Reflections Upon Transitions: An Essay on Learning How to Teach after Practicing Law


  • C. Benjie Lewis Albany Law School



Every academic year, new law school faculty enter legal academia. Many of these new teachers are practitioners with varying levels of legal practice experience. While the transition from practice to teaching is particular to each person, for clinical professors there are some specific challenges that transform our professional identity. Clinical professors wear many hats: teacher, lawyer, mentor, and scholar. Navigating those many hats and adjusting to various goals of teaching emerging attorneys is only a couple of challenges. Other challenges include changing the focus of our professional identity from career-centered, in its many facets, to student centered. 

A core component of clinical legal education is the reflective process. A reflective lawyer is one who thoughtfully digests information and thinks about how an experience affects his or her professional growth. A reflective teacher does the same. This article shares some of my reflections on becoming a clinician and what I learned through experiences about becoming a more effective teacher. 

In Part I, I reflect on my role as a supervisor of emergent attorneys and a goal facilitator for these same students who are exploring their educational and professional development. Part II includes lessons unique, I believe, to a clinician of color. Finally, Part III concludes with reflections on five core tools I have used that helped me in my transition; these tools, I believe, could be useful to new clinicians, especially those that have been practicing for a long time before teaching.