Christopher Fairman Named 2003 Outstanding Professor by Graduating Class
That being a teacher is at the root of Professor Fairman's very being is obvious to students and colleagues alike. Indeed, the prospect of teaching law motivated him to attend law school. As a law student at the University of Texas, he was mentored by Charles Alan Wright, one of the country's leading proceduralists. Throughout that relationship, Chris's passion for teaching took a turn toward the law of civil procedure.
Teaching was Chris's life even before he entered law school. After earning an undergraduate degree in political science, he taught American history in Austin for nine years—an experience that defined him as a teacher. Comparing law teaching with high school teaching, he finds that "the pedagogical skills are the same." He views himself as a simplifier. "I take things that are complicated, break them down into component parts, and help the students put them back together again," he notes.
After graduating from law school with highest honors, and en route to law teaching, Chris clerked in the Texas Court of Appeals and then in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He also practiced law, focusing on complex commercial litigation, at Weil, Gotschal, and Manges in Dallas. Always, though, teaching remained his goal. Happily for us, Chris joined the Moritz College of Law faculty in 2000.
|Professor Fairman teaches, flanked by one of his famous PowerPoint presentations|
His approach to teaching civil procedure, professional responsibility, and legal writing is a carry-over from his high school teaching days. "I think of time in segments," he says. "I try to create 50 meaningful minutes." His extensive use of visual learning techniques—he is a master of Microsoft's PowerPoint—is also a remnant from his high school classroom. "I try to help the visual learners," he says of these methods.
Mr. Fairman, the American history teacher, is alive and well in Professor Fairman, the law teacher. Students, and even lawyers, sometimes find the rules of civil procedure arid. He notes that, "My understanding of American history helps me to understand the rules in historical context." The long view enriches and informs both his understanding of the subject and his ability to convey the rules and their meaning to students.
For Chris, the academic life is rich. As a law professor, he has "the luxury to be able to think about ideas." He delights in the flexibility law teachers have in shaping the content of their courses. "We have the luxury of creating our courses in a way that is helpful to the students while remaining stimulating to ourselves as scholars."