Legal Education in the Era of COVID-19: Putting Health, Safety and Equity First
Catherine Sandoval, Patricia Cain, Steve Diamond, Allen S. Hammond, IV, Jean Love, Steve Smith, Solmaz Nabipour, M.D., Legal Education During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Put Health, Safety and Equity First, SANTA CLARA LAW REVIEW, Vol. 61 (forthcoming, Spring 2021).
77 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2020 Last revised: 18 Jan 2021
Date Written: Jan 17, 2021
This Article’s interdisciplinary analysis of scientific studies of COVID-19 and the limits of mitigation measures while vaccine distribution sputters in 2021, examines American legal education during the COVID-19 pandemic, and recommends online education to put health, safety, and equity first. Legal education forms part of America’s Critical Infrastructure whose continuity is important to the economy, public safety, and United States national security. This article’s analysis concludes that gathering adults indoors in physical classes is a high-risk activity during this pandemic. The lengthy timeline necessary to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine in the United States and globally and the emergence of more infectious COVID-19 variants elongates the period during which in-person education remains risky and online education is the safer option. This pandemic and the prospect of future viral pandemics underscore the urgency of developing a safety culture in legal education, concomitant with effective health and safety precautions that consider community, as well as campus, health and safety.
The COVID-19 viral pandemic has exposed the equity and safety culture gap in American legal education. COVID-19 infection risks serious illness, long-lasting complications, and death, and has preyed on America’s inequities. African-Americans, Native Americans, Latinx Americans, older Americans, and those with certain underlying health conditions including pregnant women face more peril from COVID-19 infection including higher levels of hospitalization and death. This article theorizes that the hybrid educational model undermines diversity and inclusion that supports educational dialogue and first amendment values as those participating in person or online separate by race, ethnicity, tribe, age, and health, reflecting COVID-19’s inequitable risks. Consistent with the ethical standards expected of lawyers and law schools, this Article recommends American law schools conduct educational programs online during the COVID-19 pandemic and develop a safety culture to foster health, safety, robust educational dialogue, and equity.
Keywords: COVID-19, legal education, equity, health, safety, safety culture, ethics, diversity, diversity and inclusion, educational dialogue, first, amendment, online education, pandemic, pandemic response, educational models, science-based analysis, ethical decision-making, public health, education
JEL Classification: I12, I14,I18, I23, I24, I28, K32, K40, K00, Z18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation