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Covid-19 Update: SEALS Completely Online This Year

Dear SEALS Colleagues,

I am very pleased to announce that the 74th Annual Conference of the Southeastern Association of Law Schools (SEALS) is still going to be held, albeit in a different format. The Covid-19 virus has forced all of us to abruptly alter our personal and professional lives in ways that we could not have imagined last year. One of the cruel aspects of the outbreak has been the necessity for restricted travel and socialization at a time when many of us feel the need to connect and collaborate. However, it would be irresponsible for the SEALS Board to recommend in-person attendance given recent infection trends in Florida and a number of other states in which SEALS has members. Therefore, there will be no in-person component to the SEALS annual meeting this year. Upon cancelling the conference, the Fort Lauderdale Marriott will automatically cancel all reservations made through the conference.

SEALS meetings have always been both fun and informative, and under normal circumstances, would be the ideal forum to share innovative ideas on how to present a class or instruct through different formats. Though we cannot congregate in-person, this year will be no exception. SEALS has partnered with the University of New Hampshire’s Franklin Pierce School of Law to present the conference is an online format. Almost all of the substantive panels, workshops and discussion groups have agreed to move to an online format via Zoom. UNH is graciously assisting us in making the programming easily accessible for all registered attendees, and the various committee chairs are currently working furiously to ensure a quality online experience.

In light of this new format, and in recognition of the severe budgetary constraints currently in place at many institutions, the SEALS Board has voted to reduce the normal registration fee by 50%, meaning that for member schools, the cost is only $80 (for those of you who have already paid a refund is available). You may be asking if a conference that is now fully online will be worth the cost. Though some aspects of SEALS, such as the connections made between sessions, will be missing, the programming is especially enticing this year, and I think you will find well-worth the registration fee.

First, even prior to Covid-19, SEALS had planned a multi-day workshop on online education. This workshop will still be available, and is more important now than ever. In addition to the programming already developed, additional material is being developed to address Covid-19 specific issues. This workshop will offer insights from legal educators who have already spent years developing online curriculum, courses, and best methods. But beyond this very relevant
workshop are so many more panels and discussions that have become the hallmark of SEALS. For instance, there will be a multi-day workshop on “Writing Connections,” focusing on how to instill real-world skills and professionalism into students, how to be a more efficient teacher, and how legal writing can complement and collaborate with other programs. As usual, SEALS will offer a Newer Law Professors Workshop, focused on helping those new to the profession develop their skills as both a teacher and scholar. SEALS’ New Scholars program will continue to offer professors at the beginning of their career and opportunity to present and receive feedback on their scholarly work. SEALS will once again host Prospective and Aspiring Professor Workshops to assist those interesting in either breaking into legal academia or seeking to lateral within the academy. And, as usual, there will be a number of topic-specific panels and discussion groups that have been developed over the past year. In short, the programming is as robust and relevant as ever and well worth the reduced price of admission.

These past few months have been trying times for all of us. In an ideal world, we would be in a position to host a robust live conference as usual in a fantastic location. But the heart of SEALS lies not in the location of the conference, but in the collegial and collaborative spirit that everyone brings with them. Though we may be separated by physical distance, that spirit can and will carry on this year and beyond. While I am greatly saddened that I will not see you in-person, I look forward to the day when I can raise a glass to all of our collective health at a fabulous SEALS reception. Until that day, I pray that you stay healthy and in good spirits.

Colin P. Marks
President – Southeastern Association of Law Schools
Ernest W. Clemens Professor of Corporate & Securities Law
Associate Dean for Graduate & Summer Programs
St. Mary’s University School of Law

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