Five Minutes of Fame: UH professor and “People’s Lawyer” honored for service
Law professor Richard Alderman, known as the “People’s Lawyer,” will be one of five faculty members honored for their lifetime of service at the Law Center’s retirement party Thursday.
With a legacy of 42 years at UH, Alderman has taught courses ranging from consumer law to sports law. He began and continues to direct the Center for Consumer Law, a program aimed at educating laypeople about their consumer rights. He also conducts “The People’s Law School,” a free semi-annual program that has attracted more than 55,000 people by giving information on topics like family law, debt collection and employment law. Alderman was recognized city-wide in 1999 when the Houston City Council deemed April 15 as “Richard Alderman Day” for his work in the city.
In addition, Alderman has authored more than 20 books and various law review articles, including publications in countries like South Korea and Mexico. His newspaper column “Know Your Rights!” has been featured in twenty newspapers, including the Houston Chronicle, since 1980.
Leaving behind some big shoes to fill for his award-winning contributions, Alderman, who will retire in January, spoke with The Cougar about his career and his time at UH.
The Cougar: When you were first notified that you would be one of the five faculty members honored and celebrated for your lifetime of service, what was your reaction?
Richard Alderman: I was very pleased that the Law Center chose to honor its retiring faculty.
TC: Is there anyone in particular that has helped you along the way that you hope to give thanks to?
RA: I guess there are three people — Sam Donnelly, the Syracuse Law School professor who encouraged and helped me to get into teaching; John Neibel, the dean at the UH Law Center who hired me and supported me early in my career; and Ray Nimmer, the UH Law Center dean and good friend who gave me the opportunity to get into law school administration.
TC: You show an interest in consumers knowing their rights and knowing the legal trade practices; from where does the interest stem?
RA: I was interested in consumer protection since I took a consumer clinic in Law School. As soon as I started teaching, I realized that for our consumer laws to work, consumers had to be knowledgeable and use the law. I have spent most of my career trying to better educate consumers about the law.
TC: What are some of the things that you’ve done, that you feel have been critical to your success?
RA: I have worked hard, have had all the support I needed and have been very lucky.
TC: Lucky in what way?
RA: I just think I’ve had a fantastic career; I wouldn’t change anything. Things have just fallen into place the way I would like. I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of different things and meet a lot of interesting, influential people.
TC: What is something that you’ve learned from being a professor that you wouldn’t have otherwise learned working in a law firm?
RA: Teaching gives you the time and freedom to research problems and propose solutions without worries about satisfying a client and billing.
TC: In what ways has UH contributed to the success of your career?
RA: Immeasurably! I received the support and encouragement I needed from the Law Center and the University.
TC: When you retire in January, what will you miss most about UH?
RA: I’ll miss teaching and working with students — that’s the most fun of being a professor. I’ll still be the director of the Center of Consumer Law, and I’ll be able to do a lot of the things I’ve been doing, but I’ll miss the day-to-day interaction with students and teaching.