weeknight show 6 2017

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Thursday, 16 March 2017 18:41

KU law professor receives third law degree from KU

Written by  Rose Claire

Four more years of school after college. Passing the bar. Many would consider getting a law degree impressive. But how about getting three law degrees?

It seems University of Kansas law professor Bruce Hopkins can't get enough of learning the art of law.

Hopkins, at the young age of 75, received his third law degree at KU—in the same building he teaches in—while still teaching—and also practicing law at his own firm in Kansas City.

"I had a number of times when students that I was either teaching, or had taught in the past,” Hopkins said, “was now in class with them."

Hopkins, who turns 76 next month, got his second law degree just a couple years after receiving his first, in the early 70s.

He’s been a nonprofit lawyer his entire career, so he went back for a couple credits in tax law—and ended up getting a second degree. Hopkins says he never needed the extra second or third degrees. For him it was just the love of the law and accomplishing something.

Hopkins says his latest experience was surreal for his students.

"They were completely discombobulated by that, and I was too in a way, because I'd never been in a position like that before," he said.

And just because Hopkins already had two law degrees under his belt, it doesn't mean this was an easy A.

"Some of the classes I took had nothing to do with anything I know of in law," he said.

Hopkins says the experience changed his attitude as a teacher.

"I don't look at them as students anymore,” he said, “I look at them as budding lawyers."

So he changed his teaching style—instead of standing at a podium and lecturing, he and his students now sit at a big round table.

"And we talk. And we discuss. And it's a lot more equal, if you will," Hopkins said.

Third-year law student Jacob Wilson says all his professor's knowledge can be overwhelming.

"It is like trying to drink water from a fire hydrant," Wilson said.

But he says Prof. Hopkins finds a way to make it all coherent.

"He's very lucid in the way he lectures," Wilson said.

The experience led the professor to write a book about it, called “What’s the Point of Three (Law Degrees): The Adventures of an Older Lawyer Who Returned to Law School for the Third Degree”—it’s the 36th book he’s authored.

So what is the point of three law degrees?

"From a practical point of view,” Hopkins said, “there is no point."

But, he says, it's the lesson: whether you say you're too old, or....

"Whatever's the excuse that's holding them back—I mean it could be climbing a mountain, it could be traveling the world, it could be anything. And for me it was this degree."

The point is to keep accomplishing goals.

And so after the teacher became a student, the student—once again—has become the teacher.