Tips for Adjuncts: Balancing Practice and Teaching

Teaching a law school course is a ton of work, but, it is well-worth the investment.

I am about to start my third semester teaching a law school course while practicing full-time as a mid-level associate in a large law firm. It is not easy to maintain your quality of life while balancing practice and teaching, but it is doable.

Plan Ahead

A semester-long law school course lasts about 13 weeks. This means that for more than 3 months of your billable year, you will have an additional part-time job. There are a couple ways to plan for this. You can cram all your course prep into those three months and either give up your evenings and weekends or accept the fact that your billable hours will be lower during those months, putting additional billing pressure on the remaining 9 months of the year. Or you can start preparing your lesson plans and lectures well in advance of the semester and minimize the course prep time commitment during the semester.

Get Support at Work

Managing the expectations of your partners and clients will be essential to a successful teaching experience. Make sure that your colleagues know that you are teaching, and assure them that teaching will not compromise your ability to fulfill your commitments at work. Ask for support from your colleagues, as necessary, so that teaching does not have a negative impact on client service. At times, you will no doubt need to sacrifice your free time (evenings, weekends) to get everything done. Be prepared for this.

Budget Your Time (Realistically)

The first time you teach, it will take you at least twice as long to prepare for each class than you think it will. Leave yourself an extra day or two between when you plan to be prepared for class and when you actually teach. This cushion will protect against unforeseen practice demands, too.

Pick a Convenient Class Time

Most schools will give you lattitude to select a teaching time that works for you. Be assertive and select a course date and time that will best allow you to balance practice and teaching. Think carefully when making your selection.

Rely on Guest Lecturers

Guest lecturers are a great way to lessen your workload. It is also a great way to strengthen relationships with existing clients and colleagues, and a great reason to make new connections with would-be clients. Law students also benefit from meeting and learning from a variety of practioners.

Co-Teach

An even better way to lessen your work load is to co-teach. This allows you to divide the work in half. Co-teaching can also be fun and a great learning experience, particularly if you select a co-teacher with a different background than you. Co-teachers are particularly helpful in the event that a client need interferes with your ability to perpare for or attend a class.

(photo: gilest)

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