Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Heating up the Medium

We actually agree that the law school faculty and librarians need to adapt to the changes that technology brings to student behavior. I also agree that the behavior changes are not inevitable. What I want to see is discussion and action in the law school community responding to these changes!

Students have been exposed to Westlaw and Lexis for 30 years now, at increasing rates. Bob Berring began writing about the changes in behavior back in the 1980's. Barbara Bintliff wrote about the changes in lawyerly thinking in the 1990's and still nobody has any plan of action to address what many of us agree is happening. The law professoriate does not seem aware of the changes. I am beginning to wonder what we have to do to get things to start happening.

We need to be teaching students much more in-depth and carefully about analysis. We need to teach them more about how to think independently, and how to create an argument in various ways.

Jim speaks so blithely about a Darwinian model of the Market sorting out the new lawyers who can and cannot do this sort of analysis. I am not so sanguine. For one thing, when I practiced, the day to day practice really very rarely needed actual research. What one did was rely on what pleadings the office had done before, without needing to go into reading cases. Of course, that was legal services, doing domestic relations, consumer protection and administrative cases, none with any damages. The type of practice would make a huge difference, but I suspect most small or mid-size general practices work the same sort of way for most of their clients. Only when they have an appeal would they research. But they still need to think clearly and analyze the cause of action in the first place to make up the pleading. It's still a key skill, whether you are using it to research or to think through the case at hand. But I am not sure the Market is doing any sorting at this level.

The other part of Jim's casual Darwinian model that bothers me is that there are actual people who are the casualties. Some of them may be my students. Geez.

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