8 Lessons I Learned Teaching Law Students What I Know.

 *Interested in teaching a course at Solo Practice University?  We’re growing and we’d love to hear from you.  Contact susan (at) solopracticeuniversity.com and let’s get the conversation started!

I went back to school last semester, this time as an adjunct professor. Donna Chesteen and I teamed up to teach a course on e-discovery for our law school alma mater.

It was a three-day intensive seminar, going for four hours each night for three days in a row. We tag-teamed the lesson plan. She focused on teaching the theory and technological aspects. I focused on the law and its application. Donna is a technology law and e-discovery expert, and I litigate business disputes with e-discovery issues, so together we kind of make one whole e-disco brain.

I hear many of my peers opine that they would love to go back to teach law school someday. I was privileged to do so, even for just three nights, and I walked away with some valuable lessons.

1. Don’t do it for the money.

There isn’t any. If I calculate the time I spent researching and preparing for the class, lining up an e-discovery vendor to give the students free access to their system for a couple of nights, familiarizing myself with said system enough to walk the students through some basic e-disco tasks, and of course, my time teaching the class and grading papers, I made less than minimum wage.

2. Do it for the love.

There is nothing you can do to help the young lawyers coming up behind you that will help them more than teaching them what you know. And they appreciate it. Several comments we got from students were along the lines of, “It was great to learn more about how you really practice law instead of just legal theory.” Your experience makes you a knowledge gold mine.

3. My students are smarter than me.

There were about 20 students in the class, and they came prepared. They kept us on our toes with really smart questions about search methodology and metadata. They were interested, engaged, technologically savvy, and smart. REALLY smart. They know more black letter law than we’ve forgotten through years of practice, and they know how this e-discovery thing is supposed to work. If you are a practicing lawyer who willfully avoids e-discovery, be afraid. The next generation of lawyers is coming, and they get this stuff!

4. It made me smarter, too.

Think you know a lot about something? Go teach a class on it and find out what you don’t know. While I’ve never considered myself an e-disco expert – far from it – I thought I was at least pretty savvy. By preparing to teach the class, I learned way more than my students did. The next time I need to do a doc review for a litigation, I’ll be better at it.

5. Law students today aren’t lazy.

At all. The students in our class were taking on a single credit hour, three night intensive course in the middle of the semester and on top of their existing course load. And we made them write a paper. Most of the students in there were already in bar prep, and several were night students taking law school classes around their day jobs. And I thought my schedule was packed!

6. We don’t have too many lawyers.

That’s the cry you hear from those of us who have been practicing a while: “There are enough lawyers already!” Wrong. We need these young lawyers.  As the Baby Boom generation inches toward retirement, there will be some pretty big shoes to fill in our profession. I want to know that the Millennial generation – our largest generation – is prepared to take over. From what I saw, they will be.

7. It’s not easy being adjunct.

It’s one thing to teach a class for Solo Practice University, and quite another to teach at a law school. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE teaching my classes for SPU. But I get to do that on my time and it’s definitely not stressful.  Sorry. But I digress. Teaching to a law school’s curriculum and schedule was a different animal. It was hard to do while also practicing law. I didn’t get much sleep.

8. I would do it again. 

Looking back on the experience, I would recommend it to any practicing lawyer. Go teach what you know. Teach a course at Solo Practice University!* Go remember what it was like to be a law student and to be learning this stuff for the first time. Go be intimidated by some 3L kid or a new lawyer (or even an older lawyer) who seems ten times smarter than you’ll ever be. I definitely learned more than I taught, and if I ever have the chance, I will teach another law school class in addition to my courses at SPU.

*Interested in teaching a course at Solo Practice University?  We’re growing and we’d love to hear from you.  Contact susan (at) solopracticeuniversity.com and let’s get the conversation started!


All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.

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