Avialex Law Group LLP's Managing Partner Discusses Teaching San Jose State Univ.'s 2019 Aviation Law Class
By: Michael L. Dworkin
Last Fall, I was contacted by San Jose State University’s Aviation Department and asked if I would be interested in teaching an Aviation Law Class for the 2019 Spring Semester.
While I’ve given hundreds of presentations over the years at industry and legal conferences, I approached this with some trepidation. How do I prepare for some 51 hours of live classroom presentations? How do I condense 46 years of aviation legal experience into one semester? How do I teach legal principles to undergraduate students who have not had any legal training or any experience with the law? Moreover, San Jose State’s Aviation Department is the largest collegiate aviation program on the West Coast. It is also part of the Department of Engineering, considered to be one of the top 4 engineering schools in the country! This is not going to be an easy audience.
In any event, I accepted the University’s offer. Between developing a syllabus, selecting reading materials, preparing for classes, teaching, drafting homework assignments, group presentation assignments and mid-term and final exams, this undertaking easily became a 20-hour-plus per week challenge.
But it was well worth it.
I had 35 very intelligent, highly motivated students who were there to make aviation their career. And they were polite, considerate, appreciative and gracious, as well. In addition to their full-time schooling, many of them worked part-time for local aviation businesses. Some of them came to class not having had the time to eat that day (hence, the unlimited supplies of energy bars). I loaded them with work. In addition to their textbook (which we covered from the front cover to the back cover), I had them researching laws and regulations, reading aviation cases and law review articles, administrative orders and opinions of counsel. Their group assignment was a mock NTSB hearing involving an aviation disaster. The class was split up into subgroups—NTSB, FAA, operator, manufacturers, family representatives and press. Their group presentation turned out to be an incredibly professional group performance—with other faculty members and aviation professionals (including an NTSB investigator) in attendance observing and critiquing.
These young people accepted the challenge. Their only complaints were that the mid-term exam was too long (mea culpa—something that I realized when I had to grade 35 of them) and that I had given them more homework and reading than all of their other classes combined (I’ll fix that next time).
They succeeded and I am very proud of each and every one of them.
Hopefully they learned something about aviation law. I certainly learned a lot about our next generation of aviation industry leaders.
Thank you and best wishes for success, Brandon, David, Nicholas, Tristan, Brendan, Jose, Connor, Jackie, Randy, Christian, Todd, Hyerim, Niklas, Geoleal, Sean, Christopher, Houman, Ellen, Matt(s), Hue, John, Eric, Li Chung, Ivan, Melissa, Barrett, Vanessa, Omar, Patrick, Sabrina, Kyle, Caleb, Noah and Daniel. And many thanks to the Department of Aviation for having afforded me this wonderful opportunity.