What Lawyers Don’t Know About Law School in 2021
If in January 2020 someone told me that I’d experience the entirety of my first year of law school via Zoom, I would have laughed at this seemingly unrealistic notion. Yet, a month ago, I concluded my first year of law school at the William S. Boyd School of Law….. you guessed it, entirely through Zoom (aka “Zoom Law School”).
Throughout the year, there were a multitude of issues that served as roadblocks to focus, productivity, and professional development. However, thanks to the creativity and determination of many people; these roadblocks were maneuverable. Below, I will quickly detail the unique challenges that were faced during Zoom Law School.
THE PROFESSORS: THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY
The quality of the professors and their lectures can be the difference between walking confidently out of law school after three years and walking out of law school feeling like you have learned nothing. I can only attest for the professors I had this past year; however, I must say that the majority of them did quiet well under the circumstances. Whenever I found myself complaining about the fact that I was experiencing my first year of law school fully online, I reminded myself that my professors had it worse. As a student, all I had to do was click on the Zoom link and show up to class. However, the professors had to completely adapt to the situation and change their entire teaching styles. They had to figure out how to teach the material via Zoom, how they would go about implementing the infamous Socratic method in class, how they would handle issues with the internet, etc. I was thoroughly impressed by these professor’s resilience and adaptation. These professors went out of their way to help the students. They would set up one on ones to discuss students’ worries, organize study groups, and utilize break out rooms efficiently during class. Additionally, professors did their best to circumvent tech issues. They recorded class sessions and posted them online; therefore, if you experienced any technical issues during class, you were able to rewatch the lecture. Further, the professors were very responsive to students’ questions via emails. There were multiple times that I engaged in email exchanges with my professors regarding issues I was having trouble with.
That being said, there were a few professors that seemed to go out their way to make Zoom Law School even worse than it was. Let’s be realistic, every law school has those professors that seem to have disdain for the students. It seems like their sole goal in life is to make their class as miserable as possible. COVID exacerbated this a magnitude of order. These professors didn’t respond to emails, refused to record classes, and went on a number of unrelated tangents that had nothing to do with their class at all (ok, that one may not exactly be COVID related but I had to vent about it regardless). Additionally, they seemed to have a general contempt for the fact that they had to teach on Zoom. Dealing with these professors was frustrating and created unnecessary additional stress.
Finally, there were a few professors whose classrooms were just ugly. These professors did their best to adapt to the situation and lend a helping hand to students. However, these professors were just technologically inept. They would consistently eat up class time struggling set up break-out rooms, would forget to record the lectures, and would have consistent internet issues. I guess there is something to that old saying, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
Let’s be honest about becoming an attorney, the most important tool in a law students’ arsenal is networking. Unfortunately, during a pandemic, networking opportunities are sparse. In a normal year, William S. Boyd School of Law has a plethora of in-person networking opportunities within the local legal community. These events allow students to meet and mingle with various attorneys from civil and business firms in Las Vegas. This past year, the school was unable to host these in-person events. The school did its best and hosted a few virtual mixers with members of the local legal community. However, these virtual mixers pale in comparison to in-person events. It is hard to get one-on-one time with a partner via Zoom. I don’t think any partner would have been impressed if I unmuted myself during a virtual mixer and yelled at a partner, “Hello, I would love it if I could get a few minutes of your time." In the next year, it will be incumbent on law students to make up for lost time. This means we are going to have to be creative in figuring out how to maximize networking opportunities.
Attending class via Zoom means one thing, at all times you are a click away from social media, gifs, and cat videos. Additionally, it is a lot easier to answer a text when you’re sitting in your kitchen rather than in the classroom. To make matters worse, law school topics are often times dry and monotonous. For example, learning about the Erie doctrine in Civil Procedure isn’t necessarily something I’d call a fun time.
After a few months, I realized that I needed to do something to cut out distractions. There were a few mitigating measures I took that helped with my ability to avoid distractions. First, I literally blocked myself from websites and social media platforms that were distractions. It was like I worked for a company called “Me”. I want the partners out there to remember their days in law school and ask whether they would block themselves from their favorite sites. Further, to limit phone usage I put my phone in another room during class. These little tricks helped increase my focus and productivity immensely.
Law school is stressful and hard. I’d invite experienced attorneys to look back at their law school days and ask how different it would have been had they attended Zoom Law School. In normal years, law students can deal with stressful and hard times by grabbing after-class drinks, going out to eat, or by just spending quality time with their peers. That is something we were unable to experience this past year. We effectively carried all the normal burdens of law school without any of the social benefits that students normally receive.
Luckily, it finally seems as if we are returning to normalcy. It seems that the Zoom Law School is an ephemeral state rather than the “new normal”. I’m not sure exactly how the return to in-person learning will many law students. However, I am absolutely certain that for some it will have a positive effect on their grades; and for others it will have a negative effect on their grades. To quote Claudius Templesmith, “let the Hunger Games begin – and may the odds be ever in your favor”.