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February 22, 2008

More stuff from the Future of Legal Ed Conference

The conference organizers indicated that it may take a week to post some of the presentations so far. I'm going to share the ones that they distributed via USB drives (a neat trick, that):

February 22, 2008 in Conferences | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 21, 2008

Liveblogging the Future of Legal Education Conference

What follows will be a rather raw feed from my vantage point here at the Conference on the Future of Legal Education.

Berry, Cunningham both concur that the third apprenticeship -- the values of the profession -- are the most foundational and important within the recommendations of the Carnegie Report.

A theme Sullivan himself underlines. Most of this a rehash of his AALS presentation, nothing surprising to anyone who's read the Carnegie Report. Professionalism: commitment to the work itself; a kind of work, but in particular, "good work" and "good works." Formative education: pedagogies that intend to shape perceiving, thinking, judging. Acquire abilities but also sensibilities: what is possible, what is worth doing, and therefore who they are and might become.

Paul Maharg keynote -- PowerPoint * Related article * Book

Simulated Professional Learning (SMPL) environment -- deployed in law schools and other higher ed. Focus is on transaction, in the learning (Dewey) sense rather than the legal one. Learning takes place in a very similar manner as a computer game: students given a goal (reach a settlement by the end of the term) and then teach themselves, using a rich set of case documents, asking for help from each other and from tutors. There's only an introductory and evaluative lecture at the beginning and end of the course, but scenarios designed to spring deep and rich problems on students to solve along the way (e.g. ethical issues).

Simulations run online -- much of it automated (e.g. email from the client or partners). Takes place within an online virtual environment (not necessarily 3D). Groupwork heavily emphasized (very few issues arose around group dynamics, but safeguards set up). Major role shift from student to practitioner. Practice skills (time management) + values (ethical conflicts)

Teacher as "designer" -- distributing knowledge and skills across webs (professor no longer the center). Staff spend more time designing online learning with a wide staff, e.g. resources, simulations, just-in-time learning, salon & masterclass. This happens across entire programs of studey, within and across disciplines; within and across institutions.

February 21, 2008 in Conferences | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Examining state of the law professor blogosphere

As noted here on The Race to the Bottom blog, Professor J. Robert Brown has just posted a paper on law faculty blogs, Of Empires, Independents, and Captives: Law Blogging, Law Scholarship, and Law School Rankings on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Law faculty blogs have been around for much of the new millennium. This article examines these blogs, including their role in the legal scholarship continuum and their growing influence of legal community.

The paper begins with an evolutionary study, noting that law blogging originally began in a state of nature, with few rules governing frequency or content of posts. Increased competition and the emergence of Empire and Captive law blogs, however, has resulted in a growing sense of order on the legal blogosphere.  Perhaps as a result, the influence of law blogs has increased.

The paper relies on a list of approximately 130 law faculty blogs and studies the frequency of law review and case citations. The numbers have been undergoing significant growth. The growth is particularly noteworthy given the difficulty in searching for material posted on the Internet.

The paper also studies the impact of law blogging on rankings in the US News. In the short term, blogging can disproportionately benefit law schools and faculty outside the top tier. Blogs can enhance the reputation of the sponsoring faculty member, enable them to route around the biases inherent in the system of law review placements and SSRN downloads, permit a level of participation in the legal debate that might otherwise not be available, and facilitate the dissemination of information important to alumni and other constituencies.  Most critically, however, they represent a cost effective mechanism for improving a law school's reputational rankings and, perforce, its overall rankings in the infamous US News and World Report.

Much of the data used in the paper is derived from a list of 130 law faculty blogs, something paired down to the top 50 law faculty blogs. The top 50 was determined based upon a number of ranking metrics. These lists are included as an Appendix to this article.

The paper makes for a very interesting read, and it provides an especially thorough and thoughtful (pro-blogging) descriptive review of the current state and apparent impact of law professor blogs.  Still, I must admit that I crave more law prof blogging navel-gazing.  Specifically, I hope that Professor Brown, or perhaps others, will build on this work to provide a more critical meta-analysis of law professor blogging, especially as it relates to broader law school innovation issues and the role of law professors in the broader legal and political community.

Posted by DAB

February 21, 2008 in Blogging by lawyers and law professors | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 20, 2008

CALI to offer tools for professors to make use of free cases

Last week, Carl Malamud's Public.resource.org gave the American public and legal community a small gift: over 1.8 million federal cases, fully browseable and indexable by any search engine. Launched in partnership with the Electronic Freedom Foundation and Creative Commons, the database is a major push towards opening up all court decisions to the public.

At present, the interface for this database is pretty, but fairly barebones. In this article, Carl explains that he expects niche online services will emerge and develop innovative new methods for searching, categorizing and adding value to court rulings. In addition to companies like Google and Yahoo! that are surely salivating over the the West/Lexis empire, CALI (the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction) is rolling out an interface that's designed specifically for legal education.

While the CALI interface is also very basic at the moment, it does feature a search engine (it will eventually be hosted at CaseCorpus.org). Like Public.resource.org, the database will be free and open to the public, but the main purpose of the site is to enable professors to abridge cases for inclusion in coursepacks and sharing with colleagues; it's not intended to compete with AltLaw.org and similar, more public-facing initiatives. Currently, the CALI database contains about 500,000 cases, which will soon form a foundation for the eLangdell project to create an open commons of legal education resources. I will be discussing that effort in more depth tomorrow in Atlanta at the International Conference on the Future of Legal Education.

February 20, 2008 in Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 19, 2008

Harvard's open publishing policy and the outlook for law schools

As covered elsewhere, Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences adopted an open-access policy last week, which obligates faculty to grant the College a license to their publications and to deposit an electronic copy with the College. [Full text of the resolution] Contrary to rumor, the faculty member retains any copyright s/he may have in the publication; the College asks only for a non-exclusive, non-commercial, irrevocable license to the work, with an opt-out possible on individual cases.

Unlike the status quo in the arts and sciences, legal scholarship is largely published in student-run, and therefore law school-owned, law journals. Thus, law schools have largely avoided the escalating fiscal spiral in which their colleagues have been trapped, wherein publishers extract larger and larger fees from schools' libraries for printing works that the schools themselves have largely subsidized. Law schools' journals, while not always the most timely of publishers, don't engage in this degree of profit-extraction. Furthermore, many faculty deposit articles in SSRN or BePress regardless of the paper's actual (or virtual) publication.

The openness of law schools' journals is largely due to history rather than deliberate planning. It gives law schools a huge potential leg up in entering the digital knowledge network, but because it's arisen by happenstance, it's also vulnerable to being undermined. It would be ironic indeed if, as the rest of academia moves towards openness that law schools could be at risk of being hemmed in.

There are, I believe, a few things that schools can do to take advantage of their head start:

  1. Formalize their commitment to open publication to remove any doubt about the open (public accessibility) status of law journals. See Open Access to Infinite Content (Or 'In Praise of Law Reviews') and the Open Access Law Project.
  2. Commit to a world where not only is all scholarship openly available, but also easily searchable, well-cataloged, and easily repurposed for educational or other uses. (While that may not mean storing the articles in full-blown XML, it almost certainly means no PDF).
  3. Execute that vision by leaning on SSRN to become more open and/or networking all law libraries together to create a bigger, better, badder legal research hub. To that end, lay down basic standards (common metadata fields, etc) and a technology platform. To the extent that law journals continue to self-publish, ditch the ad hoc approach and adopt a standard, easy-to-use, fully-supported system made freely available to all journals. Web technology has reached a point where we should no longer be reinventing the wheel across institutions.

In the digitally networked age, legal scholarship enjoys significant advantages over other disciplines in being largely based on public-domain texts. The value of breaking open our research without a third-party mediator (e.g. publishers) is enormous. Let's not squander our advantages here.

- Gene Koo

February 19, 2008 in Scholarship -- traditional | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 17, 2008

My First Faculty Workshop

Several schools host regular "faculty workshops," in which teachers from other schools come in for a short presentation on their work.  I participated in one for the first time this past Friday, at the Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University.  While they seemed to appreciate my presentation (in which I use art to illustrate ethical principles), I probably got more out of it than they did, and found the experience fascinating.  The faculty at NKU treated me wonderfully, and I was impressed with their program. 

Though I had not given it much thought, this kind of cross-germination is too rare, as the sharing of pedagogy is mainly confined to job interviews and AALS panel discussions.   I have always been impressed by the approach football coaches take, in which they often share techniques of instruction  during informal visits to one another's practices.  If possible, I would love to see my own school develop a program along these lines, now that I have seen some of the possible benefits.

-- Mark Osler

February 17, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack