Igniting Law Teaching 2015 Conference

The Craft of Law Teaching 

Kim Hawkins, New York Law School: “What Law Professors Need to Know About Visual Arts”

Kim Hawkins is an Associate Professor of Law at New York Law School, where she teaches a year-long required first year course called Legal Practice as well as an upper level seminar course on Juvenile Delinquency. While she has 12 year of practice experience as a public interest lawyer, she is also a portrait painter, having trained at the New York Academy of Art, and she spent several years working as a commissioned artist.


     Talk Summary: Increasingly, we in the legal profession are asked to employ visual tools in our teaching. To be more effective as teachers, law professors need to develop a designer’s eye. Too often, we create PowerPoint presentations that lack any real visual impact.  My talk will focus on how law professors can become more sophisticated consumers of visual presentation software to make effective presentations, focusing on color, font, symmetry, visual focus, and space proportion.


Doni Gewirtzman, New York Law School: “Teaching and Theater: The Craft of Law Teaching”

   Doni Gewirtzman is a Professor of Law at New York Law School, where he teaches constitutional law and has been  named the school’s “Teacher of the Year” three times.  He is also the co-director of  NYLS’ Initiative for Excellence in Law Teaching (IELT).  In his spare time, he sees a lot of theater, and plays guitar, jazz piano, the ukulele, and obscure German board games.  


Talk Summary: As live performers, law professors compete with methods of conveying information that are often more efficient, more effective, and more compelling than we are.  In order to survive in this new world, law teachers have much to learn from live theater, an art form that has survived in the face of rampant competition and new technology.  My talk will focus on what law professors can learn from live performance and the ways we can exploit its unique educational advantages.      




       Leah A. Plunkett is an Associate Professor of Legal Skills and the Director of Academic Success at University of New Hampshire School of Law.  She is also does research with the Student Privacy Initiative at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.  Professor Plunkett holds an A.B. summa cum laude from Harvard College, where she performed with IGP (an improvisational comedy troupe), and a J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School. 


Talk Summary: Three rules: (1) always say yes; (2) make it “yes, and . . .”; and (3) trees keep their hands on their heads.  These principles of improvisational comedy are essential when you’re on stage with no script.  They’re just as crucial in front of a law school classroom.  You want to accept every offer a student makes and build on it, using methods that are authentic for your talents—and keep you from becoming deadwood.


        Jill Smith is an Instructional Technology Librarian at Georgetown University Law Center.  Prior to this role, she was Instructional Technology Librarian at The University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, where she also taught Legal Research. Prior to her academic career, Jill spent two years at BNA and 12 years working in capital markets and investor relations.  In addition to the usual academic credentials, Jill is a graduate of the Syracuse University Theatre program.

Talk Summary: Flipped classrooms frequently use online video and screen-casting as essential tools, but all too often these are either lackluster or overly fussy.  This presentation will highlight the habits of thought and planning which can take online video from poor to good and from good to great.