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Professor Byrnes Attends AALS Conference

January 7, 2014

The American Association of Law Schools (AALS) President reported at the Sunday morning Section Officers’ breakfast on January 4, attended by Associate Dean William Byrnes of Thomas Jefferson School of Law, that this year’s conference had the second highest registration in AALS history. 

During the AALS annual conference in New York City, LexisNexis sponsored the breakfast held at the Hilton Midtown for the Workgroup on Distance Education for Legal Education. The sit down breakfast, filled at room capacity of 50 stakeholders from among law schools, is the third annual breakfast during AALS and seventh meeting of the workgroup.

The Lexis sponsored breakfast provided Professor Rebecca Purdom, renown environmental law academic and leader of Vermont Law School’s Environmental online program, the opportunity to lead a stakeholder discussion on the Workgroup’s Report of Best Practices before the second edition publication in March. Professor Purdom also presented the agenda of the March 2014 three-day Workgroup meeting sponsored by Washington University School of Law (St. Louis). Professor Purdom stated, “The Workgroup evolved from a 2011 project presented at the Harvard Law School – New York Law School initiative of conferences ‘The Future of Legal Education 2.0’. Over the past two years, law schools’ interest has substantially grown in the workgroup’s best practices and case examples output as the schools leap forward into providing online courses and programs for their JD and LLM students.”

William Byrnes, as chair of the Report subgroup, has been coordinating input from academics from a representation of backgrounds, law school rankings, and regions, discussing and organizing contributions from workgroup members. Replying to the question: “What were some of highlights of the AALS conference this year?” Professor Byrnes answered, “The most significant “wake up” call of the AALS conference was the presentation about the variance granted William Mitchell College of Law for a flexible hybrid, distance delivered JD degree. The newly announced hybrid short residence – online JD degree combines intensive, one week on-campus seminars once a semester with online course work during the semester. This variance is a game changer regarding thinking about delivery of U.S. legal education and I expect Mitchell’s program to be wildly popular.”

“As the pioneer of distance learning delivered law degrees by ABA institutions, I am glad to see other law schools finally understanding the strengths offered by technology. At Thomas Jefferson, my understanding of distance education pedagogy has deepened, and is frequently called upon by other schools, promoting Thomas Jefferson an academic leader among the ABA schools.”

“Quality of education was a concern on many minds which I think will in turn increase interest in the workgroup’s best practices project and report. I also expect several more variances and online programs to be applied for in 2014”. Professor Byrnes continued, “The March 2014 distance education workgroup meeting has opened a third day to address requests from law schools to provide practical online course examples of tools and techniques.”

The first edition of the workgroup’s best practices report may be downloaded from the Harvard website