Teaching as a Retirement or Career Option

ABA Voice of Experience

I have always been interested in giving back to more junior lawyers during my career and now as I get close to the end of an active legal practice.

One way to give back besides mentoring is to teach law students. It may not enhance your retirement revenue, but it will enhance your appreciation for the future generation of lawyers—both here and abroad. And it’s an excellent way to pay it forward. 

My first foray in teaching was overseas. In 2007, I participated in an international exchange program for senior lawyers called CILS, for the Center for International Legal Studies. CILS is a law research, training, and teaching institute, established and operating as a non-profit, public interest society under Austrian law. ( Through its Senior Lawyer Visiting Professors Program, the Center places experienced practitioners in visiting professorships at institutions in Eastern Europe, Russia and former Soviet republics, China, India, and Myanmar. According to the CILS website, “[a]lmost 400 senior lawyers have taken up almost 900 appointments since the program began in 2006.” And one has a choice of which country to go to. 

I was fortunate to be a Senior Lawyer Visiting Professor at the Cardinal Stefan Wysznski University of Warsaw. It is a Catholic university, and I was put up in a nearby seminary. Law is taught at the undergraduate level in Poland, so I taught about 30 college seniors a course in U.S. constitutional law. Prior to starting the actual teaching, American lawyers participate in a week-long training program in Salzburg, Austria, the home of CILS. Staying in a lovely castle in Salzburg—the home of “Sound of Music”—and eating apple strudel (which my partner made with the other spouses) is probably a good enough reason to participate. Following the training, I returned to the States to continue work and then returned to Warsaw where I began my teaching. The students mostly understood my English and seemed to enjoy the course. And I appreciated that they aced the final exam on how the first amendment applied to high school students. They were also gracious hosts during my stay and at the end of the class presented me with a lovely picture book on Warsaw. Make sure to visit the cities of Gdansk and Krakow if you go to Poland—they are worth the train rides.

Last year I ventured out to teach again—this time in the United States as an adjunct professor at Georgetown Law School. Another professor was unable to teach a course in renewable energy so at the last minute I and a fellow lawyer at my firm who practices energy law co-taught this course. I have been involved in renewable energy since my 10-year term promoting offshore wind in the Commonwealth of Virginia as Member and Chair of the Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority. The Georgetown students were not quite as enthusiastic as my students in Poland but at the end of the day, they all managed to learn something about renewable energy and presented excellent papers at the end of the course on a variety of sources of renewable energy.

Finally, I have agreed to teach a class in the spring of 2024 on the Law of the Sea at my alma mater, American University’s Washington College of Law. Since part of my practice and experience is in maritime law, I agreed to take on this scheduled class. The Law of the Sea is one of the many United Nation treaties that the United States helped negotiate but never ratified. However, we do follow the precepts of its international maritime boundaries such as the 12-mile territorial sea, the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone, the extended Continental Shelf beyond the EEZ, and the freedom of the seas beyond that. The United States rejected the title on deep seabed mining—its principal reason for not ratifying the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea—but now that the deep seabed has become a potential source of rare earth minerals needed for electric vehicles, it has come into focus again. (see here)

The United Nations has also just negotiated a new Oceans Treaty focusing on biodiversity, so this will be an additional topic for discussion. (see here)

I’m looking forward to teaching this class and giving back to my law school that formed the basis of my long legal career.

There are pros and cons to teaching law after retiring. The salary of an adjunct is low, but, on the other hand, how will future lawyers learn about our areas of practice and our passions for such items as clean energy and clean seas? This is a great way to pay it forward. I recommend it highly as a retirement—or part-time working option.

“Teaching as a Retirement or Career Option,” by Joan M. Bondareff was published in the American Bar Association’s Senior Lawyers Division Voice of Experience newsletter on May 31, 2023.