and gradually they begin to see that the law is much more complex, but also much more fun, than they imagined,” she explained.    

For upper level students, Archerd said she enjoys “seeing students begin to take the legal foundations from first year, which tends to be a bit disconnected from the real world, and start to bring those legal skills back into a broader context. The legal theory we discuss in their first year becomes more focused on the legal practices they will have once they graduate.”    

Originally from San Antonio, before spending most of her formative years in the San Francisco Bay area, Archerd currently makes her home in midtown Detroit.
“I’m loving it — there’s so much to do within walking distance of my apartment,” she said.

But she doesn’t just walk — she runs. Having completed three half-marathons, Archerd is putting the Detroit Marathon on her “bucket list.”

“There aren’t many marathons that cross international borders,” she said.    

Archerd’s husband, Josh Feasel, is a litigator in Columbus. 

“Since Josh’s folks live in northwest Ohio, I feel like the entire corridor from Detroit to Columbus is now my home turf,” Archerd said.

Avid homebrewers, Archerd and her husband are making the most of Michigan’s craft beer and cider scene — and enjoy grabbing a beer at the Jolly Pumpkin in Midtown, Atwater Brewery’s converted church in Grosse Pointe and Batch Brewing Co. in Corktown.     

Archerd also is immersing herself in the local sports culture.

“I had several friends in college who were Tigers fans, so I’ve always kept an eye out for them in the standings. I’m hoping for a better season for the Tigers next year,” she said.

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