Students taking Linda Rusch’s commercial law courses this fall will find she definitely has a handle on the material: Rusch was closely involved with the revision of the Uniform Commercial Code—the very laws that govern commerce in the United States.
Her notable association with revision of the UCC is just one reason Rusch was selected as the inaugural holder of the Curley Chair for Commercial Law. An endowment from the estate of former Gonzaga faculty member Fred Curley, it is also the School of Law’s first endowed chair. Rusch, currently a professor at Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, will start her new job later this summer.
“If I could pick any commercial law professor in the entire country to come to Gonzaga, it would be Linda,” says Gonzaga Law professor Stephen Sepinuck, who has known Rusch professionally for more than a decade and who recruited her for the post. When Sepinuck reels off Rusch’s accomplishments, it’s easy to see why he’s so enthusiastic.
Between 1996 and 1999, Rusch was the associate reporter for the drafting committee that revised Article 2 of the UCC in what was the code’s first major overhaul since it was promulgated in the 1950s. From 2000 to 2003, Rusch was a co-reporter and a member of the drafting committee that revised UCC Article 7. From 1999 to 2003, she served as chair of the UCC drafting committee for the American Bar Association’s business law section. She remains a member of the Permanent Editorial Board of the UCC.
In addition, she has written, is writing, or plans to write a casebook on virtually every UCC-related subject. “Everybody involved in the UCC revision process knows who [Linda] is and respects her work,” says Sepinuck, who is writing a casebook with Rusch.
For her part, Rusch recalls her years spent revising the UCC as life transforming. “It was a chance to see history being made,” she says. “A lot of the people involved in the original promulgation of the UCC were still alive, and still involved—people who worked with [original code co-author] Karl Llewellyn, and people who were students of the people whose treatises I read as a student. To be involved, and to learn from the originators as well as practitioners from all over the world, was just a remarkable learning experience.” Students who take a course with the affable, quick-witted Rusch can expect a remarkable experience themselves. She says she likes teaching best toward the last third of the semester, when she can get students relaxed enough to actually think. “I don’t mean relaxed in a loosey-goosey, anything goes sort of way,” she explains.
“But relaxed enough that they can kind of let go and be creative and thoughtful and think about how the law is shaped, how it works, and how it helps a client. When I can get students to the point of being creative and thoughtful as well as analytical and logical, that’s when class really cooks. It takes a while to get there. They have to get to know me, and I have to get to know them. At the beginning of a semester, you call on a student and they look like they’re going to have some sort of attack.”
Rusch, whose undergraduate degree is in social work and criminal justice, says she tries to instill in students the “people side” of being a lawyer—something she thinks law schools could improve on. “Students think there’s a master rule book out there—like the Ten Commandments, only bigger—and that the job of law school is to learn the rules,” she says. “But law school is really about learning how to help people solve their problems. I don’t care if it’s GM or Joe Blow down the street. In any situation, a good lawyer is always trying to help people solve their problems in the most efficient way.”
Being at the table for the revision of the nation’s commercial laws is a fair distance from the Iowa farm where Rusch grew up. But she says she’s excited at the opportunity to be “farther west than I am now.” She was keen on accepting the Curley Chair for many reasons. “For one,” she says, “Gonzaga seems to have a student body that’s truly interested in commercial law. I like to have students who are engaged and interested in the subject matter.
Also, Steve Sepinuck and I have known each other a long time, and we work well together. It will be nice to have a commercial law buddy down the hall. Commercial law is one of those areas where you need the cross-fertilization from colleagues to keep you fresh. So between the endowed chair, the student enrollments, and Steve being there, I think we have the possibility for Gonzaga to be a very big commercial law place, and that’s attractive.”
Rush’s two daughters have already come out west: One is already enrolled at the University of Washington, the other starts classes at Willamette University, in Oregon, in the fall. Rusch says that, in addition to getting involved on the GU campus and getting to know the place and its people, she’s looking forward to living in a region where the winters are gentler than in Minnesota. “I want to be able to play golf year-round,” she quips. “Wearing hand- and toe-warmers kind of takes the fun out of it.”