Penny White spends semester as visiting professor at Harvard Law

University of Tennessee College of Law Professor Penny White is spending the semester at Harvard University teaching advocacy skills to students while partnering with lawyers and judges from all over the country.

White has had an ongoing relationship with Harvard Law School, having participated annually for a number of years in the school’s week-long advocacy program in January. That relationship led to an invitation to serve as a Visiting Professor for Harvard’s winter term where she is instructing students on trial practice, discussing evidence rules and evaluating the students’ skills in both jury and non-jury trials.

The rigorous schedule leaves White preparing other faculty, teaching, and consulting with students individually for more than ten hours nearly every day, she said. Students are learning trial skills and executing those skills in the classroom.

White said the instruction method at Harvard Law is allowing her to expand her knowledge.

“Over the term, I will have 48 conferences with individual students during which we review their video-recorded performances,” White said. “Interacting so deliberately with students at various stages of their development helps me to be able to more quickly diagnose and suggest corrections for missteps.”

In particular, White said she is improving her critique technique, a skill that will benefit her teaching when she returns to UT.

“All critiques must be carefully planned,” she said. “A disciplined critique is much more likely to have its desired effect of helping the student to improve. Improving my critique skills enables me to better lead the adjuncts in the concentration to improve their ability to deliver meaningful critiques to students in all of our simulation courses.”

College of Law Dean Melanie Wilson said some may not realize the breadth of White’s experience that led to her working with Harvard.

“She served as a judge at every level of the court system in Tennessee, and as a young lawyer she argued successfully before the U.S. Supreme Court,” Wilson said. “Penny is an obvious asset to any discussion about trial practice and advocacy skills. Her work at Harvard this semester is a reflection of her excellence and the quality education our students receive under her instruction.”

White said while at Harvard she is continuing to advocate for, and on behalf of, Tennessee students.

“The lawyers and judges I’m working with are constantly hearing from me about our students, our advocacy program, and our clinic,” she said. “You never know when that may prove helpful to a UT student seeking employment or a student organization seeking a speaker.