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What makes a legacy? Meet the Levins

Lisa Ashmore |
Ryan Levin 24L, Ian Levin 92L

In 1989, Ian Levin 92L arrived at Emory Law as a 1L from New York. The world was shifting under waves of unrest and protest as the Berlin Wall fell and students defied tanks in Tiananmen Square.

Over 30 years later, Ian’s son, Ryan Levin 19C 24L, arrived at Emory Law after earning a master’s in public policy at George Washington University. His 1L year was also marked by global headwinds as the world slowly recovered from a full-blown pandemic. Masked but back on campus, the Class of 2024 started with over 300 students and had the strongest academic credentials in the law school’s recent history.

Ian Levin is a partner at Schulte Roth & Zabel in New York City. On May 12, he was on the speaker dais to watch his son graduate, and to charge the Class of 2024 in his role as chair of Emory Law’s Advisory Board. Ryan, Emory Law’s Student Bar Association president, received the “Most Outstanding 3L Student Award.” Before accepting the award, Ryan paused a moment and held up his phone, but not for a selfie—characteristically, he turned away from the podium to capture his classmates as a group one last time.

Despite the decades between them, Ryan says he and his dad are a lot alike.

“Whether either of us like it or not, we are very similar. We are both hardworking, tenacious, and like to get involved. We don’t stop when the job is finished, we always think there is something more that can be done,” Ryan said. “We’re huge weather nerds, huge Marvel fans, and we have the same sense of humor. We have way too many inside jokes that literally only we think are funny.”

“When I told my dad I was thinking of declaring as a political science/economics double major, he looked at me and said, ‘How many times have I told you over your life not to go to law school!’ Ryan said. “He was half-joking but the other half was in an ‘oh God, he’s too much like me’ tone. And while I took some detours along the way, I never looked back.”

Ian’s devotion to Emory started when he met his wife, Lisa, here when she was a Goizueta MBA student. His surprise proposal happened in the penthouse tower of graduate student housing three years after they met in the lobby. Two of their sons have earned Emory degrees and while the third has not, his middle name is Emory –-something Ian said he’d been negotiating for since Ryan was born.

Father and son both thrived on campus and put in considerable work to achieve their ideals. Ian is former chair of Emory Law’s Center for Transactional Law and Practice Board and strongly believes in its worth. This spring, he taught a weekly course there (Doing Deals: Employee Compensation & Benefits, full/waitlisted). Since his practice is in New York, it’s a tricky and time-consuming commute.

“A lot of alumni and attorneys say, ‘Gee, the Atlanta commute is just so difficult. I can't possibly cross town during rush hour to get to the law school to teach in the evening or any point during the day,” Ian said. “So, I like teaching and I decided to serve as an example—if I could make it every week from New York to Atlanta, and teach on Monday morning, from 10:30 to 1:30, every single week for the spring, then certainly someone could get in a car and cross town and teach.”

“I love it,” he said. “I can mentor, I can give students a real live view of the practice of law,” he said. “And I think that they're better prepared for beginning their careers after taking my class.”

Ryan’s resume shows an enviable range of experiences.

“I've always been very, very interested in policy,” he said. “I got a master's in public policy before I came to law school and that fascination with the academia side of things, as well as being able to combine political science and economics and actually help people… that's really what sent me down this path to law school.”

He spent a semester doing research for Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Law and Commodities Futures Trading Commission Commissioner Kristin Johnson. He was an SEC Scholars legal intern, and this spring, externed at Coca-Cola. As executive editor of the Emory Bankruptcy Developments Journal, his comment won the Keith J. Shapiro Corporate Bankruptcy Writing Award (with guidance from Associate Professor George S. Georgiev, he’s quick to add).

“I’m extremely proud of that because it just shows how much my writing has improved since undergrad and is a pure academic accomplishment,” Ryan said.

But leading a large, sharp, and opinionated student body as SBA president provided another kind of education. He started as a 1L representative.

“Over the past three years, my focus has been on helping students as much as possible and doing what I can to make sure administration, faculty, and staff do the same,” Ryan said. “I've wanted to bring a culture back to the school where everyone's got each other's back, everyone's happy, everyone's doing something to promote the school. And I think that's the legacy that I want.

“I’m proud to have helped change the SBA into what we need and want it to be: the prime advocate for students,” he said.

Ian added: “When I became chair of the advisory board, I wanted to break the mold and be a much more active, energetic, and involved chair. And you've done the same through the SBA and left behind a precedent that hopefully others will follow and be as actively involved as you've been.”

Back in 1989, Ian had Dean-designate Richard Freer for Civil Procedure. “I have no greater memories than my memories from my first year of law school with Professor Freer,” Ian said. “Really, there's no other person on this planet who has relationships with as many generations of Emory Law School graduates as Professor Freer, and I think that he's already, and he will, generate excitement that will really invigorate the alumni base and draw the community closer together.”

This spring’s commute allowed time to think about the future. He and Lisa have decided to retire in Atlanta, which suits his son fine.

“My short-term goals are to stay in Atlanta,” Ryan said. “My partner lives down here, my middle brother is here, my partner’s sister is here, my family is moving down here, my friends are here. And while I grew up in New York, the vast majority of my adult life has been in Atlanta and I love it here. I’m just excited for what’s to come next.”