Tele-Lawyering and The Virtual Learning Experience: Finding the Silver Lining for Remote Hybrid Externships & Law Clinics after the Pandemic
28 Pages Posted: 16 Jan 2021
Date Written: July 31, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked the world in innumerable ways. This Article argues that the COVID-19 pandemic has a silver lining for law students in experiential learning programs. The pandemic has forced law schools across the country to fully utilize remote learning technology. The pandemic similarly forced courts to accept virtual tools in an environment that had previously relied primarily on in-person appearances. The lessons that law faculty and judges have learned from the pandemic will be permanent and may change the methods of operation going forward. Law schools that embrace the lessons they learned can help their law students and graduates be better prepared for a new practice environment, as distance learning and virtual law practice are likely here to stay. This article discusses why, despite what some may think, remote learning can happen successfully with experiential education and why virtual experiences will benefit students, their employers, and the public in the future. This article offers a guide as to how one law school, with a long history of remote delivery3, made this pivot, and offers concrete guidance for other schools that might want to continue using virtual technology to help deliver experiential education post-pandemic.
In Part II of this article, we describe the legal academy’s historic resistance to remote learning and the standards that govern experiential learning. We analogize law school resistance to remote experiential learning to the resistance of parts of our judiciary system in embracing remote court operations. In Part III, we document the way in which COVID changed the world of legal education and the courts. In Part IV, we offer our thesis that virtual or hybrid legal practice is here to stay, and virtual experiential learning is essential training for the modern law student. In Part V, we discuss several pedagogical modifications that should be made to address challenges that arise from the virtual practice format and how to most effectively teach law students. Additionally, we discuss best practices for designing fully remote and hybrid clinic and externship courses. Lastly, in Part VI, we discuss the broader lessons on how remote work in experiential settings can lead the way for transforming modern legal education post-pandemic and provide concrete guidance on how to do so. Finally, we offer an appendix, outlining some practical guidance and a checklist to utilize when designing remote or hybrid externships and clinics.
Keywords: experiential learning, externships, clinics, legal education, virtual learning pedagogy, remote learning
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