James Madison University (JMU) is a constant advocate for having diversity on the college campus. This diversity can be seen in the types of students who apply, and the professors who teach. There are students from various states, professors from a multitude of universities and backgrounds, and various religious groups represented here on campus. Professors here at James Madison University are known to have practical experience in the area in which they teach, and they are known to have years of expertise in their field.
Exemplifying this diversity is professor Dan Evans of the Justice Studies Department. Not only does he teach in the JMU Justice Studies Department but he is also a professor at Washington and Lee’s School of Law. As an undergraduate, Evans attended Tennessee Wesleyan College and graduated with a double major in accounting and History. He enjoyed debate and upon graduation, he enrolled in the Washington and Lee University School of law where he received his J.D.
This semester, Evans is teaching the class Supreme Court: Making law and Justice. A course that seats over 30 students in the Justice studies department. Evans is also currently teaching 8 Credit hours at Washington and Lee School of Law. While practicing as a lawyer, Evans tried cases representing business that lost money, representing people who were cheated in the stock market and some that were injured in car crashes. According to Evans, there was no one moment that influenced or urged him to become a lawyer, but he does recount an incident where an automotive accident involving his friend and a drunk driver impacted his perception of justice. Evans became more aware and interested in how the defense could essentially defend the person who was at fault. The case made him intellectually curious and it forced him to conclude that he did not like the results.
Throughout the period of his practice, Evans has learned that as a lawyer, “you are assigned a side, and as a lawyer, your job is to find the pieces of the puzzle, in order to support that side. “ He believes that true access to the court system is the most pressing issue threating our justice system today. ”Limited access to equal representation, costs of the system and structural barriers affect a persons chance of truly receiving justice.” He believes that the only way to fix this is for the government to fund much better clinics to help the economically disadvantaged. “Public defenders have minimal to no ability to give their best to most cases. There is limited funding on criminal cases and this right to an attorney is only attached to criminal cases. This is why the rich gets the better lawyers.”
Although Evans believes that the law profession has very many benefits, he is not currently practicing because “the benefits of not practicing outweighed the hardships. There were more negative feedbacks and less self-pride in the work that was done. Although you sometimes had good results, people still wanted more.”
When asked for advice to potential law students, Evans answered that “students should be confident that this [law] is what they want to do.” The costs of law schools are continuously rising. He encourages students to find lawyers who can talk to them about their job, and to find a school that is a good fit for the student. “Make sure the school has your top priorities. People are seduced by the rank of law school and other factors such as economic, location and type of teaching style should be considered.”
Like all things in life, law school has its advantages and its disadvantages. Evans vividly remembers how intellectually challenging his years at law school were. He describes law school as a ”professional trade school, teaches students how to become lawyers. Therefore since this was the philosophy back in the day, the approach to teaching was almost theoretical.” Law school, according to Evans was focused more on an abstract way of thinking, and a less practical way of addressing situations. “In law school, the grade was the final exam and this made it hard to assess learning. You got no feedback until the end, ”said Evans. “Now, it is more practical and students get to see and write a contract before they leave law school.”
Although Evans went directly into law school, he believes not doing so has its advantages and disadvantages. One of the advantages of not going directly to law school, he says, includes getting real world experience and knowledge before hand about the schools or the profession the student is looking to enter. He says, one of the disadvantages of taking a gap year includes situations where people might not take the time to go back to school because they have derailed from studying and might have been easily distracted from the goal of law school. He says that they may not take the time to go back because they have in fact realized that they do not want to be lawyers.