5 questions with…associate law professor, stage actor Andrew Pollis

After performing as Harry Houdini, Associate Professor Andrew Pollis (center) received a visit from some of his law students who came to watch—in custom-made T-shirts.

It had been 25 years since School of Law Assistant Professor Andrew Pollis had stepped on stage. But last month, he got right back in the swing of things when he appeared as Harry Houdini in the Near West Theatre’s production of Ragtime.

A fan of theater for years, Pollis performed throughout high school and occasionally after. Eventually, he retired as an actor and took on a new role as an attorney and, later, a faculty member and father.

So what drew Pollis back to the stage after more than two decades? For him, it was the combination of the Near West Theatre’s mission—creating compelling, cost-accessible theater and connecting with the Cleveland community—and the musical Ragtime’s themes—racial and ethnic conflict.

Pollis’ dedication to community and desire to eliminate conflict have shaped many of his decisions throughout his life—especially his one to become a lawyer (evident by his answer to question No. 3 below).

Learn more about him in our weekly five questions.

1. What superpower would you most like to have?
I know this sounds hokey, but I’d love the power to eliminate misunderstandings.  So much of the conflict in the world stems from misunderstandings—and often the “bad guys” use their powers to foster misunderstandings in order to further their own aims. We see this in the way world conflicts erupt. We see this in the way our own leaders engage in political debate. We see it in our interpersonal relationships.  And my students see it constantly in the cases they handle in the Civil Litigation Clinic. Imagine, by contrast, a world in which all of us acted with only accurate information. We’d still have our differences, but at least they’d be honest ones.

2. What’s your favorite place to dine in Cleveland?
Wow, picking one is impossible. But I’d say the top three are Pacific East on Coventry Road, Tommy’s on Coventry Road and Scotti’s Italian Eatery on East 185th Street. Anatolia Café on Lee Road is also up there. My family and I are embarrassingly frequent customers at all of these.

3. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be Atticus Finch—an advocate who corrected misunderstandings. (See question No. 1!)

4. What accomplishments are you most proud of—personally and professionally?
Personally: My wife, Pavia, and I have raised two unbelievably wonderful children (my son, Lewie, a rising junior at Brown University; and my daughter, Maddie, who starts at Vassar College in the fall). I take no responsibility for making them wonderful—that seems to have been innate in both of them—but I am very proud that we didn’t screw it up.

Professionally: There’s no one single accomplishment. My greatest pride is seeing my students in action and seeing them grow as lawyers. It’s a constant source of pride, and it’s one of the things I love most about what I do.

5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve University?
The freedom to think. Before I joined the faculty, my job in private practice required me to think in ways that would benefit my paying clients. Now I get to think about the law for its own sake. What a privilege that is! Maybe I can even use that freedom to help clear up misunderstandings—and actually acquire that superpower!