TA-king It Up a Notch: Being a Teaching Assistant at NYU Law

I was lucky 1L year—my Torts, Contracts, Legislation and the Regulatory State, and Property classes each came equipped with great teaching assistants (TAs) to help my classmates and me muddle through all the new rules and doctrines we were confronted with. From holding review sessions to answering emails hours before the exam, my TAs were instrumental in getting me through 1L year in one piece.

As a 2L, I decided to repay my debts by becoming a TA for Property with Professor Frank Upham. Property is an elective class, which means that 1Ls are separated from their familiar section cohorts—and study groups—for the first time. I’d like to think that my co-TA and I help ease the anxiety that a new setting can cause.

Ancient Lights   Flickr - Photo Sharing!
No, not your elderly professor. The doctrine of “ancient lights” is a property law rule about sunlight rights. You can still find these signs in parts of London today. Photo: Matt Brown

At NYU, the responsibilities of a TA vary quite a bit by professor. Some professors require weekly discussion sections or office hours, others opt for a handful of review sessions each semester, and still more just want TAs to be available after class or over email.

The number of TAs also varies. During my 1L year, I had a class with four TAs and classes with zero. The vast majority of 2L and 3L classes do not have TAs.

Many professors also ask their TAs to work as research assistants during the semester leading up to the one in which the class is taught. TAs may help select materials for the course, write hypotheticals and model answers, or research any outstanding questions the professor wants to include in the next edition of the course.

It’s inspiring to see how many professors at NYU continuously work to refresh their course material, even for 1L classes taught every year. This year, Professor Upham added materials about fracking and drones. Feeling like I have a say in how a class is taught and developing a close relationship with a professor have been very rewarding aspects of being a TA.

Professor Upham expects us to hold four review sessions this semester; the first one is happening this week. We also hang around after each class finishes and answer questions students have about the material covered that day.

Giving back aside, it’s been really fun taking a class for the second time. Not only do I feel like I have a firm grasp on the concepts at this point, but it’s also easier to catch the jokes I missed the first time around when I was too busy trying to comprehend all the new information being thrown at me. Questions from students make me think about the material in new ways, further cementing my understanding.

If you get the chance to TA at NYU Law, do it! It’s a great way to help develop and nurture our community while sharpening your own skills, too.