The Legal Beat
An Apology To All Law Professors
Posted on Thursday February 09, 2017
If you will permit me a deviation from my normal in-house musings, I want to take a moment to publicly apologize to my law school professors.
For the times I stared off into space while you passionately delivered your lecture, I am sorry.
For the times I attempted to blend into the wall when you asked a rhetorical question in hopes of spurring a robust class discussion, I am sorry.
For the times my eyes failed to catch yours even once because they were glued to my laptop screen, I am sorry.
And for all the times I quipped behind your back at how easy your job must be from your tenured tower, I am truly sorry.
You see, this past semester I was asked to serve as an adjunct professor at one of my city’s law schools.
I happened into the position by way of bumping into the chair of the health law department at a social event last summer. He lamented his current in-house health law courses were geared too heavily toward medical malpractice, and not enough toward day-to-day operations. I responded I had always wanted to teach and thought we could develop a course, and lo and behold, two drinks and several napkins of notes later, we had formulated a rough draft of the syllabus.
Given our shared levels of excitement at the prospect of the course, he kindly shepherded the proposal through the academic review panel, and once it was approved, I was slated to teach the course the coming spring semester.
Rather foolishly given the gift of hindsight, I thought it would be a walk in the park. All I would need to do is show up, talk for a couple of hours about an area of law I practiced in on a daily basis, and my audience would obviously be left hanging on every word coming out of my mouth.
As the summer turned to winter, I realized in a few short weeks the spring semester would be upon us, and I set out to prepare my first class. Reading assignments, which I thought would be fairly easy to find, suddenly left me on a quest for the holy grail, seeking the perfect few. The PowerPoint I would use to supplement my lecture, which I had budgeted an hour, maybe two, to complete, took me nearly a week.
Slowly, and then all at once, it hit me: this professor thing I errantly thought was for Biglaw wash-outs really was not as easy as I had thought, and I had yet to even teach my first class.
Finally, with my lecture and materials perfected, I arrived at my first class, expecting a room full of students who selected the course out of a genuine interest in the material. Instead, the overwhelming majority of the students admitted they were there because it either fit with their schedule or would fulfill one of their elective requirements.
The only student who expressed interest at all was a current clerk of ours, who I am sure signed up only in the hopes of improving his post-graduation employment prospects with us.
Faced with this “attentive” audience, I set out and was immediately greeted with the blank stares I too had adopted by the 3L year. The breaks I had planned for questions or discussion quickly proved unnecessary. And by the end of my first day, my favorite student ironically emerged as the gunner in the class.
His comments were sure to illicit eye rolls from his peers, and I would have hated him when I was a 3L, but his comments and questions became a welcome reprieve, giving me a break from the monotony of my droning voice.
So to all of my former professors who were “lucky” to have me as a student, from the bottom of my jaded heart, I apologize. You certainly earned your spot in the tenured tower, and I retract any previous negative statements I might have made.
Well, almost any. I am still not convinced your job is stressful enough to merit the months and months of vacation you receive, but hey, check with me at the end of the semester and I just might be eating my words once again.
Stephen R. Williams is in-house counsel with a multi-facility hospital network in the Midwest. His column focuses on a little talked about area of the in-house life, management. You can reach Stephen at email@example.com.