Earlier this year, Mike Neff, of CalSouthern’s School of Law, was named CalSouthern Faculty Mentor of the Quarter for the fourth quarter of 2014. According to Stephnie Hopple, the director of CalSouthern’s Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning, it was his flexibility and keen interest in his learners’ success—along with his extensive education and professional qualifications—that singled out Neff for the honor.
A professional through and through, Neff has been a committed member of the faculty and university community for almost 20 years, participating in the CalSouthern Faculty Senate, various university accreditation processes and the School of Law’s Baby Bar Workshop, in addition to providing peer mentoring.
Neff has been a member of the State Bar of California for over 40 years. He currently teaches LAW 5110A Torts I; LAW 5110B Torts II; LAW 5131 Wills, Trusts, and Estates; LAW 5134 Professional Responsibility; LAW 5141 Remedies; MSL 86200 Torts; MSL 86400 Legal Ethics, and MSL 86450 Wills, Trusts, and Estates.
CalSouthern School of Law Associate Dean Bernadette Agaton recently interviewed Neff to learn a bit more about his teaching philosophy and personal interests, as well as to glean a few valuable tips for passing the Baby Bar and general bar exam.
Bernadette Agaton: How long have you been on the law faculty at CalSouthern?
Mike Neff: It’s close to two decades now, but I like to focus more on all that I have learned, and how I hope I’ve been able to communicate what I’ve learned back to CalSouthern’s learners.
Agaton: What do you enjoy most about teaching?
Neff: I like being in a position to actually play a role in making another person’s life better. And I simply enjoy the primary responsibility of a teacher: to communicate knowledge. To do so effectively, and so as to meet the needs of the receiver of this knowledge, is the goal.
Agaton: What is your favorite course to teach and why?
Neff: To me, whatever I am learning or teaching at the time is my favorite. I cannot presently conceive that I might ever have a need to be an authority on the breathing rate of a frog, but what a grand feeling it is to know something and, even more importantly, to know it well. No matter the subject, knowledge has value.
Agaton: You are a licensed pilot. Can you draw any parallels between flying an airplane and practicing law?
Neff: It is most interesting that you asked this particular question. I have spoken with many attorneys who also are qualified pilots and have asked them this very question. Almost all were in agreement that it is the application of a rule or principle to the facts and the logic involved that is the essence of problem solving in both endeavors. As an example, when readying yourself for either a flight or a court appearance, the more preparation, the better the result.
Agaton: What tips can you offer to students preparing to take the First-Year Law Students’ Examination or the general bar exam?
Neff: Be confident in your preparation. You have studied and learned the required material that will allow you to pass. Do you really believe that you will suddenly forget what you know? Successful exam taking is not magic; it is being prepared and practiced. You should write a timed essay question every day during your review study session period. The desired result of all your hard work is now within your reach. Be ready, be proud, and be successful.