Theodore M. Shaw is the Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Civil Rights at the University of North Carolina School of Law at Chapel Hill. From 2008-2014 Professor Shaw taught at Columbia University Law School, where he was Professor of Professional Practice. During that time he was also “Of Counsel” to the law firm of Norton Rose Fulbright (formerly Fulbright & Jaworski, LLP). His practice involved civil litigation and representation of institutional clients on matters concerning diversity and civil rights.
He is the former Director-Counsel and President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), the nation's premier civil rights law firm. Shaw joined LDF in 1982. He directed LDF's education docket and litigated school desegregation, capital punishment, and other civil rights cases throughout the country. In 1987, he established LDF's Western Regional Office in Los Angeles, and served as its Western Regional Counsel. In 1990, he left LDF to join the faculty of the University of Michigan Law School, where he taught constitutional law, civil procedure, and civil rights. In 1993, on a leave of absence from Michigan, he rejoined LDF as Associate Director-Counsel. He was named LDF’s fifth Director-Counsel in 1994.
Shaw was lead counsel in a coalition that represented African-American and Latino student-intervenors in the University of Michigan undergraduate affirmative action admissions case. In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court heard that case, along with one challenging the use of affirmative action at the University of Michigan Law School. The Court ruled in favor of diversity as a compelling state interest.
Shaw graduated from Wesleyan University with honors and from the Columbia University School of Law, where he was a Charles Evans Hughes Fellow. Upon graduation, Shaw worked as a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice from 1979 until 1982 in Washington, D.C. He litigated civil rights cases throughout the country at the trial and appellate levels, and in the U.S. Supreme Court. Shaw resigned from the Justice Department in protest of the Reagan Administration's civil rights policies.
Shaw has testified before Congress and before state legislatures on numerous occasions. He has been a frequent guest on television and radio programs, and has published numerous newspaper, magazine and law review articles. He also has traveled and lectured extensively on civil rights and human rights in Europe, South Africa, South America, and Japan. He currently serves on the Legal Advisory Network of the European Roma Rights Council, based in Budapest, Hungary.
The National Bar Association Young Lawyers Division recently presented Shaw with the A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. Memorial Award. He also received the Lawrence A. Wein Prize for Social Justice from Columbia University. Further, he was awarded the Baldwin Medal, the highest honor given by the Wesleyan University alumni body, for extraordinary service to the University and the public interest. He served on the Wesleyan Board of Trustees for 15 years, and was Senior Vice Chair of the Board when he retired from the board in June 2003.
Shaw is a member of the bar in New York and in California, and is admitted to practice before the U.S. District Courts for the Central and Northern Districts of California, the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Circuits, and the United States Supreme Court. He is an adjunct professor of law at Columbia Law School, and the second appointee to the Phyllis Beck Chair at Temple Law School, which he held during the 2003 spring semester. He was the second recipient of the Haywood Burns Chair in Civil Rights at CUNY School of Law, which he held for the 1997–1998 academic year.