I started at the law school 25 years ago---in the Fall of 1976.
The Law School hosted a beautiful candlelit dinner in the Green
Lounge for the incoming class. At the end of the dinner, Dean
Norval Morris waxed poetic about the incoming class---the class
of 1979 had dozens of graduates from ivy league schools, dozens
of students with advanced degress, several even had PhDs.......and
then there was me---a 19 year old from a non-ivy league school
who had only finished her junior year before entering Chicago.
Boy was I intimidated that first night and it only got worse.
The next day I attended my first torts class with Professor Richard
Epstein. Torts, at least in 1976, was not a well known subject
to the general public---biology, chemistry, calculus---OK---but
Torts???? So, my next memorable experience that first week of
law school involved sitting in Professor Epstein's class and having
him ask about 50 others---"Mr. Smith---what is a tort?!!"
Many gave seemingly intelligent answers. I, of course, had no
idea what a tort was. Finally, I was asked--"Miss Lieberman---what
is a tort?" I thought I was being clever when I answered
the first dreaded socratic questioning experience of my career,
by saying---"it depends--apple or strawberry?" Professor
Epstein, whom I now count as an old friend, just stared for awhile
and thankfully moved on.....I can't remember if anyone answered
it to his satisfaction. My first week was capped off by the Friday
evening movie at the Law School---and that year, the movie was
The Paper Chase....the moving story of a One L Harvard Law School
class. I had orignally seen that movie a few years earlier as
a high school senior and loved it, so I figured, this would provide
relief from a dreadful first week of the University of Chicago
Law School----where it seemed that although the professors were
speaking English words, it all sounded like Greek to me. Well,
after seeing The Paper Chase, I felt that I was like the young
married student who flunked out because he just "couldn't
While socratic teaching is PAINFUL to endure at first, it definitely
becomes an "acquired taste." I remember a real "breakthrough"
in my second year when Professor Geoff Stone, my wonderful evidence
teacher who basically explained the concept of the course to me
in his office. After an hour, I "got it" and in fact,
all of law school seemed to "click" and make sense.
From then on, things got much easier and I did extremely well
at the Law School. I felt that I had really "learned how
to think like a lawyer". The next year, I even had another
course with Professor Epstein---this time, corporate tax (Professor
Blum was teaching at the University of Miami that semester, and
Professor Epstein, being the Renaissance Man that he is, stepped
in to teach the course). Nearly three years after my first encounter
with Professor Epstein and socratic teaching, I felt thoroughly
competent to answer all of the tough questions thrown at me----to
such a point that Professor Epstein, in one class, handed me the
chalk and told me to finish teaching the class!!!--Now, of course,
I wish I had kept the piece of chalk---what a collector's item.
Finally, I can truly say that the famous words of the song, New
York, New York---"...if I can make it here, I'll make it
anywhere..." equally applies to surviving and then flourishing
at the University of Chicago Law School. Well--that's about two
pages of wonderful recollections. I wouldn't be where I am, if
I hadn't gone to our law school. Nancy Lieberman Class of 1979