‘All I Really Need to Know I Learned Teaching a Law Class.’
That’s the title of a new book about the benefits of teaching a law class. It’s a piece of fiction (because the book doesn’t exit), but I could write it because I have actually been there and done that. For now, may I offer a few pointers?
Like Robert Fulghum said in his famous “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” there are fundamental lessons for success in life. In teaching a law class to grow your business, there are some basic do’s and don’ts.
Do a Course Outline
Before you can teach a class, you need a place to teach. That’s another story, and you can read it here.
Assuming you got the job, prepare an objective course outline. The administration will review it, so don’t try in any way to make it a marketing piece. Even a link to your firm website would be unwise.
What you can market most subtly, however, is your expertise. In most cases, you will teach from a coursebook, but you can include your own writings in the course outline so long as it is relevant.
Do Teach From Experience
Law schools, universities, and colleges employ part-time teachers for practical reasons. One reason is that adjunct faculty bring real-world experiences.
So use the opportunity to talk about what you do to illustrate the subject matter. When I was teaching media law, I told law practice stories all the time. Students seemed to enjoy it, and it was easy to tie into the course material.
My favorite was about a client — charged with violating federal advertising laws — who skipped town in the middle of trial. Authorities caught up with him after he was featured on television’s 20/20 sailing on a yacht in Central America. It was especially real for the students who saw the show!
Don’t Take Students as Clients
It will likely create a conflict of interest to take on a student as a client. Just imagine how it would be to give a bad grade to a student who is also a client — awkward.
It’s also a bad idea to give legal advice to students. Basically, you should keep law teaching and law practice as separate as possible.
I liked to disclaim any responsibility at the beginning of each semester this way: “When I practice law, clients can sue me if I give them bad advice. But here, you can’t sue me if I teach a bad lesson!”
Don’t Miss Opportunities to Network
Aside from teaching in the classroom, adjuncts have the opportunity to work with academics and other lawyers. Consider it networking.
After teaching my first few semesters, I received offers to teach at two other universities. The law school also opened its doors to me for extra-curriculars, such as mock trials.
In the mix, I associated with a lawyer in a case that we settled for a substantial sum. I made more money on that one case than I made teaching for ten years.
Of course, teaching is its own reward. But it can help grow your business, too.
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