Of the 80 adjuncts at Miami Law’s Litigation Skills Program more than half are Miami Law graduates - 44 to be exact. Program Director Laurence Rose explains many of the ”Lit Skills” adjuncts want to teach to give students the benefit of their experience in practice, and also to give back to their alma mater in the best possible way. “A position in our Litigation Skills Program is a sought-after role. I receive at least ten offers each year from local attorneys and judges, especially from alums.”
An adjunct professor is a part-time professor who is hired on a contractual basis rather than being given tenure and a permanent position. Rose says either interested attorneys contact his office directly for openings or the office seeks them out.
This was the case with Judge Bertila Soto. Soto is the Chief Judge of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida and a 1989 graduate of Miami Law. She began her adjunct teaching career in spring 2011. Soto calls it an honor to have been asked to teach at her alma mater. “I think it's great to be taught by professors that sat where the student sat. We have pride in our university and interest that they all excel.” Soto says she learns something new every year and that the benefits go both ways.” I think as a professor we can relate to the student on a personal level.”
And most adjuncts don’t teach for the money. Rose says the pay is a very modest honorarium, and many of the adjuncts donate back the money for use as scholarships.
For Miami Law graduate Kathleen Phang, the choice to teach was one she always aspired for. “My father was a college professor at UM for almost his entire professional career. He always told me it was the most rewarding thing he ever did. The opportunity to continue this family tradition is special to me.” As a previous Thomas Ewald award winner, Phang was guaranteed a spot as an adjunct and began teaching in spring 2012, after having graduated just twelve years earlier. The Thomas Ewald award is given every semester to the law student in the Lit Skills program who best exemplifies the devotion to high standards and ethical conduct followed by Tom Ewald.
But teaching is not for everyone. “It takes patience and dedication to be a teacher. But, you have the chance to influence how students think about the subject matter and where they might envision themselves later on in their lives. It’s a unique opportunity,” says Phang.
“Every lawyer ought to be a mentor, and these adjuncts provide that mentorship at a very critical stage,” says Rose.
With the Lit Skills program now seeing 3rd generation students becoming adjuncts, adjuncts like Soto say teaching keeps her current. “As a lawyer you need to keep up with the law and teaching is a great way to do that!”