Meet the Professor: Alan Trammell
Associate Professor of Law Alan Trammell joined W&L Law in 2020. He teaches and writes primarily in the fields of civil procedure, federal courts and conflict of laws. He is recognized as one of the leading authorities on nationwide injunctions.
Trammell earned his J.D. from the University of Virginia, where he was a Hardy Cross Dillard Scholar and served as articles development editor of the Virginia Law Review. After graduation, he clerked for the Hon. Stephen F. Williams of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and the Hon. Theodor Meron of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague (Netherlands). He then spent three years as a litigation associate at the firm now known as Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick PLLC in Washington, D.C.
He received a bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest University and master’s degrees from the London School of Economics & Political Science and Oxford University, where he studied as a Marshall Scholar.
What is your favorite class to teach?
Probably Civil Procedure because there is something magical about working with students during their very first semester of law school. “Magical” probably isn’t the word that they would use to describe those initial mind-bending weeks. But the intellectual transformation that you see in students over just a few short months is astounding, particularly as they glimpse what I call the superstructure of the law. I find this especially gratifying in a course that most students experience, at least initially, as the least intuitive of their classes.
How did you develop your interest/expertise in nationwide injunctions?
Whatever else you want to say about the Trump administration, it made the study of federal court jurisdiction surprisingly salient. Before 2017, federal courts occasionally had issued sweeping injunctions that prevented a president from enforcing a policy anywhere or against anyone. Almost immediately after President Trump’s inauguration, though, a flurry of lawsuits challenged all manner of his policies (such as the controversial travel ban), and courts began issuing these injunctions at an unprecedented rate. Not surprisingly, academics started chiming in. A few of them made what I thought were profoundly incorrect statements about federal courts’ power, and, at first, I intended to write a short essay about those narrow points. As I started writing, though, I realized that figuring out when (if ever) these injunctions are appropriate required me to draw on various strands of my earlier scholarship and to think even more deeply about federal judicial power. What started out as a short essay ended up dominating my scholarly attention for nearly two years.
I’ll add as a personal aside that I received an invitation to present my work at a symposium on nationwide injunctions at the University of Colorado, where I wound up on a panel with Doug Rendleman. After the symposium, a small group of us went on a short hike together just outside of Boulder, and that’s when I really became acquainted with Doug and his wife, Carol. So it’s serendipitous and humbling to have been hired to fill the vacancy that Doug’s retirement created, even if no one can truly fill his shoes.
What are your impressions of teaching at W&L Law thus far?
Everyone mentions the unparalleled sense of community that W&L cultivates. The pandemic has undermined many of the outward trappings of that community (meals, flag football games, more meals, etc.). As I told my students at the end of the semester, though, the challenges of the moment seemed to bring out the very best in them — their empathy, kindness and intellectual engagement. So even though we didn’t have the chance to interact in the normal ways, I have a very good sense of what defines the W&L community, and I’m enthusiastic about what the future holds in store here.
It also helps that this is a homecoming of sorts for me. I grew up in the Richmond area and attended law school at U.Va. So this corner of the world has always been very special to me.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I’m an avid runner and cyclist, so my proximity to the Chessie Trail has been an enormous joy. Several years ago, I rediscovered the joy of traveling like I did in college — with just a pack on my back. In 2016, I spent three transformative months backpacking through Thailand, Vietnam, New Zealand and Australia. And during the summer of 2019, I traveled abroad with students for the first time — to St. Petersburg and Moscow. Not infrequently these days, I find myself daydreaming about my first post-pandemic adventure.