Featured LLM Alumna: Cynthia Alkon

Cynthia Alkon, LLM ’02, is a Professor of Law and the Director of the Criminal Law, Justice, and Policy Program at Texas A&M University School of Law. Originally from San Francisco, Alkon received a BA in international relations from San Francisco State University and her JD from University of California Hastings. She had been practicing for 10 years and was living and working in Albania when Alkon decided she wanted to learn more about dispute resolution.

“I hadn’t been thinking about going back to school,” Alkon said. “But the dispute resolution program looked interesting. I emailed the late Professor Tim Heinsz to ask about the program.  He was in New Zealand at the time and immediately wrote me back a long email about the program and referred me to Professor John Lande, who also quickly wrote me a long and detailed email. I was impressed that both had taken the time to respond so quickly to my questions. I was also impressed with their answers as they made the program sound interesting and were also clear that they couldn’t promise it would lead to a job in the field. I appreciated the honesty. After I was accepted, I was awarded a full-tuition scholarship. That made it an easy decision.”

In her year at Mizzou Law, Alkon says the most valuable thing she gained was relationships with professors that changed her perspective and career direction. Many of these professors continue to be mentors and colleagues in the dispute resolution community. Upon graduating, Alkon returned to working abroad, becoming the head of the Rule of Law Unit for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in Poland. After four years in Poland, Alkon decided to steer her education towards teaching and research and sought advice from former LLM professors.

“I thought I would enjoy being a law professor and got in touch with several of my professors from Mizzou, including Professor Lande and Len Riskin,” Alkon said. “I remember a phone call with both professors Lande and Riskin while I was in Poland, where they talked me through the process of becoming a law professor. They were encouraging and brutally honest about what a tough job it is to land. Once again, I appreciated the honesty.”

Alkon holds a long list of publications and professional accomplishments, including the 2019 publication of her book, Negotiating Crime: Plea Bargaining, Problem Solving, and Dispute Resolution in the Criminal Context. However, she says that, above all, she cherishes the personal connections she has made along the way.

“I think my biggest accomplishment in life is the deep and close relationships I have built over the years with friends and with colleagues,” Alkon said. “Especially during this time when so many of us are ‘socially distant’ at home, I feel so fortunate to be a part of various communities, including the dispute resolution community. It is these friendships and relationships that transcend any particular publication or award or pandemic. I also deeply appreciate the opportunity to work with and help the next generation of lawyers to find their way into the profession. I consider it a particular accomplishment when I can help a student to see the world a little differently, something that so many of my professors at Mizzou did for me.”

To students and graduates during the current climate, Alkon says, “I would like to think that we will use the experience of the pandemic to think more critically about what we can improve in our society, our world, and the legal profession. Dispute resolution gives us all the skills to contribute to making the world a better place. I hope that each of us can do our part to help during these difficult times. The basic advice I always give my students is to be true to yourself and your values and to work to find a job that is true to you and your values.”