By Andrew Cohen
As the newly minted John and Elizabeth Boalt Lecturer Awards unfolded March 6 at the Bancroft Hotel, it quickly became clear that teaching at Berkeley Law is a labor of love.
“I didn’t go to Boalt Hall, but teaching the students here these past 30 years I wish I had,” said Robert Borton, one of twelve honorees. “Boalt students have been an unfailingly terrific group: smart, engaging, and idealistic. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to teach them.”
The awards celebrated Berkeley Law lecturers who have served the law school for 20 or more years and completed 20 or more semesters of teaching.
Professor and Acting Dean Gillian Lester presided over the ceremony and read parts of glowing student course evaluations for each lecturer. Lester described the invaluable knowledge and insights that practicing attorneys bring to the school and thanked them for their dedication.
“These lecturers enrich our classrooms in immeasurable ways,” she said. “They perform a second shift after long days of law practice and come to teach while the rest of us are packing our bags and heading to the parking lot.”
Joan Heifetz Hollinger regaled the crowd with memorable moments from her Berkeley Law career, which began during her one year as a visiting law student from SUNY-Buffalo. On January 19, 1973, while taking a Federal Courts exam in Professor Paul Mishkin’s class, Hollinger went into labor with her second child. She was whisked to Alta Bates hospital in an ambulance, and her daughter Julia was born the next day.
“A few days later I was back at school in Herma Hill Kay’s Family Law class,” Hollinger said, spotting Kay in the audience. “Herma announced that the Supreme Court had just decided Roe v. Wade, and she told us that a ‘woman and her male physician’ could now make that decision. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this is quite a profession I’ll be entering.’”
Joining Borton and Hollinger among those honored were Alfred DeLeo, Charles Hansen, Henry Hecht, Robert Infelise, Nancy K.D. Lemon, Chris Martiniak, Arlene Mayerson, Stephen Rosenbaum, Judge Jeffrey White, and Barry Winograd.
Berkeley Law’s increased emphasis on professional skills courses in recent years has helped grow its number of lecturers. Altogether, Lester said there are currently 242 active lecturers at the law school; the 12 honorees have more than 250 years of teaching here combined.
Infelise delivered a David Letterman-inspired top five reasons for teaching at Berkeley Law. His list included “faculty discounts for Cal season tickets,” “clients assume I’m smarter than I am,” and “teaching provides a plausible reason for me to blow out of my law office.”
Mayerson and White described the pride they felt when interacting with high-level attorneys they once taught, and Winograd offered thanks for teaching in such a vibrant and collegial community.
DeLeo, a tax lawyer and partner, said he’s often asked, “‘Why do you do this?’ I tell people, ‘Teaching at Boalt allows me to maintain my sanity.’” Hecht’s remarks captured the mood of the room, when he noted “the joy of working with my fellow honorees.
Lemon noted the various “firsts” she’s achieved at Berkeley Law, including the formation of the Family Violence Appellate Project, co-launched with two of her former students.
Photo by Pia Navales-Cook