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Mary Claire Davis Finds Teaching Law an Opportunity to Have a Positive Influence in Public Service

Originally from Richwood, West Virginia, Mary Claire Davis, Teaching Associate Professor at the West Virginia University College of Law, admits she didn’t always want to be a lawyer but knew she wanted to stay in her home state and serve its people. 

Davis comes from a family of public servants – her mother and sister have served as West Virginia public school teachers; her father has been a prosecutor, judge, and mayor; and her grandfather was a delegate in the West Virginia Legislature, county sheriff, and public school teacher.

“At the time I applied to law school, I was seeking a new personal and professional challenge,” said Davis. “Law seemed to be a good fit. I enjoyed reading and writing, and I knew you did a lot of both in law school.” However, she quickly realized that earning a law degree would present more ways to carry on her family’s long history and tradition of service.

After earning her J.D. from WVU Law in 2008, Davis served as a judicial law clerk for twelve years, working for three federal judges at both the trial court and appellate court levels.

“These experiences with the federal courts were invaluable. They allowed me to appreciate how judicial decisions are made and what constitutes good advocacy,” she said.

Davis also chairs WVU Law’s Clerkship Committee, which is a program that helps educate and place students in federal and state clerkships. “Law clerk positions allow young lawyers to peek behind the curtain of the legal system and understand how it works. Because law clerks are exposed to a variety of legal issues and practice areas, clerking is also a great way to find out what you want to do with your law degree,” she said.

Davis has also taught in various settings over the years and currently teaches Legal Analysis, Research, and Writing to first-year law students. “I have taught high school students, college students, and now, law students,” said Davis. “I love the magic that can happen in a classroom. Teaching students to think critically, logically, and creatively about a legal problem – and then write about it – is especially rewarding. I can see light bulbs going on all the time, and I begin to envision how my students will make a difference in the world with the skills they have learned in my class.”

So, why teach at WVU Law? Davis said there are many things to love about teaching at the state’s only law school.

 “I love many things about the College of Law: the commitment to service, the thoughtful and accomplished faculty and administration, and the hardworking and generous staff,” she said. “It is also incredible to see the support that the bench and bar provide to the College of Law. But most of all, I love the students. They are tenacious and ambitious, but also kind and humble. They truly care about one another, and that is so refreshing.”

“My favorite moment was seeing my students perform mock oral arguments at the end of the second semester of my legal writing course. This was the first time many of them had participated in a ‘court’ proceeding of any kind, and I was inspired by their hard work and preparation,” Davis explained.

Davis has had a few recent accomplishments herself, including serving on the Fourth Circuit Criminal Justice Act (CJA) and Discretionary Panels.

“In this role, I have had the privilege to represent indigent defendants in criminal and habeas corpus appeals before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit,” she said. “This work provides a unique opportunity to serve the federal courts and help protect the rights of poor and disenfranchised individuals.”

Whether it’s in the classroom or courtroom, Davis is doing exactly what she always wanted to do – “stay in the state and serve the public in a meaningful way.”

“I am happy to be at the College of Law as we continue to move forward,” she said. “I am encouraged by my colleagues’ dedication to the College of Law as an institution, and to our students as individuals.”

Davis is married to Matt Davis, a Jackson Kelly PLLC attorney and former Captain in the U.S. Marine Corps, and they have three sons.

When asked about her favorite quote, she said, “I love the Eleanor Roosevelt quote, ‘You can never really live anyone else's life, not even your child's. The influence you exert is through your own life, and what you've become yourself.’” She explained, “I am mindful of the influence I can exert as a parent, wife, professor, friend, and colleague, and I try every day to ensure that it is a positive influence.”

“My greatest wish for my sons – as well as my students – is that they live a life that excites them, challenges them, and enables them to feel a sense of purpose at the end of the day.”

Learn more about Teaching Associate Professor Mary Claire Davis here.

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