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Michele CottonMichele Cotton

associate professor
Division of Legal, Ethical and Historical Studies

Additional Roles:

Contact Information:

Phone: 410.837.5320

M.A., Ph.D., Brandeis University
J.D., New York University
Ed.M., Harvard University
A.B., College of William & Mary

I’ve taught law to high school students, to college freshmen and to graduate students. Law isn’t something only law students understand or only lawyers can use. My goal is to help my students explore the law to achieve their own purposes, whether to improve their current job performance and career prospects, to prepare for law school or a law-intensive career, or to pursue the intellectual study of a subject that fascinates them—or even all three.

What I find most interesting about the law is its contradictions. Law is supposed to be something that all of us abide by, yet it’s often written in language that even judges have trouble understanding. Law needs to innovate to deal with an ever-changing world, yet it’s based on backward-looking concepts like precedent. Law can be a tool of oppression and obstruction, yet some of the most dramatic advances in freedom and equality have taken place in courtrooms. Law is as rational and scientific as its practitioners have been able to make it, but it must address situations involving the most powerful emotions and instincts. It can be frustrating to grapple with a subject of such strange dimensions, but it’s also exciting and empowering.

I like hearing and reading what my students have to say about the law. Students are always alerting me to things I didn’t realize, didn’t notice, didn’t appreciate. I think that’s one of the reasons I like to teach. Another reason I like to teach students about the law is because knowledge truly is power when it comes to legal issues. I like to think that I am helping my students not only compete in the job market but also take better advantage of their rights as consumers, as neighbors and as citizens.