August 30, 2011

Gregory J. Scott, 1957-2011

By Art Hinshaw

Last week my good friend Greg Scott, a reading and writing instructor at the University of Missouri, collapsed as he was walking to class and passed away a short while later.  Greg’s true love in life was teaching.    Not everyone can make Legal Research and Writing somebody’s favorite law school class, but he did time and time again.  Described as “a force of nature,” “extremely charismatic,” and as a professor who “made law school humane for students,” Greg was the best classroom instructor I’ve ever seen.  I’ve heard lots of descriptions of his style (a smart Chris Farley was often said), but I think he was more like Jackie Gleason, a comic genuis who became famous portraying regular working folks.  Moreover, his teaching style was the same at the law school as it was when he taught swimming lessons, Lifesaving and Advanced Lifesaving courses, and as he approached his 30+ years as a Boy Scout leader.   He was going to have fun teaching, which will make it fun for his students.   And that may be the most important lesson, among the many life lessons, he taught me.

Besides being a great instructor, Greg was amazingly humble.  He didn’t go to college after high school because he really didn’t know what he wanted to do.  During this time he had several odd jobs, most notably as a lifeguard in the summer (how I met him when I was as a snot-nosed 12 year old) and as a school bus driver.  When he decided to give college a try, he went to a small college in Mid-Missouri where he excelled.  After rocking the LSAT, and kicking butt in law school, he became Managing Editor of the Missouri Law Review.  He had lots of job opportunities (times were different then) and one of my favorite law school job interview stories comes from Greg.  He was interviewing with a stuffy Kansas City firm and the partner interviewer was a bit flummoxed as to why Greg had been a lifeguard for so long, even the summer after his first year of law school.  Greg’s retort – the experience will help me in your admiralty department.  Not getting the joke (an admiralty department in a KC firm, seriously?), the partner turned to the associate and said “I don’t think we have an admiralty department, do we have one?  I’m sorry Greg, but I really don’t thnk we have one.”   Greg ended the interview shortly thereafter.

In the fall of 1999 Greg left his position at the Missouri AG’s Office to to be a full time LR&W at Mizzou,which opened an adjunct slot for a research and writing instructor - it became my first law school teaching gig.  In one of my first weeks, I was dejected that the key parts of my lessons weren’t sticking w/ the students, and Greg spent the rest of the afternoon talking with me about teaching.  The important lesson from that conversation – if you want them to succeed, you can never make it too easy.  And as I worked on my teaching, I found my career path.  Thanks Greg.

Another point about Greg, he was not an ADR fan.  In his mind ADR was ruining the practice of law - which was defined by jury trials.  He constantly goaded me about ADR, in a good natured way of course, and we debated the merits of ADR often.  These discussions always revolved around what it means to be a lawyer, which helped me understand that many of the issues facing our field were based on the identity of the lawyer as anything else.  And, I believe I was able to ease him into at least a grudging acceptance of ADR, but I know he’d never ever admit it publicly.

And finally, Greg taught me another great life lesson.  If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.  And no one had more fun living life than Greg.  As his obiturary said, “you can honor Greg by simply grabbing every opportunity to live life and help those around you.”  I will.  May you rest in peace, my friend.

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