Food for Thought

The new year (and the new semester) is here like a gust of refreshing cool after a fall of unseasonable weather. Let me offer some new food for thought as readers have time to reflect perhaps over the upcoming long weekend honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • New Reading. I wanted to recommend a couple of things worthwhile readings that have just come my way.
    1. I enjoyed the opening plenary at the AALS annual meeting, featuring a very thought-provoking paper on the future of the legal profession (and legal education) in coming days. The presenters were Ben Heineman, Jr. and David Wilkins (with Bill Lee as a co-author). The paper is available at https://clp.law.harvard.edu/assets/Professionalism-Project-Essay_11.20.14.pdf . Its title is “Lawyers as Professionals and Citizens.” The authors welcome comments.
    2. A second significant paper considers empirical evidence relating to types of experiential education and student enrollment and satisfaction tied to different career goals. Take a look at Margaret Reuter and Joanne Ingham’s paper, The Practice Value of Experiential Legal Education: An Examination of Enrollment Patterns, Course Intensity, and Career Relevance, 22 Clinical L. Rev. 181 (2015) which uses significant NALP data to illuminate these questions. It’s also available through SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2704573
    3. Finally, a post from Stanford’s Rick Reis, of Stanford’s Tomorrow’s Professor initiative (noted in an earlier posting) is worth consideration. It summaries some important lessons on the challenges of institutional assessment and offers an excellent wet of websites that can help law schools and their faculties meet the new challenges resulting from strengthened ABA requirements. (TP Msg. #1455 Planning Effective Assessment] https://tomprof.stanford.edu/.
  • Reflections on Teaching. I’m teaching a large section of property law again this spring, after a couple of years with other assignments. I’m also 65 and have been talking with my husband about prospects of retirement. So, I’ve been unusually reflective about my teaching this term, and have found that very liberating. I have been thinking about what I’ve learned in 35 years of teaching, and about what endures, and what my students might best gain from me (in addition to mastering basic principles of property law). So, this week I’ve spent more time offering reflections on history and jurisprudence (and perhaps a little less on doctrinal hypotheticals than had been the case in some past years). Yesterday I talked at length about Johnson v. M’Intosh (the first of Justice Marshall’s “Indian trilogy”) and explained what I’d been learning about the great Cherokee chief, John Ross and about his nemesis President Andrew Jackson (I strongly recommend “Jacksonland” by Scott Inskeep that covers this territory exceedingly well). Today I told them about law reform litigation and the case of State v. Shack (in which New Jersey’s great state supreme court of the 1970’s held that a farmer who had employed a large number of migrant farm workers could not claim that he had a right to exclude a legal aid lawyer and a doctor who had come to see clients and patients). Somehow stopping to think about what I really know, and what is most worth knowing and sharing has been especially uplifting. My experience may be of interest to others of you who are at different life changes. Ask yourself “what do I know that is most important at this time in life to share with my students”… and act accordingly.

Good luck with the start of the semester.

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One Response

  1. What a fantastic prelude to the new semester! Your post makes me think how freeing it can be to re-orient the perspective from which we engage with material and students in the classroom.

    I have started the semester contemplating a suggestion from a colleague, who said that I needed to have more fun with my teaching. I haven’t yet decided what that means (bad sign!), but just keeping in mind the idea of having fun has already lightened my demeanor in the classroom and allowed me to ask myself, in the moment, questions like the one posed above by Prof. Wegner – “what do I know that is most important at this time in life to share with my students?” For those of us who tend to approach teaching with deadpan seriousness, Prof. Wegner’s query, and the idea of embodying as much joy as we can while we work, are invaluable.

    I hope everyone has a meaningful MLK, Jr. Day. I’ll be taking my children to a short march in -15 F weather! See – I know how to have fun!

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