Sponsored by Vermont Law School and the Program on the Legal Profession
The legal education industry may be soon looking at its own perfect storm: As the number of students applying to law schools drops, law schools become more expensive, student loans become more difficult to obtain, and technological substitution for traditional law skills increases, the economics of both legal education and the legal services industry is changing rapidly. Some predict that the traditional law school formula may never recover from the current economic woes.
In the midst of this pending storm, many law schools are looking to distance learning as at least one model to change their educational offerings, and, in some cases, their financial outlook. While distance learning has grown exponentially in other fields of graduate education in the last decade, few law schools have yet ventured into distance learning. The ABAs prohibition on providing distance education for most JD programs is largely responsible, but as schools add additional degrees, and the ABA contemplates relaxing its prohibitions, distance learning becomes more attractive to many schools.
This workshop brought together those in the legal education industry who are currently working in, experimenting with, or exploring distance learning as a method of providing high quality legal education. This effort will in time, we hope, establish the best practices and standards for high quality distance legal education.
In November, 2011, over 20 law schools convened to consider best practices, policy issues, and institutional challenges of distance legal education. After significant discussion, and identifying the need for collaboration and research, participants agreed to form the new Working Group for Distance Learning in Legal Education (Working Group). The Working Group is charged with identifying key issues for law schools to consider as they adopt distance learning practices, developing best practices for legal distance learning, and designing a research agenda to investigate questions of legal distance learning pedagogy and effectiveness.
The first task assumed by the Working Group was to develop a Model Law School Distance Learning Policy. This policy is designed to give law schools a basis for internal distance learning policy as required by the American Bar Associations law school accreditation standards. Read the model policy.
In January, the Working Group will hold an open meeting at the American Association of Law Schools annual conference in Washington, D.C., to discuss draft best practices, and future activities. For more information, contact Rebecca Purdom.