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Twinette L. Johnson

Twinette L. Johnson random

We asked Twinette L. Johnson, Professor of Law and Director of Academic Success at The University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law, what has inspired and motivated her throughout her career. This author spotlight gives a glimpse into her passions and what brought her to where she is today.

What or who motivated you to study law?

[TLJ] My mother had dreams of me becoming a medical doctor.  I did not share her vision.  During college, I worked at my university’s law library.  Being surrounded by law professors and students actively engaged in law study excited me intellectually.  So, after research into law careers and schools, I decided to take the Law School Admission Test and apply to law school.  The rest is, as they say, history.

Did you have a favorite professor in law school?  If so, who was the person and what made them stand out?

[TLJ] Professor Wendy Scott was my favorite professor when I attended Tulane.  She was amazing – smart, knowledgeable and accomplished.  She was the first black woman law professor I had ever seen or had the pleasure of getting to know.  She was a demanding teacher.  She made you rise to the occasion.  You had no choice in her class.  I didn’t know that I would end up as a law professor at that point, but I knew I admired Professor Scott.  I saw the possibilities for myself in her.  I knew that whatever my path in the law, I wanted to be excellent – like Professor Scott.

What law school course did you enjoy the most? 

[TLJ] I really enjoyed Commercial Arbitration.  It was fascinating to learn about an alternative to litigation and how it could impact parties.  It gave me tremendous insight into how claims could be decided.  It also made me think critically about which societal members are better off with arbitration and in what situations.  The class helped me to understand how we construct the law and how its operation can have different effects on different societal members.

What are your primary areas of writing and teaching? What fascinates you about these areas of law? 

[TLJ] At the core of my research is the belief that every individual who desires a post-secondary education should be afforded the opportunity.  In particular, my research focuses on the Higher Education Act (the “HEA” or “Act”), its historical purpose and the impact of legislation, rulemaking and judicial review on the Act.  As I expand my research regarding post-secondary access, the ideals associated with students’ academic success are not far from my mind.  The bar exam preparation textbook is a direct result of my desire to research, study and ultimately offer ways to positively impact student learning experiences.

Do (or did) you have a mentor or someone that has inspired or encouraged you in your writing or teaching?

[TLJ] In college, I had the privilege of working with Professor Victoria Carlson-Casaregola.  I had three jobs in my senior year of college.  Professor Carlson-Casaregola offered a class that I wanted to take, but could not because it conflicted with one of my jobs.  I mentioned it in passing to her and she suggested we meet each week in her office to have class.  I was completely astounded that she would do that for me.  Meeting with her each week was one of the highlights of my college years.  I was able to spend one-on-one time with an expert writer.  She really helped me hone my skill.  But, more than that, she demonstrated her dedication as a teacher.  Professor Carlson-Casaregola served as a living example of how teaching can be a vehicle for showing humanity and care.  I’ve always held on to that.

What motivated you to write a bar preparation textbook?

[TLJ] My work with students who had been unsuccessful on their bar exams made me realize that students would be better served if we could address certain academic issues prior to their taking a bar exam. Thus, I proposed a bar exam preparation course for credit.  My search for a textbook for the course yielded good results, but I couldn’t find a book that encompassed all that my experience told me students needed in the bar study process.  I wanted a book that would help students with bar exam preparation from soup to nuts – a book that would cover everything from personal life planning to practicing bar exam questions.  I also wanted a book that would include a sizeable enough question bank to assist professors in instructing students in the best ways to approach bar study.   So, I thought I would just write my own book.  During that time, my colleague, Professor Marcia Goldsmith was holding weekly bar essay writing workshops for students.  Professor Goldsmith had so much experience in bar exam preparation that I thought the two of us could pool our respective experiences and expertise and produce a comprehensive text for professors and students.

What has been the most influential or pivotal moment in your career?   

[TLJ] The Associate Dean at the school where I taught asked if I would direct the school’s bar program.  Because the program did not actually exist at the time, I wasn’t quite sure what “directing” a bar program would entail.  This offer came at a time when such programs were fairly new to legal education.  I took advantage of conferences put on by The Law School Admission Council and immersed myself in studying learning theory to prepare for my new role.   I remember the first student who came to me after having been unsuccessful on a bar exam.  Exploring the student’s study process and exam taking techniques was a “light bulb” experience.  I could see clearly how the student could pass the bar exam if we made adjustments to the student’s approach to absorbing and processing information. This changed my approach to teaching.  It made me focus even more on instilling in students, through my direct bar study and doctrinal courses, skills I believed would give them the foundation to pass the bar and be successful practicing attorneys.    

What changes in legal education excite you?

[TLJ] I am excited that more focus is being placed on skills – all skills associated with student success in law school, on the bar exam and in practice.  I see more law schools developing programs that integrate opportunities for students to learn and transfer skills across the curriculum.  We have more work to do to meaningfully integrate both doctrine and skills in our instruction, but we are moving in the right direction.  I am tremendously excited about that.

What advice do you have for today’s law students?  

[TLJ] During your first year of law school, just be a student.  Law school provides so many opportunities to become involved and sometimes these can be distracting and overwhelming.   The first year of law school (especially the first semester) is your purest year of law school.  By that, I mean, things are slowed.  Professors understand that you are novices.  Even your final exams are spaced days apart.  Everything is put in place so that you have a real opportunity to get a solid introduction to and build a solid foundation in the law school skills necessary for success.  So, be open to learning and devote yourself to the process.  You’ll have plenty of time for the rest.

How do you hope to be remembered by your students or law school? 

[TLJ] I believe that to whom much is given, much is expected.  That belief forms much of my identity as a person – as one who constantly seeks to serve and help those with what I have.  I want my students to see that.  No matter the situation or its outcome, I hope my students know that I tried to use all the energy, knowledge, creativity and expertise I have to help them learn, grow and become licensed attorneys.

What are your interests outside of law? 

[TLJ] I love to repurpose and decorate discarded and thrift furniture.  I also like to play old-school arcade games (Galaga is my favorite).

Twinette L. Johnson is a Professor of Law and Director of Academic Success at The University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law and is the author of the new textbook, Advanced Legal Analysis and Strategies for Bar Preparation.