Workshop on the future of the legal course book draws leading scholars and generates extensive press

A workshop at Seattle University School of Law that discussed alternatives to the heavy printed legal casebooks that have been used for more than a century still has people talking. It was organized by Deans Kellye Testy (Seattle University School of Law) and Ed Rubin (Vanderbilt), Ron Collins (First Amendment Center), and Professor David Skover.

There is a growing movement in the legal academy that seeks to move away from this traditional teaching method and to reform legal education. The reformers aim to better prepare students for the modern practice of law and to help them develop a broader range of skills than can be acquired solely by studying doctrine from appellate opinions.

Many law professors say they would be willing to embrace new pedagogical methods, if only there were some coherent re-conceptualization of the law school curriculum together with appropriate materials to use. Among various obstacles to the creation of alternative materials are the economics and the impracticalities associated with the print method of delivery. Not only is it costly to produce and update print books, but print itself may be an inadequate medium to advance the creative and interactive learning that reform efforts desire.

Seattle University School of Law invited nationally prominent scholars in legal pedagogical reform to gather with key representatives from the National Conference of Bar Examiners, the print and electronic publishing industries, and significant Internet-based book ventures (including Amazon, Sony, Adobe, and others). Together, the workshop participants explored avenues for transforming the existing paradigms of legal education and course materials.

Among other questions, they considered questions such as (1) What fundamental changes in legal education are necessary, and how might such changes best be made at the national level? (2) How do the traditional curriculum and casebook constrain any such reform efforts? (3) What viable alternatives are there to the traditional print casebooks, as far as content and delivery systems are concerned? (4) What are the advantages and disadvantages of competing infrastructural designs for electronic delivery systems (including closed-source vs. open-source architecture) and the electronic devices for receiving and viewing such materials?

View a complete list of participants.

Read press coverage from the Chronicle of Higher Education, the National Law Journal and other leading publications.

Seattle University School of Law gratefully acknowledges the generous support of Microsoft Corporation & Aspen Publishers.