Top Five Reasons to Become an Adjunct Law Professor
by Christine Tamer
When I became an adjunct professor back in 2015, I certainly did not have the time to do it. I had two kids under two years old, a demanding job as a young attorney at a law firm, and a backlog of Netflix shows that were calling my name. However, when I saw that UNT Dallas College of Law was looking to hire an adjunct professor in legal writing, something led me to click “apply.”
That decision to apply and then to become an adjunct professor was one of the best ones I have ever made. Fast forward three years: I am now a full-time professor and Chair of the Adjunct Hiring Committee. As Chair of the Adjunct Hiring Committee, I interact with a wide range of adjunct professors: partners at law firms, in house counsel, prosecutors, public defenders, solo practitioners, judges, staff attorneys, retired attorneys, young associates, and the list goes on. While most of our adjunct professors do not leave their “day job” for academia like I did, I often hear that their decisions to become an adjunct professor was one of the best ones they have made.
Here are my top five reasons why you should consider becoming an adjunct law professor:
1. It’s rewarding. We have all had a few law school professors who were influential in shaping us into the lawyers we are today. As an adjunct professor, you have an opportunity to be a positive influence in the life of a law student. There are few things more rewarding than seeing your students grasp and master what you have taught them. Additionally, as an adjunct professor, you are de facto seen as a mentor and a source of advice for your students. Your job as an adjunct professor goes beyond teaching an area of the law. You also teach students how to be a good standing member of our honorable profession. Simply put, and as cliché as it sounds, you make a difference in the lives of many students as professor. And, making a difference in the lives of others is something that will be personally fulfilling to you.
2. Become a better lawyer yourself. “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” This quote—which is often attributed to Albert Einstein but unconfirmed to be actually made by him—rings 100 percent true in the context of law school. If you can’t explain it to a first-year/second-year/third-year law student, you don’t understand it yourself. One of the most surprising and wonderful things about being an adjunct professor is how it causes you personally to become a better lawyer. Take the context of legal writing: knowing how to write a persuasive motion is one thing; teaching a first-year law student how to do it is another entirely.
3. Give back to the legal community. It is probably safe to say that none of our adjunct professors are teaching for the money. While adjunct professors are paid, there are countless easier ways to earn money (and more of it) than to teach as an adjunct. Most of our adjunct professors teach because (1) it is something they love to do; and (2) it is a way for them to give back to the legal community. Spending time out of your day to shape the next generation of lawyers is a sacrifice; however, it is one worth making for the future of our legal community.
4. Low commitment—Lots of experience. Most of our adjunct professors have a demanding “day job” practicing law. Being an adjunct professor allows you to fulfill your passion for teaching without interfering with your practice. Classes taught by adjunct professors are usually scheduled for one or two days a week at a time that accommodates practicing attorneys (morning or after 6 p.m.). Moreover, adjunct professors are usually hired on a semester-by-semester basis such that if you discover it is not for you, you can chalk it up to a good experience and walk away.
Being an adjunct professor can be seen as a “low commitment” way to try your hand at teaching, but that is not to say that it is “easy.” Make no mistake that preparing a class, creating a syllabus, planning lessons, teaching, grading, and meeting with students requires time and effort. However, it is something that can—in the majority of cases—be compatible with the job that you have.
5. Become part of the team. Lastly, being an adjunct professor allows you to become a part of something bigger than yourself. While I cannot speak for other schools, if you teach at UNT Dallas College of Law, you become a member of our team and are able to build relationships with our faculty, staff, and—of course—students. Our adjunct professors are dedicated to our mission and are seen as key players in carrying it out.
Interested in becoming an adjunct law professor? You can apply online at the UNTD College of Law website (https://lawschool.untdallas.edu/employment). Openings are posted each semester. Hiring for the fall semester usually starts in the preceding April. Hiring for the spring semester usually starts in the preceding November. If you have additional questions or are interested in learning more about becoming an adjunct professor, feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
Christine Tamer is Asst. Professor and Asst. Director of Legal Writing at UNT Dallas College of Law.
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