Being on a law school faculty is a terrific job, in large part because it combines so many different activities. Each piece of the job brings its own joys and challenges. Here’s what has been on my plate recently.
I teach first-year students, trying to help them gain a grasp not only of the doctrines, but also of the skills they’ll need to thrive in law school and beyond. Because I teach civil procedure — which is really the nuts and bolts of what many lawyers do — it’s also a chance to introduce them to the life of a lawyer, complete with ethical and moral dilemmas. This week’s classes, focused on discovery, were all about the moral and ethical quandaries lawyer’s face. There aren’t any answers but there are a lot of terrific questions and it makes for great discussion.
I also teach upper division classes. These tend to be smaller than a first year class, at least for me. This semester I’m teaching law and sexuality — it’s a writing seminar and there are only 10 students. This week we spent a lot of time talking about a case that arose when a gay softball league disqualified a team for having too many “non-gay” players. (They were allowed two.) We worked through why teams are organized around identity categories like this. And if there are good reasons create these safe and supportive environments, can we manage the line-drawing? What exactly does it mean to be “non-gay?” Who decides? How do they do that?
Another part of my job is also writing and research. Here I generally focus on family law issues, often issues around the use of assisted reproductive technology (ART) and/or around lesbian/gay/transgender families. There’s rarely a week without some interesting development to consider. The Florida Supreme Court recently handed down an important new decision arising from a dispute between lesbians who had planned and begun a family together. You can read my comments on the case on my blog, Related Topics.
And then there’s working with my colleagues. It’s wonderful to be part of a community of scholars who can bounce ideas around. One of my colleagues and I are collaborating on an article. It’s an exploration of the extent to which the U.S. Constitution dictates which people must be recognized as the legal parents of a child. This pulls together a lot of materials from different fields of law and different states, too. The project is at an early stage so for now it means talking together about how we think the cases might line up, how the law should be constructed. There’s plenty of animated discussion as we try to combine our expertise, each of us teaching the other and then trying to work out something that might look like an answer.
Students benefit when they’re in an environment where their professors love teaching. If you read this and apply to Seattle University School of Law, I hope to see you in class!
Written by: Julie Shapiro, Professor of Law