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November 11, 2006

guest blogging: The Berkman Center's study of legal ed and technology

Hello LSI readers, and thanks to Prof. Berman and the regular bloggers here for letting me stick in a word or two about my research. My name is Gene Koo, and I am a Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society as well as the Director of Online Education for Legal Aid University. The Berkman Center is currently studying the impact of technology of technology on legal education and training, which I might summarize as roughly falling into three general areas:

  1. How technology is changing practice (what we need to know)
  2. How technology is giving us new teaching capabilities (how we teach)
  3. How technology is changing the very way we think (how we learn)

I'll be writing up our findings in a whitepaper due out in December. There is clearly a lot of ground to cover in a short amount of time, so we are expecting that the whitepaper will point us towards the most interesting or exciting areas under development so we can focus our research and work more narrowly. But for now, we are still in "grazing" mode.

I will be posting and soliciting feedback on findings on my blog and also here as well. I look forward to having some great conversations with all of you, and am honored to have the chance to blog together.

- Gene Koo

November 11, 2006 in About this blog | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

CBS News: How Not to Fix Law School

Interesting segment on CBS News' Court Watch with Andrew Cohen:  How Not to Fix Law School:

It took Harvard Law School roughly 130 years to try to "fix" its curriculum for first-year students and still the academics got it wrong. Instead of offering students more practical training for their sojourn through the law, the faculty and administrators of America's most famous law school instead decided to offer variations of the same tired curriculum that has caused generation after generation of lawyers to emerge from law school unprepared for the real world of the law. Maybe in the year 2136 they'll finally get it right. ...

For more, see TaxProf Blog.

Paul Caron

November 11, 2006 in Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 9, 2006

The law school curriculum and a different digital divide

John Palfrey, who is the executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, has this great new piece in the National Law Journal that touches on a lot of topics that we have been discussing here at LSI.  Here are some of the many interesting passages from "The Law School Curriculum: What is Technology's Role?":

The first-year law school curriculum took shape more than 100 years ago.  The basic curriculum hasn't changed much over the course of the last century.  Meanwhile, the practice of law has changed dramatically.  One of those changes is the importance of information technologies in what young lawyers do as they enter the profession....

Young lawyers learn how to use technologies in practice on the job at law firms where training programs exist, and on their own if they're in a smaller firm.  No one has figured out how to make academic computing fit in the law school curriculum....  Can technology play a transformative role in legal education at a systemic level?

At the Berkman Center, in partnership with LexisNexis, we've begun a research project this fall to survey lawyers and law faculty about what they think on this front.  By the end of the year, we expect to publish the results and highlight some of the most promising ways forward. We don't yet know where this study will lead, but it's pretty clear that the answer doesn't lie in law schools starting to teach technology-specific courses...

The hard problem is instead to figure out how to teach students to think about using technology in the context of the practice of law.  One easy place to start: integrating technology into legal research and writing courses. Another promising area is via clinical programs.  Students benefit most from those clinical experiences that are authentic.  Most practicing lawyers use case management software, e-discovery programs, research databases and time management tools on a regular basis. Costs aside, it's hard to argue that clinical programs shouldn't put these same tools in the hands of students....

The question of using technology in law schools raises the larger and tougher question of whether law schools are adequately connected to the practice of law and to members of the profession.  It's less clear that there's a role for technology in the doctrinal classes at the backbone of legal education.  For a first-year law student, the best way to learn might well be from an amazing contracts teacher who uses the Socratic method without a laptop or wifi access point in sight.  On the other hand, real-time polling tools, wikis and Weblogs -- allowing students to build a collaborative online workspace on the proven model of the real-space study group -- might make sense in an upper-level class on intellectual property.

Technology for technology's sake, even if it's cool, is not the point. Technology in law schools makes sense only in the service of pedagogy. Law schools already turn out graduates who are excellent critical thinkers. Law schools that figure out how to work technology into the curriculum might be able to produce lawyers who are able to use technology to apply these critical thinking skills in a way that is transformative -- for their practice, their clients and their societies at large.

Post by DAB

November 9, 2006 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

MoneyLaw sings a reformer's anthem

Law professors are wimpsThey are also reactionaries.  This is a terrible combination, given how the voters have kicked conservatives in the teeth.  Don't despair.  Visit MoneyLaw and sing along.

Jim Chen

November 9, 2006 in Teaching -- new courses | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 8, 2006

Testing issues

Over the years, I have seen a few articles decrying the traditional methods of testing law students, but until recently did not take the issue very seriously.  As a student my law school exams consisted of cramming facts into a blue book at the end of the semester, and that seemed like the only way.

As a teacher, I have gained a different perspective.  In most of my classes I no longer give the traditional end-of-the-quarter final. My reasoning for this is that it tests a skill (memorizing a huge number of facts for a few days) that has very little application in the real world. I have tried, where appropriate, to shift to a series of exercises including a take-home exam that is going to require realistic legal analysis.

Many, if not most, of my students go on to be prosecutors, and I am often struck by the fact that those hiring for prosecutor positions often tell me that they don't care much about grades-- and even that they find that many of the best prosecutors are those well down in their law school class. Is this an indication of how poorly traditional testing correlates to the skills we are trying to create in a professional school?

-- Mark Osler

November 8, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 6, 2006

Making Law Courses Available on Web

Berkeley's Pam Samuelson and Mitch Kapor have made the audio and video of their seminar on open source available on the Internet. 

So here is an opportunity to "take" a Berkeley Law School and Information school course...

Have others made their courses publicly available in this way?  Will other law schools do so in the future?

Anupam Chander

November 6, 2006 in Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Women Deans: A Law School Innovation?

The latest ABA newsletter (Syllabus, Vol. 38, No. 1) reports a significant increase in the number of women deans at law schools--rising from 15.8% of all ABA-approved law schools in 2002 to 20.4% in 2005.

Here is the data, from the piece by David Rosenlieb:

Women Deans

2002   31

2003   34

2004   35

2005   46

Anupam Chander

November 6, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The What of Innovation and the How of Innovation

When I first visited this blog I was encouraged by the title, 'Law School Innovation' and hoped to find a new forum discussing the impact of technology on legal education.   With my background in law school technology, innovation is about using technology in new and interesting ways to further the vision and goals of a law school.   What I found was quite different.  The discussions on LSI are more about bringing innovation to the curriculum and the scholarship of law schools, no mention of technology.  This apparent divergence of the meaning of 'innovation' certainly got me thinking. We are using the same language, but our connotations are different.  My innovation is not necessarily your innovation.

Websters Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines innovation as "the introduction of something new" or "a new idea, method, or device".  By this definition the application of technology to further legal instruction, changes to the traditional law school curriculum, and advances in scholarship all present opportunities for innovation.  In thinking about this it has occurred to me that what I am seeing are different facets of innovation.  The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) is focused on the 'how' of innovation.  How do we bring technological innovations into the classroom and into legal education?  How are the tools we develop used in legal education?  The community emerging around the LSI blog is focused on the 'what' of innovation.  What are we teaching?  What is the focus of our scholarship?

These facets are not mutually exclusive.  CALI does think about what innovative subjects are being taught in law schools and the LSI community is concerned with how innovations to curriculum are implemented.  Understanding these different connotations for innovation are important because any innovation is difficult and needs all the help it can get.  No matter the connotation, innovation that is well grounded and well thought out is a good thing.  My hope is that I can bring some of 'how' of innovation to the discussion here while understanding more of the 'what' of innovation that is discussed.

Elmer Masters

November 6, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Does US News spur or thwart innovation?

This weekend, this fascinating blog post at MoneyLaw reminded me of Dale Whitman's account, when he was AALS president, of some of the sneaky techniques and ugly consequences of undue concern with US News rankings.  In turn, I got to thinking about the relationship between US News rankings on law school innovation (which, arguably, is what MoneyLaw is all about).

My first-cut instinct is that great concern for rankings might spur innovations within schools that are ranked low: the dean and faculty at a school ranked low might conclude that the best way to try to change their fortunes would be though innovative programming that garners (positive) attention to improve the school's reputation (and thus its scores in the reputation criteria than make up 40% of the ranking metric).  As a corollary, highly-ranked schools might resist innovations for fear that anything new risks generating negative attention to move reputation scores in the wrong direction.

I am sure that the relationship between rankings and innovation is much more nuanced than this simple account may suggest.  Thus, I encourage readers (and other contributors to this blog) to chime in on this topic.

Posted by DAB

November 6, 2006 in Rankings | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack