For William Treanor, studying the law was a vehicle for public service. After college he worked as a speechwriter for Shirley Hufstedler, then secretary of education in the Carter administration and a former federal appellate judge — and quickly realized that most of the people making decisions around him were lawyers. At Harvard Law School, Treanor felt there was too much emphasis on corporate law, so he transferred to Yale.

He later moved to Washington to spend three years as a lawyer in the office of the independent counsel probing the Iran/Contra scandal before beginning his academic career at Fordham University School of Law in 1991.

His career in academia has been highlighted by his research on the origins of judicial review and the scope of the “takings clauses” of the Fifth Amendment that establishes the principle of eminent domain.

In 1998, he joined the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department, known as the executive branch’s law firm, where his research included determining the legality of the United States’ involvement in the NATO air campaign to oust Serbian troops from Kosovo and whether President Bill Clinton might be tried criminally following his impeachment acquittal by the Senate. He returned to Fordham in 2001 and became the law school’s dean before jumping to Georgetown in 2010.

Now 54, he’s one of the 10 most-cited legal history scholars in the United States, according to a 2010 list compiled by Brian Leiter of the University of Chicago Law School.

Treanor’s goals at Georgetown include balancing the teaching of legal theory with practice-based courses, such as those that offer field work at the Justice Department or other government agencies.

Treanor is also working to capitalize on the school’s proximity to government through offerings such as a new LL.M. in national security law.

“What we’re about is educating the whole person,” Treanor said. “It’s not just about educating a technically skilled lawyer; it’s educating people for justice.”