BILETA Conference, Legal Education 4

by Paul Maharg on 30/03/2012

First up, My First Million presentation by U of Herfordshire team.  Approach used to ‘develop entrepreneurial skills in law students to meet work-based learning objectives of the SRA’.  Quite a lot of words in that title I tend to be sceptical about, but as much as one can gather in 20 mins or so, it was an impressive approach, building in a PSP — personal skills profile (nine key skills), where skills are monitored and feedback given to students.  Tech includes ‘My academy’, study log (eg on market segmentation, marketing, finance, competitors, risk), game/simulation (based on a business pitch, Dragon’s Den type sim, which students evaluate + what actually happened to the business).  Assessment is by e-portfolio.  Students enter evidence.  First year students are given an assessment of their abilities + do the course, and this happens in second and then final year.  It will be compulsory at University of Hertfordshire.  Done in individual and collaborative learning, f2f and online.  The course is student demand-led.  Also used by post-docs at Cambridge, where personal skills are mapped onto a research framework.

Next, Pamela Sellman & Graeme Broadbent on ‘Information without context?  Projections of law and legal education on law school websites’.  There’s a variety of style and emphasis, which is aimed at a number of stakeholders, and lots of information.  The material is fragmented, often lack of links from law pages to university or faculty pages.  Navigation is not always easy.  There’s a tension between providing information & marketing.  The selection of material is significant but not consistent and not always up to date.  Limited interactivity though increasing reference to social media.  Some use of graphics, videos, etc. The predominant image is mooting, giving the impression to students that this is what they’ll be doing before they enter the course.  Karen Clegg noted this about 6 years ago, but it’s still prevalent.

There were centralizing tendencies.  One sixth former: ‘Most universities’ websites don’t show you information you want to know, they just show you the information that they want you to know.  That’s quite stupid really’ (quoted in THE, 19 August 2010).  Graeme didn’t quite agree it was stupid.  Interesting.  I think there’s a good rhetorical argument for diversity of audiences, but the imagistic & textual semantics are still pretty woeful — agree with Graeme there.

He picked up on the research that was done recently on HE.  Oakleigh Consulting/ Staffordshire University Report: Understanding the information needs of users of public information about higher education (2010).  G. criticized the methodology, eg the narrowness of the questions & data set.  Also critiqued the use of student survey info.  Agreed entirely his critique of the questions, which were hardly objective, & filled with implicit judgments.  Other issues: selection of students, assumptions of students & staff, inequalities.  Very thoughtful paper.   At questions, fine rant by Michael Bromby on law school web sites, and how unsocial social media actually is on their sites.  Good stuff Michael.  Graeme responded, agreeing, and saying most law school websites are about courses and jobs, not about staff or their research.  Yrs truly also gave a micro-rant about experiences at NU on these issues.  All agreed: very similar experiences from staff present.

Last, Edward Hart on Electronic Legal Materials Act: Open Access of State Legal Materials.  Edward’s state, Florida, is ahead of the curve, contra Georgia: they provide it to main libraries and law schools at a fairly trivial cost.  He contrasted the position with Lexisnexis publication of the materials.  Interesting issues arose, including the definition of what legal materials actually entailed.  Many states in the US turned over publication of state legislation to third parties, ie commercial publishers, or named agency or official.

Concerns about the uniform law applicable to this include copyright (states claim a copyright interest in the statutes published).  Most states don’t include cases, though Arkansas does.  Cost is another issue (both for states and consumers).  Finally there is the role of the commercial publishers (which Tom Laidlaw responded to at question time, raising issues of cost).  In conclusion, there is still not free access to online official state law.

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