Professor Cary Bricker retires after extraordinary 34-year teaching career

A female teacher talks to three students in a courtroom

Noël Ferris Professor of Trial Skills Cary Bricker taught at McGeorge School of Law for 17 years before her retirement in May 2022.

After a storied 34-year teaching career, Professor Cary Bricker retired at the end of the spring semester.

Bricker, who taught at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law for 17 years, has received many accolades for her great skill as a teacher, including: being named the inaugural Noël Ferris Professor of Trial Skills, serving as the Co-Director of the Center for Advocacy and Dispute Resolution, and being honored as one of the “best law teachers” in the United States, according to the book “What the Best Law Teachers Do,” which was published by Harvard University Press in 2013 and co-authored by Dean Michael Hunter Schwartz. Bricker also was recognized by McGeorge students as the law school’s Professor of the Year in 2005, 2011, 2016, 2019, and 2022.

To her students, Bricker has been so much more than just an exceptional professor.

Taylor Arthur, ’22, describes Bricker as, “every student’s cheerleader, advocate, friend, and advisor.” Third-year law student Jen Barbanica reflected that Bricker, “sees the best in her students as well as their potential in this world as future attorneys.”

Bricker, together with her husband and colleague Jay Leach, was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Teaching Advocacy from the Educating Advocacy Teachers Conference this spring. The award is presented to individuals who have demonstrated a distinct commitment and dedication to improving teaching methodology, advancing the standard of excellence, and fundamentally changing advocacy teaching methodologies. 

Together, the couple has run one of the most successful trial advocacy programs in the country. U.S. News & World Report ranked the school’s trial advocacy program No. 16 in the nation in its 2022 Best Graduate Schools guide. The program is also one of only 11 in the country to receive an A+ rating from preLaw Magazine in 2022.

After a remarkable teaching career, mentoring thousands of trial attorneys, and co-directing the school’s award-winning trial advocacy program, Bricker is ready for retirement.

Bricker earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Rochester and a JD from Boston University School of Law. She began her legal career as a staff attorney with the New York Legal Aid Society, Criminal Division.

Bricker brought a wealth of personal experience to her classroom from her time spent at the New York Legal Aid Society and the New York Federal Defender’s Office. At the latter, she worked as a senior staff attorney for 12 years defending clients in hundreds of pretrial and sentencing hearings and in over 20 federal jury trials.

Prior to teaching at McGeorge School of Law, Bricker taught trial advocacy in a number of forums: she served as faculty for a decade at the New York State Defenders Trial Institute’s summer program and as an adjunct professor at Fordham University School of Law. She also served as the director of trial advocacy at Temple University Beasley School of Law for three years before making the move to California.

The occasional “war stories” that Bricker shared with students during class and office hours are the stuff of mystery novels — everything from the interstate transportation of stolen jewelry where a gambling addiction was the alleged motive, to the impersonation of a Federal Marshall in the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Her breadth of practice experience was invaluable to her students.

“I came to teach at McGeorge because it was literally the best job in the world ever for my skill set,” Bricker commented.

A standing woman talks to three seated students

Professor Cary Bricker received many accolades for her great skill as a teacher. Many former students fondly recall Bricker’s ability to connect with them on a personal level.

Bricker describes the energy at McGeorge School of Law as “unparalleled.”

“I loved the students at McGeorge from the first minute that I got here. It is an extraordinary group of students who wear their hearts on their sleeves, take risks while leaving their egos at the door, are tenacious, and really smart. And then they get out there and make a real difference in the world,” Bricker said.

While at McGeorge, Bricker taught Criminal Law, Trial Advocacy, Advanced Trial Advocacy, Mock Trial Evidence, Criminal Pretrial Litigation, the Federal Defender Seminar and Clinic, the Legal Profession, and the Art of Plea Bargaining. She has also been the faculty advisor to the Trial Advocacy Association, Criminal Law Society, and Public Legal Services Society groups on campus in addition to serving as the co-director of the Center for Advocacy and Dispute Resolution with Professor Ed Telfeyan.

Through her leadership and coaching, McGeorge School of Law’s mock trial teams have competed and won at prestigious intercollegiate regional, national, and international competitions. Bricker and her students have earned the law school a national reputation for the quality of its advocacy program.

Arthur, who is the outgoing president of the Trial Advocacy Association and an alumna of the mock trial team, made sure to take every class Bricker taught.

“Her Criminal Law class solidified my decision to become a defense attorney,” Arthur said. “Her Trial Advocacy course taught me the intricacies of trial that being on the mock trial team did not. Her Advanced Trial Advocacy course expanded my creativity and boosted my confidence and self-esteem. Her Plea Bargaining course taught me the persuasive techniques that work for me and my personality type outside of trial, so I still get an outcome I want and that’s best for my clients.”

Outside of teaching at McGeorge, Bricker is a highly sought-after instructor with the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA) Foundation, teaching at law firms and public programs around the country in addition to serving as program director for several deposition and trial programs with the Legal Aid Association of California. NITA also sent Bricker and her colleagues to Belfast, Ireland to train solicitors and barristers as well as to Tokyo to work with attorneys and judges. Over the last 17 years, she has also trained law professors how to teach Trial Advocacy to their students in China, through a McGeorge/USAID program, and in Russia, through the U.S. Russia Foundation. Lastly, she and two McGeorge colleagues taught client interviewing and counseling to public defenders in Santiago, Chile.

When former students reflect on their time in Bricker’s classes, a common theme in their experiences is Bricker’s remarkable ability to connect with them on a personal level.

Third-year law student Hannah Cho remembers the support Bricker gave her after feeling overwhelmed during her first few months on the mock trial team.

“When I shared some of my worries, Professor Bricker kindly listened and reminded me of my strengths and capabilities,” Cho recalled. “She told me that while I may be feeling nervous now, my strong work ethic and desire to further develop my advocacy skills will help shape me into a successful future attorney. I am thankful that she saw the potential in me that I had temporarily lost sight of.”

Those who have learned from Bricker will admittedly miss her. Barbanica, the incoming president of the school’s Trial Advocacy Association, recalled the dread she felt on Bricker’s last day of teaching.

“Immediately after her last class celebration, I walked out of the courtroom and was teary-eyed, knowing I would never experience another one of her classes. Professor Bricker has not only ignited a love for trial work that at the beginning of law school, I didn’t know I had, but has taught me so much that I know I will use in my future work as a trial attorney,” Barbanica said.

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