“A number of schools that had been doing this as part of online programming for a long time had a couple of virtual conferences in which they shared best practices with those of us who hadn’t done this before,” she said. “For most people who teach these experiential courses, it’s been working fine.”
For her Trial Practice course, Aaron used the video conferencing software Webex, which offers split video screens. As part of their final project, students — representing both the plaintiff and defense — logged on, along with Aaron, who served as judge and jury, and an actor playing the role of witness.
Students made preliminary motions, presented their opening statements and examined witnesses in the online space just as they would in one of UC College of Law’s two mock courtrooms, Aaron said.
In her Client Counseling course, students logged on to a video conferencing session with Aaron, who coached them throughout the exercise, and an actor playing the role of client. The goal? To update the client on a case status, requiring them to convey bad news about their chance of success. Students are called to explain complicated legal terms in plain language their clients can understand and propose a case resolution or settlement that doesn’t fall short of clients’ expectations.
“It’s so hard I can’t tell you,” Aaron said with a laugh about the grueling exercise. “My book on client counseling was prompted by the deep difficulty of this exercise.”
But even modifying the simulation for an online environment didn’t pose challenges, Aaron said. “It was no problem,” she said of the activity.
And when it came to auditioning students for the fall trial practice team, the switch to online technology even offered up some benefits.
Traditionally, Aaron and the trial team officers must coordinate a team of attorneys and instructors for the auditions, which are usually held on one evening. Students, who are challenged to deliver an opening statement they did not write and a closing argument they did write, rotate among different rooms where judges evaluate their construction and delivery.
This year, they made the whole process virtual. Twenty-eight students recorded themselves and submitted videos online using a classroom management software. Judges then had several days in which to review their submissions, after which they all met in conference via Webex to critique the auditions and choose the 15-member team.
“It was actually kind of great,” said Aaron. “We didn’t have to make sure every judge was available on Tuesday night. Even for students, they could upload their videos any time up until the deadline. The whole scheduling issue was just much, much easier.”
Aaron said that while the switch to online learning proved seamless for her courses, she’s looking forward to resuming classes in person.
“I want to be able to work with them all in the room," she said.
And, Aaron added, “I think students miss the class. I think we would all agree it was more fun when we were together.”