Opening Statements

Washington University launches new online legal English course

Posted Aug 1, 2013 4:00 AM CDT
By Virginia Groark

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In its most recent foray into distance learning, Washington University School of Law is offering a legal English course online.

Launched in July, the intensive class is part of the university’s exploration of distance learning and how it fits with its strategic mission, says Tomea Mersmann, associate dean for strategic initiatives for the law school in St. Louis. In January, the school launched an online master’s degree program in U.S. law for foreign-trained lawyers.

The law school has been offering a legal English course to students who attend classes at its St. Louis campus. But the eight-week online class makes it more convenient and accessible. While its cost—$4,000—is comparable to the one offered on the university campus, officials believe such online classes could save students money and time because they don’t have to relocate to take them.

Being able to take classes without needing time off from work or home was a huge draw for Javier Robles, a lawyer in Mexico and a student in the law school’s online master’s program.

“It avoids the hardship of leaving your family,” he says. “I just had a baby. Can you imagine if I wasn’t there? It would be hard for me and my wife.”

Another benefit, Robles adds, is that he doesn’t have to stop working. “You have to have the money to study.”

The structure of the legal English class is similar to that offered in the online master’s program. Enrollment is capped at 15. Students log on to their computers at a specific time each week to take the interactive course with their professor. During the rest of the week, students have interactive lessons to complete so they can maximize the time they spend with their professor during the online class time, Mersmann says.

“You really have to know the materials,” she adds. “There’s no back row in the class to hide you.”

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