Linda Sandstrom Simard was working on an article for a law journal in the office at her family's summer home on Cape Cod when her son Ryan, 9, interrupted. He had just built an awesome sand castle, and could she please-"please, Mom-come down to the beach and see it?
Simard dropped what she was doing and headed down to the beach. It was indeed an awesome sand castle. She lingered for a while, playing with Ryan and her other children, Amanda, 12, and Kyle, 4, before turning them back over to the babysitter and turning herself back over to her research on the influence of amicus briefs in federal court. For Simard, Suffolk University Law School's newest associate dean and its first-ever female associate dean, has long made it her business-and her pleasure-to blend career and family.
When Dean Fred Aman called and offered Simard the associate dean position earlier this year, her first reaction was excitement.
"I have always felt that Suffolk Law is a really strong law school, says Simard, who has taught civil procedure at Suffolk Law since 1993. "But in many ways, the school has been quiet about its strengths. I'm excited about the potential to reach out and make Suffolk Law's strengths more well known."
Simard didn't accept the new job immediately, however. She and husband Kevin Simard, a partner at the Boston law firm Riemer & Braunstein, talked it over for several days with their children. With the family’s blessing and with Aman’s agreement that she could keep teaching Civil Procedure, she started the new job this semester.
Simard’s role in the new job is to help develop new academic programs, possibly in conjunction with other institutions in the Boston area and beyond. Those duties set her apart somewhat from the other three associate deans—Bernard Keenan, Marc Perlin, and John Deliso—who have always been more involved in running the school. "This is the first time that there will be an associate dean focusing on new programs, she explains.
Simard recognizes the significance of being the first woman appointed associate dean, but doesn't want to overplay it.
"The notion that this is a first is a bit misleading because of all the strong women who came before me and paved the way for women at Suffolk Law, she says. "It doesn't feel like anything new."
Simard, a New Jersey native who graduated from the University of Delaware in 1986 and from Boston College Law School in 1989, wasn't interested in litigation until she got a federal clerkship. "I'm not a fighter, she says. "I don't want to spend my day fighting with people. But she realized that mastering civil procedure was in a sense a way to win without fighting. "It is more like a chess game," she says.
She had always thought she'd end up as a professor, and after three years at Hale & Dorr in Boston-"I worked with interesting people who taught me some very good habits in terms of practicing law-Simard sent out her résumé. She was courted by law schools in California, New York, and Ohio, but chose Suffolk Law, in part for its locale. "Boston is where I wanted to be, she says.
Simard quickly became one of the school’s most popular instructors, no mean feat for someone teaching civil procedure, with its reputation for eye-glazing dullness. "I mention that to my students on the first day of class, Simard says. "I say, ‘Don’t listen to those people who tell you that civil procedure is dry as dirt.’ Sometimes I think a teacher’s passion for the subject can make a big difference in how much the students enjoy it.
While the students enjoy her, she clearly enjoys them, too. Simard is renowned for her open-door policy, and students often wander in just to talk-and not only about classwork.
"On many occasions, I have had female students come in and ask me about balancing my career with my family, Simard says. "They ask, 'How many kids do you have? How does it work? Is it crazy?'
She tells them yes, sometimes it's crazy, but most of the time it's great. "They like to see a woman have a family and a professional life, Simard says. "They're very encouraged to see it's possible."
by Timothy Harper
ALUMNI PROFILESLance D. Clarke