Distance Legal Education: Lessons from the *Virtual* Classroom

22 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2019

See all articles by Jacqueline D. Lipton

Jacqueline D. Lipton

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law

Date Written: November 21, 2019


In the 2018-2019 revision of the American Bar Association (ABA) Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools, the ABA further relaxed the requirements relating to distance education in J.D. programs. However, outside of a handful of schools that have received permission to teach J.D. courses almost entirely online, most experiments in distance legal education have occurred in post-graduate (i.e. post-J.D.) programs: LL.M. degrees, and various graduate certificates and Master’s degrees in law-related subjects. These programs can be taught completely online without requiring special ABA permission.

This essay reflects on the author’s experiences over a number of years as both a teacher and student in distance education classes in both legal and other areas of instruction. She identifies practical lessons she has learned in this context relating to issues including: the kinds of skills that can most effectively be taught online; personnel requirements for developing and offering online courses; the pros and cons of asynchronous online formats; differing online social norms of behavior; optimum class size for online delivery; and, access and administration issues. This discussion is intended as a jumping off point for future conversations about effective online course delivery in legal academia, which may be of particular relevance if J.D. programs ultimately do move toward greater online delivery.

Keywords: distance, online, legal education, JD, LLM, class participation, teaching, law schools, course materials, syllabus, module, content, hybrid, asynchronous, synchronous

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K19

Suggested Citation

Lipton, Jacqueline Deborah, Distance Legal Education: Lessons from the *Virtual* Classroom (November 21, 2019). IDEA: The IP Law Review, Vol. 60, 2020 Forthcoming, U. of Pittsburgh Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2019-24, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3491427

Jacqueline Deborah Lipton (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law ( email )

3900 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States
412-383-3207 (Phone)

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