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William Byrnes (Texas A&M) tax & compliance articles

Posts Tagged ‘pedagogy’

White Paper – Alternative Methods of Teaching and the Effectiveness of Distance Learning for Legal Education

Posted by William Byrnes on August 26, 2014


Professor William Byrnes, Associate Dean for Graduate and Distance Education Programs at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, released remarks in the form of a white paper about teaching photodistance education methodologies called Alternative Methods of Teaching and The Effectiveness of Distance Learning For Legal Education.  The white paper makes the case for combining traditional classroom learning with online education because it is cost effective, accessible, flexible, and addresses the biggest criticism of legal education today, the lack of law school graduates who can think and practice law.  The white paper covers such topics as –

  • U.S. Department of Education’s Review of the Effectiveness of Distance Learning
  • Developing Learning Outcomes
  • Occupational Outcomes Framing Learning Outcomes
  • Information Acquisition
  • Information Delivery
  • Learning Communities
  • Learning Media
  • Learner Motivation
  • Knowledge Acquisition
  • Learning Tools

In his white paper, Professor Byrnes argues that a challenge for institutions and faculty for the pedagogical development of distance learning is to facilitate deep learning and understanding through the creation of learning materials and opportunities for various learning experiences.

in officeProfessor Byrnes explains, “The goal is to implement best practices in law schools across the country to the benefit of our esteemed institutions, our law students and the legal system at large.”  To this end, he is a primary driver of the invitation-only Work Group for Distance Learning in Legal Education that will finalize its Best Practice Report at its 10th development meeting (see https://www.eventbrite.com/e/working-group-for-distance-learning-in-legal-education-fall-2014-meeting-registration-12051364957).

White Paper: Byrnes, William H., Alternative Methods of Teaching and the Effectiveness of Distance Learning for Legal Education (August 27, 2014). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2487679

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Online Legal Education – Developing a Program or Course

Posted by William Byrnes on August 8, 2014


A Review of the Development of an Internet Delivered LL.M Program in the United States

The article comprises four sections. Part 1 addresses the economics reasons for, and logistics considerations of, the Internet-delivered Program. Part 2 reviews the pedagogical in officeapproach to legal education employed in the United States, criticisms thereof, and finally examines an emerging pedagogical trend in the United Kingdom. Part 3 reviews the teaching tools employed in the Program, and Part 4 reviews the practical aspects of developing the Program and obtaining American Bar Association (ABA) acquiescence, and reviews the Internet-delivered law courses that came before it. Finally, the article concludes with some personal observations.

The Decision Process …

Before making the decision to offer an Internet delivered Masters of Law program, integration of the Internet with legal education must be a matter of strategic thinking by the Faculty and Administration. A law school should consider several issues in its decision to pursue integration between legal education and the Internet. From a pedagogical perspective (addressed in Part 2 below), a law school’s faculty may determine a need to provide a complementary methodology for its legal teaching methods. Collaterally, the law school may want to stay in the academic and technology forefront relative to competitor law schools. The law school may also want to maintain or increase the student body size beyond the law school’s geographical boundary.

teaching photoReasons for this cause may be financial in light of local competition or a decrease in the local student market. Alternatively, it may be pedagogical, i.e; to increase student diversity, including the intake of foreign students. The law school may need to expand, for niche subjects, a class or program’s size beyond the law school’s geographical boundary for reasons of the course or program’s financial viability or student diversity. The law school should also consider whether law school’s mission may require providing legal education to geographical areas without law schools or to persons without access to local legal education, for example, economically disadvantaged persons.

After deciding whether to pursue Internet delivered legal education, the institution must then address its position regarding the pedagogy of legal education via the Internet.  The faculty discussion will likely produce heated debate between the monastic school traditionalists and the technological pioneers. Finally, the institution must address the issue of potential Internet integration while maintaining compliance with the: … read the 47 page at SSRN

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Best Practices for Distance Learning in Legal Education

Posted by William Byrnes on January 10, 2014


The American Association of Law Schools (AALS) President reported at the Sunday morning Section Officers’ breakfast on January 4, attended by Associate Dean William Byrnes of Thomas Jefferson School of Law, that this year’s conference had the second highest registration in AALS history.
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During the AALS annual conference in New York City, LexisNexis sponsored the breakfast held at the Hilton Midtown for the Workgroup on Distance Education for Legal Education. The sit down breakfast, filled at room capacity of stakeholders from among law schools, is the third annual breakfast during AALS and seventh meeting of the workgroup.

The Lexis sponsored breakfast provided Professor Rebecca Purdom (pictured left), renown environmental law academic and leader of Vermont Law School’s Environmental online program, the opportunity to lead a stakeholder discussion on the Workgroup’s Report of Best Practices before the second edition publication in March. Professor Purdom also presented the agenda of the March 2014 three-day Workgroup meeting sponsored by Washington University School of Law (St. Louis). Professor Purdom stated, “The Workgroup evolved from a 2011 project presented at the Harvard Law School – New York Law School initiative of conferences ‘The Future of Legal Education 2.0’. Over the past two years, law schools’ interest has substantially grown in the workgroup’s best practices and case examples output as the schools leap forward into providing online courses and programs for their JD and LLM students.”

William Byrnes, as chair of the Report subgroup (Best Practices for Distance Learning in Legal Education:  A “Blue Paper” Summary of Delivery Models, Regulatory Issues, and Recommended Practices), has been coordinating input from academics from a representation of backgrounds, law school rankings, and regions, discussing and organizing contributions from workgroup members. Replying to the question: “What were some of highlights of the AALS conference this year?” Professor Byrnes answered, “The most significant “wake up” call of the AALS conference was the presentation about the ABA variance granted William Mitchell College of Law for a flexible hybrid, distance delivered JD degree. The newly announced hybrid short residence – online JD degree combines intensive, one week on-campus seminars once a semester with online course work during the semester.  This variance is a game changer regarding thinking about delivery of U.S. legal education and I expect distance hybrid programs to be wildly popular.”

The American Bar Association general restrictions for earning distance education credits (Standard 306) are being relaxed as well.  Under current ABA accreditation standards, a JD student may not earn any distance education during the first year of law school, and after the first year the student is restricted to no more than four distance education credit hours in any one semester, and a maximum 12 credits total may apply to the juris doctorate degree.  The new accreditation standard (Standard 311) will remove the maximum distance education credits per semester restriction, and increase the allowance  to 15 credits toward the degree.  However, in light of the newly announced variance, it is expected that several schools will also seek to expand the curriculum and practice-oriented opportunities afforded by distance education, especially schools in low population density regions.

William Byrnes said “As the pioneer of distance learning delivered law degrees by ABA institutions, I am glad to see other law schools finally understanding the strengths offered by technology. At Thomas Jefferson, my understanding of distance education pedagogy has deepened, and is frequently called upon by other schools, promoting Thomas Jefferson an academic leader among the ABA schools.”  

“How will this impact students?”  William Byrnes continued “For students, it opens the possibility, by example, of combining 15 hours of distance credits for electives with externship credits and independent study credits to complete a full academic year while perhaps undertaking a practical externship in a foreign country.  The student could begin the overseas, practical experience in January of the second year and return December the third year, allowing a full  12 months immersion, and not be penalized with a late graduation.  The last semester at the home school is a good idea to allow the student to engage in the necessary local state bar procedure courses and other bar preparation common for impending graduate, as well as reintegrate with  student organizations and friends.  Of course, technology like video/web conference applications such as Skype, Google Chat, and Polycom allow students off campus to remain engaged with home school students organizations and the like.  Still, technology doesn’t replicate throwing frisbee on Pacific Beach with friends or replace the unexpected meeting at the Starbucks down the street from the law school.”

“Quality of education was a concern on many minds which I think will in turn increase interest in the workgroup’s best practices project and report. I also expect several more variances and online programs to be applied for in 2014”. Professor Byrnes concluded “The March 2014 distance education workgroup meeting has opened a third day to address requests from law schools to provide practical online course examples of tools and techniques.”

The first edition of the workgroup’s best practices report may be downloaded from the Harvard website.  The vastly expanded, and refined, second edition of Best Practices for Distance Learning in Legal Education:  A “Blue Paper” Summary of Delivery Models, Regulatory Issues, and Recommended Practices will be published at the March 6 – 8, 2014 workshop.  Contact William Byrnes for more details (https://profwilliambyrnes.com/about-2/).

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A Review of the Development of an Internet Delivered LL.M Program in the United States

Posted by William Byrnes on August 27, 2013


This entire article may be downloaded at > William Byrnes’ SSRN academic page <

This article reviews the development of the first Internet delivered LL.M program (i.e. LL.M. of International Tax and Offshore Financial Centers, the ‘Program’) in the United States.

The paper comprises four sections: In Part 1 the economics reasons for, and logistics considerations of, the Internet delivered Program are addressed. Part 2 reviews the pedagogical approach to legal education employed in the United States, criticisms thereof, and finally examines an emerging pedagogical trend in the United Kingdom. Part 3 reviews the teaching tools employed in the Program International Tax and Offshore Financial Centers, and Part 4 reviews the practical aspects of developing the Program, obtaining ABA acquiescence, and reviews the Internet delivered law courses that came before it. Finally, the article concludes with some personal observations.

In Part 1 the economics reasons for, and logistics considerations of, the Internet delivered Program are addressed.

Part 2 reviews the pedagogical approach to legal education employed in the United States, criticisms thereof, and finally examines an emerging pedagogical trend in the United Kingdom. In particular, this part concludes that the grounding of a LL.M (Masters) level legal education program exclusively using the Socratic method (case study) roots of traditional Juris Doctorate (graduate) legal education may neither meet the goals, nor produce the skills sought by this Program. By example, some legal education writers have negatively critiqued the primary use of the Socratic method in even graduate legal education’s pedagogy. The scope of the negative critiques are presented from the perspective of economic efficiency over educational quality, as well as the perspective of professional development, and also from the perspective of a feministic approach.  These critiques are followed by a review of suggested alternatives. This part ends with an examination of the emerging United Kingdom literature supporting a pedagogy based upon ‘student-centered learning’.

Part 3 reviews the teaching tools employed in the International Tax Program. Part 4 reviews the practical aspects of developing the Program, obtaining ABA acquiescence, and it reviews the Internet delivered law courses that came before it. Finally, the article concludes with some personal observations.

Keywords: LL.M Program, Legal Education in the US, Legal Education in the UK, Internet Delivered Law Courses, C&IT in Legal Education, CAL, CBL, Socratic Teaching Method, Alternatives to Socratic Teaching.

This entire article may be downloaded at > William Byrnes’ SSRN academic page <

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