I gave a talk earlier today at the Future Ed 3 Conference, co-sponsored by Harvard Law School and New York Law School. I was invited to speak at this conference because one of the organizers read my book Law School 2.0: Legal Education for a Digital Age. I say in that book that the only way out of what I call the "cost/change connundrum" is to leverage technology to make legal education better. They had already had two versions of this conference (so this one was 3) which generated some great ideas, but all of them cost more money.
So they put it to me: OK, if you know how to improve legal education without blowing up the cost, come tell us. Of course, in the book I wrote about how I think technology can (and will) help us address some of the problems in legal education, and it can do so without raising cost. But I didn't really give specific ideas for how to do that. Themes, yes. But specific ideas, prescriptions, no. So that is what I was invited to do in this talk.
I gave the audience three specific ideas. First, I suggested that we take the typical large first year class (Torts, say) and split it up into three subsections, each of which meets in class with the professor only once a week (instead of three). Then, have the two classes per week each group "misses" online. That way, we have better interaction in the smaller groups with the professor, and the basic "coverage" can take place online, with video, tutorials, quizzes, etc.
Second, I suggested that more courses in law school be taught in the form of Whole Course Simulations. This allows for more integration of the Carnegie Apprenticeships, is more engaging for the students, and provides a practical focus to the learning. If more of the upper level courses (particularly in the second year) were taught in this way, it would not increase cost. And it would serve our students better.
Third, I suggested that certain specialized and fast-moving areas of law (such as RCRA or ERISA law) could be taught in a cohort form - that is, where the students are the teachers as much as the Professor is. Students could be deputized to go out and learn a part of the syllabus and bring it back into the class for further guided study, with a focus on how this area of law might be used in the context of a real client.
If you would like to learn more about my talk at Future Ed 3, you may view my Prezi here.