By Sarah Galer
Photo by Jason Smith

A major inspiration for Patrick Barry’s teaching method is his University of Chicago Law School professors and his colleagues at the UChicago Writing Program.

“Every day I get to learn all these cool and useful things from my teachers, especially about how to write clearly and effectively,” says Barry, AB’02, a third-year law student who taught three writing seminar classes for Human Being & Citizen, a core College course in the Humanities Division.

“This means my students get a nice hybrid of best practices,” Barry says, noting that his students also educate him. “They get the best of the Law School, translated through Patrick Barry, and the best of the Writing Program, translated through Patrick Barry. With any luck, not too much gets lost in translation.”

While it is uncommon for Law students to teach, it was something Barry sought out, having enjoyed doing it as part of his PhD program in literature at the University of Michigan. So, when he saw an advertisement for the Writing Program, he thought it would be a good fit.

Barry tries to be prepared for any imaginable question from his students, approaching each class as if readying for a legal oral argument. He also spends as much individual time with students as possible, going over their papers with them line-by-line, something he learned from Mark Heyrman, Clinical Professor of Law, for whom he works at the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic’s Mental Health Project.

“My Law School schedule does not necessarily lend itself to normal office hours, so in order to meet with each of my 18 students for an hour, some had to meet at unconventional times,” says Barry. “When you can show you have something to teach the students, they are willing to do a lot to learn it.”

After graduating this spring, Barry will head back to Michigan to complete his literature PhD. He says he hopes to someday find a career that marries his love of writing with his interest in the law.

“My dream job would be to somehow simultaneously teach in something like the University’s Writing Program and practice law in something like the Law School’s Mandel Legal Aid Clinic. So essentially my dream job is to do what I am doing now—only without the student loan payments. That, and become a speechwriter. I not-so-secretly want to be Sam Seaborn from The West Wing.”

Originally published on June 4, 2012.