Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Attorneys become adjunct law professors for enjoyment, opportunity to give back

cover-focus-adjunct-professor-attorney-illustrationmf03Whether it’s teaching specialized courses in their area of practice or stepping in to run a core, first-year course when there are not enough full-time faculty, adjunct professors are a staple at Maryland’s law schools.

“We couldn’t do without them,” said Ronald Weich, dean of University of Baltimore School of Law. “They’re a hallmark of our law school, together with our full-time faculty they make our school extremely strong and relevant to the practice of law.”

UB Law has a file of attorneys and judges who have expressed interest in teaching a course, according to Weich, from a nuts-and-bolts seminar or a proposed specialty course. Though no substitute for faculty who teach for a living, Weich said adjunct professors are complementary and offer invaluable practical experience.

Michael D. Berman has been teaching electronic evidence and discovery at UB Law and the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law for nearly a decade. (File)

Michael D. Berman has been teaching electronic evidence and discovery at UB Law and the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law for nearly a decade. (File)

Michael D. Berman, who has been teaching electronic evidence and discovery at UB Law and the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law for nearly a decade, said helping the next generation of lawyers is important.

“I feel that lawyers have an obligation to give back to the profession and community,” said Berman, a partner at Rifkin, Weiner Livingston LLC in Baltimore, where he chairs the firm’s electronically stored information practice.

The class uses technology to show students samples of what is available to solve litigation problems, Berman said, and covers the legal aspects of handling electronically stored information. He designed the course with U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm in 2008.

“This is always a rapidly unfolding area because it is a mix of law, technology and other disciplines like search methodology and it is constantly evolving,” Berman said.

Andrew D. Levy has taught a variety of classes at UM Carey for nearly 30 years. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

Andrew D. Levy has taught a variety of classes at UM Carey for nearly 30 years. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

Andrew D. Levy has taught a variety of classes at UM Carey for nearly 30 years, from first-year courses to trial practice, though he gets called on to teach evidence the most.

“Done right, it’s very time-consuming but it’s great fun,” said Levy, of Brown Goldstein Levy LLP in Baltimore. “I really love interacting with the students and it keeps you fresh. It keeps you involved. It forces you to keep up.”

Kevin F. Bress, who has taught elder law and taxation of estates and trusts at UB Law for 16 years, agreed.

“It forces you back to the basics of your skills because you’re teaching students and sometimes you lose sight of the code and the regulations and everyday practice,” he said. “It gets your head back in the books.”

Bress is taking this year off from teaching but said he enjoys working at the school he graduated from more than 30 years ago.

“It’s a rush to go back to where you graduated and stand behind the podium,” he said.

Balancing with practice

Levy enjoyed teaching so much he even took time off from his practice to teach full time for a year in 2001. He now he almost exclusively teaches in the evenings and limits himself to one course per year.

Teaching courses like torts and criminal law is time-consuming in part because first-year students need assistance as they acclimate to law school, Levy said. The classes also need an essay-based final exam, which takes hours to grade.

“You’ve got to like it,” he said. “You’ve got to want to do it. Because there’s an opportunity cost in terms of time away from your practice and time away from your family.”

Bress said he prefers to give his students multiple assignments throughout the semester so students can gauge their understanding, even though it makes for a lot of grading.

“My goal was to get away from my law school experience, which was one final exam, primarily, as the tool, and try to give them a midterm as well as a periodic assignment to let them know how they’re doing in my class,” he said.

Bress can control his schedule so making time for teaching is not a problem, even if he occasionally found himself eating dinner on his drive to school.

“It’s not a glorified position by any stretch,” he said.

Berman grades students on several 10-question quizzes, two short papers and a final exercise based on a commercial dispute fact pattern.

The course is small, usually less than 10 students, because it involves a lot of grading, but Berman said he does not mind.

“It’s no different than balancing a caseload,” he said. “There are different demands at different times but you have to manage your time and get things done as early as possible.”


To purchase a reprint of this article, contact [email protected].