Dr. Lerner, Law

Alan Lerner, practice professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, died October 7, 2010, from complications arising from lymphoma. He was 68.

Born in the Feltonville section of Philadelphia in 1942, Mr. Lerner was a graduate of Central High School before pursuing a BS in economics at the Wharton School. He played baseball while at Penn and graduated in 1962. He received his JD from the Penn Law School in 1965.

His passion for helping others was born out of a summer helping black residents in Mississippi register to vote in 1964, when he was a second year law student. After volunteering with the Law Students’ Civil Rights Research Council, he said he believed that helping people achieve their civil rights was the right thing to do.

An expert in family law, legal ethics, civil rights law, child welfare law and labor and employment law, among others, Professor Lerner joined the Penn Law School faculty in 1993 as an associate practice professor after a 25-year career with the law firm of Cohen, Shapiro, Polisher, Shiekman and Cohen. He was made practice professor in 1999.

Professor Lerner had been the leader of the Law School’s Interdisciplinary Child Advocacy Clinic since 2002. The clinic teaches students in law, social work and medicine to represent the interests of children in child maltreatment, disability, medical assistance and special education cases.

He was also co-director of Penn’s Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice and Research.

In addition, Professor Lerner volunteered his time with the American Civil Liberties Union and served on the board of advisors the Public Interest Law Center in Philadelphia and the Lower Merion School Board.

“With Alan’s passing, abused and neglected children have lost a powerful advocate; the civil rights bar has lost a skilled litigator; generations of law students have lost an amazing mentor; the Phillies have lost an ardent fan; and the entire Penn community has lost an inspirational teacher, scholar and role model,” said clinical director and practice professor of law, Louis Rulli.

Professor Lerner was recognized twice as one the “Best Lawyers in America” and was named a Bellow Scholar in 2007 by the Committee on Lawyering in the Public Interest of the Association of American Law Schools for his research project, “Identifying the Red Flags of Child Neglect to Facilitate Evidence-Based Focused Responses.”

He made many other scholarly contributions to his field and conducted workshops and presentations about clinical teaching theory and methods worldwide, including Argentina, China, Great Britain, Poland, Turkey, and Vietnam.

He is survived by his wife, Adelaide Ferguson; a son, Jason; daughter, Rachael; two brothers and three grandchildren.

Contributions in his memory may be made to the University of Pennsylvania Law Clinic, 3400 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104.