Barth standing in the law library.

Bringing courtroom experience to the classroom

Farina Barth ’17, Lecturer in Legal Analysis, Writing and Research

As a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo for more than three years, doing criminal defense work in Buffalo City Court, Farina Barth ’17 handled over 300 cases a year.

Now, as a newly appointed lecturer in UB School of Law’s Legal Analysis, Writing and Research program, her caseload is down to 25—the cohort of first-year students she’ll guide through two semesters of building the fundamental skills of lawyering.

The work likely won’t be any less intense, as she reflects on her own LAWR training at the law school. “It was really difficult,” Barth says. “Whatever background you come from, you basically have to relearn how to read and write. It’s a formulaic way of writing so your memos are clear to the reader. You have to understand the judicial system, and for many students, the research and writing program is your first exposure to it.”

But, of course, having flourished as a student gave Barth the tools she needs to be effective from the other side of the lectern. Her attendance at two conferences this summer on best practices in teaching research and writing have made it clear that her students need multiple opportunities for assessment of their work—lots of writing assignments and lots of feedback throughout the semester.

“This course helps them with how to read, write, and do research to prepare them for practice,” Barth says, “but it’s also helpful for their doctrinal classes, for example when they have to read cases for their Constitutional Law class.”

Barth also brings teaching experience from the State University of New York at Brockport, where she taught undergraduates as an adjunct while she was working at a Rochester law firm. Her classes included one on criminal law and another on the adjudication process. “I taught adjudication process like a trial team. I took them through the whole trial process, and then had them perform a trial in groups as their final assignment. They were amazing,” she says.

She knows that a lot of learning happens outside the classroom as well. As a law student, she spent two semesters competing nationally with UB Law’s trial team, an experience she found invaluable. “It gave me the opportunity to get on my feet with no consequences,” Barth says. “You don’t have a client, and you can test out all sorts of skills to see if you like that type of advocacy. And you can be a little bit theatrical and have fun with it.” She has stayed involved with the trial team program as a coach.

Likewise, she poured her energy into extracurriculars throughout her law school career, working on the Buffalo Law Review and the Buffalo Journal of Gender & Law, the Moot Court board, and the Buffalo Public Interest Law Program. “I made so many friends and future colleagues throughout those programs,” she says. “And it encouraged me to be social and get out of my house. It’s so important to step away from the books for a while.”

Barth is the first in her family to attend law school and is a dual citizen of Canada and the United States—she immigrated with her parents from Uzbekistan as a young child, and she still speaks fluent Russian—and her undergraduate degree is from the University of Toronto. But her commitment to Western New York came easily. “I moved to Buffalo for law school and fell in love with Buffalo and the law school,” she says. “And I met my husband in law school, so it’s always held a special place in my heart.”