BILETA Conference Legal Education 2

by Paul Maharg on 29/03/2012

Second session, and I’m chairing so this will be a bit scrappy.  First up, Emily Allbone, law librarian at City U, talking about her excellent Lawbore project.  Originally a gateway project created by Emily, it’s now much much more.  She has topic guides, a hub, the Future Lawyer blog, and Learnmore.  The last is a legal skills weekly, grown over the last few years.  The skills are predominantly information skills.  Emily mentioned a session at BIALL where professional librarians were commenting on the searching skills of students; but as she said this is clearly linked to other skills such as reading, preparing for writing, etc.

What worries the students?  Not looking an idiot, but legal writing & research were the two most problematic for them.  Skills gap A-level to degree.  Legal Method ain’t that thrilling either, so skills tends to be on the back foot in that regard.

Learnmore needed to be eye-catching.  Had to be resource-based, focused around the students, available 24/, promote independence and academic confidence and lots of multimedia.  Pretty big ask!  But Emily is right about the approach, surely.  Captivate was used for webcasts — and there were videos of student performance, eg on the Mooting page.  Feedback on multimedia was interesting, with the usual reasons given by students.  Emily was filling out the resources still.  She was writing, eg, on how to memorize cases, and took advice from students and professionals, and what they said was put up on the web.

Information research is the key section, obviously.  She mixes law prof and student comment on how to do it well.  She’s also turning Learnmore into an iPad app — JISC funded until May 2012.

Tom Laidlaw of Lexisnexis asked an interesting question about game resources — Emily said none yet, but didn’t rule them out.

Janice Denoncourt was next up, on ‘Using film to enhance Business Law education: The Social Network‘.  She’s an Australian barrister & solicitor, qualified in England & Wales, from Notts Law School.  Law is of course heavily textual.  Bus Law includes particularly texty law — contract, partnership, etc — Carlill, invitation to treat, etc.  These topics arise in the film (SN), along with many others.  Film is the great art form of the 20th century, and Janice encountered Film Education, a charity established in 1984 supported by the UK Film Council.  She didn’t want to move beyond text with film, she wanted to motivate students to return to text.  Interesting move, re the Beyond Text book project I’m working on…

Why The SN?  Appeals to students because of characters and topics.  Film is structured around two legal actions — the cliam that he stole the idea from Ivy League classmates; and the claim by his original business partner regarding dilution fo his shares in the company.  Story is intercut with scenes from depositions taken from the legal actions against Zuckerberg & Facebook.  Also — from a legal ed perspective the film sparks off discussion; and introduces the legal profession and the role of ADR and out of court settlements.

Janice showed the film in a lecture theatre, it could be used in tutorials, etc.  as well.  She spliced readings with viewing clips — neat use of focused elements of the film.  Janice showed five mins of the film and then gave us some of the issues she raised with students later as a result.  She showed other lesson plans built around other clips of the film, eg privacy, data protection, legal professionalism, etc.  The film helped students to recognize the complexity of issues, and understand the context of issues.

Janice briefly summarised a critique, and mentioned other films & TV series (eg Borgen) she used.  Good session on film and law.

Finally, Wilson Chow on legal education & training.  He summarised the main reports in England & Wales as focusing on content, not method (with the exception of LETR), and commented that the Australian reforms were on the same lines (The Pearce Report 1987, ‘The Priestley Eleven’, 1992, National Legal Profession Review).  Legal education & training review in Hong Kong?  Only one report: The Redmond-Roper Report (2001) — 360pp, + 60 pp of appendices,  with a total of 160 recommendations.  Only 13 out of 160 focus on teaching methods.  Quite remarkable.  LLB now a four year degree; and there are now Bar Association Benchmarks (March 2002), and the Law Society of Hong Kong published similar benchmarks in April 2002.  Nothing on process or method.

Wilson gave us a summary of the course in HKU.  There are still complaints from students.  In two internal surveys in 2005 & 2008, students said that transition from undergrad to postgrad professional courses was still quite problematic.  Clinic, internships etc are obvious bridges.  Direct purposeful experiences can be enjoyed by only a few students, though HKU’s clinic is well received by students and employers, but the Law Society is still sceptical about clinic.  It’s also resource intensive.

Wilson then showed data on simulation software — SIMPLE, though he also considered Second Life.  The data sample was small — 26 students – but student response has been very positive, both qualitative and quantitative.

He is now taking this forward on the PLCC at Hong Kong U.  He noted how students were computer literate in HKU, but the faculty were conservative in their use of technology, in spite of being the largest law school with the longest history.  There will be four electives that will be taken forward in pilots in SIMPLE on the PLCC, and Wilson intends to compare the HKU data with the data derived from England, Scotland and Wales.  Fine presentation.

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