Law School News, 0620 WYBJ, Vol. 43 No. 3. 50

AuthorKlint W. Alexander, Ph.D., J.D., M.Phil. University of Wyoming College of Law Laramie, Wyoming
PositionVol. 43 3 Pg. 50

Law School News

Vol. 43 No. 3 Pg. 50

Wyoming Bar Journal

June, 2020

Will COVID-19 Forever Alter the Educational Experience for Law Students?

Klint W. Alexander, Ph.D., J.D., M.Phil. University of Wyoming College of Law Laramie, Wyoming

Since the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, the vast majority of U.S. law schools have suspended in-person classes and moved to online classes in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. Law professors have been experimenting with online classes via Zoom or Skype to make law school available to students who are practicing social distancing or under stay-at-home orders during this emergency period. Tis temporary move to online classes has provided important insights into the advantages and disadvantages of online legal education programs and how these programs stack up against traditional in-person, brick and mortar learning.

One of the main advantages of online legal education is that it increases accessibility by making law school available for students who live in rural areas or who cannot leave work or family to commute to law school. There are far fewer law schools in the United States than there are undergraduate colleges and universities. Thus, law students are more likely to travel longer distances to attend law school. The University of Wyoming, for example, is the only law school in the State of Wyoming and one of only three law schools located in the Denver Front Range region. Moreover, the median age of students ranges from 25 to 27 at most law schools, and, therefore, students often have families in tow or jobs that limit their geographic flexibility to attend law school in person.

The second advantage of online legal education is that taking classes can be done anytime and anywhere. Synchronous (live) classes can be done anywhere, as long as there is a Zoom link and Wi-Fi, and asynchronous (pre-recorded) classes can be done anytime. The University of Dayton Law School, for example, is one of four ABA-accredited schools currently operating under an ABA variance to provide an online J.D. program through synchronous and asynchronous online classes. Of course, this diminishes the traditional role of the Socratic Method in a live classroom setting where cold calling on students in front of their peers is an art form. What would Frank Trelease think of a classroom environment where the professor couldn’t slam a ruler on the table...

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