Technology and Legal Education Update

In a late February article, entitled “As They Ponder Reforms, Law Deans Find Schools Remarkably Resistant to Change,” the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that law faculty use the “lecture-based model because it is cost-effective and convenient,” quoting Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of University of California’s Irvine School of Law.

In the same article, Dean Richard Matasar of New York Law School bluntly states, “[w]e’re all old dogs trying to learn some new tricks, and all of us old dogs have got tenure and we’re not going any place.”

The National Law Journal reports that  “Legal education significantly lags the rest of higher education in integrating online learning and other educational technologies into its programs,” quoting  Bryant G.Garth, dean of Southwestern Law School.

Even 3 Geeks and a Law Blog posed the question: What’s the New Normal in Legal Education? and received quite a few comments regarding the slowness of law school faculty to adopt new technologies in their teaching.

On April 15, 2011, over 100 law school deans and faculty attended the Future Ed 3 conference at New York Law School.  Some interesting sessions scheduled related to Technology and Legal Education were held:

  • Law Without Walls: Innovating Legal Education and Practice
  • Knowledge Management in Legal Practice—Virtual Externship
  • Assessing Distance Learning Methods and Success in the Law School Setting
  • Apps for Justice: Learning Law by Creating Software
  • Standardized Clients and SIMPLE (SIMulated Professional Learning Environment): Learning Professionalism through Simulated Practice
  • Seriously Gamifying Legal Learning

At the conference, the Apps for Justice proposal was given an award.  The proposal includes development of clinical programs at 5  law schools with a grant from the Legal Services Corp.

Several other proposals, including one that would create a network of law schools that share online games and simulations that teach law and engage students.

Other projects that received significant support addressed assessments of distance education; a nontraditional 3L curriculum that emphasizes experiential learning, which focuses on direct experience as a teaching tool; and a program that emphasizes simulated practice using people trained to act as legal clients and through software that simulates legal situations.

Six law schools (Southwestern, University of Miami School of Law, Australian National University College of Law, Chicago-Kent College of Law, the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, and New York Law School, have formed a consortium to develop new technology to teach law and engage students.

Coming soon is the 21st annual Conference for Law School Computing which will be held at Marquette Univesity Law School on Thursday-Saturday, June 23-25. 2011. Its theme “Unbound”  refers to the endless possibilities of using technology in legal education. The conference sessions will focus on the challenges of  limited resources of time, skill and attention in using some of these technologies in order to achieve the ultimate goal –  improving legal education.

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