Our two new faculty members bring experience from different corners of our world —one is originally from Africa, the other from Utah. But as colleagues they share a common goal: to bring their hard-won knowledge to the classrooms of O’Brian Hall, and to move their students along the path to becoming practice-ready attorneys.
Professor Mekonnen Ayano, who grew up in Ethiopia, and Robert Stark, the newest member of our LAWR faculty, join a group of colleagues always ready to share ideas and challenge each other to excellence. The law school welcomes them aboard.
Associate Professor Mekonnen Firew Ayano’s teaching portfolio includes courses in property, immigration and environmental law.
His scholarly investigations are just as wide-ranging. Ayano has researched and written on immigrants’ experiences in low-income housing in Washington, D.C.; land law in his native Ethiopia; and most recently, how lawyers function in the development relationship between China and Africa.
There’s a throughline to his work. He’s motivated, he says, by “the distributive outcome of certain legal rules” or how the law works to improve some people’s lives and fails to work for others.
Ayano comes to Buffalo from the University of Missouri School of Law, where he taught for two years as a visiting assistant professor. Before that, he completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University’s newly established Center for African Studies, examining law and development in African settings. He also taught briefly at Harvard Law, where he earned his SJD—Harvard Law’s most advanced degree—in 2016.
Ayano also brings with him extensive practice experience in transnational law: with the World Bank, as counsel for an East African economic bloc, and as a trial judge in Ethiopia shortly after he completed his undergraduate studies.
“I operate on the hope that just about anyone can learn the deductive format that lawyers often write in,” says Robert Stark, who joins the UB School of Law faculty this fall as a lecturer in the Legal Analysis, Writing and Research (LAWR) program. “I learned the most in law school and in practice from my peers, and from mentors who were well-organized. I would compare understanding the organization of legal writing to those times in grade school where you’re learning a new method of math and all of a sudden one day it clicks.”
Stark, whose J.D. is from Creighton University School of Law in Omaha, cum laude, won awards for legal writing in law school and served on the Creighton Law Review. After clerking in U.S. District Court, he most recently taught at his law school alma mater, including courses on the federal court system and legal research and writing.
But it was while he was in private practice, he says, that he discovered his love for teaching. “As officers of the court we have a certain duty to teach,” he says. “And so many of our civic duties as citizens cross the law or have a foundation in the law. We need to show that we can be relied upon to teach accurate principles.”