Professor David Parker: The Bellwether of the Pre-Law Students/by Rachel Smith
Students with various concentrations have been left to wonder if they are interested in law. Mississippi College has a select number of pre-law classes students of any major can join, such as Constitutional Development I and II (better known as Con-D), and Business Law and Ethics.
These three classes are the most coveted law-based studies amongst aspiring lawyers that prepare students from any field of study to dip their toes into the murky waters of legalese. The magnetic pull that draws students into these classes comes from one central charge: Professor David Parker.
Not only has Parker encouraged students into fields of law by the mere act of teaching, but he does so with the excitement that inspires students to find reward in the grueling work it takes to enter law school. The idea to create and establish a pre-law society on campus was derived from such inspiration. Parker is the driving force behind students’ interest in law and the consolidation of a society that can be a place to foster students’ wandering and wondering on their own about how to get from undergraduate to LSAT to Juris Doctor. This beloved professor and MC alumnus bridge those seemingly daunting gaps.
What is it about this one professor that plays such an influential role in the lives of big dreamers and hard-working students? Olivia Perkins, a graduating senior, when asked how her perspective changed after taking Con-D I, said, “It was the hardest class I have taken on this campus but I wound up loving it. He keeps you so engaged. I took a very case-heavy test in his class after just taking the LSAT that week, so I felt that I didn’t do exceptionally well. But I got my test back and it not only got a 100, but a comment from him that said ‘go to law school!’”
Where does this community building happen? Parker engages with his students after class, even arranging to meet over coffee at Cups. He devotes his time to these meetings for the sole reason of instilling excitement and passion for the law. He guides students in their interests, helping them dream big with navigation, and gives them a world of opportunities to consider.
One of these opportunities is becoming a Teacher’s Assistant under his guidance. Sam Hughes, a TA this spring semester, said, “He still finds a way to teach me new things even as the TA. It’s almost like he’s designed it to be in a way that I’m learning even when I’m teaching,” said Hughes.
When asked what made him want to be a TA or even a student in the first place, Hughes speaks to the value of the class material, but even more valuable is how it is presented. “Before I took the Constitutional Development II class with him, I viewed the law and law school as a means to an end. But since then, I’ve learned to appreciate studying and learning about the history behind the Constitution and how the times have changed it; I give that credit and devotion solely to Mr. Parker,” said Hughes.
The head of the pre-law student posse has not always been a professor. Parker practiced contracting law for three years before he discovered his love for teaching concepts and ideas and sharing them with students. His current goal is to constantly improve his teaching methods, and he hopes to earn a Ph.D., possibly in history, in the future, to teach a wider array of subjects.
Parker has surely inspired a number of students with his knowledge of law and practice, but it did not come easily. When asked what obstacles he had to overcome to get to where he is now, Parker was open about lessons he had to learn. “I have always been blessed in my life, but law school was tough in the first year because I put a lot of my identity in my academics. I had to learn to not put my worth in that, it needed to be in Christ,” said Parker.
While students do learn from Parker, he also learns from them. “You guys teach me how to be open, joyful, and excited about the things you forget; how to dream with optimism when I sit down to talk with students about figuring out what they want ahead,” said Parker.
Because of his great rapport amongst students, getting many minds interested in beginning a pre-law society was a quickly dispatched process. When asked why he decided to create a place for LSAT prep, hearing speakers from fields of law and preparing for law school, Mr. Parker believed that the main goal was to help students dream and achieve.
“It was a need that wasn’t being filled. We have tons of smart and helpful advisors but advisors have the best expertise in the field they persuade. They can speak highly to graduate programs, but not about law school. We needed somewhere where students can learn from lawyers in the field and interest them in what law school would look like. People generally rise to meet the standard you set. We do you a disservice here if we don’t challenge you to be more than you thought you were,” said Parker.
Though Parker surely hands students the proper tools for success and the directions for building their life goals, he is also an essential part of the campus community. A former Beau of Kissimmee Social Tribe, a sponsor and former member of Civitan Men’s Club, and now the main sponsor of the Amicus Pre-Law Society, Parker exudes devotion for the lives of students outside the barriers of the classroom.
At the heart of his career, investing in students is what Parker is most passionate about. “My uniquely favorite part of teaching has been watching folks complete the long journey of thinking about law school and all of the steps to get to where they want to be. I have watched people run that race and the ability to be a part of that and watch it happen. I know what a race is professionally, and having known the student for so long, I get to see them succeed too,” said Parker.