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2008 Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Award: James K.L. Lawrence

The power of productive negotiation has helped inspired James K.L. Lawrence to make a difference in the careers of hundreds of young lawyers who have come through the UC College of Law.

Date: 5/13/2008 12:00:00 AM
By: Carey Hoffman
Phone: (513) 556-1825
Photos By: Dottie Stover

UC ingot   Some people ride motorcycles or play golf as their hobby. James K.L. Lawrence never has found much allure in those pursuits.

In fact, his hobby probably sounds a little strange to most people – he likes to kick back and relax by… teaching. Specifically, classes in negotiation and dispute resolution.

Jim Lawrence
Jim Lawrence

"That’s my hobby," says Lawrence. "When I’m not practicing law, I’m engaging in one of my favorite hobbies doing that."

He’s not kidding. One of the top labor lawyers in Cincinnati finds enjoyment and satisfaction in teaching the Negotiation class at the UC College of Law – for which he is being recognized with an Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Award by UC. He also teaches the same subject matter at Ohio State, Louisville and Pepperdine.

"Having taught the same course once a year for now 15 years, Jim might be excused for allowing his enthusiasm to dwindle, but he brings the same joy to the classroom every time a new semester begins," says College of Law Associate Dean Barbara G. Watts. "As Associate Dean, I deal with him directly as we go through registration and getting the course set up. He can’t wait to meet his new class and get them learning the techniques that work with real clients."

It should probably be added at this point that Lawrence has repeated this yearly ritual for the same amount of pay each year – none. Adjuncts within the College of Law are volunteers.

Lawrence, a partner in the law firm of Frost Brown Todd LLC, originally began teaching at UC through the Department of Economics in the graduate program on Labor and Employment Relations.

In 1988, he attended the Harvard Negotiation Project and learned from author Roger Fisher, who had written the influential book on negotiation, "Getting to Yes." Lawrence was so impressed by what he learned that he began to adapt it into to both his practice and his teaching.

"That kind of turned my life around in terms of how you negotiate," he says. "When I got to Harvard, I realized I had been putting on an air. My basic nature was an interest-based, problem-solving approach, and I saw that this could be a much more effective means of resolving disputes than the methods I had used before."

Soon, he was proposing that the College of Law needed a class in negotiations for its aspiring lawyers. Every year since 1993, he has taught the course within the College of Law.

At that time, only a few law schools were offering negotiation courses. Now, most have some form of it.

Lawrence’s enthusiasm helped convince UC students that it could help their careers.

"Under Jim’s masterful direction, the class was a truly interactive educational experience where students learned not only from Jim, but from one another," says Kathryn Cook Morgan, a 1997 graduate of the college and now a colleague of Lawrence’s at Frost Brown Todd. "To this day, I am convinced that the negotiation skills that I learned in Jim’s class make me a better lawyer."

"Professor Lawrence once said to me that teaching was his true passion," says R. Bryan Hawkins, a 2004 graduate of the college. "As his student, this passion was apparent each and every day. Furthermore, as a member of the City Council for the City of Milford, Ohio, and as a practicing labor and employment attorney, I can honestly say that I rely on Professor Lawrence’s teaching and his example every single day."

Adds 2006 grad John Ravasio: "His class, ‘Negotiations,’ is one that, at the time, was the most stimulating and entertaining class I had in my three years at UC. Now, as a practicing attorney, I regard it as an experience that should be a mandatory part of the curriculum. The lessons Jim Lawrence teaches in his class apply to the daily reality of life as a lawyer, and too many attorneys go through their careers without the proper instruction."

As you might expect with Lawrence’s enthusiasm, his "hobby" hasn’t stopped at the classroom door. He continues to contribute to the field in terms of scholarship and professional involvement, and he has taken a strong interest in helping to coach UC College of Law teams in national American Bar Association competitions in Negotiation and Representation in Mediation.

When it comes time to work with the students on the teams, Lawrence has been known to simply open his calendar book on the table and let the students fill in slots that work for them.

Former student Katie Fahrendorf recalls Lawrence "dedicated countless hours on evenings and weekends working with our team to prepare materials and practice strategies. It is not without Jim’s support and guidance that UC has earned a national reputation as one of the best law schools for Alternative Dispute Resolution."

Lawrence looks forward to continuing to participate in the development of the field and its subject matter, and to educating future law students in what he sees as some of the most important lessons in the field.

"This is a field where there is constant learning going on," he says. "Teaching has been a two-way street. I’m always learning while I’m teaching, and then with the practical experience I get in my practice, I’m able to bring that to my students."