On Monday, Sept. 11, Tillman J. Breckenridge received the 2017-18 St. George Tucker Adjunct Professorship Award during a luncheon in the Great Hall of the Sir Christopher Wren Building.
The annual award recognizes an outstanding member of William & Mary Law School's adjunct faculty for service on behalf of students, and is selected by nomination from the Law School Community.
A partner at Bailey & Glasser LLP in Washington, D.C., Breckenridge also serves as an adjunct professor of law and as managing attorney of the Law School’s Appellate and Supreme Court Clinic.
During the luncheon, Dean Davison M. Douglas recounted how Breckenridge came to his office five years ago wanting to establish an Appellate and Supreme Court Clinic at the Law School. The plan was to provide appellate counsel to individuals with First Amendment [freedom of speech] and Fourth Amendment [search and seizure] issues when they had lost in the district court.
“Tillman had a further plan,” Douglas said. “The students were going to be the ones who find the cases under his supervision, and they would go out and scour the legal reports looking for cases that have been lost by claimants at the Federal District Court level. They would also write the briefs and argue the cases.”
Douglas was sold on whether the clinic would be able to find cases. The result since then has been an extremely successful clinical program.
“In the last four years or so, we’ve had 18 appeals in the US Court of Appeals, 12 of which were granted oral argument, so we’ve had students argue from Richmond to San Francisco—nine different circuits,” Douglas said. “So far we have received 14 decisions; we won half of them, lost five outright, and had two where we lost but really didn’t lose from a legal perspective.”
Born outside Detroit, Breckenridge grew up in Virginia and received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Virginia. After law school, he joined Sidley Austin in Chicago, moved to their Los Angeles office, and eventually returned to Virginia.
Breckenridge’s practice at Bailey & Glasser LLP includes a diverse array of appellate litigation matters at all levels. He has represented companies, organizations, individuals, and foreign, state and local governments before the United States Supreme Court and the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Eleventh, District of Columbia, and Federal Circuits, as well as the Supreme Court of Virginia, the California Courts of Appeal and the Illinois Courts of Appeal.
Additionally, he has been a lecturer at DePaul University on the subjects of Constitutional Civil Liberties and First Amendment law.
After receiving his St. George Tucker Award, Breckenridge said he wanted to teach his students three things.
“Number one, first and foremost, is a sense of professionalism,” he said. “Second, I want them to learn how to write and how to analyze an appeal; third, I want them to learn the power of a lawyer, the power of taking actual cases to the Court of Appeals and impressing upon them that it makes a difference, not just for our clients but for thousands and sometimes millions of people.”
Not surprisingly, Breckenridge’s students appreciate his commitment to their education.
“This course was one of the most important courses in my legal education,” one student wrote in a course evaluation. “Not only did I gain substantive legal knowledge from the cases that I worked on, but I gained considerable practical and professional experience that will help prepare me to be a much better lawyer.”
Another student wrote, “My legal writing and analytical skills have grown exponentially because of my experience in his clinic.” And a third student said, “Professor Breckenridge is so great at teaching writing, he uses examples really well, and he’s also a great teacher of professionalism. He’s very passionate about the clinic.”
Douglas praised Breckenridge for maintaining a busy schedule and still taking time for students.
“He has an incredibly busy practice, his office is in Washington, D.C., his home is in Richmond, and his work as an adjunct is here in Williamsburg,” Douglas said. “He wants students not just to be good lawyers, but good professionals.”
St. George Tucker (1752-1827), the second professor of law at William & Mary, succeeded George Wythe on the faculty and was a pioneer in legal education. He drafted a formal description of the requirements for a law degree at the College, which included an exacting schedule of qualifying examinations in subjects such as history and government. Tucker’s course material was published in 1803 as the first American edition of Blackstone’s Commentaries. For much of the early 19th century, this volume was considered the leading authority on American law. Tucker was also a distinguished judge, serving on both the state and federal benches for more than 30 years.
Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America's oldest law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.