The Charleston School of Law recently sat down with Professor Michelle Condon to talk about her passion for teaching the law. She is the Director of Externships/Director of Public Service and Pro Bono/Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law. In addition to teaching the Externship course, she teaches Lawyers and the Media, Contemporary Issues in Freedom of Speech and Press, and Privacy Law Seminar.

Charleston School of Law: Where did you grow up?

Professor Michelle Condon: I grew up in a small town, New Martinsville, West Virginia. It’s located in northern West Virginia, right along the Ohio River.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Professor Michelle Condon: I’m married, and we have a 15-year-old son. So, on weekends we’re usually at some type of a sporting event for our son. But I try to exercise every day and go to dance class at least weekly, usually ballet and tap.

I also love traveling, reading, and writing. I have been meeting with my close friends in a book club for 15 years.

What book are you reading now?

Professor Michelle Condon: Lessons in Chemistry. It’s a fiction book about a female chemist in the 1950s who was ahead of her time as a single mother in a male-dominated profession. Her experience reminds me of some of the obstacles my mom encountered as the only woman in her law school class in the early 1960s.

I also wrote a children’s book, Grandma’s First Thanksgiving. It’s a story about a family immigrating to the United States from Lebanon through Ellis Island. It’s inspired by my great grandparents and great aunt’s immigration story.

Charleston School of Law: When did you decide you wanted to practice law?

Professor Michelle Condon: I grew up around lawyers. My mom and dad are both attorneys. My great uncle, who was like a grandfather to me, was an attorney and talked a lot about his experience at Harvard Law School. His stories about his famous professors grilling the students with the Socratic method made his experience sound like The Paper Chase.

My mom was an estate attorney, and my memories as a child were always of her going above and beyond to help her clients. She has such a calm and competent demeanor. My dad ended up being more of a business owner than an attorney. He also is an excellent entertainer and wonderful singer.

I always loved the arts. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a dancer. I wanted to be an actress. I wanted to be on Broadway. As a performer, connecting with the audience was always thrilling to me. I’ve pretty much danced since I was five years old, and I’ve never stopped.

I thought I would be a journalist, and I earned my master’s in journalism from Northwestern University after earning my undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame. I later went to law school at Washington and Lee University, not sure if I would practice law or if I would be a journalist. I practiced media law and later became the first public information director at the West Virginia Supreme Court. My interests in journalism and the law naturally came together during my career and culminated with teaching media law courses.

Charleston School of Law: You talked about the arts and your love of the arts and your dad’s ability to sing. Did he pass that gift in that gene down to you?

Professor Michelle Condon: To some degree, but he’s a much better singer than I am. I can sing well enough. I had leads in high school musicals, but I don’t have that God-given vocal talent to have played the same leading roles on Broadway.

Charleston School of Law: Who are the singers that inspired you to sing?

Professor Michelle Condon: Well, I have to say my dad is my favorite singer.  My father would sing a lot of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennet, and popular songs at the time. I grew up with contemporary music as well as The Great American Songbook. I appreciate almost all genres of music but am partial to songs with a jazz influence that have strong lyrics.

We grew up with a piano in our home, and there was always music.  My grandmother was an opera singer too. She studied opera at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. So, music was always very important.

What led you to teaching?

Professor Michelle Condon: When I was the media spokesperson for the West Virginia court system, I had an opportunity to teach media law for a branch of West Virginia University in Charleston, West Virginia. I still teach for WVU’s Master of Legal Studies Program online now. Going through school, my dad told me that I would be a good teacher. So, I thought I would try it, and I loved it.

When I married and moved to “the other Charleston,” WVU’s Master of Legal Studies Program went completely online, so I was able to continue teaching for them when I moved from West Virginia to South Carolina. I also taught media law as an adjunct professor at the College of Charleston.  In 2006 I joined the law school and worked in career services and eventually became the pro bono director. I then became a faculty member when I became the externship director in addition to the pro bono director.

What is the most rewarding part of teaching the next generation of law students for you?

Professor Michelle Condon: As a professor I love connecting with the students and seeing that point when they understand the material and have the tools to apply what they learned. To accomplish that, I’m not afraid to tell them a funny story or be a little dramatic. Regardless of their path after law school, I hope I can teach them something practical for the bar exam, for their work, and for their personal lives and that they also enjoy the learning process. I love hearing about my students’ success after they graduate.

Professor Michelle Condon

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