How to Make a Great Second Impression in the Law School Classroom

By: Professor Joe Fore, University of Virginia School of Law, & Professor Emily Grant, Washburn University School of Law

First impressions matter. And it can be hard to overcome a bad one. So it should come as no surprise that the first day of any class is crucial in laying a foundation for a productive semester. The first day of class presents an opportunity to accomplish several important things:

  • Get to know the students and to let them get to know you. Let the students introduce themselves. And share your background with the class. It can help to establish credibility and let the students know where you’re coming from—both inside and outside of the classroom.
  • Establish a supportive and encouraging learning environment. Demonstrate your own enthusiasm for the course and for teaching and working with students. Encourage students to ask questions and to come to office hours.
  • Convey high—but achievable—standards. Let the students know that (a) you have high expectations, (b) they are capable of meeting them, and (c) you are ready, willing, and able to help. Studies have shown that such messages can improve student performance, particularly for minority students.

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