Professor Kristen David Adams, Esq. began her term as GLS Board President in January of 2020. Kristen is originally from Atlanta, the daughter of a retired Methodist minister and middle school English teacher. Kristen’s father, the minister, also ran a counseling service. Her mother was a scholar and writer of poetry. Kristen is also a scholar and has been from a very young age. When asked which subjects she liked the most during childhood, she struggles to pinpoint one particular class. She enjoyed them all, but was most readily drawn to English, poetry, art history, and math and science.
She tried to be athletic, playing soccer and running cross-country, but “I wasn’t terribly good at either,” she says. What she did do a lot of was journaling. She liked keeping a diary and has written faithfully for most of her life. One of her favorite books growing up was Harriet the Spy, about a young girl with a very active imagination and penchant for notetaking. Kristen loved reading about someone who had a whole wonderful life outlined in her journal, just like she did.
During high school, Kristen was sure she was going to be a reconstructive plastic surgeon. Her big dream was to invent a prosthetic spinal cord for spinal injury survivors. She loved math and science and one of her first real jobs was as an operating room transporter. Unfortunately, her fainting disorder made life as a doctor a little risky.
Still, she remained pre-med up until her first week of college at Rice University in Houston, Texas. That’s when she started talking to her roommate who was studying political science and economics. The more Kristen reviewed the subject matter, the more it fascinated her. She switched majors and fell in love with the classes. Her favorite was a Western European political science class that she took while the Iron Curtain was coming down. Her professor was constantly rewriting lectures, teaching history as it happened. It was so exciting to get to be in that class at that moment.
Kristen graduated from Rice cum laude with a degree in political science, having attended on multiple merit scholarships. Then she was admitted to Emory University School of Law on a merit scholarship once again. After graduating fifth in her class, she began working at a large national firm, but later moved to a mid-sized firm with a much smaller litigation law group. They were a tiny group with only two partners and four associates, including Kristen. (Fun fact: three of the four associates were all named Kristen!) Kristen says everyone there provided great mentorship to her and that it was the best experience she could’ve had practicing law. The large national firm also “loaned” her to a legal aid organization on a five-month fellowship so she could do housing defense work. The experience made a huge impact on her and she found herself desiring more practice in public interest and homeless advocacy work.
After that, Kristen decided to get her LL.M. from Yale Law School, where she focused on legal philosophy, inspired by her work at the legal aid, her former professors, and the political science classes from her undergraduate days. Teaching law would enable her to combine all her interests. She was so excited to find a position at Stetson College of Law, where she immediately fell in love with the school and the commitment of the faculty.
She started out teaching contracts and commercial law, but over time, although she still teaches commercial law, contract law has shifted to property law, which has given her an opportunity to explore social justice issues, such as the homeless advocacy project she created for students. The project gives students hands-on learning experience working with the homeless population through a structured externship. GLS advocate Pam Dubrule was the first to partner with Kristen on the project.
While the homeless advocacy project has flourished, Kristen has also gotten the opportunity to weave her love for poetry into her teaching. She created two classes to teach at Stetson University in Deland: The Law as Memory: Legality, Morality, and Poetry, and The Law as Reflected through Poetry. The classes draw students from all backgrounds and interests. The smaller course size allows the students to learn more about themselves and each other. She now also teaches a law and poetry seminar, Law through the Lens of Poetry, in Gulfport.
“Reading poetry is a good way to connect to the human experience of law.”
One of the poems she teaches is W.H. Auden’s Law like Love, which compares the practice of law to the way we love. It is undefinable, unmeasurable and esoteric in many ways.
Like love we don’t know where or why,
Like love we can’t compel or fly,
Like love we often weep,
Like love we seldom keep.
On top of teaching, Kristen stays busy chairing committees at Stetson and has written several books and over a dozen law review articles. She is currently working on a poetry anthology titled Better Angels of Our Nature, which is something she started working on in honor of her mother, who instilled her love for literature and poetry.
When Kristen was approached to join the GLS board, she jumped at the opportunity. “It is an organization I have admired ever since I arrived in St. Petersburg.” She describes joining the board as one of her proudest professional moments. When asked about her hopes for GLS in the future, she says that her biggest dream for GLS has been accomplished throughout the last three years.
“One of the extraordinary things that has happened under Tammy’s (the Executive Director) leadership and the team is that GLS has been able to ensure its financial future in ways a lot of organizations have not. I will never take that for granted.”
Her advice to staff now? “Dream big.” She hopes that GLS will expand into impact litigation and consider taking on the projects that seem or used to seem out of reach.
Kristen, thank you so much for leading the GLS board with such passion, commitment, and thoughtfulness. We are so excited to see what the next two years of your term will bring!