So you want to teach law school

So you want to teach law school
In a few days I leave for Los Angeles and the Association of Corporate Counsel Annual Meeting for which I organized a session for those interested in teaching at law school. The response to what was to be a small, informal breakfast conversation with a few ACC members who currently teach at their local law school has been incredible. We had to change rooms as we now have over 200 registrants for this early morning session that does not even offer CPD credit.

I am pleased, but not necessarily surprised, at these numbers. I have been an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law School for more than eight years and interest has always been high. I almost always receive questions about teaching from ACC members and others when I travel.

When I posted a question to the ACC LinkedIn group about advice for students seeking to become in-house lawyers I received a record response — nearly 100. I summarized the advice in a prior column. It seems inside many in-house lawyers there is a professor trying to come out!

Some possible reasons why this is so:

•    For good in-house lawyers teaching is already a significant component of their job. They help their clients learn what can be done and how best to do it.
This simply is an opportunity to work with another audience. (One that might be a bit more pliable as well!)

•    Good in-house counsel are lifelong learners. Having to teach a subject to others is one of the best ways to learn it. Teaching helps you to learn and keep current with the latest developments in the law and practice.

•    Teaching provides a chance to give back to the profession. The in-house lawyers I know who teach all see it as a contribution to the profession and a labour of love.

•    For many it creates opportunities to mentor future lawyers (both inside and external). Many of us readily cite one or more individuals whose help and guidance smoothed our path during our careers. Teaching provides an opportunity for us to do the same for others coming along behind us. You can help them learn “You Can’t Do It Alone.”

•    Unfortunately, this interest may also be a sign of the economic times as some consider (or are forced to consider) alternative careers. To that end, I note the following: First, the actual number of full-time law school positions is relatively limited and the competition is fierce with perhaps even a higher number of applicants than for in-house slots. Second, there is considerable competition for adjunct positions as well and the compensation is such that no one does it for the money ($750 to around $5,000 annually depending on the school).

One of the biggest challenges is simply getting your class approved. Most law schools have large numbers of individuals seeking to be adjunct professors. Becoming active in your alumni group and getting to know the dean is a good start. Of course, if you were in a position to offer jobs, internships, or articling positions in your company that also would be a useful introduction.

For those interested in learning more I encourage you to come to L.A. for our session and the other more than 100 CPD offerings at the conference. If you cannot make it, please feel free to contact me — I will be happy to share what I learned in L.A. and assist you with your teaching plans. ACC has a wealth of resources to help you get started, including an online discussion group composed of members who teach at more than 25 law schools.

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