This summer, I'll be teaching Energy Law for the first time as part of Berkeley's Professional LLM program. I've never taught the class before, nor did I ever take it or any related courses (environmental law, natural resources law, oil and gas law, or public utilities law) while in law school. It's also new in terms of structure -- the class is scheduled for three hours a day, for eight consecutive days -- which poses challenges of its own (in terms pacing, reading assignments, etc.).
Fortunately, I'm not a total novice -- energy was my primary practice group back during my law firm days (if you're wondering how someone who had no background or coursework in energy came to work primarily in the field as a lawyer, the answer is an old-fashioned one: I was randomly assigned to the practice group my first day at the firm). And I was lucky enough to have some stellar mentors at the firm who were committed to giving me a thorough foundational grounding in the field. Practice experience is great, but can be somewhat catch-as-can -- had I created a syllabus based solely on what I had done billable work in, my students would have learned everything there is to know about state energy brokering regulations, a fair amount about vegetation management standards ... and nothing at all about the Federal Power Act.*
In any event, teaching in a new area is an experience all new professors go through, and most of us will go through repeatedly as our careers progress. So I figured I'd open this thread up for people to speak their minds on the subject -- anything from advice, to cautionary tales, to amusing anecdotes.
* A side note: My experience starting off as a practicing attorney in a completely new and unfamiliar field made me incredibly grateful for the oft-maligned "traditional" law school education of "learning to think like a lawyer." Even had I taken a class in energy law, there's no way I would have learned the intricacies of Illinois' regulations on energy brokers and how they compared to the standards in New Jersey. But the generalist grounding I got in legal research and writing, plus the broader understanding I had from taking an administrative law class, gave me the intellectual agility necessary to tackle something that was entirely new to me without losing too many steps in the process. "Experiential learning" and clinics are great, and I'm all for them, but there is a lot to be said as well for a generalist legal education that produces lawyers capable of handling a wide and diverse range of topics that might be quite far afield from they originally envisioned they'd be doing when they entered law school.