Kristin Gerdy is a teaching professor and director of the Rex E. Lee Advocacy Program at the J. Reuben Clark Law School. She teaches courses in Legal Research and Writing Pedagogy, Learning Theory and Appellate Advocacy and Process. Until this semester, she has also regularly taught classes in Church history and doctrine.
Your specialty is in legal communication and rhetoric. Did you always want to teach law?
No, I didn’t. I was a journalism major and an English minor. My aspirations were the actually the Washington Press Corps. I’ve always been a political junkie, and I love that kind of thing. So I got drawn to law school. And in law school, I was a legal writing TA, and I was on the court team, and did the new court training as a third-year student for the first-year students and realized I really liked that but didn’t know there was an opportunity to actually focus on that. I kind of just fell into it, so I was able to take my love of writing and things from journalism and from English and meld them with my love and passion for the law and be able to do both. And I really enjoy that. No Washington Press Corps, but I still get to think about those kinds of things.
You have also taught religion classes in the past. How did you balance law and religion classes?
I actually started teaching religion back when I was in law school as a third-year law student and then have taught pretty much ever since. The way I explain the religion thing is, it’s my dessert. The law school stuff is my main job; it’s what I do as my job. I love it; it’s fantastic. You know, you really love your meal, but what’s the thing that makes it extra special? Well, it’s that extra piece of cheesecake or that really yummy brownie, and that’s what teaching religion was for me. It was an opportunity to get out of my normal academic zone and interact with undergraduate students and also to be able to talk about the gospel. The class that I taught for most of those years was teachings of the living prophets, which is such a great class because it’s different every semester. … It was the thing that I always did on top of everything, so as far as balancing, it was really the cherry on top that balanced everything.
How did your expertise in law and in religion contribute to each other?
I think it was more that my expertise in what the living prophets have been teaching has informed my law teaching more than the other way around. Here at (the) BYU Law school, as it is everywhere at BYU, we want to teach an academic subject in the light of God’s revealed word. One of the things that was said at the founding of this law school was that we should teach the laws of man in the light of the laws of God. So being aware of what the prophets have taught currently about issues, even if it’s something like not taking offense. … Being able to take those things and the teachings from the prophets and to help the students understand that their practice of law needs to be consistent with what they know about the way they should be living and interacting with one another. As far as law impacting religion, I may have had a few additional insights into our apostles and being able to point out a few little silly things … but the bigger impact, the more important impact, has been the religion coming in to the law classroom.
You are a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which I’m sure is time consuming. How do you balance everything?
You’ve seen object lesson they always do in seminary with the rocks and the sand. You just have to make it all fit and prioritize. Sometimes choir gets really, really busy. Fortunately, with the way the law school’s academic schedule is set up, we don’t have classes in the summer. So when we go on tour for a week and a half, I’m not missing classes because we’re not in class. I’m working on research, but I can work out my schedule. I’ve been able to schedule my teaching so that I’m always done by four o’clock on Thursday, so that if we have an early call time, I can be there. … But there are works that we’re doing recording and things and we’re up there every night until 10:30, and it makes for a long day. But just like anything else you want to do, you make it work. And it’s a calling, so the Lord blesses us in finding ways to make it work out.
If you could have your students leave with one piece of advice, what would it be?
It would be to find your balance. Our students are so focused on their career and what they’re going to do and how much money they’re going to make. Think about what President Uchtdorf said this past Conference about the regrets people have: they’re never about their work. So, find the balance. Find the balance as a student. Find the balance in your life. One of the things with our law students is they feel like they need to study every minute of the day. They go, ‘Oh, I can’t read the new book I want to read or see that new movie. I’ll have to do that after I graduate or during the summer.’ You just can’t live your life like that. You need to find the balance that works for you and put priorities on the most important things. … You need to keep doing the things that make you happy and not put off being happy until you reach some sort of milestone, whether it’s graduation or your first job or whatever it is. Be happy now. Find joy in the process and find a way to balance things and be happy at every step through your education and after your education and not feel like everything is drudgery and you have to get through it before you can do everything else you want to.