UT has recently garnered significant national accolades, including the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities’ Trailblazer award for retention and graduation rate gains and the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification for outreach. These successes are due to the hard work of our innovative employees. Here’s a look at two College of Law faculty members who are trailblazers in and out of the classroom.
Associate Professor Wendy Bach has dedicated her personal and professional life to helping those in need and building supportive programs that respect the dignity and autonomy of those receiving help.
Before teaching, Bach worked as a public interest lawyer in New York City, where she represented low-income clients in public benefits and housing cases. She brought this experience to UT, where she teaches in the clinical program and also teaches courses on family law and poverty, race, and gender and the law.
Bach said she relishes being there as students begin their transition to professionals, and she enjoys seeing them zealously represent their first clients.
Bach also studies the subjects she cares about. She hopes her scholarship can help change the public conversation about poverty, wealth, and social support.
“There is a tremendous amount of misinformation about social welfare, and this misinformation undermines our collective public conversation,” she said.
College of Law Dean Doug Blaze credits Bach with bringing incredible energy, innovation, and commitment to social justice into the college’s clinical offerings.
“She has brought those interests into the classroom and into her writing and scholarship, becoming an increasingly influential voice on poverty issues. Beyond the classroom, Wendy is committed to increasing the sense of community and inclusion at the College of Law and throughout the university,” he said.
Bach hopes she instills in her students a passion for the profession, a desire to continue learning, and a strong commitment to pro bono work throughout their careers.
Her students said she’s succeeding.
“Professor Bach’s passion for representing her clients sets the standard for law students working alongside her in the clinic of the high level of legal representation a client should expect from an attorney,” student Robert Wheeler said.
Student Luke Ihnen agrees: “Anyone who comes into contact with Professor Bach can see how passionate she is about social justice. She instills that same passion in her students. She is an inspiration and a living example that all students of the law should follow.”
When Carol Parker was practicing law in Chicago, she noticed that many young lawyers just weren’t ready for the rigors of the job.
“It seemed to me that law schools could do a much better job of preparing students to practice law.”
Parker thought the improvement could be accomplished with more emphasis on teaching students to communicate legal analysis effectively to various audiences. This observation charted the path of her scholarship about legal writing and methods. Now the Elvin E. Overton Distinguished Professor of Law, she’s helped develop many successful lawyers since joining the faculty more than twenty years ago.
“Seeing people learn fascinates me,” she said. “It never gets old, and watching students develop the knowledge, skills, and understanding that will enable them to practice their profession is both exciting and fulfilling.”
Parker said she was fortunate to begin teaching law at a time when schools were starting to respond to criticism that law students were graduating without the skills necessary to practice.
“People started to see the importance of legal writing within the law school curriculum. They started seeing it not just as a professional skill but also as a method of teaching analysis,” she said. “And we’ve made great progress in getting our students ready for practicing law in the real world.”
Law student Amy Sosinski credits much of the improvement to Parker’s teaching style, which Sosinski calls “the compassionate Socratic method.”
“She tests the bases of your knowledge and your assumptions in a way that encourages you to think rather than get lost in the paralyzing fear of giving a ‘wrong’ answer,” said Sosinski. “While always keeping a soft touch, she challenges her students to keep up with her intellectual pace, which is incredibly quick. She connects topics and weaves issues together at a rate that can leave an inattentive student in the dust.”
Blaze said Parker, who also served as associate dean for academic affairs until recently, is a faculty member who does it all quite well.
“Carol has been the heart and soul of the College of Law for more than twenty years,” he said. “She’s a superb teacher of demanding courses and a terrific scholar known nationally for her articles on legal writing. Her service is unmatched, and she exhibits impeccable judgment and leadership.”
Whitney Heins (865-974-5460, firstname.lastname@example.org)