Even before Deborah Johnson decided to accept the position of Law Professor with the University of Maine School of Law, she already felt a strong connection to the school.
Out of college, Johnson worked for an insurance company handling hazardous waste and asbestos claims. The position allowed her to deepen a long-held interest in the practice of law, and she became specifically interested in aspects of liability and coverage law. After several years working with this agency, Johnson decided to attend Northeastern University School of Law. Johnson found the problem-solving and intellectual rigor law school demands a welcome challenge.
“I loved law school,” Johnson reflected. “I know not everyone says that, but I really did. I felt drawn to the intellectual challenges and I loved being in the classroom, tackling so many different issues from a variety of angles.”
After receiving her J.D., Johnson worked for several years as an insurance coverage lawyer in Boston. She moved between work in corporate and nonprofit sectors for over a decade, feeling drawn to the challenges and the missions, respectively. When an opportunity in higher education presented itself, however, Johnson pivoted.
Beginning in 2011, Johnson spent eight years as Director of Diversity and Outreach and Adjunct Professor with Roger Williams University School of Law, which is where Johnson’s Maine Law connection began.
Academia was a new landscape for Johnson, and she wanted to ensure she served her students well. She reached out for support to others in the academic community, which is how she connected with Maine Law Sumner T. Bernstein Professor of Law Jennifer Wriggins.
“The first time we spoke, Jenny spent three hours on the phone with me,” Johnson said. “During my first year of teaching she gave me so much support. So, when I was interviewing at Maine Law and they asked me what they have that other law schools don’t, the answer was easy: Jenny Wriggins.”
She said Wriggins seems emblematic of the Maine Law community, supportive, eager to engage intellectually, and energetic. Johnson is looking forward to working with Wriggins, who currently co-chairs the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, and others on these issues. Johnson will teach business associations, insurance law, and a cyber-insurance seminar during her first year at Maine Law. She is also excited to further develop her scholarship.
Heavily influenced by her former career, Johnson’s scholarship examines contract language and the influence that can have on insurance claims. She is also wading into the rambunctious waters of cybersecurity, examining how the insurance industry should respond to changes in the fast-moving world of tech. Maine Law’s information privacy law program was another big draw for Johnson.
“Cybersecurity is so key to the future of so many industries and in some ways the insurance companies are behind in responding to technological advances,” she added. “Insurers have a major role to play in cybersecurity, not just in providing insurance but also as educators of the public. I want to look at how insurance policy language responds to cybersecurity and other technology related losses and how the language needs to be updated or completely changed.”
While teaching and scholarship sate Johnson’s hunger for knowledge and intellectual challenges, her son remains at the center of her life.
“I’m raising a family, which is a different kind of accomplishment,” Johnson said. “I spend as much time as possible with my son. I love teaching him how to dance, watching him play basketball, going swimming, or just having movie nights at home. For a seven year old he has an impressive palette- he loves lobster, salmon, and oysters. He also loves the snow and is a very active kid. I think we’ve made the right decision coming to Maine.”