When Alison LaCroix, SHS ‘92, reflects on her years at Shorewood High School, she believes that she “absorbed the values of academic excellence and creativity.” Today, she implements both in her work teaching law at the University of Chicago, and as a nationally recognized scholar of constitutional law and legal history.
LaCroix’s extensive knowledge of Supreme Court history, practices, structure and jurisprudence led President Joe Biden to appoint her to a 2021 bipartisan commission he created to examine potential court reforms. She collaborated with 35 other commissioners over six months to analyze the merits, legality and cases for and against reform proposals, and to detail their findings in an extensive report.
“It was a tremendous honor,” says LaCroix, “[and a] rewarding contribution to public service.”
In her 16 years at U Chicago, LaCroix has taught classes on constitutional law, legal history, civil procedure, law and linguistics, and federal courts.
“The(se) can be really fraught topics where people have strong opinions and demonstrate rigor and analysis, but also humanity and context,” LaCroix says. “It's rewarding to get to bring those things together and teach some really hard material, and help people understand something that is really difficult.”
As an avid participant in extracurriculars during her time at SHS including Ripples, mock trial and drama, LaCroix says these interests make sense in retrospect, given where her career is today. She enjoyed English and civics classes, and was interested in careers involving writing. Law was always an interest, but with no lawyers in her family, LaCroix had no firsthand knowledge of the profession.
After her SHS graduation, LaCroix attended Yale University, earning a bachelor’s degree in history. She recalls how excited she was to discover the wide range of classes Yale offered.
“It was like this bonanza, opening the physical course catalog book and seeing all the English and history classes,” she says. “It felt like it was an exciting feast.”
LaCroix found familiar territory at the Yale Daily News, where she eventually became managing editor. It was a crucial part of her college experience, she says, spending many late nights working there and “keeping my Ripples training alive.”
While LaCroix did consider pursuing journalism, law school proved to be a proper fit. LaCroix continued on to Yale Law School, earning her law degree in 1999. She then joined Debevoise & Plimpton LLP in New York, where she was an attorney for two years. Soon realizing that she missed history, LaCroix went back to school, this time to Harvard University, where she earned her master of arts and her doctorate in history.
LaCroix’s first book, The Ideological Origins of American Federalism, was published in 2010, and tackles the history of American federal thought dating back to its colonial beginnings. Her next book, The Interbellum Constitution: Union, Commerce, and Slavery in the Age of Federalism, comes out in spring 2024.
LaCroix notes that she is a big fan of the musical Hamilton, and draws inspiration from its writer and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda. His quote on creativity — “What is the thing that is not in the world that should be in the world?” — is, for LaCroix, “a helpful lodestar to begin creating something.”