Encouraging students to look at 'the practical side'

By Sheila pursglove Legal News The cases students read in professor Judy Frank's Wills, Estates and Trusts classes could easily be made into soap operas, she says. "Students seem to find something that strikes a personal note during the class," says Frank. "Of course, I want the students to learn the legal concepts, but I also want them to think about the practical side of the subject matter." Frank, a professor at Cooley Law School in Lansing where once she studied for her own J.D., says she always learns something from her students. "Sometimes it's information that comes from their past experiences and that I can add to my own knowledge," she says. "Sometimes it's learning something about myself and my teaching style. Every time I grade an exam, I learn something about how I taught the class that term. "I'm always trying new techniques in the classroom. I don't believe the adage about old dogs. I've actually become more comfortable using computer technology in the classroom. I even developed a short lesson using PowerPoint -- whew! I was really nervous before I used it in the classroom. My students were very understanding and even applauded when I finished the lesson." For several years, Frank was coach of Cooley's Client Counseling Competition, becoming active at the national level, and attending competitions in Scotland and Australia. She also visited South Africa to raise interest in developing a client-counseling program there. Frank entered the field of law in mid-life. She earned her bachelor's degree in theater and speech, with a minor in English, at the University of Michigan, and a master's degree in secondary education from Michigan State University. She spent a year teaching drama and speech at Post Junior High School in Detroit and then taught English, reading and drama at Holt High School for 18 years. "At age 35, I knew I wasn't a '30-and-out' person and I wanted to change careers. My uncle and brother were lawyers, and I had an experience when I was pregnant with my first child that made me realize I could become a lawyer too," she says. "Was it difficult? You bet. I was a full time teacher and a full time law student with a husband and small children at home. I'm still not sure how I pulled it off. But I loved the mental challenge of law school -- the law is fascinating and my brain never got bored." Following graduation from Cooley, she practiced litigation in the Lansing office of Dickinson Wright, where she had worked as a summer associate. "I was always learning something new and challenging, but I missed teaching more than I thought I would," she says. "So, I joined the faculty at Cooley. "Cooley is committed to developing a skilled teaching faculty that is accessible to students. Faculty member are extremely collegial, a characteristic that doesn't always exist in an academic setting." Frank supervised student interns in Cooley's Sixty-Plus Elder Law Clinic for several years, and conducted classes as part of the clinic's curriculum. "I think the clinic is amazing," she says. "It serves a population often overlooked and it provides students with an incomparable practical experience." Frank authored the "Senior Citizens Resource Handbook," a project sponsored by the Young Lawyers Section of the State Bar of Michigan. "Even though I began my law career at age 40, for the first five years of practice I was eligible to be a member of that section. I enjoyed the project and was pleasantly surprised when all 15,000 copies were distributed. I was asked to do a second edition, which I did." In her leisure time, the Detroit native enjoys yoga and working out, crossword puzzles and iPhone Scrabble, and has been an avid mah jongg player for 36 years. For many years, she was an active volunteer at local PBS affiliate WKAR, often appearing as an on-air host for pledge drives and the annual auction. "I'm a proud mom of two wonderful sons, and blessed with two equally wonderful daughters-in-law," she says. "I'm also proud that my husband and I have been married for nearly 44 years and hope to make it another 44. My husband is a saint for putting up with me all those years. "The icing on the cake? Three beautiful -- of course, perfect -- grandchildren. Just call me Professor Grammy." Published: Mon, Jan 16, 2012

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