Karen Rubin, a 1985 graduate of Cleveland State University’s Cleveland Marshall College of Law, has been passionate about teaching for as long as she can remember. She recalls playing school as a child and forcing her sisters to be the students so she could pretend to be a teacher. For the past eight years, Rubin has had the opportunity to teach in real life – and the opportunity to do it at her alma mater makes it all the more cherished.
“The opportunity to be at my alma mater and work with the next generation of lawyers is special to me,” said Rubin.
Rubin began as an adjunct professor at C|M|LAW in 2010, teaching Scholarly Legal Writing. In 2014, she shifted to teaching Legal Profession, a course that focuses on issues of legal ethics and professionalism that arise in the practice of law. In May 2018, Rubin was honored for her outstanding teaching with C|M|LAW’s Judge Richard Markus Adjunct Faculty Award, presented to one professor each year to recognize the importance of the practitioner’s perspective in academia and the unique expertise that adjunct faculty bring to the classroom. Judge Markus, a retired Ohio Court of Appeals judge and former adjunct professor himself, presented the award to Rubin at the College’s commencement ceremony.
“This is such an honor for me,” said Rubin of winning the award. “Judge Markus is one of my heroes ─ every Ohio litigator knows of his treatise on trial practice, and he is legendary as an excellent judge.”
In her day job, as counsel at Thompson Hine, Rubin’s practice has a focus on judicial ethics. She works on resolving conflicts of interest, assists the marketing department in complying with ethics rules and handles the challenges that arise from a national practice with offices in four different jurisdictions with four different sets of ethics regulations.
Rubin has served as the chair of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association’s Certified Grievance Committee, as well as the chair of the Ohio State Bar Association’s Ethics Committee. She also publishes Law for Lawyers Today, a blog that is a resource for lawyers who need information to keep up-to-date on the world of legal ethics.
Being involved in real-world legal ethics issues, as well as tracking cases and disputes around the country for her blog, makes Rubin an ideal adjunct professor who carries real-world experience into the classroom. With professionalism and ethics often being very case specific, she sees it as a subject matter that aligns well with learning from a practitioner.
“Out in the real world, we have to deal with ethics issues every day – whether it’s conflicts of interest, how to handle client funds, whether to cite adverse legal authority to a judge, how to balance candor to a court with your duty to your clients, and many others,” Rubin said. “A practitioner’s perspective can be helpful because we’re able to put some flesh on the bones of a subject that might seem very abstract,”
It’s not all real-world examples in Rubin’s class, however. She also plays clips from the TV series “Better Call Saul” to demonstrate ethical issues –a teaching tool that has been popular with students.
Rubin’s goal is to prepare her students for an entire professional career of ethical practice, in addition to passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam. If they do find themselves in a troublesome situation, she imparts to them an ultimate takeaway that will serve them well in practice and life:
“If you do get into ethics trouble, reach out for help – never bury your head in the sand.”