The Types of Professors You’ll Encounter in Law School

The Types of Professors You’ll Encounter in Law SchoolPlease welcome back Jaclyn Wishnia, 2L guest writer from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. She discusses the different types of professors you will inevitably meet in law school.

Society has assigned a stereotype for the majority of industries within the workforce. For example, the legal profession is considered notorious for breeding individuals who run the gamut of pejorative adjectives: aggressive, conniving, snobby, conceited, serious, boring, etc. Hopefully, most of you are striving to discredit these labels for our industry. Those inside the profession, however, understand that different types of law are better suited for individualized personalities. For instance, someone who enjoys dynamic discourse, public speaking, and writing briefs is more likely to be found working at a litigation firm, than a person who cares deeply about solving environmental issues, likes writing policy as opposed to briefs, and rather educate others about the relevant laws, and consequently, will instead probably be found working for a governmental agency, such as the EPA.

Since many law professors practice law before they teach, and often teach the subject they have already practiced in, it follows that their personalities will resemble those associated with their chosen legal sphere. Thus, certain characteristics will transfer from the workforce into the classroom, which is why there are specific archetypes of professors that every law student will recognize; predominantly identifiable in 1L courses.

So why is knowing this information so important? Anticipating your professors’ personality traits is valuable for several reasons. For one, it helps you to figure out how you should prepare for their class and for finals. Secondly, it allows for greater accuracy in gauging your weekly time management predictions and also how to arrange your schedule during class registration periods. Another reason is that it helps you to avoid taking classes with a professor whose teaching style does not match your own approach to learning. Finally, if none of these reasons resonate with you, then, at the very least, being able to recognize standard law professors’ quirks builds camaraderie amongst you and your colleagues, as well as adds some humor to your law school experience.

While reading through the rest of this post, see if you can identify some of your own professors by matching them to the descriptions below. 

Type-A

In reality, the legal profession is synonymous with type-A personalities, but these professors happen to be on the extreme end of the spectrum. Usually, the type-A professor will be found in a practice that requires rigid adherence to rules; particularly procedural ones. In my experience thus far, they have typically been female, are very concerned with taking attendance, enjoy cold calling, are fast-talkers, and if for some reason they fall behind on their own syllabus, will ensure they pile the entire reading on in one night and cover all of it the very next class; primarily to keep-up the illusion of perfectionism.

Classroom Habitats: Civil Procedure, Evidence.

The Dinosaur

You probably recognize this stereotype from a version in high school. These are the law professors who have been teaching at the school forever, and as a result, have achieved tenure status. If they bother teaching, they do so by directly reading from the casebook. They do not require attendance, they barely know your name, and they have not changed their final exam since 1999. Typically, this professor is a male, who at this point in his career, has given up on both humanity and the law.

Classroom Habitats: Constitutional Law, Torts.

Egomaniac

These professors make sure to remind you that they are omni-important. They will frequently intersperse their personal ‘war stories’ throughout their lectures, and oftentimes, will use this as a blatant segue to talk forever about themselves; in particular, their own brilliance and triumphant case wins. Although they try to “play it cool,” their natural tendency to argue will sometimes cause them to reveal their impatience, bad temper, and turn their egocentricities into pure arrogance. On a good day, when they are not spouting off about some firm-related victory, they do manage to teach well.

Classroom Habitats: Criminal Law, and any classes related to the subject.

The Favorite

Every law school has at least one classic ‘favorite professor’ archetype. Initially, you hear about their class through the rumor mill and that “you have to take them!” They are usually very charismatic, possess a great sense of humor, and lead you to become enchanted with whatever subject they are teaching. Beware though because while their classroom etiquette is engaging and they come off as the “good guy,” their finals are normally hard.

Classroom Habitats: Contract Law, IP Courses.

Research-Climber

This professor is teaching solely for the benefit of conducting prestigious research. They will not answer emails because frankly they do not care. They clearly do not prepare for class and this apathy is demonstrated by their convoluted lessons. The stern performance they gave on day one regarding workload and class attendance, will start to crumble as the semester progresses due to pressures stemming from their research deadlines and their obvious aversion to teaching.

Classroom Habitats: Anything they are well-versed enough in to get published.

The Droner

The lectures this type of professor gives are excruciatingly boring. The subject they teach is partially to blame for their tedium, but the rest is entirely on them. Their lessons are long, boring, and given in a monotonous tone (hence their moniker). Their finals feel like marathons, usually involve solving some sort of algorithm, and trigger anxiety amongst law students from the onset of the class. On the plus side, they are generally pretty nice.

Classroom Habitats: Tax Law, Property Law.

Were you able to recognize any of your own professors while reading through this post? Were there any I missed that you are now able to identify on your own? Let us know in the comments!


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About Jaclyn Wishnia

Jaclyn Wishnia graduated from Fordham University with a double major in Journalism and the Classics. Upon graduation, she accepted a role as a paralegal. After several years of working for both criminal and entertainment law firms, she decided to pursue her passion, to become an attorney, and enrolled in law school. She is currently a 2L at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law located in New York, NY. Additionally, she serves as a staff editor for Cardozo's Arts & Entertainment Law Journal, Treasurer of Cardozo's Entertainment Law Society, and is a student liaison for the NYS Bar EASL committee.

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