With a collection of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from the New School for Social Research, Duke, Stanford, and Leiden University, Dr Kevin Heller has been a legal practitioner, worked in Hollywood, and taught in the US, New Zealand, and Australia.
On law school
Kevin had not originally intended to attend law school, however he had always been interested in criminal law and legal theory. He says the impetus came from Stanley Fish, an English and Law professor, who called him into the office and told him, “Kevin, if you like law this much, you should go to law school”.
Following law school, Kevin clerked for a judge at the US Court of Appeals in the 9th Circuit, then worked as a criminal defence lawyer for three years in Los Angeles. Although he enjoyed being in court, arguing in front of a judge or jury, he did not enjoy the daily practice of law — especially the early mornings and the suits — and quit legal practice to work as a writer and producer on various prime time TV shows, including The Apprentice.
Kevin says the best part about his time working on TV shows was writing dialogue, and having Sally Field say them on set, thinking “wow, she’s won two Academy awards, and she’s saying my lines’. He describes Sally Field as one of the nicest people he has ever met in the business, and still exchanges emails on their mutual birthday.
After four years of working in Hollywood, he became a lecturer at the University of Georgia, and states that it was “only matter of time before I became a legal academic”. Kevin enjoys both teaching and research, and says that the fun of teaching is the challenge of being able to convey complicated legal concepts into language students will be understand and use.
Most interesting case
Kevin co-ran the defence for the entire pre-trial stage on the Radovan Karadžić case. He thinks that it is “probably the most important trial since World War II, and it was fascinating to work on.”
“To be both vegetarian and a coffee fanatic, this is the best city in the world, and I love footy”
Advice to Students
“My advice to students would be, if they are so inclined, to be entrepreneurial and not assume that the only jobs that they can get with their law degree are the ones that are going to come and knock at their doors because this is a prestigious law school. Law schools exist to funnel people into big firms and there are lots of other things that one should be doing with prestigious law degrees, than working in a big law firm. But it means they have to seek out those opportunities, they won’t necessarily come to them.”