Friday, January 04, 2008

CALI Rocks Legal Ed!

OOTJ attended the CALI (Computer Assisted Legal Instruction consortium of law schools) business meeting this morning at AALS. Sally Wise presented a strong slate for the board, which was elected by acclaim, and then John Mayer made his report. 2007 was the 25th anniversary of CALI, and the organization is still growing and bustling. Having gotten memberships from nearly all the US law schools, CALI is working to build relations with overseas law schools, such as those in Taiwan. Having reached a high-water mark in lesson downloaded this year, CALI shipped CDs for law students, which boosted the number of registrations by another 25%. And by the next business meeting, John expects to have 750 lessons available.

E-Langdell (or Virtual Langdell)is available now on the CALI website (though not very high-profile yet), in a pre-beta version. By February, John hopes that E-Langdell will be in beta. In addition, CALI is making Media Notes available, free to faculty and staff, and at a small charge to students. Media Notes allows a commentator to add tags and notes to a video performance, like a moot court argument or a client counseling or negotiation session. So a professor who could not attend the event could give detailed feedback to the student in a very meaningful way. Cool product. Though John did not mention it, the podcast service and other distance ed aids are very impressive.

Having accomplished all this, CALI is now setting its sights on revolutionizing law school publishing and curricula. John gave an exciting presentation on how he sees CALI assisting in unbundling publishing of casebooks, as an example. A consortium of law profs writing pieces, chapters, lessons, and essays creates a central repository of material. Professors can then pick and choose components, organize them to suit, or even modify the existing materials to tailor them to a particular class. Using the open access case law resources developed at Legal Information Institute ( link ) and AltLaw (link) a professor could pull together a tailor-made course pack or casebook, and offer it electronically or print-on-demand at a much lower price than course books currently command. With annotations from the developers of each component, the user could also have a teacher’s manual.

There are barriers, of course. There are the cultural roots of the “lone wolf” law professor, which make collaboration a less obvious course of action. Technology can do some things to make collaboration easier, but ultimately, cooperative projects depend on building social networks.

But the largest and most problematic barrier may be the reputation and rewards system as it currently works in academia. If 29 different professors contribute to a text used in my class, whose name comes first? Who should count as a casebook author? Would creation of such materials count towards tenure or promotion? Legal education is very slow to change. And it is embedded in a larger academic community that also resists change. We will watch with great interest these developments! Programs today at AALS address some aspects of these questions, Two of the concurrent plenary programs seem relevant: Maybe the time is ripe to make rue, systemic changes to legal education!
* Taking Account of and Shaping the future of E-Expertise: Support, Assessment (featuring Professor and blogger Jack Balkin and Judge Robert Katzman.)

* Rethinking Legal Education for the 21st Century (with Prof. Vicki Jackson, attorney Robert MacCrate of the MacCrate Report, Prof. Martha Minow, Dean Suellyn Scarnecchia, scholar William Sullivan and professor and past dean Judith Wegner.


caliboss said...

Here is the link to the slides and podcast.

Betsy McKenzie said...

Thank you, CALIboss! The URL is cut off on our comments, sadly. Cut and paste it into your browser. Add to the end, after legal_education/