April 25, 2004

Has Concord Law School conquered law school? Adam Liptak, in today's NYT, writes about a law school--Concord Law School--that exists only in on-line form. Naturally, traditional law schools will tend to say virtual law school is just terrible. Here's a nice juicy quote from Emory lawprof George B. Shepard:
This reminds me of how small, high-cost retailers will fight bitterly to prevent Wal-Mart from opening nearby. Or unions will fight to prevent the import of cheap goods from China. Existing producers will always claim that suppressing the new technology is necessary to protect consumers. Sometimes this may be true. But often these arguments are merely a facade.
I think most current lawprofs would not want to teach law school if there were no interaction with students in a classroom. But maybe different people would love to have the job of teaching from a remote location and never being on stage, never looking at the students faces. I think it would be quite dreary to be a teacher at what is essentially a correspondence school. Three years ago, when Concord Law School came on line, our tech director made a presentation to the faculty about how we just had to develop our own on-line program or be outpaced by all the other law schools that would be eager to compete in this area. The presentation totally failed to inspire the faculty. The response seemed to be: he's trying to redefine my job into a job I would never have applied for in the first place.

Still, the key question is: which is better for students? I'm sympathetic to the needs of prospective students who have jobs or family or other obligations that make it hard to relocate and attend law school in person. It's just not the ideal. Yet the classroom itself often falls short of the ideal. Still, it's impossible for me not to think that the law school classroom, when everyone is engaged and prepared, is an exciting place to be and that it could never be the same if there were no physical gathering place.

By the way, where are all the virtual programs that our tech director warned us about?

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