I unabashedly lift the title for my post from the original over at Concurring Opinions. Brannon Denning gives some good advice for new law profs. In short, they are:
1. Prepare for Classes Early and Often;
2. Remember that your first year teaching is like a first draft;
3. Try to get the first article done quickly;
4. Avoid Entangling Alliances with the school’s other faculty for at least the first few months;
5. Memorize Students’ names.
You may recall that I just experienced my own first year as an adjunct law professor, and greatly enjoyed the experience. Adjunct law profs aren’t expected to publish, so #3 was of no concern for me. However, preparing often and early–given the long hours of my day job as an appellate attorney–was just as much a necessity. As a part-time professor with long commute hours, I was thankfully spared being drawn into the nets of intrigue that those full-timer academics weave.
I would add these pieces of advice to first-time law professors:
6. Talk to other professors of the same course. Or even of similar courses. And not just at your school — go back to your alma mater, seek out renowned law professors of the topic, graciously ask for their time. You may well, as in my case, get passed some time-saving outlines, class preparation notes, and other materials, to use in your own (inevitably crammed) preparation for class. In my case I was able to talk to three of the best law professors in the field (military law), and each was immensely helpful. (One even provided his entire syllabus for my perusal.)
7. In writing courses, give students a taste of real legal writing. My students thought it unorthodox, but in real practice an attorney can’t survive without it: I had students peer-review each others’ first drafts, cite check the papers, spell and grammar critique them, and otherwise take them through the wringer. The best colleagues in our practice are those who peer-review with gusto. I tried to give my students the same task, and the quality of their critique became part of their final grade.
But, in the end, the entire class was indeed like a first draft. I’ll return to the course, use my notes and the case squibs I typed-up over the many hours preparing for each week’s class, and adjust. Next time, it’ll be much, much easier!