Professor Bob Talbot bounds through University of San Francisco greeting colleagues and students. The septuagenarian has been a fixture at the law school since 1968 but is still considered to be a mover and shaker.
Talbot is responsible for starting law clinics that give students real world experience. So far he has worked with students on actual cases in public interest, maritime and intellectual property law. This semester he's branching out. "We're starting an entrepreneurial venture clinic so students can launch their own start-ups,"
He's also teaching dance.
"Whether it's salsa, merengue or tango, dance is valuable for lawyers. It gives you presence, posture, confidence, awareness of everything you're doing," explains Talbot.
The dapper, reed-slim professor says a law degree once guaranteed a secure future but today's students have no such guarantees. According to the American Bar Association, 72 of 200 USF graduates last year found full time jobs that required passing the bar. Another study released this June showed legal employment down for the sixth year in a row.
Talbot recalls that he learned to dance out of necessity as well. "I was on the football team at Columbia College when I got injured." Finding himself with extra time on his hands he started looking for a job. "I saw an ad for a dance instructor for $3.50 an hour plus commission. I knew very little about dancing but it was a lot of money at the time."
Talbot credits dance as the secret to his later success as an attorney. Law school may have honed his ability to debate but dancing gave him nonverbal communication skills that many of his peers lacked.
"After I became a lawyer I realized how much dancing was a part of me. My first trial was like giving a group cha cha lesson. I had to plug in with every person--in this case the jurors--made sure they understood what I was saying and following my lead. And I never stopped."