A Candid Assessment of the Online Law School Experience
- Aug 12, 2020
- Pre-Law Advice
- Reviewed by: Matt Riley
In halcyon days long passed — before “Tiger King,” before Los Angeles lost the greatest Laker ever, and even before hellfire leveled 30 million acres of Aussieland (almost forgot about that one, didn’t you?) — we at Blueprint made the decision to begin teaching LSAT courses in a live course format. At the time, this was another LSAT prep option: a convenience for students with the most intractable schedules, or the greatest aversions to reading before the class, or who didn’t live near our in-person classes. But now, Zoom classes are a necessity.
And so, when Harvard Law School moved my Spring Semester courses online last fall, I went in expecting to have a leg up in terms of adjusting to the new, virtual format. I was, after all, a veteran Live Course LSAT instructor. Instead, I had a slight culture shock.
That is not to say that Harvard Law School’s Zoom classes were all bad. Consider, for example, this exceptional moment (actually fifteen minutes) wherein the Federalist Society President ostentatiously provides his Luger its routine afternoon cleaning in the middle of Zoom class. Or this topical Spring fashion line (which, unfortunately, quarantine precludes one from showing off). More earnestly, on that topic, Harvard’s own fashion law professor, Jeannie Suk Gersen, penned an insightful article on the challenges faced by students and professors alike in navigating this new medium together.
But it was not all good either. I should preface by saying that under even the best conditions, most 3Ls, like myself at the time, would have had some difficulty mustering their fullest academic attentiveness in the second half of the Spring Semester, even considering the paucity of distractions in the Cambridge/Somerville area. Still, online lectures remind the student why elite academic institutions bother to spend millions of their tuition dollars on beautiful campuses and elaborate architecture. Indeed, Zoom classes, while on the one hand restricting interaction with peers and professors, simultaneously manages to be distracting, with your classmates’ sleepy faces staring blue-lit and bovine all in a row, and Susan’s cat, who’s clearly no friend of the law, turning a raised tail to her webcam (Susan’s webcam, not the cat’s) and Jasper getting up for another La Croix every twenty minutes.
These changes are an unavoidable part of the work and school landscape for the foreseeable future, and, ultimately, we’ve just got to deal with it and get a little creative. As someone who loves talking and bullshitting to a fault, I found that what worked best for me was to make sure I wasn’t completely siloed in my little Cambridge apartment. I abused the Zoom Chat feature (until learning the Admin can read all your messages) and sat with my roommates at the dinner table for class and schoolwork rather than alone in my room. Even still, online class remains a particular challenge for the law school student, given the dialectical nature of the endeavor, and I don’t envy those incoming 1Ls whose introduction to the Socratic Method and to dry, centuries-old cases will be over Zoom.
Under these conditions it is important to remember: As a lawyer, you are becoming a professional advocate. If your school isn’t providing you the resources you need to have the closest thing possible to the full law school experience, then demand those resources. After all, they’ll be demanding full tuition.
For students taking a Live Course LSAT class, you have the precious advantage of having instructors that were trained for a Live Course format. Blueprint’s in-person classes weren’t quickly moved to a live course format in response to the current pandemic. We’ve refined the format over the years and didn’t even bat an eye when the world turned digital. We know the best strategies to keep students engaged during our Zoom lessons and how to drive information home after class ends. We could teach Zoom classes on how to teach Zoom classes, but we’re in the LSAT business.
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