May 1, 2013
If you had been a student at Orientation this past fall and met Florence Kerner, you would not have forgotten her enthusiasm and sheer excitement during that program.
“It’s the best thing about teaching here,” said Kerner, in her first full year as a lawyering instructor at CUNY Law. “Our students are such fascinating, committed human beings.”
Kerner should know. She has actually taught the lawyering seminar program to first-year students as an adjunct since 2006, which included legal writing, as well as client communication, interviewing, negotiating, oral argument, and other skills.
Students might also get Kerner later on in Uniform Commercial Code, Applied Legal Analysis, or, after graduation, in a bar mentoring program run by Kerner and Allie Robbins.
But it’s not just Kerner’s academic ubiquity that makes her identifiable. It’s her genuine desire to help students learn and figure out where they’re going, even if they think they already know.
When she was beginning her career, “I didn’t see any path; I just kept going,” said Kerner. “You try to tell them that somehow things work out the way they’re supposed to. You can’t always see the straight path or know where you really want to be, until you try a few things. But you get there.”
Kerner’s own path led her to a job clerking in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, for a federal magistrate judge.
“He was very passionate about the work he had done as a federal defender [before becoming a judge], and it really inspired me,” said Kerner.
When her clerkship ended, Kerner joined the Legal Aid Society in its Criminal Appeals Bureau. She wrote briefs and argued in the New York Court of Appeals. She also appeared twice in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Based on her Legal Aid experience, Kerner got a job at Hofstra University, where she taught lawyering and legal writing. She took some time off to raise a family and then, in 2006, started teaching at CUNY Law.
“I knew what CUNY did; I knew about the public interest mission. I thought it would be a good fit,” said Kerner. “I’ve enjoyed teaching here ever since. And I’m thrilled to have a full-time instructor position now.”
Although Kerner has always felt welcomed by the faculty and students as an adjunct, being full-time in a new building with her own office has given her a more settled-in feeling. And, in retrospect, she feels her career moves all make sense.
“I love working one-on-one with students,” she said. “I feel really comfortable here in this place and in this job.”
– Paul Lin