Can law schools increase enrollment with online learning?

Dive Brief:

The American Bar Association (ABA) recently adopted a resolution stating that law schools can now grant students permission to take up to one-third of the credit hours needed to complete a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree via distance education. This equates to about 30 credit hours at most U.S. law schools, National Jurist reports . Previously, law students could take up to 15 credits online.

The ABA defines a distance education course as "one in which students are separated from the faculty member or each other for more than one-third of the instruction" and uses technology to support interactions among students and instructors. Credit for a distance education course is only awarded if the academic content, course delivery method and student performance evaluation method pass the institution’s regular curriculum approval process.

The new resolution is a plus for prospective students who do not live near institutions that offer in-person law degrees.

A growing number of law schools have implemented or are considering online courses and hybrid programs in order to better meet the needs of students. The University of Dayton, for instance, recently announced that it will be offering a hybrid J.D. degree program beginning in August 2019. The university is working with 2U, an international online course management provider, to develop and deliver the new degree program. This is 2U’s first time partnering with a law school.

The University of Dayton’s announcement comes as law schools across the country struggle to increase enrollment numbers . In March, Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School announced it would shutter its seven-year-old branch campus , the Savannah Law School, at the end of the spring 2018 semester due to dwindling enrollment. It is one of a number of law schools to close during the past few years.

Some higher education officials debate whether all parts of the J.D. curriculum are appropriate for distance education. The Socratic Method, a pedagogical technique in which the professor asks a student a series of questions designed to stimulate critical thinking about a case, is a teaching technique that some educators say may not work in an online […]

Law clerks gain experience in Deschutes courtrooms

University of Oregon law student Garrett Kampf stands outside a courtroom in the Deschutes County Circuit Court on Tuesday, August 21, 2018, in Bend. Kampf was a court certified law clerk for the summer and has had opportunities to work on cases in front of a judge in court. (Joe Kline/Bulletin photo) Like a lot of people, Garrett Kampf was scared the first time he went before a judge.

“There’s no amount of studying or sitting in a classroom that can prepare you for that initial appearance,” said Kampf, a University of Oregon law student who worked this summer as a clerk in the Deschutes County Public Defenders Office. “It’s quite surreal.”

Thanks to the state’s Law Student Appearance Rule, second-year law students such as Kampf — who’ve passed classes in evidence and legal ethics — can get certified to work real cases in front of real judges under the supervision of certified attorneys.

Kampf was one of three law clerks in the public defenders office in Bend — also known as the law firm Crabtree & Rahmsdorff — but, as a second-year student law student, he was the only one certified to appear in court. Three clerks also worked in the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office, writing motions in misdemeanor cases and shadowing deputy district attorneys.

“When I’m hiring attorneys, I look very positively on any clinical experience,” he said. “Law school doesn’t exactly teach you what the real world will be like.”

Due to time it often takes a case to work through the justice system, law clerks don’t often see a case through to resolution. But this summer, Kampf was involved to varying degrees in dozens that passed through the public defender’s office. He wrote memos and motions to suppress evidence, and appeared in court on mainly procedural matters between 15 and 20 times for cases involving wildlife violations, people caught with “usable” quantities of illegal drugs and weapons.

On one occasion he got tongue-tied in court — the result of his own confusion about something. It’s the kind of moment one remembers, and learns from, he said.

“They didn’t baby me. I […]

8 Things I Wish I Had Known As A Law Student (With An IP Focus)

With the start of the new academic year, here are eight things that I wish I had known while I was a law student. Of course, since this is an intellectual property column, much of the advice below is related to some aspect of intellectual property law or practice, though the last half of this column applies more broadly.

Here’s the advice I would give to any law student interested in IP:

1. You can still practice IP law — even patent law — without a hard science or engineering background. I’ve covered this topic before in a couple posts , but I’ll say it again. One of the big myths regarding intellectual property is that you must have a technical background to practice in this field. While you do need a hard sciences or engineering background to sit for the patent bar and work in patent prosecutions, you absolutely do not need this background for copyright, trademark, or trade secret law. Even in the field of patent law, you can represent clients in patent litigation or work on patent policy. Do not let a lack of undergraduate degree in hard sciences deter you from IP.

2. Think broadly about IP when selecting classes. It’s easy to target classes with the names “Intellectual Property” or “Copyright” or “Patents” or “Trademark” and assume you’ll cover all your bases, but there is so much more to the world of IP. Related courses include trade law, advertising, cyber/computer/technology law, entertainment, antitrust, communications, administrative law, and more. In my own career, in addition to copyright and patents, I’ve encountered all of these related areas and having at least some basic knowledge can be useful. And pay attention in contracts during your 1L year.

3. It’s okay if you don’t take a specific IP class. Have a conflict and can’t take copyright law? It will all be fine. I did take copyright law and while this background is helpful, I have learned so much more since then, diving deeply into very specific aspects of copyright. I did not take patent law, but my first IP […]

9 things I wish I knew before starting my law degree

It’s never too early to start thinking about your career, says LSE grad Bláithín Dockery Starting my law degree as a fresh-faced 18-year-old I was blissfully unaware of the challenges to come. A new city, a new group of friends and a hectic academic schedule can be testing for even the most resolute of wannabe lawyers. Thankfully, I made it to the other side, graduating from the LSE in 2016 with a 2:1. Here I look back at my time during the LLB and offer some practical advice for freshers. 1. Learn how to explain concepts clearly

Studying at university is a huge change from school. Lectures are uncharted territory for many students so it may take time getting used to this new style of learning. You shouldn’t feel the need to write down everything the lecturer says. After all, what good are ridiculously detailed notes when you don’t understand the basics? You’re not expected to recite everything about a particular concept that the lecturer addressed. What’s more important is that you understand the concepts and can write about them clearly. I’d recommend finding a study method that works for you. Printing off lecture slides in advance and making brief additional notes worked for me. 2. It’s never too early to start thinking about your career

Law firms now offer a range of opportunities for first year students, including insight schemes and open days. Take advantage of these. Not only will they help you get a head-start when it comes to building your legal CV, but you can also get a feel for different law firms and work out which best suits you. 3. Get involved in societies

As well as being a great place to meet like-minded people, getting involved in societies helps to build soft skills. Taking on a position of responsibility will help you demonstrate specific skills when it comes to vacation scheme applications. This doesn’t mean that you have to be president of the law society — being captain of a sports team or secretary of a society will help hone equally important skills, such […]

With applications rising, 1Ls bring strong credentials

Preparing to meet with donors recently, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law dean Andrew Klein was excited to pass along the news that going to law school is cool again.

The Law School Admissions Council is reporting an 8.1 percent increase in applications for the 2018-2019 academic year compared to the previous school year. Also, applicants with higher LSAT scores are returning. Individuals scoring between 165 and 169 rose 27.2 percent, while those between 175 and 180 skyrocketed 59.9 percent, albeit that was the smallest number of students at just 689. Klein, who has led IU McKinney for six years, said the students coming to the Indianapolis law school have always been an academically strong bunch. The difference this year has been earlier commitments, as a majority of the students enrolling turned in their deposits to hold their seats by May. In the past, most of the deposits did not arrive until June or July.

Fall classes at all of Indiana’s law schools have started and the incoming students are settling into their routines.

IU Maurer got just over 2,000 applications, which compares to the number received in 2013, said dean Austen Parrish. While about 350 applications were submitted from Hoosiers, the bulk came from out-of-state students.

Competition for the top applicants is still fierce but, Parrish said, the 1Ls coming to the Bloomington law school this year have a high intellect and have done amazing things.

Although legal education might be breathing easier, some law schools are still struggling from the disruption brought by the Great Recession. The tightening job market for lawyers, coupled with stories of law school graduates crushed by student loan debt, caused many would-be law students to pursue other careers.

Valparaiso Law School is one casualty. As Klein pointed out, the 139-year-old institution has withstood two world wars and the Great Depression, but the upheaval of the last five years was too much. The northwest Indiana school suspended admissions for the 2018-2019 academic year and is in talks with Middle Tennessee State University about the possibility of transferring the law school to Murfreesboro.

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Last year, […]

After a decade, Notre Dame Law dean Newton prepares to step down

(Photos courtesy Notre Dame Law School) The law school dean who has written scholarly articles that have been cited in U.S. Supreme Court decisions and who claims “My Cousin Vinny” is her favorite legal movie will be returning to the classroom next summer.

Nell Jessup Newton has announced she will be stepping down as dean of the Notre Dame School of Law in July 2019. The Fighting Irish mounted a full offense and convinced her in 2009 to leave her alma mater, the University of California Hastings College of Law, where she served as chancellor and dean.

She joined Notre Dame as dean and full tenured professor on July 1, 2009.

“I think (in) 10 years you can make an impact on the school, then it’s time to let the next person make their impact,” Newton said of her decision to leave the deanship. “Ten years is a fabulous length of time.” Nell Jessup Newton has led the Notre Dame Law School since July 2009. With four decades in legal education, she is ready to take her energy and passion back to the classroom. Under her leadership, the Notre Dame Law School added faculty and strengthened the curriculum in business and intellectual law, as well as in intellectual property. In addition, clinics and several new programs were launched and interdisciplinary programs, along with a dual J.D./MBA degree, were developed.

These are strong accomplishments for any law school leader, but Newton got them done when the Great Recession landed a crippling blow to legal education. Applications dwindled, particularly from academically strong individuals, and jobs dried up, leaving many law school graduates across the country without sufficient work and unable to repay their student loans.

Notre Dame consistently admitted classes with nearly 200 members and a median LSAT score in the 160s. Moreover, a vast majority of the graduates were employed in J.D.-required positions.

“We weathered the storm pretty well,” Newton said, giving credit to the law school’s faculty. “I’m very proud of how well we did.”

As a legal scholar, Newton has built her reputation as an expert on American Indian law. She arrived at Notre Dame […]

“My learning disability didn’t stop me from becoming a lawyer”

After being diagnosed with a severe learning disability and almost going blind, Willemien du Toit went on to obtain a Law qualification from the University of Oxford. She is now using her testimony to motivate women and children around the world. Facebook/ Willemien du Toit “Just 2 weeks before I was born, my umbilical cord wrapped around my neck. In those days the medics had no way of knowing or telling that an infant may be suffocating from the grips of an umbilical cord. I was born through natural birth which caused the umbilical cord to grip even tighter. As a result, I was born “black” due to severe oxygen deprivation and I was left with some serious scars to my academic abilities. The extent of the damage was only discovered when I started school and they found that I couldn’t read,” says Willemien.

She adds that her teachers told her parents there was “no hope at all for me finishing school and making something of my life.” But Willemien says her parents pushed her and instilled hope in her that she could achieve anything in life.

“I never understood why my mom and dad had to be so hard on me, always pushing. My dad used to say, ‘your best is just not good enough – do better’. I just thought they didn’t love me. I thought they were setting me up for failure because they always expected the impossible from me,” says Willemien.

Because of her parents’ support and encouragement, Willemien went on to finish school.

“From a very young age, I always wanted to become a lawyer. It was my ultimate dream to say: ‘I am a lawyer’. But it never crossed my mind that I need to be academically strong – I needed to be able to read and write, two skills I really did not have – I could only do the very basic. I flunked almost every subject but by some miracle, I never flunked a year, and scraped through by the skin of my teeth. And eventually in 1988, I finished and passed my matric – […]

Law students stand to gain after MKU accreditation

Mount Kenya University (MKU) has received full accreditation from the Council of Legal Education (CLE) to offer law programmes.

The university, which has joined 11 others with similar credentials in the country, has now set its sights on launching a master’s in law programme.

MKU received the accreditation on July 30. Most local universities still operate using provisional accreditation.

At an event held early August to celebrate the achievement, MKU Parklands Law Campus director Nelly Wamaitha said the full accreditation gave the university a strong platform to start offering the master’s programme.

Ms Wamaitha said the road to accreditation has been challenging, but added that the council has been supportive and offered guidance along the way.

“We appreciate CLE because of their positive criticism and guidance,” she said.

“We also appreciate the support of staff, faculty, management and the board of directors. The board went an extra mile to equip the library and furnish the moot court.”

STUDENTS’ JOURNEY

The Mount Kenya University School of Law started in the Nakuru campus, but due to the inadequacies in physical infrastructure, the students were transferred to the main campus in Thika.The first batch of Bachelor of Law students were admitted to the programme in 2009. They were about 30 and commenced classes at Uniafric Building on Koinange Street in Nairobi.Later, the school was moved to MKU Towers Building on Moi Avenue, Nairobi.In January 2015, the School of Law was transferred to the Parklands campus. This was after the university bought the building from another institution that had ceased operations.The current campus hosts a student population of approximately 1,000.The campus has facilities that support modern legal education and learning, including an up-to-date moot court. QUALITY LEARNING On July 14, 2017, the law school launched the Centre for International and Development Law (CIDLaw).Mr David Ngira, a lecturer and quality assurance coordinator at CIDLaw, said: “The objective of the centre is to define the school’s niche area, being international and development law."The centre is designed to spearhead research, partnership and training in line with the emerging trends in legal practice. The centre also runs a journal, which acts as a […]

Law schools introduce 1Ls to profession’s obligations, responsibilities

The incoming class of 2018 at IU Maurer prepares to take the professionalism oath. (Photo courtesy Indiana University Maurer School of Law) Kaelyne Yumul Wietelman remembers being a bundle of nerves during orientation at Indiana University Maurer School of Law.

Just arrived from Texas in 2016, Wietelman was following in the footsteps of her grandfather, who had been an attorney in the Philippines, realizing her dream and her father’s dream of studying the law. The final day of orientation, Wietelman put on her professional clothes and joined the other first-year students for the Oath of Professionalism Ceremony.

She was still nervous, having to correct herself as to which was her right hand, but at that event in Baier Hall, she learned the responsibility and honor that comes with being a lawyer.

Everyone in the “whole room felt very excited and proud to be there,” Wietelman said.

As another academic year begins at Indiana’s law schools, 1L students are brought on the campuses a few days before classes begin to learn the practical things they’ll need to know. Setting their schedules, getting their student IDs, finding the library and meeting their classmates are among the tasks they accomplish. 1L students at IU McKinney sort donated food items. (Photo courtesy IU McKinney school of Law) In addition to providing the nuts and bolts of legal studies, the schools also program something extra in the orientation to, as Wietelman found out, emphasize to the students that they are entering a unique profession. IU Maurer has the oath ceremony, while Notre Dame Law School provides an opportunity for the incoming students to volunteer for part of a day at a local charity. Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law engages in both a professional oath ceremony and a service activity.

IU McKinney dean Andrew Klein said the extra functions tell the students, even though they are just beginning, that as lawyers, they will be expected to meet a heightened standard of responsibility, ethics and public service.

“It sounds like I’m making a cliché, but really, lawyers uphold the system of law that forms the fabric of society,” Klein […]

What Is a Good College GPA in J.D. Admissions?

Law school admissions experts say it’s important for J.D. hopefuls to realize that highly ranked law schools prefer to admit applicants with stellar college grades. So applicants to elite schools who lack an impressive college transcript need to compensate for that academic weakness in order to get accepted, experts warn.

Erin Goodnow, co-founder and CEO of the Going Ivy admissions consulting firm based in Arizona, says that selective law schools typically have many more applicants than spots available, and these schools are determined to enroll only the most promising aspiring attorneys. Prestigious J.D. programs use undergraduate GPAs as a tool to identify the J.D. applicants who are the "cream of the crop," she says.

Although top law schools will occasionally admit students who lack high GPAs if they have other qualities that compensate for that deficit such as an outstanding admissions essay or LSAT score, this is rare, Goodnow says. These institutions usually err on the side of admitting applicants with high GPAs, she notes, and she urges J.D. applicants with low GPAs to be realistic about their admissions chances at exclusive J.D. programs.

Goodnow says the extraordinary selectivity of top law schools puts significant academic pressure on college students who hope to become lawyers. She advises college students who dream of attending a top law school to earn grades as high as possible, because grades are a major factor in the law school admissions process.

"College is not particularly a time to find yourself anymore," she says. "It’s a time to prove who you are and prove that you are material for these top schools."

Goodnow argues that GPA is the No. 1 most important factor in law school admissions, but some other law school admissions experts suggest that standardized test scores are the most important factor and that GPA is the second-most important factor. However, regardless of whether they believe GPAs or test scores are more influential in the J.D. admissions process, experts emphasize that these two statistics matter.

GPA figures that 193 ranked law schools submitted to U.S. News in an annual survey clarify what GPAs were typical among entering law school […]

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