What has the pandemic changed for law students?

October 2019 – My first year of college was short, sweet and insightful. Just like any other student, I was looking forward to my degree college life and had many things in mind.The first year is a fun year that does not count towards our final outcome, but there is still an expectation that we hit the ground running and begin grappling with material that is really new to many of us. I was very excited to see what the future holds for me in a law school. Moot courts, learning about bare acts, numerous schedules and articles, all day long internships, dressing up in the formal attires, I was looking forward. However, in 2020, toward the end of the winter semester, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted life across the globe. Institutions of all types, including law schools, felt the widespread effects and disruption of this public health crisis

Law schools were forced to move entire curriculums online immediately. As a year law student, I went into law school with an open mind knowing that I probably did not have the same background as a lot of students at the school. However, the biggest disruption would have been the lack of human interaction after the first half of the year. Adaptability is the name of the game here. COVID-19 testing, zoom malfunctions, audio visual complications, virtual learning, are all things that I had to adapt to in this environment. So how are we, law students who are supposed to work with attorneys and study through an online medium? It is so easy to disassociate and disengage when you are working from home because you are constantly working in an environment that is meant for personal time and relaxing.

The challenges created by the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic forced law schools across the country to immediately transition to remote learning, including exam administration. There is no single platform designed specifically for the administration of law school exams. Exams given in an online modality are inherently going to have to be designed differently than a traditional law school exam. The capabilities of the platform chosen to administer exams must be clearly disseminated to the faculty. The faculty will have to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the platform so that they can prioritize the aspects of the exam that are most important to them. Most of the exams are  multiple choice questions which make it so much easier for the students as they can appear with barely any preparation.

All of us, law students were more than happy when our educational life shifted to an online mode as we all needed this break. All of us were relieved as we did get a break from the tedious early morning travels to colleges, hours of lectures. However, who knew this break would last for more than a year and become a lifestyle.  A survey showed that students have reached a frustration point which has been affecting their mental health as well.  The use of technology may be perceived by many people as a modern teaching style suitable for education in the twenty-first century. However, there is an outcry from both students and teachers when they are forced to entirely rely on online education.

Students long for their student life and campus facilities. Some students mentioned that their homes are not the best place to study with all interruptions from parents, siblings or other distracting matters. In addition, they have been burdened and had to cope with the cost of investment necessary to acquire proper equipment and fast internet connection. The sad reality is that not everyone can afford to spend that much money. To survive the crisis, teachers and students are forced to rely on technology much more than they used to be. They have to overcome all impediments occurred in online education. However, to become a survivor is not an equal opportunity. For some students, access to online education is severely constrained by their financial status. The pandemic may stay with us for one or two years, then some people believe that online learning will be a new normal in education. On the contrary, many teachers and students still hope that all current abnormalities will vanish and they can be back to their traditional classrooms. Being a first-year law student is hard, very hard. Life as a law student during a pandemic is unprecedented and an unpaved territory that we are going through. We are having to learn the law through modes and mediums that others never had to. Adaptability is the name of the game. The overarching learning lesson in law school thus far has been to stay flexible in order to grow. It’s okay if things do not go the way you planned, but it is important to learn from that situation and grow. I know it sounds very philosophical but it’s true! This time has taught me to let go and trust the process.

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