Professor, Alumna Co-Author "The Federalist Society"
All too often, the student-professor relationship ends a few minutes after the final class. But Suffolk Law is not most schools, and Danielle McLaughlin JD'09 is not most students.
In fact, she is the co-author of a new book, The Federalist Society: How Conservatives Took the Law Back from Liberals, with Suffolk Law professor Michael Avery.
The book takes a look at The Federalist Society, an influential conservative group that wields significant power not only in the justice department and the White House, but in academia as well.
Professor Avery says that he got the idea for this book a little over five years ago, when he realized how powerful the Federalist Society had become and how little had been written about them.
"These are lawyers who have a great deal of influence," Avery says. "As a matter of fact, every single federal judge that was appointed by George H.W. Bush or George W. Bush was either a member of the Federalist Society or was approved by the Federalist Society."
The group has been the subject of various academic studies and articles, and political scientist Steven Teles wrote about the power of Federalist Society networks in his 2008 book The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement. But McLaughlin and Avery's book is the first to focus exclusively on this organization, taking a look at the society from its origins to the present day.
"What we were able to do is take some of the existing studies – some of the existing commentary – and tell a narrative. And tell it in a way that it hadn't been told before," McLaughlin says.
McLaughlin, who graduated cum laude in 2009 and now works for Nixon Peabody LLP, first began working on the book as a research assistant.
"Michael had this idea for a book, and he basically asked me to go out and look at various ideas for chapters," McLaughlin says. "I was almost like a journalist – looking into the group, looking into their members, and determining if there was information here that might be woven together to tell a compelling story."
Avery says it quickly became clear that McLaughlin's dedication to the project went beyond that of a research assistant.
"She worked on it one semester, and then she worked on it again the next semester," Avery says. "By then she had done so much work on the book that I said, 'Why don't we just co-author this thing?'"
McLaughlin and Avery worked together on the book's introduction – which talks about the backers of the Federalist Society and how it originated in the 1980s – but split up the chapters equally and tackled those separately. However, while they may have worked individually on each chapter, the two would exchange anywhere between 20 and 30 drafts of every one.
"We divided up the topics between us, but then we spent a lot of time sending drafts of our writing back and forth, reviewing each other's work, and talking about what we really wanted to say," Avery says.
Both authors feel that this writing method was extremely effective, especially since each chapter deals with a different substantive area of law.
"I think we worked really well together," McLaughlin says. "It was really an easy collaboration."
Whether or not they collaborate on another project in the future, McLaughlin says we'll certainly see more from each of them.
"I know Michael has an idea for his next book, but I'm not there quite yet," she says with a smile. "This was my first book, but it's definitely not my last."
The Federalist Society is available now from Vanderbilt University Press.