Understanding Law Professors Expectations of Their Students & Strategies For Success!
This week in the Law School Insider we had the pleasure of interviewing Rich Henke who is a Professor at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School. Rich was more than willing to share his perspectives on expectations that he and other law professors have of their students as well as provides a number of great hints and tips on how you can be successful throughout law school.
Professor Rich Henke stated that there are some fundamental differences when it comes to undergraduate and legal education and the expectations of professors in both places.
The undergraduate setting is much of the time based on a lecture format of classes whereas in law school faculty expect that you will be ready and willing to interact with them. This means that you will be ready to be called upon to recite the facts and an analysis of the case that is being discussed.
As you can probably guess, preparing for your classes in law school requires more time than in your undergraduate experience. Rich Henke mentioned that for a three hour class, most professors say that you need at least two hours outside of class per hour in class to prepare for the next week. This equates to 5-6 hours of preparation per class that you attend.
The way that many law professors use to teach you the law is called the Socratic Method. Rich Henke said that the Socratic method is a process of give and take where your faculty member will ask you a question and you will answer. As you answer the first question your faculty member will continue to ask you questions to have you delve deeper into your analysis. The Socratic Method being used is also a good way to prepare you for what will be required when you step foot in the courtroom.
Rich Henke shared some perspectives on things that you can do to prepare for law school. There were two specific things that he thought that all of you should consider when preparing for your law school journey. The two things to do to prepare for law school were:
- Read - Read as much varied content as possible prior to law school as the more that you read, the better you become at critical thinking. The more vocabulary you are exposed to will expand your thinking to legal and philosophical concepts that will greatly assist you in your law school transition.
- Engage in Mental Activities - Find activities that challenge and stimulate your brain and encourage you to engage in critical thinking. Some possible options include:
- Logic puzzles
The successful lawyer and law student reasons from analogy from the familiar to the new and participating in some of the above activities will help you in this as well.
Rich Henke also shared some thoughts on things that you can do in law school to be successful both in and out of class.
- Reach out and talk with your faculty member - Use your professors as a tool and resource and as someone that can help you master the material.
- Extracurricular Academic Activities - Participate in particular activities that require writing such as in things like Law Review, Mock Trial, Moot Court and Law Journal.
- Extracurricular Activities Outside of Class - look for ways to get experience with the legal knowledge you are learning in class and to see others using this legal knowledge. Consider volunteering for a judge or with a lawyer while in law school and watch what these people are doing and learn from them as you go through this experience.
Did you like this interview? Do you have a question for Professor Henke? Leave a comment below to let me know!
Are you a practicing lawyer? A law student? Would you like to be a guest on an upcoming episode of the Law School Insider? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org