Why Do I Teach? An Essay by Professor Jayne Barnard

  • Why I Teach
    Why I Teach  Professor Barnard writes that her students' success reminds her that through her teaching she is in touch with a "worldwide community of intelligent, productive and interesting people."  Colonial Photography
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When grading a pile of 100 plus exams during the last two weeks of the semester, it is easy to ask myself why I do this job.  The answer, for me, is simple: It's the company I keep.

During the years I have taught at William & Mary, I have developed deep and important friendships with many people on this campus. But they are permanent residents of Williamsburg. Most of my students are not.

And yet, many of my students are still part of my life, years after they have graduated and moved far away. Part of this is the gift of Facebook, part of it (like any friendship) takes work. But the fact is that many of my students have developed into wonderfully complex, caring human beings with interesting lives and interesting passions. I love catching up with them, exchanging commiserations, conveying praise, offering support, and receiving friendship and support in return. Aren't relationships like these the core of why we exist?

Why do I teach?  Because I get to know people like Doug Bunch '06, who knew from the start that he wanted to do securities litigation on the plaintiffs' side (a rare choice), and has succeeded in finding the perfect niche in which to do just that, in Washington, D.C.  Doug sends me the briefs he has filed, and interesting opinions the day they are issued.  He's a great source of information about the securities class action scene.  Also, he's made me proud to be able to be a benefactor of his charity, Global Playground.

And then there is Judy Conti '94, who is an entrepreneur, a keen strategist in her work, an extraordinary networker, an opinionated cultural critic, a lover of the table, an avid Oscar watcher, and a world-class daughter, wife, and mom. Whenever I get to Washington, we try (but mostly fail) to get together for long, far-ranging talks.

Joe Jay '06 is a corporate man. He took several courses from me and has made securities law and white collar crime his career. He travels all over the world, investigating and counseling on claims under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. He deals with the SEC and the Department of Justice, ably defending his well-heeled clients. Like Doug Bunch, Joe is a great source of breaking information and diabolical ideas for exam questions. He is also evenly matched with me on Words With Friends.

Catherine Stanton '89 has taken a different path in the law. Cathy represents claimants in workers compensation cases throughout the New York area. She is a name partner in her law firm and is immediate past president of the New York Workers Compensation Bar Association. At the national level, she is president of the Workers Injury and Law Advocacy Group. I spent a couple of days last summer with her family at the beach.  It is wonderful to see people who used to be "just students" become movers and shakers like Cathy, and also to see them enjoy hanging out with their kids.

Martha McGlothlin Gayle '95 has four kids and lives in Southwest Virginia. Like Judy Conti, she is an entrepreneur, most recently opening a store ("Green With Envy") in Bristol. Andrea D'Ambra '03 has five kids (two of them born while she was in law school) and now lives in Philadelphia. She works long hours for a BigLaw firm, and juggles a robust and complex life. As is the case with many of my former students, I am in awe of both Martha and Andrea. Their energy energizes me.

Desh Gaurav Sekhri '05 was in just one of my classes, Securities Regulation, but we talked often about his aspirations to build a business back home in India. He's now building his reputation as a sports law attorney in Delhi (the opportunities for growth of teams and leagues in India are incredible, he says). He's also a journalist whose columns I can read in The Indian Express online.

So, teaching has given me a worldwide community of intelligent, productive, interesting people with a simple shared experience:  three years in Williamsburg, learning the law.

Whether they've gone on to be partners in BigLaw firms, like R.J. Scaggs '88 or  Steffi Garrett '91; law professors like Patty Roberts '92, Lisa Nicholson '93, or Luz Nagle '95;  Christian missionaries like Latoya Asia '09; public defenders like Rob Poggenklass '10, or clerks of court for cities like Llezelle Dugger '95, they are all part of my circle. And they are why I teach.

Jayne Barnard joined the faculty in 1985 and is the Cutler Professor of Law. She is a nationally known expert on corporations and white-collar crime, whose scholarly work allowed the victims of Bernie Madoff to face the Ponzi scheme operator in court prior to his sentencing. In addition to her work as a scholar and a professor, she has spent more than three decades working with the American Civil Liberties Union to promote the protection of civil rights around the country and currently serves as president of the ACLU of Virginia's Board of Directors. In 2011 she received the College of William & Mary's Jefferson Award, an honor that recognizes a person whose life, character and influence on the university exemplify the principles of Thomas Jefferson.

In 2009, Professor Barnard was the second law professor appointed as the Kelly Professor of Teaching Excellence, a chair she held for two years. The chair is made possible by the generosity of Herbert V. Kelly, Sr. (1920-2007), a graduate of the College of William & Mary and William & Mary Law School, and is intended to promote enrichment of the student learning experience. Mr. Kelly practiced law for more than 60 years and at the time of his death was the president and senior partner of Jones, Blechman, Woltz & Kelly, P.C., in Newport News, Va. He served on the College's Board of Visitors from 1976 to 1985 and was College rector from 1982 to 1984.  A resolution by the Virginia legislature recorded shortly after Mr. Kelly's death described his devotion to his family, profession, community and alma mater.