Headshot of Professor Grode

Adjunct Professor Jonathan Grode LAW ’08 has been recognized by Temple University with the Part-Time Faculty Excellence in Teaching and Instruction Award, given annually to celebrate high-quality pedagogy and mentorship by part-time faculty members. Associate Dean Donald Harris, who nominated Professor Grode for the award, says the accolade is well-deserved. “Temple Law School has a strong reputation for teaching students to think both critically and flexibly, while also equipping them to excel in whatever practice environment they choose,” said Harris. “Professor Grode delivers on the promises we make with every class, every mentoring relationship, every student inspired and excited to become a Temple Lawyer. I’m grateful for his service to the Law School but more importantly for his impact on every student he meets.”

In addition to teaching three very popular courses at Temple Law School, Professor Grode is the US Practice Director and Managing Partner at Green and Spiegel, a leading business immigration firm. We checked in with him to learn more about his teaching and his practice.

Temple Law School: Tell us a bit about your practice – how did you settle on a practice area and build your firm? What sort of matters do you handle for your clients?

Professor Grode: Green and Spiegel is a full-service immigration firm, but we do have a heavier focus on business immigration. We represent foreign national artists, entertainers, athletes, researchers, scientists, tech workers, etc. Really anything that has a work component to being in the U.S. Personally, I really enjoy working with entrepreneurs and expansion of businesses from outside the US to the Philadelphia region. One half of the Fortune 100 companies were founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants. Ultimately, immigration and entrepreneurship are in the DNA of the United States and I am happy to play a small part in keeping that American dream alive.

TLS: You have been teaching since the year after you graduated first in your class. How did you acquire the knowledge base to do that?

Professor Grode: I was one of those people who went to law school knowing what area I wanted to practice. I had been a legal assistant at immigration firms since graduating from college – having worked in Cleveland, OH, London, England, New York, NY and also back here in the Philly area. I loved travelling in my 20s and immigration law allowed me to continue to get a constant exposure to different cultures. Law school for me was sort of the best way to get a promotion. I worked as a legal assistant while I went to law school at night. I cannot underscore how important Temple’s night program was to me and my advancement as an attorney. By working during the day and staying abreast of changes in the immigrant field, as well as cultivating my skills in working with clients, when I graduated from law school, I felt like I was already a seasoned expert in the area. So, that became the foundation of my teaching. Frankly, I was so excited by the opportunity to give back to Temple as an adjunct because I would not have been able to do what I did without Temple Law’s evening program.

TLS: Your courses have been extremely popular, and you enjoy a strong reputation among Temple Law students for both teaching and mentorship. Talk to us about your approach to each of these roles.

Professor Grode: I pride myself on bringing the real world to the classroom. Yes, it is all about the subject matter, but it is also about teaching how to communicate with clients as much as it is about teaching legal theory. I think it is this experience-based method that resonates with the students – helps them prepare for the world outside of school and hopefully provides a skill set beyond the confines of the subjects I teach. Mentorship comes hand-in-hand with that – to me being a great educator does not necessarily stop when the final grade is registered. If someone is really interested in my practice area, I always try to find the time to help mentor whether it is the next semester or years down the line.

TLS: How have you adjusted your teaching and mentorship styles during the pandemic?

Professor Grode: The pandemic has been hard on everyone – but that’s just it – we are all affected. So, I kind of see it like we are all in the same storm, just on different ships. We need to ride it out together, we need to have an understanding that we are all doing the best we can to take advantage of what Temple Law can offer. While Zoom is not a full solution, it is a reasonable facsimile – we can meet, we can see each other, we can interact. In addition, with the Law Practice Management class, we were able to actually work the pandemic into the course and discuss how to prepare for disasters – an unfortunate reality all firms have to deal with. But, it goes beyond the today – the pandemic has given us the skills to work from home, to work in distant locations, and this will be an ongoing aspect of the practice of law even after the pandemic has subsided.

TLS: Tell us about Law Practice Management, the innovative hands-on course that has become one of the law school’s most popular offerings.

Professor Grode: Honestly, it is my favorite class that I teach – I think it is something that all schools should offer. Beyond the idea of some day starting a firm or holding a senior leadership role for an organization, we all have our personal brand as attorneys. Understanding the business side of law – how to market yourself, how to create a competitive advantage – these are skills we all need to succeed but traditionally are forced to learn through trial and error – this class bridges that gap. The students form their own firms and work through a series of exercises to make it a success. We are also really fortunate to have a number of leaders in the legal field come for guest interviews which only brings the subject matter further to life.

TLS: Any thoughts to share on the value of a law degree, what lawyers bring to the table, or teaching and practicing in today’s world?

Professor Grode: To some a law degree might not be as valuable as it was in the past, but I actually think it can be more important. JDs do not have to be solely practitioners anymore and the way of thinking – that critical thought skill set – can be applied to a variety of fields and endeavors. The difference today is that first job is really hard to find – but once you get there, and once you create your brand, you are very marketable. I think this is why I am so much more willing to spend time to mentor former students and help as much as possible. We have an obligation to the next generation of Philadelphia lawyers. It might be a longer path to success or finding a “home” but once you arrive, it is worth the journey.