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Who Teaches Bankruptcy Law?

posted by david lander

A survey some years ago showed that bankruptcy was one of the law school courses most often taught by adjuncts rather than full time teachers. This has several impacts on the teaching of bankruptcy law. Full time teachers often have contact with one another and may meet at AALS or other professional meetings but  the adjuncts who teach bankruptcy may not have much interaction with other bankruptcy teachers. In addition,  although some of the adjuncts are judges, more of the lawyer- adjuncts are likely to be business bankruptcy lawyers and fewer to be consumer lawyers. Another survey years ago indicated that there were a number of chapter 11 courses being taught, but almost no advanced courses in consumer bankruptcy. At one time there was a sub-committee of the ABA Business Bankruptcy Committee focused on the teaching of bankruptcy in which full time and adjunct teachers met to talk about these topics. Recently the ABA created a new committee to study the role of adjuncts in legal education.

The 2011 Best Practices Report of the  Committee on Adjunct Faculty of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar stated:

“In addition to the teaching contributions of adjunct faculty, however, there exists another and slightly different kind of contribution that adjuncts may make. There is a largely untapped potential for collaboration where full-time faculty and adjunct faculty could work together in ways that truly enhance the students’ experience while at the same time maximizing the contributions that the full-time and adjunct faculty may make to the study and improvement of the law. "

If a school creates a community among full-time faculty and adjunct faculty and successfully encourages meaningful interaction among them, the full-time faculty and the adjuncts will both benefit and the law students will be the major beneficiaries. This interaction can also dilute any resentment or lack of respect that may exist from full-time faculty to the adjuncts or from the adjuncts to the full-time faculty. There are many specific examples of how that might be done. Adjuncts might be invited to presentations of drafts of articles in their area of expertise and interest; they might be invited to meetings of the curriculum committee when relevant issues were on the agenda. If there are adjuncts who might be willing to spend a few extra hours a month they might be invited to join the faculty committee on adjuncts. The law school that more successfully integrates its adjunct into its faculty will be taking a giant step toward bridging the pedagogical chasm between theory and practice. The ABA Business Law Subcommittee on Business Law Education will be doing a program at the Business Law Spring meeting in Boston in March. The program will focus on how practitioners can participate in the business law curriculum as adjuncts or in other roles such as clinicians. For more information on this program contact Professor Robert A White, Distinguished Practitioner in Residence, Commercial Law at [email protected] 


Having taught the Bankruptcy course at University of Washington School of Law and at Lewis & Clark Law School, I completely agree with this post. Frankly, in 17 years of practicing law, I’ve never come across a practitioner who had sufficient expertise to teach both the consumer components of title 11 and the business components. In terms of what I thought my best contribution was when I taught the course twice, it was in how to leverage the bankruptcy code in resolving intractable disputes caused by financial condition. I think there is a meaningful role for experienced practitioners but feel that their value is best utilized in teaching seminars to students who have already taken Bankruptcy 101. When I started practicing law at Weil in NY in 2003, I had the privilege of assisting Harvey Miller with his business reorg couse at Columbia. Harvey had a wonderful ability to contextualize the Code within an understanding of a business debtor’s financial and operational challenges.

I have taught a practical consumer bankruptcy class for the past 13 years as an adjunct. My class focuses on teaching students the practical aspects of representing clients in consumer cases (including representing creditors). We focus also on the major Bankruptcy Code provisions and corresponding Bankruotcy Rules. Students gain invaluable insight and knowledge to the reality of representing clients in bankruptcy proceedings. This includes client retention, client meetings, preparing schedules, reviewing due diligence documents, preparing plans and understanding the major Code and Rules. I use live cases and some interesting famous cases to correspond to the teaching lesson in class. We also review additional options under chapter 11 and 12. My knowledge stems from over 20 years experience representing clients, being a chapter 7 trustee and my current role as a chapter 13 trustee.
Robert S. Thomas, II chapter 13 trustee Baltimore, MD.

Sounds like a great course. the students at that school are fortunate and i imagine the prep takes considerable work. Important to tie consumer protection and consumer bankruptcy together in the ways you are doing. thank you.

Thanks. I truly enjoy It and enjoy the relationships that are built from the class and assisting students with prospective employment opportunities and guidance. I still hear from many students who took my class when I first started teaching. There is a process and knowledge base that needs to be taught that goes beyond just learning the Bankruptcy Code and reading cases. Most students should leave the class with a good foundation to build upon representing clients in consumer bankruptcy cases.

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