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
Conference on Predatory Lending Noted in National Newsletter
“Dodging the Debt Trap,” the conference hosted recently by the Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice, was mentioned in a newsletter from Americans for Financial Reform, a nonpartisan and nonprofit coalition of 200+n civil rights, consumer, labor, business, investor, faith-based, and civic and community groups. AFR has been called “the leading voice for Wall Street accountability in Washington (Huffington Post).
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. Sandra Sperino Gives Talk on First Generation Discrimination
Prof. Sandra Sperino gave a talk titled "First Generation Discrimination" at the conference, The Present and Future of Civil Rights Movements: Race and Reform in 21st Century America. The conference was hosted by Duke Law School's Center on Law, Race and Politics on November 20-21, 2015.
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.