Sometimes You Really Can Judge a Book by its Cover

–From Professor Ken Chestek at University of Michigan Law School, University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Date of event: circa 1977.

Our first-year Contracts professor was notoriously more “mysterious” than most of our other first-year profs; we generally had to work pretty hard to fathom what he was asking us. One day in the winter semester he began a class by wandering down an unusually long frolic-and-detour that seemed to bear little, if any, relevance to the subject of Contracts.

We strained to see where he was going; nobody, however, dared to interrupt him. Finally, after about twenty minutes, a student meekly raised her hand and asked, “Professor, could you, um, tell us what case you are talking about?”

The professor looked at her for the longest time, with a blank expression on his face. The rest of us sat dumbstruck, waiting to see what kind of tongue-lashing was forming behind those impenetrable eyes. Finally, without saying a word, the professor closed the book on his podium, and gently laid it down on the desk. We cringed. He then opened up a different book, thumbed through it, and finally looked back up at us.

“I bet you all want to hear about Contracts today, don’t you?”

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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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