A Tale of Two Professors

As a 1L at BU, you are randomly assigned to a “section,” a group of roughly 75 people who you then take your entire first year curriculum with. As you might imagine, this insular environment breeds both an intense sense of community and an incredible amount of tension. You’re all stressed and sleep-deprived, and it’s just not possible to get along with every single one of those people every single day. But for the most part, I loved my section (A!). You know that line from Harry Potter, about how you can’t conquer a 12-foot mountain troll together without becoming friends? That’s pretty much the same thing as your 1L section. We experienced the sometimes awful, occasionally hilarious, and generally baffling world that is 1L together, and that really cements you to your fellow Section-mates in a weird way.

As a 2L, I still find myself sitting with Section A people at lunch or in classes, due mostly to probability (as 90% of the 2Ls I know were in Section A). And one interesting thing I’ve noticed is how much we, as a Section, disagree about some of the professors we had during 1L. For example, both our Property professor, Lawson, and our Contracts professor, Pettit, teach Evidence to upper-class students. Because the vast majority of students take Evidence, Section A was in a unique position of taking Evidence with one of two professors, both of whom we were already familiar with.

And that’s when something odd happened. It was almost an even 50/50 split between who chose to take Evidence with Professor Lawson vs. with Professor Petit, who have essentially polar opposite teaching styles. Professor Lawson does not cold call – ever. Class discussion is limited essentially to when someone asks a question. The rest of the time, he lectures in this totally unique narrative style. His lectures are meant to take the entire class period, and they do, often swooping into planned tangents of 10 or 15 minutes before returning to the ultimate point. Professor Pettit, on the other hand, relies almost exclusively on cold calls and hypotheticals to drive his classes. The pace is very fast and, during the few moments Professor Pettit IS lecturing, the class is frantically scribbling down his words verbatim because he only explains the most complex points in his own words.

Both Professors Pettit and Lawson are clearly experts in their fields. Section A is lucky to have had them both, and I think they are incomparable professors. (Which is no surprise. BU Law is consistently ranked as having some of the best professors in the country.) But even the absolute best professors don’t work for everyone. Personally, I had a hard time focusing on Professor Lawson’s lectures. I often felt unsure about which parts I should be writing down, and that frustrated me.  Yet other people in my section loved Lawson’s lectures and found Pettit’s classes to be too fast-paced and rigid. Some preferred to hear the professor explain what he felt was important in his own words, rather than relying so much on the cold call system.

Both of these positions are completely valid. The huge contrast in styles of BU professors is actually one of my favorite things about our school. During 1L, when you have no say in the matter, you are exposed to a wide variety of teaching styles. You learn which ones work for you and which ones are more of a struggle so that when you pick your classes as a 2L, you can often choose between two contrasting, but equally amazing, professors.

Post a Comment

Your email address is never shared. Required fields are marked *