What courses do you teach?

I teach half of my courses in the law school and half through the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics. In the law school, I teach the required first-year course in criminal law. I also teach a course on religion and the Constitution, which I typically offer in the spring of even-numbered years. I plan to teach this course next in Spring 2020.

I co-teach (with Mark Valeri) an undergraduate course on law, religion, and history, typically in the fall of even-numbered years. We are teaching this course in the Fall 2018 semester.

I also teach a number of other courses (usually seminars) on various topics related to the First Amendment. In recent years, these topics have included Groups and The First Amendment, Pluralism and the University, The First Amendment in Schools, Constitutional Interpretation, and Law, Religion, and Politics.

What are your office hours?

If you are a student enrolled in a class I am teaching, you can sign up for office hours with me.  Otherwise, please make an appointment through my assistant, Rachel Mance, at rmance@wustl.edu.
 

Will you write a recommendation letter for me?

I try to accommodate recommendation requests, but realize that my value to you is usually either neutral or negative if all you’ve done is taken a big lecture class with me.  There are two exceptions.  If you do extremely well in my class, I can usually brag about you even if I don’t really know you (but even here, think about the limits of my effectiveness).  If you do extremely poorly in my class and there is a compelling reason for your poor performance, I can sometimes address that issue.  But outside of these circumstances, all the office hours visits in the world will not make me more likely or better equipped to write a recommendation letter for you.  It’s not your fault.  It’s a function of the class format and assessments. 

I am much more equipped to write letters for students who have taken seminars with me or who have otherwise been engaged in substantive writing projects with me. 

If you ask me to write a recommendation letter, please include: (1) your resume; and (2) a brief statement explaining why you are interested in whatever you are asking me to recommend you for, why you think you are a good candidate for this opportunity, and why you think I am a good person to write your letter.
 

Will you serve as a reference for me for my bar application?

Yes, if you are a current or former law student of mine and you give me enough advance notice.  Please be sure to include any instructions and deadlines in your request.

 

Should I try to get a judicial clerkship after graduating from law school?

Generally, yes, if your personal and financial circumstances allow for it.  A clerkship can be a wonderful experience and a great credential for many legal jobs.  On the other hand, lots of amazing and happy lawyers do not apply for clerkships or do not get the clerkship they had hoped for.

 

Do my grades determine my worth and value as a person?

No.

 

Does getting the right job determine my worth and value as a person?

No.

 

Easy for you to say, you were successful in law school and legal practice?

Nope.  Pretty mediocre in law school, pretty good in practice, some career missteps, unemployed and uninsured right before our second child came along.

 

So how did you end up teaching at Washington University?

I don’t know.  The grace of God, a lucky break with my first book, and generous colleagues who made me a better candidate.

 

Now that I know about your ups and downs, why should I take you seriously?

Because I am your professor.