Professor Rebecca Morrow uses story telling to help explain the law to students
Research | Comments Off
Office of Communications and Public Relations
April 22, 2013
Wake Forest Law Professor Rebecca Morrow grew up with chalk in her veins. Both her parents were high school teachers and she hoped to follow them into teaching.
Before joining the Wake Forest faculty, Morrow honed her skills practicing law with Legal Aid, a large corporate law firm and a midsize boutique firm. Three years into her practice, she began pursuing an LL.M. in Taxation. Five years into her practice, she completed that LL.M. and began teaching tax as an adjunct professor. Adding LL.M. courses and then teaching to a busy law practice made for some long nights, but Morrow would not trade her experiences.
“I learned a tremendous amount in each position,” Morrow said.
She spent the summer after her first year of law school interning with National Public Radio’s Nina Totenberg, whose storytelling ability she admired. Every Monday that summer, Morrow would go to the U.S. Supreme Court with Totenberg when the decisions were handed down. “We would always look for the justices to say something unusual or heartfelt because it would make for a good story,” she said.
Story telling helped her explain the law, not only to her clients and judges, but also enables her to bring real-life examples to the tax and family law courses she teaches. “At Legal Aid, I learned what it means to be another person’s advocate and how fulfilling it can be to help another person access the justice system.”
While Morrow’s Legal Aid cases were high-stakes, “I felt so much better once I committed myself to this view: ‘I do not have to be as good an attorney as my supervisor because that is an impossible standard for a first-year attorney. I just have to recognize that if I was not here being this person’s attorney, no one would be here.’”
At both a large and mid-sized firm, Morrow learned how rewarding it can be to develop a practice area. “As your practice develops, you can carve out an area of expertise, add particular value for clients, and compete with lawyers with many years more experience.”
The most valuable lesson came from Morrow’s experience as an adjunct professor. “In my first week of teaching, I knew that I wanted to teach full time.”
When Morrow attended an academic recruiting fair in Washington, D.C., she was immediately impressed by Wake Forest Law Dean Blake Morant. He was the speaker she liked best, she said. ”Blake immediately impressed on me that Wake Forest valued me and my experience.”
She added that she also felt an immediate connection to the law school faculty. They were interested in her research, work experience, and teaching experience, and they were highly collegial.
The woman who grew up on an island outside Seattle has found a new home in Winston-Salem and enjoys the town’s sense of community. She is thrilled to be a faculty member in a small law school in a midsize Southern city with an airstream trailer that dispenses good enough coffee to make her feel at home.
Best of all, Morrow finds her students thoroughly engaged and engaging. “They want the class to be good and so they help the professor, they help each other, they do the work to make sure that class time is productive,” she said. “They come to office hours, ask great questions, and take advantage of opportunities . . . I really like Wake Forest students.”