Wednesday, January 6, 2021
Karen Sloan (Law.com), Legal Ed Has Risen to Meet COVID Challenges, Says Incoming AALS President:
The Association of American Law Schools’ annual meeting is taking place this week, but thousands of law professors aren’t roaming the halls of the Hilton San Francisco as planned.
Like so many aspects of legal education during the COVID-19 pandemic, the largest annual law school gathering has gone virtual with a five-day slate of online programs. It’s the first time the annual meeting hasn’t taken place in-person, but there’s a silver lining to the upheaval. About 4,500 people have registered for the event—an attendance record.
Law.com caught up with incoming AALS President and Boston College Law Dean Vincent Rougeau to discuss the new format for the virtual meeting; how legal education is meeting the challenges posed by the pandemic, and what changes are likely to remain after COVID-19 subsides. His answers have been edited for length.
I gather this wasn’t quite how you envisioned your AALS presidency. How do you think your job will be different this year than it normally is? Well you’re absolutely right that this was not what I was anticipating. I think one thing we’ve already seen is that there is a real hunger for help across legal education on how to adapt to this environment of teaching with technology—teaching via Zoom and in hybrid models. I think the big lesson that has come out of all of this is we’ve had to make extraordinary adjustments in short periods of time around things that we’ve been doing a certain way for a very long time. We’re now in this learning mode of how to offer our educational content in the best possible way under new conditions. We’ve already seen tremendous interest in a lot of the programming we’ve been doing on teaching, reaching students with disabilities, coming up with new ways to present all kinds of material via Zoom. We’ve seen in the annual meeting this year heavy interest in sessions around those kinds of topics.