March 2, 2018 • By Dennis Beaver
Are you about to enter law school or know someone who is? While law school is demanding and some say “boring,” at many schools technology is making the hours spent studying more productive, practical, and fun. In a moment you’ll see why, but first, here’s an email we received from “Chad,” a happy father in Eureka, California:
“Mr. Beaver, my wife and I have been on cloud nine, unbelievably thrilled and proud of our daughter, ‘Angie’s acceptance at one of California’s top law schools, but also, really worried. I know that law school is tough and there is a high failure rate at some schools. Angie put the ‘up’ in uptight, and already she is worried. Can you help put her fears to rest?”
Angie’s lucky – her school uses Casebook Connect.
We learned that Angie is attending law school in the San Francisco Bay area, and that several of her first-year courses benefit from something very cool offered by law book publishers that law students across the country describe as “simply amazing, making things so much more clear and understandable.”
It’s Casebook Connect from Wolters Kluwer and the Interactive Casebook Series from West Publishing.
Now, before we tell you what they are, join me as we step into H.G. Wells’ Time Machine, and take a little trip, 40 years back in time. Our guide is Vikram Savkar, Boston-based Vice President and General Manager of Wolters Kluwer’s Legal Education Group.
“Dennis, if you walked onto the campus of any law school in the country over the past 40 years, the same scene would be repeated. Students would be lugging around briefcases filled with heavy casebooks. But then, five years ago, we realized that something had changed,” he began.
“It was the students who had changed, because those entering law school were digital natives. They had grown up with Google, Facebook, and as undergrads, had used a great deal of technology on a regular basis.”
A challenge to legal publishers
Having grown up with technology, and “Suddenly in law school using only thick books was a bit of a shock to these tech-savvy students,” Savkar points out, adding, “The need for something better was clear. Law school is very hard and students felt there were tools that could greatly improve the learning experience, but were not then available.”
So, the publishers of casebooks used in our nation’s law schools asked themselves a question: “How can we bring cutting edge educational technology into the world of casebooks, helping today’s law students succeed in mastering the material, developing confidence for both law school exams and the Bar Examination?”
The Interactive Casebook Series, both developed after years finding out from students and teachers how technology could facilitate law study. Both publishers hit a home run and “Professor Beaver” is impressed.
“Beaver, back to work! Stop playing!”
These publishers bring to law students what amounts to their own private tutor, applying the legal concepts and terminology acquired from the casebook to challenging real life and hypothetical fact situations. Law school is fascinating to begin with, but these two legal publishers have made learning the law fun.
It’s like having someone saying, “We’ve been studying the types of contracts which must be in writing in order to be enforced and ways to get around that written requirement. So, after reading this hypothetical, tell me if Ms. Jones will be able to successfully argue that, even though there was nothing in writing, her client should still be able to claim that a valid contract was created?”
The student is given a series of possible arguments to use and clicks on, we hope, the right answer. Immediately the correct answer appears, along with the legal reasoning to support the point. There is no more “hiding the ball,” which is one of the greatest criticisms of the way law is still taught at some schools. Here, the material studied is reinforced in a variety of positive ways, so if you are wrong, you are not made to feel like a dummy.
In preparation to be a guest instructor at the Bakersfield campus of the Monterey College of Law, Savkar sent me a log-on password to the casebook, Epstein on Torts, giving access to the complete book and the simply marvelous study aids that Casebook Connect offers.
This did not make my office staff very happy, as I was like a kid in a candy store, shutting my door, having a ball, bouncing around the text and hypothetical, visuals and tests–and it was all so interesting, so well put together. You just have to admire the thought put into this user-friendly technology.
So, Angie, you can worry much less. Law school is terrific!
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.