Menu Toggle menu

Saying Goodbye: Professor Marianna Brown Bettman Retires from College of Law

After 15 years of pushing University of Cincinnati Law Students to be better than they knew they could be, Professor Marianna Bettman is retiring this fall.

Since starting her professional career, she has been recognized at many levels—for teaching excellence, for her contributions to the legal profession, and for her advocacy.  Surprisingly, however, law was not always Professor Bettman’s goal when she graduated from the University of Cincinnati with honors 1966.

Allowing the idea of law school to take root was not an immediate process even after graduation. “My mother always thought that I should be a lawyer, but of course - and mothers are always right - it took me a while longer to realize it,” said Bettman.

Though for many people the decision to go to law school and applying is a momentous one, not so for Bettman. Professor Bettman decided to pick up an application while horseback riding through Glen Woods, she walked into the law school wearing a pair of blue jeans and an old pair of cowboy boots! She admits that, after being out of school for 10 years, taking the LSAT was difficult, but she received her admission offer on her 30th birthday.

“I almost didn’t go, because I thought I was too old at the time,” she laughed. “But then, I thought, you know, I know a lot of lawyers in their 80s who are still practicing, so maybe I’m not too old!”

Professor Bettman excelled while at law school, graduating in 1977. Here she was a winner of the Constitutional law Prize and was the first woman at the College to take first prize in Trial Advocacy. “There were truly, virtually no women trial lawyers then….there were almost no role models who were women, it was very difficult. Women really got a hard time from a lot of judges, it was like double duty, proving yourself, having to be better than the best.”

Legal Education Then and Now

Educating students today is different from when Bettman was in school in the 70s. Back then, clinical experiences weren’t offered. Now, there’s a greater focus on experiential, hands-on learning, which—she believes—today’s students benefit from.

Although Bettman is a “double Bearcat”, holding both her undergraduate and law degrees from the University, she doesn’t think a student’s undergraduate major influences his or her success as a law student. While she herself held a degree in history, what helped her most was the logical disciplined style she honed along the way, a skill that can be gained from any field of study.

After spending 15 years as a trial lawyer, Professor Bettman was elected to the Ohio First District Court of Appeals in 1992, a court which, at that time, was over 100 years old. She has the distinction of being the first woman elected to this Court.

“There were times when I was on that Court where we’d have certain subjects, like domestic relations cases come up. All of my colleagues would look at me and go, ‘Well?’ So some of those ways of  thinking got carried over. But once they got used to me, it was absolutely fine.”

She acknowledged that in the beginning there were rough patches, and some colleagues didn’t know how to deal with a woman being on the court, but that they came around and everything worked out.

Bettman says her favorite part about this Court was being involved in a wide variety of subject areas. She would kid people that being on the Court of Appeals was like being back in law school, but actually understanding what you were doing. Because of the broad interest scope, she was never bored.

After spending six years on the Ohio First District Court of Appeals, she returned to the University for a third time, but as a teacher rather than a student.

Educating Generations of Attorneys

When asked what’s the best part of teaching, Professor Bettman gave an interesting response “Teaching first year, first semester torts, but for two reasons,” she said. She loves seeing pieces fall into place for students who are just starting law school. And because torts has a lot of societal issues wrapped into it, the story behind them is usually interesting, giving students a way to enjoy the class even if they don’t love the subject.

“Just to see that light go on is so much fun for me. And in that semester, they’re just like sponges, they want to absorb everything,” she explained. 

In spite of her passion for teaching, or perhaps because of it, she’s also heard tell that students call her a highly demanding teacher, a rumor she won’t deny or dispute. She will, however, make clear the distinction between demanding and mean. She remarked that she was recently paid a huge compliment from a coworker, who told her “You made it okay to be demanding.”

“I’m very demanding of myself, so why would I expect anything less of anyone else? And as a result, I get tremendous effort from students,” she said.

In addition to teaching, Professor Bettman directed the College’s Judge-in-Residence Program as well as the Judicial Extern Program.

Celebrating the Professor

To mark her retirement, as is tradition at the College of Law, Bettman was celebrated during her last class. The day, December 3, 2015, was officially proclaimed “Marianna Brown Bettman Day” via a proclamation by Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley. In addition, she has been awarded Professor Emeritus status by the University’s Board of Trustees, cementing her lifelong relationship with the College and the University.

Although she’s retiring, no one should expect Professor Bettman to simply disappear, she says. She’s looking forward to having greater control over her time, but still plans to dedicate part of it to the law school. She wants students to know they can still keep in touch or ask her for help if needed.

Students can also keep up with her through her blog, Legally Speaking Ohio, and monthly newspaper column, Legally Speaking, which is featured in the American Israelite and the Cincinnati Herald.

She shared some parting words of wisdom, encouraging students to get outside their comfort zones and explore before settling into one area.

“Be open to trying as many different things as you can...You never know, something may spark your fancy that you knew absolutely nothing about or thought you would’ve had no interest in whatsoever,” she urged. “Engage in as broad a set of activities as you can before you settle down into the area you think you’re really interested in because it could be something very different from what you think when you arrive here.” 

Here’s What Others Are Saying About Professor Bettman

Judge Karen Nelson Moore, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit: Marianna is an accomplished advocate, preeminent practitioner, judicious jurist, praised professor and talented teacher.

Judge Nathaniel Jones, Of Counsel, Blank Rome LLP: There’s no way I can adequately characterize Marianna. She is a civil rights advocate. She was for civil rights before civil rights were cool! And she never abandoned her commitment to that.

Professor Ronna Greff Schneider: She showed us that being a lawyer also means being a leader.

Samantha Rheingold, SBA President: Thanks Professor Bettman for being an integral part of all the students’ experience at UC Law.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, Ohio Supreme Court: Marianna Bettman is a ceiling ‘shatterer.’ 

Check out photos from her Last Class on Dec. 3, 2015!  Bettman's Last Class


Author: Michelle Flanagan'18, UC Honors Student

OIP Attorney Jennifer Bergeron on WOSU Radio

On November 16, 2015, “All Sides with Ann Fisher” on WOSU, discussing the Plight of the Wrongfully Convicted, featured an interview of OIP staff attorney Jennifer Bergeron. You can listen to the podcast online.

Prof. Felix Chang’s Paper Accepted

Professor Felix Chang’s paper, Vertical Integration in Derivatives Markets, has been accepted for the Next Generation of Antitrust Scholars Conference, which will be held NYU School of Law in January of 2016. 

Prof. Tim Armstrong Gives Presentation on Theories of Copyright Law

Prof. Timothy Armstrong delivered a presentation to the Harvard Law School Association of Cincinnati titled, "Art and Money, Here and Abroad: Two (or Four) Theories of Copyright." The presentation took place on November 20, 2015 at the offices of Blank Rome LLP in downtown Cincinnati.  The talk considered competing theories of copyright law that have been enunciated at different times by U.S. policymakers, and asked whether the increasing prominence of copyright as an issue in the international trade regime called those theories into doubt.

Prof. Aaron Creates Counseling Training Videos for Educators

Professor Marjorie Aaron and videographer/editor Mike Mimms completed several videos some of which are available now:

  • the Hapless Harvest Counseling Video – available on the ABA Section on Dispute Resolution/Suffolk University website for teachers.
  • the Dale Doran Client Counseling Video (involving a client seeking legal advice about the effect of a non-compete, stock ownership and potential breach of contract issues, and a strategy for moving forward).  This will soon be up on the ABA Section on Dispute Resolution/Suffolk University Law School website for teachers.

Prof. Aaron Teaches Courses in Professional Communication and Analysis

Professor Marjorie Aaron taught a full day workshop on November 6, 2015 for the CPR Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution in St. Louis, for CPR's St. Louis based members, in house counsel and major law firms. The workshop focused on Counseling Clients through Bad News, and on Decision Tree Analysis in Legal Practice.

She also taught a two hour class on Decision Tree Analysis at Penn State's law school via Skype on November 17, 2015. And she completed the third of a three day workshop series on Effective Professional Communication at the Lindner College of Business, with co-faculty from CCM: Rocco Dal Vera and Denise Dal Vera on November 21. 

Profs. Aaron and Lawrence Coach Negotiation Teams

Professor Marjorie Aaron and Adjunct Professor James Lawrence coached two teams of 1Ls (Melissa Springer and Meghan Franklin, and David Lopez and Benjamin White) throughout October and November for the ABA Regional Negotiation Competition.  Professor Aaron traveled with the teams to Chicago on the weekend of November 13-15, 2015. 

Prof. Aaron Conducts “Grand Arbitration Experiment

Professor Marjorie Aaron, with her ADR class, conducted a "grand arbitration experiment" to take a look a variation in arbitrator awards among different decision-makers, and also seeking to determine whether the choice of solo vs. three member arbitrator panel or information about arbitration brackets influenced the arbitration results. More than 60 lawyers and approximately 20 students attended the event and sat as arbitrators. The UC Law ADR class presented the arbitration case (newly written) to the room.  The bottom line results were the number of arbitrators (one vs. three) or knowledge about brackets did not impact results among lawyer-arbitrators.  However, the most interesting to Professor Aaron was the range of findings.  Approximately 1/3 of the lawyer decision makers found liability (and 100% of the student decision makers).  The awards included "fees and costs only" in the range of $1m, $1.5m, $3.5m, $7m, $10.5m, and $13m.

Law Classes Now an Undergraduate Opportunity

Prof. Ann Hubbard teaching

UC undergraduates can get an early taste of law school and gain insights into everyday legal issues this spring, when the College of Law offers courses designed especially for them for the first time. 

College of Law professors will teach Constitutional Landmarks and Disability Rights Law, both of which are open to students from any college. Both also count as electives toward the Certificate in Legal Studies, a program expected to launch in 2016.

"We are delighted to welcome UC undergraduate students to our building and look forward to continuing to build connections in the months to come," said Dean Jennifer S. Bard.

“Both courses were created with undergraduates in mind, so they don’t replicate traditional law school classes. Instead they expose students to aspects of the law and the legal system that they are likely to encounter in school, at work or elsewhere,” said Professor Michele Bradley, Special Assistant to the Dean for Strategic Initiatives at the College of Law. Bradley is helping to coordinate this initiative.

Students from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds can benefit from familiarity with legal concepts introduced in these courses, Bradley said. “Whether you’re studying business, engineering, social work, education or journalism, for example, it’s helpful to understand how the law and the legal system work.”

Disability Rights Law

The Disability Rights Law course, taught by Professor Ann Hubbard, will examine how society and laws both define and respond to individuals with diverse disabilities. A large focus will be on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“One in five Americans have a disability, and one in 10 college students do, so it’s a fact of life,” Hubbard said. “You will have clients, patients or customers with disabilities, you will have employees with disabilities, and you may need to make your place of business accessible to those with disabilities.”

Students will examine specific disabilities—including HIV, depression and visual impairment—exploring if and how they limit one’s ability to work, learn, or take part in a community. “If you let go of your assumptions, you find that many conditions are not as limiting as you first thought,” Hubbard said.

Constitutional Landmarks

Constitutional Landmarks, taught by Professor Chris Bryant, will introduce students to some of the U.S. Supreme Court’s most pivotal and controversial rulings, including debates from the cases as well as the context in which rulings were made.

Students will not merely be reading about the decision, they will immerse themselves in substantial excerpts from opinions of the case, which are what often spark substantial debate and controversy.

“In addition to the opinions, there will be supplemental material to help the students in cracking these cases...because some of them are jawbreakers,” Bryant said.

Broad appeal to legal insights

Both Hubbard and Bryant agree that students with no interest in law school can still benefit from enrollment.

"Professionals in every field follow a host of laws every day: about contracts, privacy, workers' rights, taxes and the like,” Hubbard said. “The better you know the law and follow the law, the less you'll have to call in the lawyers. But you will know when you do need to consult a lawyer, and you'll know what questions to ask that lawyer."

Bryant said that an understanding of past Constitutional law cases is important for general citizenship purposes. Legal doctrine should be accessible to all well-informed and thoughtful citizens, he said, and this course will offer important context about Supreme Court rulings.

“It will be extremely engaging for the students,” Bryant said. “They’ll be surprised at how quickly they take to what these old fogies in robes have to say.”

Both courses signal an exciting expansion in the College of Law, which just boasted the second-highest Ohio Bar passage rates in the state; UC students boast an 88 percent passage for first time takers and 87 percent overall compared to the state’s 80 percent and 74.5 percent, respectively.

“We are so excited to welcome undergraduate students into the law school to see what a dynamic community and engaging professors we have,” Bradley said. “There is a rapidly growing need for legally educated people, short of having a JD, and I see this as filling a really important need in society.”

Professor Kalsem Publishes

Professor Kristin Kalsem’s book, In Contempt: Nineteenth-Century Women, Law, and Literature, was released in paperback in October.