Teaching Philosophy

The general perception about the study of law is that it is boring: hard, incomprehensible and boring. And that might be true in those cases where law is presented and perceived as the study of thousands of pages of abstract technicalities. For law is in fact about life; real life. And about solving problems; real problems. And about having an impact on society, dealing with people and businesses. Real people and real business. It is as real as it can get.

Out of my 35 years, 22 I have spent in school, learning. 9 years I have dedicated solely to the study of law, almost as long as my practice of law. Therefore, I have had the opportunity to see many professors at work and to evaluate – mostly for myself – their approach to teaching, to learn not only about their topic, but also the way one should or should not teach it. The years spent in school have shaped me and my perception of teaching, for throughout my studies I have constantly identified role models and told myself: this is the way to teach a class.

As I have stated in my Cover Letter, in the classroom I had three priorities: interactive teaching strategies, interdisciplinary content, and inquiry-based learning. Here, I would like to develop on each of them and on the ways I plan to follow these priorities.

The moment I realized that law and life are strongly intertwined, that one cannot simply disregard practical knowledge from the actual study of law, was the moment when I started to develop my teaching philosophy. For in my perception, teaching law was not a journey from abstract concepts towards practice, but the other way\, from particular cases to general rules. Everything has to start with an example to which all students can relate, which they will find easy to comprehend, and a plausible situation, which can lead to an actual (life) lesson. Using the personal and professional experiences of students is an effective interactive teaching strategy for it involves and encourages learners to participate in the class, stimulates discussion and gives other participants a hands-on experience

As a practitioner I had also learned the importance of details, of the capacity to adapt to new challenges, to deadlines, to work in groups, to respond to clients’ needs and wishes, as well as to become more structured and clearer. All these are valuable lessons for legal students, and the sooner they learn them, the better. Creating or simulating real life situations, beside cases, is very important to my teaching philosophy and the core of inquiry based learning. Every single task and activity, be it a simulated trial, drafting a clause, having a group negotiation exercise, or a research memo, must be transformed into a lesson from which they should derive and develop the skills that will make them not just relevant on the job market, but simply good at what they are doing.

Last, but not least, I am convinced that practicing law requires passion, for many cases, many situations faced by lawyers are somehow repetitive and not all have the possibility or simply the will to change fields, despite specialization also being a form of self-limitation. Therefore, a good lawyer must love what he does. My teaching philosophy is to inspire students to take pleasure in their work. To keep an open mind towards other disciplines and thinking outside the box. To approach their tasks with the curiosity of a scientist, the intuition of a detective, the seriousness of a researcher but also the playfulness of a child. Solving legal issues is, metaphorically speaking, similar to solving a jigsaw. Same methods and rules apply. One must create the frame. Order and categorize the pieces. And then start working inwards, from general to particular, paying attention to details. Bearing in mind that although the rules are similar – notwithstanding if one has to solve a case or simply provide a legal opinion – the end picture will always be different.

There is also a lot of formalism involved in the practice of law. And although I will to teach my students about it, my teaching philosophy is to avoid formalism and distance. I do not wish my students to regard me as a know it all, or as a judge or as a boss. I want them to perceive me as a guide, but also as a listener. Someone sharing and also gathering knowledge. Someone willing not only to talk but also to listen. Someone who does not only teaches but also learns. With them. From them. However, I do believe that the teacher-students as well as student-student relationships – similar to any other human relationship – should be based on mutual respect. Lack of formality should not be construed in any way as lack of discipline or respect, for these are also valuable traits in the legal business.

To sum-up, I would say that my teaching philosophy would follow a recipe characterized by ingredients such as: usefulness, relevance, informality, discovery, interactivity, communication and fun.