Continuing a tradition of service

woman outside, smiling.

It was at the very outset of law school—orientation week—when Emily Dinsmore ’14 learned how to read and brief a case. Already thinking like a lawyer after week one, she was in great shape for the three years ahead.

"It was a basic skill that you need for every other class,” says Dinsmore, remembering her entry into the Legal Analysis, Writing and Research program under the tutelage of Professors Christine Bartholomew and Bernadette Gargano. “I learned a systematic approach to reading, researching and writing. That really helped me. I credit the LAWR program with much of my success in practice.”

She went on to a successful law school career, becoming editor in chief of the Buffalo Law Review and graduating summa cum laude, entering practice in the areas of bond offerings and structured lending. Now Dinsmore is returning to O’Brian Hall to teach those essential skills of lawyering as an instructor in the LAWR program. Her classes begin in January.

A Western New York native who studied biology at Cornell University as an undergraduate, she brings to the law school extensive teaching experience in a wide variety of settings. Fresh out of Cornell, she served with Teach for America in Arizona, wrangling fifth- and ninth graders; taught SAT preparation in individual and group sessions; and, at Hodgson Russ, presented Continuing Legal Education seminars to her colleagues and provided practical skills coaching for newly minted associates.

Very diverse student audiences, but Dinsmore says some basic principles undergird them all. “The big thing to remember is that you’re dealing with people,” she says.

“It matters how the person I’m working with is able to learn, and people have different learning styles. And there may be things going on in people’s lives that impact them in non-obvious ways.”

She acknowledges that her own experience isn’t universal: “The generation coming through law school right now, they don’t necessarily have the same background that some generations have had in the past, and don’t necessarily have the same lifelines to success. It’s really important to listen and recognize what’s going on.”

Dinsmore says she has thought many times over the years about joining the UB Law faculty, and says she’s drawn by the LAWR instructors’ willingness to share materials and teaching ideas. “The program is in a great place right now to continue to grow and advance,” she says. “The LAWR faculty are really focused on collaboration, but you also have the room to take those collaborative materials and make them your own. We’ll collaborate on problems for the first and second semesters, but then each teacher develops and creates their own syllabus.”

Dinsmore’s return to the law school is full circle in another sense. Her mother, Professor Emerita Suzanne E. Tomkins ’92, helped establish the school’s Women, Children and Social Justice Clinic (now the Family Violence and Women’s Rights Clinic) and co-directed the Family Law Program. Before that, Tomkins was herself a UB Law student—and Dinsmore remembers tagging along as a kid sometimes, sitting in the back of the classroom and playing with Barbie dolls.

She also remembers the day her mother and Professor Catherine Cerulli ’92 drove to the post office to mail the application for the grant that would help fund their pioneering clinic. She looked on with her sister from the back seat of the car, watching UB Law history unfold.