The legal profession in the United States is currently 86% white and 63% male, making it among the least diverse professions in the country. (https://www.americanbar.org/news/reporter_resources/profile-of-profession/) Increasing access to the legal profession and making this access sustainable over the long term is critical to diversifying a profession called to represent a nation of diverse clients with a broad range of legal issues.
With law schools making the switch to online and hybrid learning, facilitating access has become even more important. Many underrepresented students struggle with strictly online models of teaching and learning, often due to the unavailability of resources such as space and technology. This program will demonstrate how providing open access to online study aids and law school success materials can narrow the gap between students who come from communities that are traditionally well-represented in the legal profession, and those who don’t.
In the Summer of 2019, CALI brought together a fellowship of Academic Support Professionals to create CALI lessons that address necessary legal and academic skills for succeeding in law school. The lessons produced have end-to-end law school utility, teaching critical skills for incoming 1Ls, refreshing core competencies for mid-level students, and helping students review materials prior to graduation and the Bar Exam. The CALI lessons are skills-based companion tools that can be used by any student, assigned or modified by any professor, and easily accessed virtually anywhere and at any time. These lessons help bridge the gap for students, particularly first generation students, who did not come into law school knowing the nuances of legal education and its unique pedagogy. Moreover, with students currently facing time constraints that may not have been present a year ago, as well as online conferencing fatigue, the lessons create space to work through law school challenges in the students’ own time in an adaptive and engaging format. This flexibility is critical as well for those enrolled in part-time or evening programs, and for all students who juggle full-time jobs, family responsibilities, and law school.
We cannot have a truly equitable society if our institutions are homogeneous and exclusive. Thus, we have a responsibility to provide access to legal education and law degrees to a diverse array of students, many of whom do not have a background in the basic tenets of legal education, and do not have family members or additional supports to turn to for help. Bridging this gap requires law schools and the legal profession to provide opportunities for students to develop the skills of learning the law in a manner that gives them control, opportunities for continuous access to learning, and positive reinforcement.
In this presentation, we will address why these supplemental, online study aids are so important in bridging this gap. We will also discuss how we collaborated to create interactive, online learning tools that could be used by our students, as well as by students in schools with fewer academic support resources.