The pandemic disruption of courts and law practices turned into more than a teachable moment at Northern Kentucky University Chase College of Law; Professor Jennifer Kinsley made it a teachable semester.
• What Chase did: Professor Kinsley used her experience in online practice and guidance from judges to nimbly assemble a first-of-its-kind Remote Representation course spring semester to teach the remote practice skills that were moving into wide usage during the pandemic, and are likely to influence the way law is practiced.
“I relied heavily on my own experience in remote practice, which predated the pandemic,” Professor Kinsley says of her approach to developing the course. “I have worked on a number of pro bono legal matters from my remote home office and have learned so much about what works and what doesn’t through real-world trial and error.
“I’ve also learned to make use of technology to meet the growing demands of digital practice. I’m a huge fan of the Tiny Scanner app that turns a cellphone into a portable document scanner, and I invested in Adobe Pro, the most important piece of software a work-from-home lawyer needs today, for converting files to editable and searchable documents.
“But I did not rely strictly on my own experience in designing the class. I connected with numerous judges to study their remote practices and attended multiple Zoom court sessions to observe what lawyers were doing right and what they could do better. I looked at court instructions on how lawyers should prepare for online court. The Second Circuit in New York City has been a real leader in this regard.”
• How Professor Kinsley taught the course: It was all online. Students created virtual law firms to handle a hypothetical case. They analyzed and adapted traditional skills to a remote practice setting, such as client interviewing, motion drafting and hearings, and networked with lawyers on what they were learning.
“There weren’t any lectures in this course,” Professor Kinsley says. “This was a very hands-on experience, where the students spent most of their time learning by doing.
“From teaching this class, I learned that the challenges of remote representation are not all that different from the challenges of in-person representation. Regardless of the format, lawyers need to protect client confidentiality, to form trusting relationships with clients, to organize their time wisely and to present a client’s case in an effective and meaningful way.”
• What some students said they learned: “It will be easier to schedule for this type of practice if your client doesn’t have to find childcare or take off work. I feel confident in knowing what technology and spaces at home I would need to practice remotely.” And: “I feel I have improved my ability to reach out and connect with clients through more impersonal methods, such as emails or phone calls.”
• What’s next: Chase will offer the course again next spring (hopefully without a pandemic backdrop), taught remotely by an adjunct professor who practices in the San Francisco area.