Friday, July 14, 2006

ABA Accreditation Questioned

Interesting posting today on the Volokh Conspiracy by Ilya Somin of George Mason questioning the wisdom of allowing the ABA to accredit law schools. Among other provocative observations, the author notes

Similarly, the requirement that schools have a variety of expensive, but redundant library resources and other programs that most students do not need (discussed in Prof. Morriss' article linked above) greatly increases the cost of establishing a new law school and thereby further reduces competition.
I think this reflects an attitude that is becoming common among our colleagues in legal education. The Morris article linked to in the original posting on Volokh questions the need for print resources in this day and age. More and more, I think we have to reconsider traditional delivery of legal information and measures for evaluating our collections and services. If we appear to be defending the status quo, rather than moving our libraries into the electronic age, I'm afraid we'll be perceived as having forfeited all credibility.
Anyone agree or disagree?

1 comment:

Betsy McKenzie said...

Oh, Gail! I disagree, disagree, disagree! We may be the only folks in the law schools who take a long enough view of the well-being of the schools to consider what may happen if we move entirely to electronic. I will continue to warn our faculty and deans about the dangers of delivering ourselves fully into the hands of monopolies by moving completely to electronic subscriptions that we only rent, not own. The electronic market is not yet mature: we give up ownership and control of the material by moving to e-resources; we give up huge amounts of copyright-mandated ownership when we go electronic-only; and the publishers have not yet come to grips with the need to change their contracts and lease agreements to recognize some level of reasonable balance between their need to control access and our need to control ownership.

If I look at what my library will be in 50 years, I can consider electronic only if they solve the problems of reading and retaining and updating long texts like treatises. Electronic paper is still at least 10 years away from the market, I think. That would be a reasonable solution. But I would still counsel against trusting all reporters, digests and statutes to electronic-only even at this date. Read the note I added to Marie's excellent posting on Law Firm Library Survey just below. I like the explorations that consortia are making of shared conservation; storing some copy of print, maintaining a local ownership of primary sources and relying on shared ILL for non-local. But these are still in their infancy. We have not solved the problems yet for archiving born-electronic sources or problems caused by changes in library management or support.

I truly believe that we are at a point where we are saving the legal profession from itself by holding onto print. Nobody has considered the changes to the profession as research moves more and more to electronic. Law Schools have not changed the ways they teach students in any major way since the time of Dean Langdell at Harvard. I think major changes in legal practice must be met my similar sea changes in legal education. So there.