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William Mitchell Pioneers Hybrid Online Law School Class
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First hybrid law degree

Summary: William Mitchell offers the first “hybrid” course law degree.

Are online courses the wave of the future, this abstracted half-unreal experience we call the internet? St. Paul’s William Mitchell believes it is so, and they’ve convinced the American Bar Association to give them a special waiver to let them offer the nation’s first accredited “hybrid” class. What is “hybrid” about it, or amphibian, is that the students spend one week a semester in front of the flesh and blood professor, and the rest of the semester is done online, while the respective students back off to whatever far away place they came from.


We might ask, in ascertaining if this is to be the wave of the future, do we want it to be? We live an autistic enough existence in our respective nodes. Yet being a lawyer means having conversations, talking with clients, talking with judges, and we might ask if a law education is more than information, but also enculturation?

Sarah Deer, who is teaching a criminal law class for the program, noticed just this when she remarked that the“intensity of this [first and only] week is beyond anything I’ve experienced.” She continued to say, “So much of our profession is communication skills. They learn the law online. They learn how to be lawyers when they’re here.”

The initial demographic of the pioneer class is peculiar for 1Ls. The average age is 38, with more than a third of them already having a graduate degree, said spokeswoman Jennifer Glass.

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Of those students interviewed, many of them spoke of resurrecting old dreams of getting into law. This particular program seems to be inspired by the lowering enrollment rates we’ve seen nationwide these last four years. William Mitchell has seen an 8 percent increase. Perhaps through canny programs such as this?

Given the intense market place these potential JD’s will encounter, Vershawn Young, a student in the program, asked how this degree will look “in the marketplace” by firms.

Young, a 41-year-old college professor from Canada, nevertheless said “I’m ecstatic about it. I do expect to experience something phenomenal.”

While the school officials said that online courses would make “law school more accessible to working adults,” we might just as well ask, why should it be more accessible to working adults? The market is already saturated with JD’s looking for a place to set their briefcase. Should we make it more convenient to be inconvenienced with a defunct degree?

Nevertheless, when the market wanes, some universities turn to gimmicks. Meanwhile, the rest of the legal education world is watching to see how things pan out.

Should law schools offer hybrid or online courses?

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News Source: StarTribune


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