Texas Tech University

Nancy Soonpaa

Professor of Law, 2001; Dean Richard B. Amandes Senior Scholar in Legal Practice

Email: nancy.soonpaa@ttu.edu

Phone: (806) 834-2604

Since 2001, Nancy Soonpaa has taught at Texas Tech University School of Law, where she directed (2001-2018) and teaches in the Legal Practice Program; teaches Health Law, Negotiation Workshop, and Family Law; and served as Associate Dean for Student Affairs (2005-07).

Professor Soonpaa began teaching undergraduate writing courses at the University of North Dakota, taught for three years at the University of Puget Sound School of Law, and taught in the Lawyering Program at Albany Law School for six years. Her articles about legal writing often focus on effective pedagogical choices and learning theory and have appeared in several professional journals; she has also published an empirical study on law students and stress and most recently, an article on constructing an effective syllabus for the Journal of Legal Education.

In addition to book chapters on using pop culture to teach law and on integrating experiential learning into law courses, she is one of the editor-authors of the second edition of the ABA's Sourcebook on Legal Writing Programs. She is currently working on a Family Law casebook for Carolina Academic Press's Context & Practice series.

Professor Soonpaa regularly presents at professional conferences, including those of the Association of American Law Schools, the Legal Writing Institute, the Association of Legal Writing Directors, and the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning. In addition, she teaches CLE's and professional training workshops on legal writing.

She coaches Tech's negotiation teams, winning the International Negotiation Competition in 2005 and 2010 and placing third in the nation in 2018; served on the ABA subcommittee that administers the regional and national competitions; and is a Senior Advisor to the Executive Committee of the International Negotiation Competition. She also teaches CLE's and professional training workshops on negotiation skills.

Professor Soonpaa is active in leadership roles in the Association of Legal Writing Directors, the Legal Writing Institute, the Association of American Law Schools, and the Southeastern Association of Law Schools, having served on multiple committees and boards in the past 20 years.  She is a past chair of the AALS Section on Academic Support and a founding member of the AALS Section on Balance in Legal Education. She is also a founder and co-editor of the Legal Writing Prof Blog on the Law Professors Blog Network, lawprofessors.typepad.com/legalwriting.

Professor Soonpaa has received the Texas Tech Alumni Association New Faculty Award and the President's Excellence in Teaching Award; she also has been elected to the Texas Tech University Teaching Academy for demonstrated teaching excellence (limited to 15% of professors campus-wide).  She also served a term on the Teaching Academy's Executive Council.

In addition, under her leadership, the Legal Practice Program received the university-wide Departmental Excellence in Teaching Award in 2010, and USNews regularly ranks the LP Program among the top legal writing programs in the nation, including 16th in the country in 2018.

Photo Description


  • M.A., University of North Dakota, 1990
  • J.D., University of North Dakota, 1987
  • B.A., University of North Dakota, 1983


  • Legal Practice (legal writing and research; client interviewing and counseling; advocacy; alternative dispute resolution)
  • Negotiating
  • Health Law
  • Family Law

Selected Publications and Presentations

“Teaching Through Technology: Technologies and Resources to Enhance the Legal Writing Classroom,” 23(2) The Second Draft 18 (Spring 2009).

“Teaching to Different Learning Styles: The Kinesthetic Learner,” 22(2) The Second Draft (Spring 2008).

“Cultivating a Professional Attitude,” 21(2) The Second Draft (Spring 2006).

“Goals of a First-Year Legal Writing Course,” “Content in First-Year Courses,” and “Pedagogical Methods in First-Year Courses,” chapters in the second edition of Sourcebook on Legal Writing Programs (published by the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar (321 North Clark St., Chicago, 60654-7598; (312) 988-6739)); to be published Summer 2006.

“Pop Culture Prognostication,” in Teaching the Law School Curriculum (Carolina Academic Press 2004).

“Stress in Law Students: A Comparative Study of First-year, Second-year, and Third-year Law Students,” 36 Conn. L. Rev. 353 (2004).

“Whom Are We Teaching? Independent Students Who Defy Categorization,” 18(1) The Second Draft 7 (2003).

“What Are We Teaching Our Students? Competence and Confidence,” 17(2) The Second Draft 1 (2003).

“Fifth Circuit Survey: Civil Rights Cases,” 34 Texas Tech L. Rev. 597 (2003).

“A Retrospective on Three Teaching Experiences and Resultant Ideas About Structuring a Three-Semester Course,” 16(2) The Second Draft 1 (2002).

“Strategies for Enhancing the Status of Legal Research and Writing and of Legal Research and Writing Faculty,” Newsletter, AALS Section on Legal Writing (Spring 2002).

“Five Simple Exercises for Teaching Persuasion,” 16(1) The Second Draft 13 (2001).


“Talking with an Expert in Your Field: A Panel Devoted to Small Group Sessions Pairing an Experienced Teacher and New Teachers in Typical First-Year Law Courses” (discussion group)
August 2014 SEALS, Amelia Island, FL

“Lessons From Our Founding Fathers: The Art of Negotiating as an Inherent Principle in Successful Advocacy” (panel presentation)
June 2014 Legal Writing Institute Biennial Conference, Philadelphia, PA

“Buying Time: How to Cut Teaching Corners Without Sacrificing Learning Quality”
March 2014 Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference, Las Vegas, NV

“Cutting the Apron Strings and Pushing the Baby Bird from the Nest: How Parenting Philosophies Support a Pedagogically Sound Sequence of Developmental Exercises and Structured Assignments”
September 2013 Central States Legal Writing Conference, Lawrence, KS
March 2013 Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference, Boulder, CO

“Creating and Designing an Effective Course or Seminar” (panel presentation)
August 2013 SEALS, Palm Beach, FL

“Doing It Our Way: Dealing with Dissension Within the Ranks”
June 2013 ALWD, Milwaukee, WI

“Comparing Legal Writing Programs–An Insider's Perspective” (discussion group)
August 2012 SEALS, Amelia Island, FL

“Law Students Are Just Big Babies: What First-time Parenting Has Taught Me About Teaching”
June 2012 Institute for Law Teaching and Learning Conference, Spokane, WA
March 2012 Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference, Tempe, AZ

“I'm Not Perfect, I Just Look Like I Am!” ” (co-presenter)
May 2012 Legal Writing Institute Biennial Conference, Palm Desert, CA

“Effective Legal Writing”
February 2012 Lubbock Legal Professionals Association, Lubbock, TX

“Quelling the Inner Perfectionist: How to Manage the Perfectionist Personality in Order to Achieve Work-Life Balance”
August 2011 Western Regional Legal Writing Conference, San Francisco, CA

“When 90% Will Have To Do OR How To Cut Corners Without Cutting Quality: Finding Work-Life Balance By Stilling the Inner Perfectionist”
March 2011 Eleventh Annual Rocky Mountain Conference, Las Vegas, NV

“Writing a Successful Syllabus is a Thoughtful Pedagogical Act” (invited to repeat successful presentation from previous conference)
June 2010 Legal Writing Institute Conference, Marco Island, FL

“Best Intentions, Worst Results: The Rewards and Pitfalls of Using Innovative Teaching Techniques” (invited to repeat successful presentation from previous conference)
June 2010 Institute for Law Teaching and Learning Conference, Topeka, KS
June 2009 Institute for Law Teaching and Learning Conference, Spokane, WA

“Humor: The Spoonful of Sugar That Helps the Law Go Down” (keynote address for inaugural conference)
May 2010 Empire State Legal Writing Conference, Long Island, NY

“Humor: The Spoonful of Sugar That Helps the Law Go Down”
March 2010 Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference, Tucson, AZ

“Laughing Matters: Using Humor in the Legal Writing Classroom” (co-presenter)
December 2009 Colonial Frontier Legal Writing Conference, Duquesne School of Law, Pittsburgh, PA

“Recycling, Reusing, and Repurposing: Using Non-grammar Sources to Make Teaching Grammar Fun”
August 2009 Northwest Regional Legal Writing Conference, Portland, OR

“Assessing Student Performance: The Why, What, and How of Student Assessment”
August 2009 SEALS Conference, West Palm Beach, FL

“The Legal Writing Director as Middle Manager: Stuck in the Middle with You... and You... and You” (co-presenter)
July 2009 Association of Legal Writing Directors Conference, Kansas City, MO

“Writing an Effective Syllabus”
June 2009 AALS New Law Teachers Conference, Washington, D.C.

“Cooking, Creativity, and Learning the Law”
March 2009 Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference, Tempe, AZ

“Effective Writing: The KISS Principle”
September 2008 Third Annual West Texas Bench Bar Conference, Ruidoso, NM

“Law Students and Practitioners: Students Showing What They Know and Practitioners Teaching What They Know” (arranged panel and moderated session) (co-sponsored by the ABA Section on Legal Education's Communication Skills Committee and the Section on Business Law)
August 2008 ABA Annual Meeting, New York City, NY

“Creating an Effective Syllabus”
July 2008 Legal Writing Institute Conference, Indianapolis, IN

“Negotiation Skills: Effective Communication, Active Listening, and Protecting Information”
July 2008 International Negotiation Competition Master Class, London, England

“Metacognition: Helping Students to Think About How They Learn”
March 2008 Rocky Mountain Regional Legal Writing Conference, Salt Lake City, UT

“Negotiation Skills”
“Writing More Effectively”
September 2007 Second Annual West Texas Bench Bar Conference, Ruidoso, NM

“Pedagogical Methods in First-year Courses”
“Wearing Many Hats: What are the Best Practices for Managing Many Jobs?”
June 2007 Association of Legal Writing Directors Biennial Conference, Denver, CO

“Writing an Effective Syllabus”
June 2007 Institute for Law School Teaching Conference, Boston, MA

“Negotiation Skills”
March 2007 State Bar College “Spring Training” Continuing Legal Education, Dallas, TX

“Product Versus Process Approach to Teaching Legal Writing”
March 2007 Conference on the Pedagogy of Legal Writing for East African Legal Academics, Nairobi, Kenya

“Balance in Legal Education: One Year Later” (panelist for the program of the proposed Section on Balance in Legal Education)
January 2007 Association of American Law Schools Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C.