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August 27, 2018 Asked and Answered

Halting the hover: Dealing with helicopter parents in law school (podcast)

By Stephanie Francis Ward

As an associate dean of the University of Houston Law Center, Sondra Tennessee has witnessed her share of helicopter parents. She’s seen parents ask law schools to switch their child’s professor, because they didn’t think he or she was a good fit.

She’s seen them try to get an extended finals date, without their child knowing they contacted the school. She’s also heard of parents contacting potential employers for law students to get more detail about benefits packages.

As a new academic year begins, Tennessee shares her advice with the ABA Journal’s Stephanie Francis Ward on how students, parents and school administrators can halt the hover and foster students’ independence and success. In one example, editing your child’s papers will be less than helpful, because it will probably be noticeable to the professor that the voice of the writer will change quite a bit. A more constructive way to help a law student is to be familiar with various study-aid programs the law school offers, so if they call you stressed out about school, you can talk to them about ways they can find assistance on campus.

Tennessee also advises parents to remember that when they talk to a student and ask about what’s going on with classes, oftentimes there’s not a lot for the student to report, because most activity takes place at the end of the semester. And sometimes the student doesn’t want to talk about law school with their parents; instead, they look to the conversations as a way to get away from stresses of law school.

Most of all, Tennessee says that if you are a lawyer with a child who is going to law school, you need to recognize that it’s a very different place from when you attended classes. There’s a lot more pressure, but also many more opportunities for students to get help on campus.

In This Podcast:

Stephanie Francis Ward
Sondra Tennessee is the associate dean for student affairs at the University of Houston Law Center. Prior to assuming her current position, Tennessee served as the assistant dean for admissions. Before joining the UH Law Center, she worked at the University of Oklahoma College of Law and Washington University School of Law. Tennessee serves on the board of the Law School Admission Council and is the chair of its diversity committee. She is also a member of the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs. (Photo by Elena Hawthorne.)

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