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October 08, 2015


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Matthew Reid Krell

The thing I like about office hours is that I can tell students that even if I'm in the office with the door open, that if it's not posted office hours, I can't promise to see them. Since I currently share an office with two other instructors, that's an important ability. If I didn't have posted office hours, I would feel a responsibility to be available anytime a student came by. But if I'm up to my eyeballs in data, or writing, or whatever, then I like being able to say, "Not now. Come back during office hours."


Professor Krell makes a good point, but so does Professor Lipton. Could there be electronic office hours, where the professor would be available for meetings online?

Jacqui Lipton

Makes perfect sense Matthew. Thanks.
The idea of electronic office hours is interesting too. Does anyone do office hours via Skype or anything? I've done that in classes in other disciplines, but never in law ie where the instructor is available at a given time for a "drop in" video chat with anyone who's interested. It usually ends up being a small group discussion in that format, though.

Junior Prof.

I am a junior prof and do not list office hours. Most of my colleagues do. I am generally in my office from 9 or 10 until 6 or 7, including Saturdays, and the students know that & know that my door is open (metaphorically -- it is actually closed, but there is a glass panel). I don't teach 1Ls, so I don't get many drop-ins, but I do get some. Mainly they talk with me after class or email. I make it a policy to respond to student emails as quickly as I responded to client emails (generally within two hours). If any wanted to Skype or Google Chat, that would be fine, but my classes are so small that I cannot see why someone would do that.

Scott Bauries

Jacqui and Professor,

I live in Georgia and teach at Kentucky Law, and I have been using Adobe Connect to conduct online office hours with my 1Ls for a couple of years now. I find that student attendance tends to be very high, especially when I allow them to ask questions anonymously. I'm happy to share the details if you want.

As to physical office hours, I just put into my syllabus that I am available during business hours on the days I'm in town (which are fixed each semester), and that I welcome them to drop by. If I'm immersed in something, my students are very good about coming back later.

Derek Tokaz

ABA Standard 404(a)(1) requires:

(a) A law school shall adopt, publish, and adhere to written policies with respect to full-time faculty
members’ responsibilities. The policies shall require that the full-time faculty, as a collective
body, fulfi ll these core responsibilities:
(1) Teaching, preparing for classes, **being available for student consultation about those classes,**
assessing student performance in those classes, and remaining current in the subjects
being taught;

Didn't see any specific requirements for office hours, just that general requirement that you be available.

On the question of e-mail office hours, I generally respond to e-mails during regular business hours, and things that come in after CoB often won't get answered until the next morning. I'm often working 6-7 days a week, so I'm not going to be spending my free time in the evenings answering student questions.

Junior Prof.

^^ On answering emails after hours, I think it's totally reasonable not to respond after business hours or on weekends, though that's not always true in private practice (though I saw plenty of people try to implement it in their own lives with varying degrees of success). I have an Inbox 0 practice, though, and as a result I prefer clearing things out when they come in. That said, I do not carry a smart phone, so "after hours" responding is not quite as constant as it might be for others. I am not answering student emails when I am away from a computer. But I am usually working on my computer at home until 10 or 11 at night, so if a student emails, I respond. It's mostly about getting it off my desk.

Derek Tokaz

In private practice you also don't answer e-mails after business hours or on weekends. The difference is that in private practice business hours are the same as waking hours, and the work runs Sunday-Sunday.

Beth Thornburg

Another method I've found helpful during the exam period is to create a discussion list on TWEN where students can post (anonymously if they like) questions about the exam materials. That way everybody gets answers, as opposed to individual emails. I have also tried encouraging them to respond to each other's questions for potential extra credit (non-anonymously), but I still have to monitor it to avoid misinformation.

Kristen Holmquist

The problem with not having at least one set office hour is that not all students feel entitled to ask for a professor's time. In a by-appointment-only regime, I might miss a whole swath of students who don't feel entitled to ask for an appointment. Perhaps a combination is best?


Are we to suppose that a student in law school is not able to approach a professor during office hours unless the professor allows for a non-scheduled time, and that this student prefers to just show up unannounced? Are we to suppose this hypothetical student therefore prefers to require on demand time but doesn't feel "entitled" to make an appointment?

Being willing to wait outside the door in line is less demanding than demanding to be seen without an appointment, but where do we find evidence to suppose that a "whole swath of students" would prefer either method to simply approach a professor for a discussion?

Are we to believe that law students, after all they have gone thru to apply for and attend law school, do not have the wherewithal to make an appointment or that they do not "feel entitled to ask for an appointment" to have a discussion with a professor during office hours?

If this is even remotely true, and I doubt it is, it would be the professor's fault for not making clear that availability by appointment is a sign of respect for the students' time, not an extraordinary burden imposed upon them that requires some huge sense of entitlement to overcome.

Junior Prof.

I think what she is saying is that a professor who writes "Office hours: by appointment" on his/her syllabus may deter some students who feel uncomfortable imposing (but would feel comfortable swinging by during a window that was fixed and communicated as "my time for you"). That's not a crazy point.

I think you can overcome it, though -- I communicate in writing and orally that I am generally around and always happy to see people. Another point, similar to Kristen's, might be that some students might be more comfortable asking questions in writing (or retain answers better if they can see them written out). I am actually more of a visual than oral learner, myself. That is why I try to respond to emails promptly. People learn and process information differently.


Are we training lawyers? Unable to make an appointment? Wow. Welcome to preparation for the working world.

Some of these comments seem to stray into infantilizing law students and, as such, do them a grave injustice.

ANd, if the alternative is a certain amount of "open door" time, let's not pretend that window will be convenient for all.

While I'm all in favor of requiring law profs to be in their offices 40 hours per week, except during teaching periods, most know that this is hardly the case in the main (of course, someone will chime in and say he or she is in the office every day all day long, and available to students, but this is not the norm).

Claiming that leaving the door open during some limited periods better accommodates students' supposed sensibilities than an entirely flexible period allowing students to reserve a time seems to be sort of condescending and an inapt contention.

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