You are really really smart.
You know my name, but maintain some formality -- I feel just a little bit nervous around you because I have so much respect. And because I know you are listening, really listening to what I say and will respond to my words, so if I blow it and express myself sloppily you will think I am a sloppy thinker. It's scary but really helpful to talk to you for that reason.
I don't care if you wrote the textbook or not. But if you did, PLEASE don't teach us from a draft that's not yet been published. Or if you must, PLEASE make sure there's an index and a table of contents and a syllabus that gives me an overview and fits the parts within some kind of whole. Novelty and cutting edge commentary on the cases is far less valuable than an easy-to-navigate book that we can use to find our way around terra incognita. (Actually my best professor ever broke this rule, elegantly and with mystery and fascination -- we were lost in the fantastic worlds of torts and admiralty and although he might have had the map it was no less of a wondrous exploration for him.)
You think hard about the materials, and ask questions, and sometimes hear points in our naiive questions that make you think about things in a different way. That glimmer of hope that our questions are good ones and our perspective is worthwhile is very motivating. As is the feeling we get from you that the law is hard, even for smart people, but it's a fun puzzle to gnaw on and we're welcomed into the company of smart people wondering about interesting and important questions.
You don't tell too many war stories.
You understand that we are students and we are living students' lives, trying things out, staying up too late sometimes, freaking out over things that aren't big deals, etc., missing the point in class only to pick it up while studying a month or two later. You are forgiving, but only a little bit, about these things. So we can miss a class but not more than one, we can be confused without being stupid, but we can't be obnoxious or consistently unprepared or lazy. And you recognize that over the course of three years as we begin to get a sense of what this law stuff is our interests and our ideas about our own roles as lawyers will evolve, so you don't pigeonhole us based on what we came into law school saying we wanted to be when we grew up.
If you are teaching a statutory class you keep reminding us to READ THE STATUTE but you don't throw around code sections like weapons.
You are a tough grader. And your exam is HARD -- an achievement just to sit through and emerge, heroically, with a cramped hand, three hours later. (No papers, please, just the one exam.)
If you see me around town you will incline your head with a little smile if I'm a 1L, or perhaps introduce me to your colleague or your spouse if I'm a 2L or 3L.
You have colleagues and friends who are lawyers and judges and professors around town in other places and, where appropriate, you'll make an introduction for a student who deserves it.
You have opinions in the world at large -- you're involved with something more than your little piece of scholarship. And whatever your opinions you work on them with integrity, passion, and discipline, and you believe that by doing so you are making the world a better place. (And you don't talk about it in class, please.)
You are not a snob -- you recognize that smart people take a lot of different paths.
[UPDATE: Jeremy Blachman, whose preferences are more relevant because he is actually a law student, gives us his wishlist. And, students, at least one Professor is paying attention.... And there are some nice additional suggestions for good law professor traits in the Comments section of Professor Eric Muller's blog post here. ]