January 26, 2012

CALI Offering Free Open Online Course on Digital Law Practice

The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) is once again pushing the envelope in legal education by offering law faculty, law students, and lawyers an opportunity to participate in a Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) entitled Topics in Digital Law Practice. This free, online, 9 week course is open to all with live sessions held on Friday afternoons beginning Friday, February 10, 2012 at 2 PM ET. 

From the course website:

This course is designed to provide an overview of the changes that are occurring in the practice of law today, especially with respect to technology. It will introduce law students for real-world situations that they will encounter in the job market and point law professors to new avenues to cover in their courses.

The course will run for one hour a week for nine weeks and will feature a different guest speaker each week. Each class will be delivered via webcast and will have a 30 minute lecture presentation followed by a question & answer period and an online, interactive homework assignment for all course students to complete. There will be no formal assessment like midterms or a final exam.

The audience for this seminar is primarily law students and law faculty who will be given priority. Anyone else can join the course for one or all of the sessions. The presentations will be recorded and posted to the course blog.

Registration for this course is required.

 

-- Elmer R. Masters
Full disclosure: I am CALI's Director of Internet Development

January 26, 2012 in Announcements, Electronic Education, Technology -- in general, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 12, 2011

Should law schools teach how the best lawyers and law firms use the internet?

Debates about adequate skills instruction have raged for decades within and outside law school.  Less debated, though no less important, is whether law schools are teaching their students the right kinds of lawyering skills.  My own experience as both a law student and a law professor leads me to believe and fear that law schools too often focus on teaching the next generation of lawyers the most critical skills of the last generation of lawyers.

Those who went to law school around the time I was a student (1990 to 1993) likely recall the debate over whether and how students should be allowed access to computer research sources like Westlaw and Lexis or instead needed to be taught how to "only use the books."  Savvy students (but very few faculty) at the time appreciated that computer-based research skills we ultimately likely to be much more important to our future than book-based skills.  Nevertheless, back then (and still it seems two decades later), commercial providers like West and Lexis supplied much more (and much more effective) training in computer research than did my law school.

This recent article by Robert Algeri in the The National Law Journal, which is headlined "The future of the law firm website: Your website will become bigger, more important — and more focused on the needs of individual attorneys," has me thinking about these realities and prompted the question in the title of this post. Here is how the piece starts:

After a half-century of remarkable stability and steady growth, the legal industry got hit by a ton of bricks called the Great Recession. Several years after the initial shock, it is clear that this downturn wasn't just a momentary blip, but a rather sizable shift in the business landscape. As a result, law firms are being forced to reconsider many aspects of how they do business.

What does all this mean for legal marketing? Lots.      During the past two years, my colleagues and I have studied the Great Recession's effects on legal marketing and law firm Web sites.  Our conclusion is that the law firm Web site is about to undergo a revolution. Specifically, we expect law firm Web sites to:

• Become more valuable....

• Become bigger....

• Focus more on attorneys....

Web sites already play a vital role in law firm business development. Numerous studies show this.  However, I strongly believe that they will become even more important--nearly as important as face-to-face meetings.  Why?  Because face-to-face meetings will happen less and less.

The legal business has traditionally been locally focused, with clients and the firm often located within 25 miles of one another.  That's changing. The Internet and related technologies have made it much more practical to work long distance.  But that's the least of it: Our culture is also changing. 

I could say a lot about the long-standing failure of law schools to help students better understand the business of law and the provision of legal services.  Those broader concerns aside, given the tight legal marketplace and changing legal and technological environments, are law schools uniquely deficient for not helping students better appreciate when and how modern lawyers use the internet?

Posted by DAB

September 12, 2011 in Legal profession realities and developments, Serving students, Teaching -- curriculum, Technology -- in general, Technology -- in the classroom, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 22, 2010

How an iPad (or an even better e-tablet) could transform legal education

My old pal Anupam in this post expresses skepticismabout whether the (soon to be in stores) iPad could transform law school.  This skepticism is justified if the iPad is merely just a mini-laptop without a keyboard.  But if the iPad is ultimately a "better" e-reader and a "better" media player than any existing device --- or whenever someone produces an affordable e-tablet with a great e-reader and media functionality --- then it will only be a matter of time before such a device helps speed the demise of the living dinosaur that is the traditional law school casebook.

The traditional law school casebook has all the analog features of vinyl records and VCR tapes that made them very popular and useful until a better digital version came along.  Except vinyl record and VCR tapes were easy to carry around and got cheaper over time.  In contrast, casebooks weigh a ton and new ones now often cost more than $150 each.  I suspect the average law student spends at least $1000 each year on casebooks, with little to take away from these costs other than a sore back.  I suspect most law students would jump at the chance to instead spend, say, $750 on a slick new e-tablet device with course materials pre-loaded that could serve as a professional resource even after a course is completed.

Further, imagine if digital course materials could effectively incorporate media other than words through links and embedded pictures and videos.  Con law materials could include audio from oral arguments in famous cases; crim pro materials could include video of Terry stops and custodial interrogations; IP materials could include film clips and pictures of patented devices; and so on and so on.  And, of course, these materials could be effectively and cost-efficiently supplemented and updated when new cases or laws come down the pike.

And, ideally, a great e-tablet would facilitate electronic note-taking by students in an e-window right next to the course materials.  And students could, ideally, create their own links in their notes to related primary materials or outlines (whether commercial or prepared by fellow students).  And faculty could, ideally,  integrate their own tablet-friendly syllabi and supplemental teaching materials with other electronic case materials.  And, of course, these materials could be easily searched via a find command in a way that no index or other hard-copy resource can be search. 

This appealing vision of a casebook-friendly e-tablet is only the tip of the new media iceberg that could be facilitated by an iPad or some other tablet that becomes to casebooks what the iPod became to vinyl records.  Of course, just as record companies (and some artists) resisted music being packaged and distributed via new media, casebook publishers (and some authors) may resist legal materials being packaged distributed via new media.  But, as the iPod and the DVR and other digital innovations have demonstrated, a better means to distribute content digitally will eventually prevail over analog precursors.  The iPad may not prove to be the casebook tipping-point technology, but it seems to me to be only a question of when, not whether, the traditional casebook will go the way of vinyl records and VCR tapes.

I have an inkling that co-blogger Ellen Podgor is on the same e-page with me on this front, but I would like to hear what others think via additional posts or comments.

March 22, 2010 in Electronic Education, Teaching Resources, Technology -- in the classroom, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack