While pursuing a law degree as an undergraduate at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, Adrienne Stone knew one thing for certain: She was not going to become a professor. The daughter and granddaughter of law professors, she had a keen interest in the courts - a vision of herself in the black gown and wig of an Australian barrister.
With a clerkship in the High Court of Australia and preparatory work as a solicitor, she seemed to be on her way. But the lack of time and opportunity to pursue interesting legal ideas in any depth began to draw her toward academia. After arriving at Columbia as an associate-in-law in the graduate program, she finally faced the inevitable.
"I gave up and faced the fact that I loved teaching and writing," she says from her office at Australia's National Law School. "I think education and research are incredibly important, and the program at Columbia was a wonderful way to start an academic career. I taught in the Legal Research and Writing course, wrote, and audited classes by amazing professors. It was obviously important in helping me get my job here, but even more important in terms of the intellectual development in my career."
With primary interests in constitutional law and freedom of speech, Prof. Stone now has the time she once lacked for in-depth study. Having arrived at Columbia just after the High Court of Australia began developing a constitutional law of freedom of speech, she found the United States an ideal place to further explore her areas of expertise. (Prof. Stone returned to Columbia last spring as a visiting scholar in order to finish her J.S.D. dissertation.)
Because students in Australia begin law school as undergraduates, Prof. Stone's first-year students are 18 years old. Discovering law at the same time they are discovering so much about the world generates real excitement in their attitude toward learning.
"Scholarship is actually quite a lonely enterprise," she says, "and teaching, though constantly demanding and rewarding, counterbalances it well."
"Australian students are slightly more relaxed than American students, in part, I think, because they have much smaller debt awaiting them upon graduation. They are definitely quieter in class which I like sometimes, but I do miss the robustness of debate in a Columbia classroom."