Using humor to teach law is something prescribed as one of the best forms of medicine by a law professor who believes using the “pedagogical power of laughter” can be a hugely underestimated tool when it comes to teaching.
Professor Reed, a clinical law professor at Northwestern University Law School believes humor, properly used, can add to lively classroom discussion and can accomplish “pedagogical goals”.
Everyone, he says quite correctly, (although we sometimes have doubts on this point) can find a funny bone.
If you have ever noticed something offbeat in a case or chuckled at the folly in some legal doctrine, you have the capacity to bring humor to the classroom. Heck, if you’ve ever laughed anywhere at anything in your life then you have that capacity – all it takes is an openness to funny or unusual ideas and a willingness to share them with others.
But he does offers some pointers. He encourages professors to brush up on pop culture and jot down ideas before class. And he also cautions against going overboard with slapstick:
I cannot emphasize this enough: do not be a clown in class; be a professor with a sense of humor. I have learned the hard way that off-topic jokes may get a laugh, but they do not push your teaching mission forward. Students are sophisticated and while they may laugh at the time, if you do too much humor beyond the course syllabus they will wonder if it is a good use of class time.
An interesting and doubtless correct thought from the Professor.
The Law Blog, who reported the advice also offered some classic lawyer jokes, just to get you thinking:
“You’re a high-priced lawyer! If I give you $500, will you answer two questions for me?”
“Sure”, says the attorney. “What’s the second question?”
A famous lawyer found himself at heaven’s gates confronting St. Peter. He protested that it was all a mistake: he was only 49, and was far too young to be dead.
“That’s odd,” said St. Peter, “according to the hours you’ve billed, you’re 119 years old.”
One day in court, a lawyer fell into a heated argument with the presiding magistrate over a point of law. “You’ve been showing contempt for this court!” the judge finally exclaimed.
“No, Your Honor,” the lawyer replied, “I’ve been trying to conceal it.”