Law school deans say online courses are here to stay

  • The Association of American Law Schools surveyed more than 400 current and former law deans about the work and future of legal education
  • He found that the ranks of deans were becoming more diverse, but most deans still graduated from top schools.

(Reuters) – Online teaching is not going to go away with the pandemic, according to a new survey of law school deans.

The Association of American Law Schools surveyed more than 400 current and former law deans about their careers and how the pandemic has changed legal education in a study released Tuesday. Respondents cited e-learning, remote working arrangements for faculty and staff, and greater opportunities for engagement with the wider legal community as innovations that are likely to last.

Online teaching environments are more flexible and accessible to students, the deans said, offering new ways to teach, hold office hours and meet with students. Remote learning can also eliminate the need to cancel classes due to weather or other challenges and can allow students who are sick or facing family emergencies to attend.

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But the study notes that teaching entirely remotely has drawbacks, and a hybrid of online and in-person teaching appears to be the norm in the future. A 2021 survey found that law students who took classes entirely or mostly online rated the quality of their education lower than students who took in-person classes. A Harvard law student has unsuccessfully pursued the pandemic’s shift to distance learning, calling remote learning “in every aspect”.

The Deans Study, aimed at demystifying the work of aspiring law school heads and encouraging a broader set of candidates, also tracked the move towards a more diverse cohort of law deans. Women now make up 41% of law deans, up from 18% in 2005. And 31% are people of color, up from 13% in 2005.

Law deans tend to graduate from a relatively small subset of top law schools. More than half of the deans – 52% – earned their law degree from one of the 29 most selective schools in the country. And 55% have at least one parent with a graduate degree, while 25% are first-generation college students. The survey found that 81% of deans came from the law academy.

More than half of deans surveyed – 53% – said they had “difficult” relationships with their full-time faculty. In contrast, 39% said they had difficult relationships with students, while 23% said their relationship with their chancellor or university president was difficult.

When asked to name the key qualities of a successful dean of law, respondents highlighted emotional intelligence, good judgment, and being a stabilizing force in difficult times.

Read more:

‘The most stressful time of my career’: Law deans reflect on pandemic

For most law students, distance learning hasn’t worked – report

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Karen Sloane

Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools and legal affairs. Contact her at [email protected]

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