Hastings Law Journal


Howard Lesnick


The prevalent notion of teaching is that what teachers are doing is transmitting some of their acquired knowledge and skills, which will be useful to students in their careers. This approach is woefully deficient in several important ways. Most fundamentally, it uses people to teach things, rather than using things to teach people. Professor Lesnick thinks of teaching as bringing out something that is latent in the student, rather than putting in something he or she lacks. To do that, teachers must put more of themselves into their engagement with the subject matter of their teaching. At the same time, they struggle to do this in a way that encourages their students to look for more of themselves in their responses to teachers and to the subject matter. Professor Lesnick's principal goal is to invite his students to ask themselves what being a lawyer means or can come to mean to them.

To "teach" practitioners would be to make the existential realities of practice a central part of the agenda, rather than an unspoken barrier to it. As with the teacher-student and lawyerclient relations, the task is to keep the responsibility of teacher and practitioner shared. Teacher and practitioner need one another, even though each often experiences the other negatively. There is learning for the teacher even in the negative or inhospitable responses of practitioners, for, just as the latter can learn from a teacher to open himself or herself to unacknowledged choice and responsibility, so does the teacher need to take in what a practitioner has to say about the limitations on choice.

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