Last modified: Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Larry A. Landis
Adjunct Professor of Law
Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis
Indiana University- Purdue University Indianapolis
Appointed to IU faculty, 1981
B.S., Indiana University, 1969
J.D., Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis, 1973
"It is of great value to know the law, but unless one is able to place that knowledge into practice, the knowledge is of no value. That is what Mr. Landis accomplished through his class." -- R. Michael Young, Indiana State Senator and former student, IU School of Law-Indianapolis
Nearly 30 years ago, as a law student in Larry Landis's Trial Practice class, John Trimble figured there was no way he could mess up his very first approach to a witness on the stand, especially on a topic that was so straightforward.
"Sir, please state your name," recalls Trimble of his confident approach that was soon to be rebuked.
"Larry jumped up and admonished me that even the simplest questions in a courtroom should be interesting," Trimble says. "From that day I have always asked the same question as follows, 'Sir, would you please introduce yourself to the jury?'"
For 28 years Landis has taught the essential law school course Trial Practice on Saturday mornings in Indianapolis, requiring students to wear suits as if appearing in court, and for 28 years, "our students have benefited tremendously because of his thoughtful, patient, and dynamic approach to teaching," says School of Law Dean Gary Roberts.
Student after student, having gone on to become judges, federal magistrates, and, as in Trimble's case, an Indiana Defense Lawyer of the Year, give credit to Landis for transforming them from law students with a knowledge of law to law students who can confidently practice law.
"It is of great value to know the law, but unless one is able to place that knowledge into practice, the knowledge is of no value. That is what Mr. Landis accomplished through his class," says Indiana State Senator R. Michael Young. "It is quite possibly the most important class that I took while at the law school."
Those sentiments reverberate through the years from graduates like Trimble, who was in Landis' first edition of the class in 1981, to more recent graduates like Class of '08 alumna Deborah Markisohn. Markisohn agrees that Landis's class "did more to prepare me for the actual practice of law than any other course in law school."
A two-time winner of the Distinguished Teacher Award from the IU School of Law-Indianapolis on the merits of his Saturday morning class, since 1980 Landis has been executive director of the Indiana Public Defender Council (IPDC), a state agency responsible for providing training and technical assistance to approximately 1,050 practicing Indiana attorneys who are appointed to represent indigent defendants in criminal and juvenile delinquency cases. Prior to his current position, he was the IPDC's director of training and its state deputy public defender.
So what is it that makes Landis such an irrepressibly effective instructor? A self-described "performance coach" rather than teacher, Landis says his philosophy of teaching is grounded in his own 10 Principles of Learning and Training, the most complex of which is a mere 18-word instruction that "Adults learn better when they are active and engaged in applying new knowledge to solve a specific problem."
Other principles that resound in the course are simpler: "Adults learn skills by trial and error, and they learn more from failure than success," "Training is a process, not an event," "Adults need to be responsible for their own learning," and "Learning can and should be fun." These principles have created lasting results.
"Young lawyers who have worked with Larry are better advocates, well prepared, respectful, and competent," says U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson, who taught with Landis for more than 10 years. "The hundreds of quality trial lawyers who have taken his class are a testament to his dedication and the value to the legal profession he provides."
"As full-time members of the faculty, it is humbling to review the remarkable work of Professor Landis," say Roberts and Joel Schumm, a clinical professor of law. "Although Professor Landis has taught a course with the same title for 28 years, he has constantly engaged in a reflective process to assess and improve that course. Our students have benefitted tremendously because of his thoughtful, patient, and dynamic approach to teaching."
Those students, in evaluations of Landis, recognize what Roberts and Schumm are talking about: "Best class in law school. Finally learning what I came to school to learn," and "Excellent practical experience; put 'book learning' into play," and finally, "In my 4 years of law school, this is the most valuable and interesting class I have taken. I have recommended and will continue to recommend that all law students take this class."