Appreciating Our Professors: That “One” Law Professor Thing is “Optional,” Right?

Posted on Categories Legal Education

So, I have been thinking about a lot of my favorite “law” professor. Rick and David‘s wonderful posts on their favorite law professors were, of course, inspirational. I am, however, much more indecisive than Rick and David, so I may try to sneak in a little more variety than just “one” law professor (the all powerful Michael may police me for straying a bit from the post of the month!). I actually am picking five (!) because I think about the lessons they taught me everyday:

James Cox, Duke University School of Law: Professor Cox, bar none, was the best teacher I had in law school. I remember being engaged and excited by Business Associations and White Collar Crime, like no other classes. As a student, when you are engaged by agency and partnership law, then you know the teaching is good. Why was I engaged? First, Professor Cox made business law seem relevant by bringing passion and commitment to his subject. Second, he encouraged us to talk and debate in class. Sometimes, in law school, everyone gets really quiet and it gets boring. He never countenanced that. So, class was a bit of an intellectual scrum, and thus, a little messy, and ultimately, quite good. And such classes prepared me for all those things in practice, because what is law school and its ultimate practice, but an intellectual scrum?

George Christie and Paul Carrington, Duke University School of Law: From Professor Christie, there was this story about a blind date and whether it was reasonable to assume that you owed a duty of care to a blind date. This story was very funny. Indeed, I still have not stopped laughing at that story. I always remember from that story humor tells us things that perhaps seriousness may not (like you know, the duty of care). From Professor Carrington, a certain amount of toughness was expected. He prepared me for partners and judges, who do not love you at all.

Trina Jones, Duke University School of Law: I never took Trina! Why does she inspire me, then? I remember her first year of teaching at Duke (it was my One L). And I remember, wow, I could actually be a law professor — go figure on that. And in my first year teaching, I remember thinking, oh wow, this is what Trina had to go through at Duke, and thinking, well, if she could make it, so can I. We always need role models to tell us through their own lives and work what is possible in ours.

David Lange, Duke University School of Law: He probably does not remember me, but I took his IP class, and it changed my life. IP was about art and music and science and, most importantly, shopping. This is stuff that I could get up in the morning and be passionate about everyday. All of my Marquette students, part of him is standing before you every day. I, of course, spent many years shaking off what he taught me, but then, that is always the best course of things, with teachers and students.

Nancy Struever, Johns Hopkins University: Dr. Struever taught me at Hopkins about Italian rhetoric. And Italian rhetoric turns out to be really necessary for a career in the law. Go figure. She also taught me that writing works best when accompanied by a certain amount of brevity. Obviously, I have not always learned that lesson.

And I have not even begun to talk scholarship. Michael, can we talk more about another post?

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