Using Your Story to Inspire Students

by Christina Glon

Dear Readers: This post is written by Christina Glon of Emory University School of Law. Christina will be joining the ranks of our regular contributors in August, but I wanted to share this post now. ~The Editor.

We all took our own path into law librarianship, and no two stories are alike. I was fortunate enough to have practiced law for seven years in two dramatically different legal whatsyourstorysettings before discovering librarianship. During that time, I had the privilege (or burden) of doing some decidedly dull work as well as the opportunity to work on some fascinating cases. In my short time working with law students, I have discovered that any story about legal work is fascinating to those who are chomping at the bit to get through law school and finally be “a lawyer.” I noticed that whenever I launched into one of my “I remember a case where…” stories, I suddenly became more interesting than Facebook. They were hooked, getting a behind-the-scenes look at what life will be like as a lawyer. Anyone who has ever stood in front of a class of law students knows getting their undivided attention is a rare occurrence.  When you’ve got a group of students hanging on your every word — I’m not going to lie — it is an amazing feeling. 

Once I figured out what was going on, I was hooked as well. I started thinking of stories to add to my lectures as often as possible. After awhile, I started to want only the best, most exciting stories. And then the real epiphany occurred: it’s not the sexiest stories — yes, our tiny firm in our small town had a case with U.S. Supreme Court potential! — that are the best teaching moments but the real stories — no, that case settled before it ever got into our small county courthouse — that offer the best window into the students’ futures. Disappointing? Yes. Reality? Absolutely! We were devastated when the case settled, but the client was thrilled. Such is the life of a lawyer, and there is the real lesson: what is good for the client is not always the outcome you would prefer.

Much to my surprise, even though our case didn’t go to the U.S. Supreme Court, my students were still fascinated by my storytelling and suddenly I became a pretty cool professor. I became the one who showed them what it’s like to be a “real lawyer.”

Can you think of a case you worked on a or topic you have researched that didn’t turn out like you had hoped?  Or an extremely boring assignment that offered unanticipated success?  Consider sharing the fact pattern with your students and offering a behind the scenes look at how you handled it.  I promise it has the power to make you more intriguing than Facebook.

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About Christina Glon

Christina Glon is an Assistant Law Librarian for Reference at Emory University School of Law in Atlanta. She currently teaches Health Law Research and Technology in Legal Practice.
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