Civics Duty

–From Monica “Nic” Monroe, Catholic University School of Law, Date of of event: August 2000

Today is the first day of school of my second year. Looking at all the wide-eyed First Years wandering around the building I am reminded of my First Week one year ago.

We all find law school rather tense those first few days. Everyone is sizing up their classmates, wondering who will be the top students. One can’t help it. We all got good grades in college and most of us came here believing we were smart, articulate, and even witty. We live in fear of two things: BEING CALLED ON and (a fate worse than death) GIVING A DUMB ANSWER.

Our Lawyering Skills professor, Michael Koby, was speaking generally about the structure of law and government. He turns to a student, “Quickly, what are the three branches of the U.S. government?” She stares, blinks, and stares some more. Finally she shrugs, “I was a Biology major.”

The whole class lost it. Professor Koby smiled and stifled his own laugh. Finally, we settle down and he tries again. He talks her through the answer he wanted. Bless his heart, he even sang part of the “School House Rock” America episode—the song called “Three Ring Circus” describing the branches and their functions.

Looking back, this was the ice-breaker for Section B. Yes, some teased her about it. But, this was the first time our section laughed as a group, our first shared “funny law school story.” Her response and especially the professor’s response finally took the edge off. It set the tone for a demanding, yet never dull year-long course with an exceptional professor. One who taught us to “write like a lawyer” but also to Believe In and Laugh At Ourselves.

Professor Koby left Catholic for Washington University in St. Louis. For any of his students who might read this, I hope you appreciate the rare treasure you have in this professor.

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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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