"Your Turn" is a series of posts where readers share their stories of parenthood, work, the struggle for a balance, or just life generally. If you are interested in contributing a story, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or click here.
"Good morning, Professor!"
As I heard my name from across the law school classroom, I couldn't help but smirk at my title. Just twenty minutes prior, I was trying desperately to get out of the door in time for class, only to find my two-year old son drawing crayon circles all over one of my student's briefs that I had left out on the kitchen table. After waving frantically on multiple street corners, I finally found a cab, realizing only once I buckled my seat belt that my newborn daughter had left a huge blob of spit-up on the corner of my white silk blouse. Oh well, class started at 9:00 am, and there was no turning back now. If anyone noticed, I could always just pretend it was foam from the vanilla soy latte I would have loved to get if I actually had time to stop at Starbucks before I left.
This is how it goes these days. But I wouldn't trade it for anything.
No one told us women before we endured the rigors of law school that the legal world isn't always the most family friendly profession. And once I became a mom, I knew I could no longer stress about meeting my billable hours while trying to get home in time to put my son to bed. But I was told that a law degree opens doors and could lead to endless possibilities. So I thought about what I was passionate about and set out to do something I had always wanted to do - teach law.
One small issue. I had practiced general litigation for only three years, so I had no real expertise in any area. Further, my only teaching experience consisted of two TA positions I had held in college about ten years prior. But I was certainly a strong writer and a confident public speaker. I had been an editor on Law Review and published a note at a top tier law school. So I took a risk and set out to pursue working as an Adjunct Professor of Legal Writing. I reached out to all of the law schools in my area, and after much persistence, my commitment to pursuing this new endeavor was recognized, and I was offered an adjunct teaching position for a first year writing class. Would it be a ton of work? Yes. Was I absolutely terrified? Beyond. But has it been the best thing I have done with my legal degree as of yet? Absolutely!
As I began to speak during my first day in class, I could feel my legs shake. I was petrified that I wouldn't be able to command the classroom or that my students would feel cheated that I wasn't a Judge or a partner at a law firm or one of the more "important" adjuncts. However, within two minutes of beginning my lecture, I felt at peace and knew this was my calling. After I saw the students engaged in debate about the canons of statutory construction, I felt fulfilled and empowered in a way I never had in all my years at various law firms. These were my students, and I was going to craft and mold them into great legal writers. But more importantly, I was going to make legal writing interesting and fun, all at 9:00 am on a Friday. Sure, they would complain that the class was early, but I would laugh since for me 9:00 am basically felt like afternoon! Oh, to be a law student again.
Now onto the details of becoming an Adjunct Professor: It is an excellent path for a mother who wants to be home with her children, but still keep her mind active and do something meaningful with a law degree. There are many different options of classes to teach as an adjunct, depending on your experience. You just need to inquire with the particular school, as these positions are typically not posted. While my class only meets once a week, there are additional office hours, lawyering workshops, individual student conferences, and other things that come up throughout the semester. I also spend time creating the syllabus, designing the lectures and assignments, and grading papers, which I squeeze in during the kids' naps and after bedtime. My first year teaching I had to commute an hour and a half to the one school that would give me a chance, waking up at 6:30 am after having been up half the night with a new baby. But that experience led me to get into a top tier school closer to my home the following year, which I have now been at for three years.
It's not always easy. There is no maternity leave, so when I got pregnant with my second child, I was grading first semester papers until the day before I gave birth, and then had to be back at school for the next semester a mere month later. And it is a lot of work, for not a whole lot of pay.
But it has kept me sane to have those few hours to myself each week, where I am using my brain, my law degree, and not just hearing "Mommy, Mommy!" over and over, but rather, "Professor."
This post was written by Sara.