Professor Suzanne Chapman teaches Legal Research, Analysis, and Writing at Charleston School of Law. We recently sat down with her to talk about her passion for teaching the law.
You earned your undergraduate and graduate degrees in English. What led you to law school?
Suzanne Chapman: I knew nothing about law or law school. In fact, I still remember my very first day of class walking down Meeting Street and thinking, ‘I hope we’re not just going to learn about what the laws are for the next three years because this is gonna be really boring.’ But that just shows you, I had no concept of what law school was going to be. I was looking for a more practical way to use two English degrees. Law school seemed like a good fit at that point. Then I realized I love teaching and that is what I wanted to do.
What led you to choose Charleston School of Law?
Chapman: I was in graduate school in Maryland when Snowmageddon hit. It was this huge snowstorm that shut down the central government for two weeks. I had been accepted to a few law schools, and my primary concern was moving south. No more Snowmageddon. I came down and visited Charleston and then loved the city. And loved the school.
How would you describe your experience as a Charleston Law student?
Chapman: I loved having the opportunity to do a lot of different things, in particular the advocacy competitions — which, in hindsight, is hilarious because I had horrible stage fright. Entering law school, I would never in a million years have thought that I would want to be involved in mock trial. Getting up in front of an audience was incredibly stressful. But it was so much fun. I surprised myself by how much I enjoyed it. I think trying and having success was really such an accomplishment for me because it wasn’t something that I had always done before.
Doing those competitions showed me I can be a real attorney. I can stand up and do motion arguments, which I was able to do in my very first year of practice. My experience here gave me that confidence to know that I can do it, and I can do it well. And that confidence was built through the support of the faculty. I think that’s something special about this law school. The faculty truly cares and is willing to give their time and energy to the success of the students.
You mentioned you taught literature, that’s obviously a passion of yours. What are your passions beyond the law?
Chapman: My number one passion and priority and what I devote the most time to is being a mom. I truly love being a mom, and any time I have to spend with my son, that’s what I want to do.
When I do have free time, I love to read. I have stories about when I was in elementary school and all I wanted to do was read. The class would have a pizza party during the lunch period, and I would just ask if I could go to the cafeteria instead and read my book.
What were you reading?
Chapman: When I was younger, I read everything. You name it. I read Silence of the Lambs when I was in sixth grade and then proceeded to stay awake for the next three years.
But I loved Nancy Drew. I read every single Nancy Drew book. And I do still love to read, especially to go to the beach and read a book.
So, if you were taking a book with you to the beach, would it be a non-fiction, fiction, literature, poetry?
Chapman: It’s all contextual. When I’m in an airport, I’m always reading some crime novel that I can read in three hours.
If I’m going to pick something up because I have time truly to carve out and spend some intellectual time alone? I really like books written about psychology. Children’s psychology, social psychology. Understanding how the mind works. So much of it translates into the law and teaching legal writing — persuasive writing. Which I’ve been telling my legal writing students: Legal writing is all persuasive rhetoric and advocacy. I’ve been having a blast. But the things that you learn about social psychology and how people are persuaded, it really does go hand in hand with what I’m teaching.
You are active in the community. What inspires you to give back?
Chapman: I just have a heart for service. Not to sound cliché, but I really feel good when I volunteer my time. That’s why I keep doing it, even though I don’t always have a lot of extra time to give.
Professor Suzanne Chapman
Links and Resources
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