The Charleston School of Law recently sat down with Professor Frank Ulmer to talk about his passion for teaching the law. Professor Ulmer teaches Legal Research, Analysis, and Writing at Charleston School of Law.
When did you become passionate about the law?
Professor Ulmer: I originally thought I was going to be a medical doctor, but my freshman zoology and botany classes persuaded me to look at other careers. At my college, we had what’s called an ‘interim period’ between the semesters where you could take a class on campus that’s outside of your major. There were also study abroad and internship opportunities. I did an internship with a law firm in Spartanburg and then another internship with a government agency in Charleston. Law became a natural progression for me. A natural fit. I think those internship opportunities are what crystallized it.
What has been the most rewarding part of your role as a professor at the law school?
Professor Ulmer: I think what’s most rewarding is seeing that ‘light bulb’ moment for a student. They will all struggle at some point, and you can see the look on their face when that happens. You can hear the insecurity in their answers to questions. But it’s really rewarding when you see that confidence meter spike because they say, okay, this makes sense.
How has your background in the military shaped what you do today?
Professor Ulmer: There’s a saying in the Army that you are a soldier first. So, in the JAG Corps, you’re a lawyer, but you’re a soldier first. I think what that really ingrains in you is how important the big picture is in terms of the overall organization. Don’t ever get caught up in your own lane to the point where you forget the big picture.
As a faculty member, you have a job to do and you need to focus on that, but you need to keep in mind that you are part of the team. You must remember the overall mission is bigger than you. That’s the big picture concept the Army really reinforced.
Charleston School of Law promotes an ‘open door’ culture, where professors are available and accessible. Describe your experience?
Professor Ulmer: There seems to be an inherent barrier for some students to go see their professor, so I try to make sure that students understand I want them to come and ask questions. They need to know we are not just saying there’s an open-door policy to check a box somewhere. If you come talk to me, it can only benefit you. I want all of my students to succeed.
Professor Frank Ulmer
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