In 1975-76, I had Ken Gould for Torts. Two years later, I had him for Practice Skills. In the latter, he surprised us one day with a written exercise. “Take out a sheet of paper and write out, informally, what you think would be your ideal legal career. Take 15 minutes.”
When Ken gave the 30-second warning, I was staring at a blank page. I scribbled, “1/3 trial practice, 1/3 judge, 1/3 professor.” We discussed what we’d written and why. The idea was that we might learn from our neighbor’s aspirations. Or our own, perhaps.
I kept that paper for years, reviewing it annually, thinking of Ken and wondering how he’d respond to questions building up over time: How will I know when the first third is up? How precise must I be with the calculations? What if it doesn’t work out?
At a retirement party at the Bowen School of Law recently, Ken was toasted by the law school dean and the university chancellor. A film honoring his career had its worldwide premiere. Formation of the Ken Gould Program for Applied Legal Skills was announced.
Ken joined the faculty of the University of Arkansas Law School, Little Rock Division, in 1973; only night classes were offered. In 1975, it became the UALR School of Law, day classes began and they let me in as a 1-L. Years later, it was renamed for a former dean.
Ken was ahead of his time. He founded a legal clinic before doing so was fashionable. It’s now mandatory in legal education nationwide. He became a water law expert before that was a hot topic. He hosts an annual seminar that’s second to none in this field. The Ledge consults him before messing with riparian rights.
Ken’s gentle approach in class stood him out from the crowd. A “wrong” answer did not lead to a Socratic grilling, but rather a reluctant “Not exactly” from Ken, who’d then call on another student. When the answer he wanted came forth, he’d return to earlier students and ask, “Do you see how that differs with what you said?”
I worked for lawyers my last two years of law school. So, when I ran for judge in 1996, I often said, “I’ve been practicing 20 years, 18 with a license.” I vowed that, if elected, I’d serve 20 years (the Practice Skills sheet was in my mind).
Linearly, that’d put me at 65 when the professorial third rolled around. But … In 2003, I decided to audit Law Literature. The dean called days before the first class with “bad news and good news.” Due to a medical emergency, the LL prof was out for the semester. What can the good news be? I wondered. “We won’t have to cancel the course if you’ll teach it.” And there was Ken Gould – from 25 years earlier and in the present moment – encouraging me to take the gig.
The teaching of a good professor never stops. Like the Energizer Bunny, it just keeps going.
Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.