Top-rated law profs share these traits
By Debra Cassens Weiss
Aug 12, 2013, 04:45 am CST
The top law professors don’t necessarily work at top-ranked schools, but they do share a common set of characteristics, according to a new book that studied their teaching methods.
The 26 professors studied for the book, What the Best Law Professors Do, have an incredible work ethic, preparing thoroughly for class even when they have great knowledge of the subject matter, Inside Higher Ed reports. Several professors begin their workdays at 4 a.m. Others take several hours to prepare for each class. City University of New York School of Law professor Ruthann Robson reads the day’s assignments first as a student, looking for difficult concepts; second as a lawyer, thinking about arguments and procedure; and third as a professor, thinking about how the material fits in with learning goals.
The professors set high standards for students as well as themselves, often expecting students to dress and speak as lawyers, according to the account of the findings by Inside Higher Ed. But the professors also show they care for students, expressing excitement when they grasp difficult concepts and caring about their success. One professor tracks down students in the hallways after class to make sure they understood the lecture. Another tactic is emailing students after class to show appreciation for their participation in a discussion, according to a story on the book by U.S. News.
The book was written by University of Arkansas at Little Rock law dean Michael Hunter Schwartz, Gonzaga University law professor Gerald Hess, and University of New Hampshire law professor Sophie Sparrow. The authors asked for best teacher nominations from law-related electronic mailing lists at every U.S. law school, looking for those teachers who were best at developing students on intellectual and personal levels. After receiving 250 nominations, the authors asked for teaching awards, student evaluations and a teaching philosophy statement for each nominee. After choosing 26 professors who met their criteria, they observed their teaching, conducted interviews, and spoke with current and past students.