Behind Closed Doors

–From name withheld by request, University of Arkansas School of Law, Date of event: circa 1976

I attended law school at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville beginning in the fall of 1976 and graduating in the spring of 1979. Naturally, during my freshman year I took Torts and was privileged to be instructed by the legendary Dr. Robert A. Leflar, who at that time had come back to the University of Arkansas and was teaching for free.

Dr. Leflar was a gentleman of 78 years at this time and he taught well up into his 90s. In fact, the law school today is named for him. He was an outstanding instructor, but he was likewise the kind of instructor who instilled fear and trembling in students. One of Dr. Leflar’s requirements that was strictly adhered to was exact punctuality as far as class attendance was concerned. The class was to begin at the precise time prescribed, at which time the door to the classroom would be closed and it was not to be opened. He gave us that understanding at the very first of the year and it was adhered to.

Dr. Leflar was likewise the kind of instructor who had no fun and games as far as his repartee with students was concerned. On the occasion of one particular class session, there was one student who was just about to be late for class when he hurriedly came in the classroom. Noticing that the door was still opened, he promptly closed it behind him assuming Dr. Leflar to already be in the room. As it turned out, Dr. Leflar was out in the hall just beside the door talking with another faculty member. As Dr. Leflar turned to come in the classroom, he proceeded on remembering the door to have been open the last time he saw it, as he had just come out the door to talk to the other faculty member.

Without looking up at the door, Dr. Leflar walked square into it breaking his rather thick glasses and cutting his face. For the entirety of the class, Dr. Leflar never mentioned the incident, acted as if it had never occurred, and taught the class without any interruption whatsoever. He did this despite the fact that his face was continuously bleeding, with blood all over same, and his eyeglasses were terribly fractured. How the man read his notes was absolutely amazing. I could only conclude that he knew them by heart.

No one dared to utter even a snicker while Dr. Leflar was in the room. However, the instant class was over and Dr. Leflar departed the room, the class broke up in entirety in laughter. No one was laughing at the fact that Dr. Leflar had been injured. They merely laughed at the point that his absolute closed door rule had actually caused him problems as opposed to someone else. I guess this stands for the proposition that rules apply to everyone. One might also say that “no one is above the door.”

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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