So Long to Professor Sayler

Caroline Catchpole '19
Editor Emeritus

 Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

During my 1L year, a 2L named Christina Albertson (the former Editor-in-Chief of the Law Weekly) took me under her wing. One of the organizations she was involved in was this paper, another was the Lile Moot Court Competition. Having been invited to step into her role planning the Lile receptions as a 2L, I was invited to the Lile Final Round Reception during the spring of my 1L year. The reception is where the judges, competitors, board members, and UVa Law professors gather to mingle, celebrate the end of the competition, and network. It was at this event that I first met Professor Robert Sayler, and his wife, Marty. 

Professor Sayler graduated from Stanford University and Harvard Law School before going on to practice at Covington & Burling in 1965, where he was made partner in 1973. During his time at the firm, he oversaw successful multi-million-and billion-dollar insurance claims, litigating over topics such as asbestos, pollution, and defective breast implants, as well as corporate insurance cases. He began his career at UVa Law teaching insurance law as an Ewald Distinguished Visiting Professor with Professor Ken Abraham in 1995 and returned on a permanent basis in 2003 to teach oral advocacy.

Having had the chance to get to know Professor Sayler, I was eager to take an oral advocacy class with him if I had the chance. This past fall semester, I was able to take Hallmarks of Distinguished Advocacy with Professors Sayler and Molly Shadel, and as I reflect on my time at UVa (and mourn that my time as a staff member on this paper has come to an end1) I can say quite truthfully that Hallmarks was one of the most useful classes I have taken during my time at UVa. The improvement I have seen in my classmates and myself is truly impressive.2 

Professor Sayler developed his rhetoric and oral advocacy classes while training young lawyers at his firm. He was also instrumental in bringing Professor Shadel from Covington to develop the public speaking program. Professors Sayler and Shadel co-authored the book Tongue-Tied America and they continue to write about American rhetoric together, including a series about the rhetoric of the most recent election campaign. 

At the end of this semester, Professor Sayler is retiring from the UVa Law School Faculty, and he will be sorely missed. For those of you who have not had the opportunity to take a class with him, there is a chance he will return in a adjunct capacity, so keep your fingers crossed! Professor Sayler, thank you for your contributions to UVa Law and for helping to grow the oral advocacy skills of generations of young lawyers.


1 The paper staff is amazing and I couldn’t write my last ever article for the paper without saying that they have enriched my time at UVa more than I can ever say. Thank you, Law Weekly for being an amazing group of dedicated and talented people, and the best group I could imagine spending my Monday nights with for the last three years. 
2 Seriously, if you can take this class, do it. I also took Advanced Verbal Persuasion (which is essentially Hallmarks Part II) and it’s awesome. Rising 3Ls, I urge you to take both; you can pick them as skills classes during the first round sign ups!