Academic Research

Legacy of Lockdown – the lasting effects of Covid-19 on legal education

Rebecca Gladwin-Geoghegan offers some reflections on legal education during the pandemic, whilst advocating that responding to the pandemic has exposed avenues to positively develop legal education provision in the future.

by Rebecca Gladwin-Geoghegan, Associate Head of School for Recruitment and Marketing

When the novel Coronavirus (2019 – nCOv) was declared a global pandemic in March 2020, the extensive impact that it has had on the lives of everyone was perhaps not foreseen by some. The effect of the coronavirus on the health of many has been potentially devastating and the wider repercussions on the operation of society has also been profound. Measures to attempt to curtail the spread of the virus have been pervasive through all aspects of our lives and have had the effect of drastically altering the way in which legal education is provided. Mass-disruption to the status quo of legal education, both within the classroom and the wider extra-curricular experiences of students, has presented the opportunity for law course providers to reconsider the manner in which legal education is and shall be delivered.

Technology enabled and socially distanced legal education has certainly not been without its challenges since the pandemic was declared. A sense of social isolation from their peers, academic staff and the wider support provided by universities has proved difficult for many students. So too has the necessity to adapt to online modes of delivery, which although arguably offering more freedom in terms of when learning takes place, have left many feeling at sea without the familiarity of the timetabled, on campus structure. Digital inequity as a consequence of students having insufficient means to access online learning has also been a key concern. Whilst some of these concerns and challenges will be alleviated as we see more students returning to campuses, some will continue. Universities will need to consider carefully how to address these concerns and critically reflect upon the experiences of staff and students over the last 16 months.

However the pandemic has not been entirely gloom and doom as far as legal education is concerned. The pandemic has provided some excellent opportunities for enhancing legal education both now and in the future.

A diversification of teaching approaches that effectively use digital platforms to enhance the student experience, a wider variety of assessment methods which are arguably more reflective of graduate experiences than traditional examinations and the flexibility of online learning to support the widening participation agenda have all been positive benefits of the response to the pandemic.

So too has the greater level of connectivity to the wider legal profession that law schools have been able to facilitate through the use of online platforms such as MS Teams/Zoom. Whilst we have been socially distant in the physical sense, this has certainly not been the case virtually. A wealth of webinars, workshops, conferences and collaborative online international learning projects have been facilitated through online platforms over the last year at Coventry Law School. The momentum that has been gained in connecting law students with legal communities stands to benefit our current and future student populace.

The pandemic has provided an opportunity for law schools to develop and diversify their offerings at a pace that is rarely seen. Whilst a return to a sense of normality is desired by most, there are significant lessons that have been learnt in responding to the pandemic. A potentially positive impact born out of difficult circumstances.

For further exploration of the technological and ethical implications of the pandemic on legal education, please see the special edition of the Journal of Ethics of Legal Technologies available here.

You can find out more about Rebecca’s research through her Pure profile, where you can find more on her research interests, publications, and contact details. You can also find out more about Coventry University’s research through our dedicated research pages.