Innovating Legal Education at AALS

I am speaking on a couple of panels at the upcoming AALS (Associaton of American Law Schools) meeting in Washington, DC.  The more provocative of the two is the “AALS President’s Program – Implementing Innovation in Law Schools,” which will be presented at 10:30 am on Saturday January 3 2015.

The program description is this:

“As law schools seek to compete in a changing and challenging global market for legal education, many are striking out in new directions with innovative programs and ideas.  The process of innovation in legal education is not unlike that of other businesses and organizations.  That process must include the right incentives and culture for forming new ideas, as well as a process for vetting them, prioritizing them, implementing them, and assessing their effectiveness.  This session addresses the innovation process and probes how to both spur innovative ideas and then to also move efficiently to implement the ones that seem right for the institution.  The session’s speakers bring a wide range of experience with innovation at diverse institutions.”

The speakers are

Dan Rodriguez (Dean of Northwestern University School of Law and AALS President), will moderate.

I don’t know precisely what we’ll say, but I know that Paul, for one, will come prepared to challenge the academics.

Twitter links: @SturmCOL, @UWSchoolofLaw, @PaulLippe, @DeanDBRodriguez, @profmadison

The Future of Copyright: Teaching

IP law seems to be moving so quickly these days that figuring out how to teach it and what to teach is ever more challenging.  This month (December), I’m grading final Fall papers and preparing for Spring courses, and that means deciding — again — what to do with Copyright Law.

Last year a student comment made me pause in a way that student comments rarely do. Reviewing last Spring’s Copyright Law course, the student expressed satisfaction with the course as it was but disappointment that my work on knowledge commons had not been expressed in the course — even indirectly.

That comment motivated me to look under the hood of the course in a way that I had not done in a long time.

Changes in the works:

  • Reducing the coverage of the “traditional” principles and doctrines of copyright, focused on the exclusive rights of the copyright owner and limitations and exceptions thereto.
  • Expanding the coverage of problems associated with secondary liability and service provider liability.
  • Expanding discussion of “regulatory” copyright, meaning compulsory and statutory licenses and collecting societies.
  • Introducing discussion of comprehensive copyright reform. Congress is talking about it, the Copyright Office is talking about it, the American Law Institute is talking about it — so I’ll talk about it with our students.

All in all, the revisions are designed to capture more explicitly an “institutionalist” focus on this area of the law, meaning how the law interacts with formal and informal groups of various sorts, not just with individual authors or copyright owners or copyright users and re-users. That’s closely aligned with the theme of the knowledge commons work, even if “commons” stuff as such will make a cameo appearance at best.

Along the way, I am getting rid of the traditional casebook.  I’m in the middle of editing a package of cases, and for secondary material and context I will be using parts of the excellent Open Intellectual Property Casebook from the Duke Center on the Public Domain, via Jamie Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins, plus some stuff of my own devising.

And … because software copyright is much in the news these days, courtesy of Oracle and Cisco Systems, my writing assignments for the students (no exams in my IP courses – only client memos!) will all focus on that subject.

All in all, there is a fair amount of experimentation ahead.

 

Governing Knowledge Commons Makes a Great Holiday Gift

for the innovation-minded friend, colleague, or family member. This amazing book, published by Oxford University Press in September 2014, features a stunning and colorful cover (below!), a framework for empirical investigation of innovation institutions that will will hold its value in the decades to come, and more than 10 fascinating and diverse case studies of knowledge sharing mechanisms in context.

Buy the book at Oxford or at Amazon.com, or order it through your local independent bookseller.

GKC Cover

[This post is inspired by the recent publication of the 2014 New York Times Gift Guide.]

Restatement of Copyright?

The American Law Institute has announced plans to produce a Restatement of Copyright. (Announcement here, including the names of the Reporter (NYU’s Chris Sprigman) and Associate Reporters (Lydia Loren, from Lewis & Clark; Tony Reese, from UC Irvine; and Molly Van Houweling, from UC Berkeley).

In light of global concerns about the role of IP law in the production of, distribution of, and access to innovative things and creative works, I hope that the team of Reporters will take an inclusive view of their subject. Copyright is not an end in itself, and even for lawyers and policymakers working with and for the producers of creative stuff, often copyright is only one of several important legal and cultural institutions that they need to understand and use. A “Restatement of Copyright” can make a terrific contribution by putting copyright  explicitly in its broader contexts.

[A longtime reader wrote recently to ask: Is the blog still alive? And it is.]

Innovating Legal Education

A year ago, in late August 2013, I posted a brief bit about my hopes for the coming year from the standpoint of innovation in legal education.  (Here is the link.)  By design, I was somewhat melodramatic and apocalyptic about what needed to be done substantively, and (perhaps) not forthcoming enough, and too procedural, about what I was expecting at my own law school, having been charged with chairing a local task force on what should be done there.

I did promise an update regarding what the task force did.  So here I am again.

There is, unfortunately, not a lot of news that I can report.  Our task force worked hard over the last academic year, harder than many faculty committees in my experience, talking not only with faculty colleagues but also with current students, alumni, the law school’s staff, members of the bench and bar, and folks in legal tech and legal services industries.  We did what I suspect is being done at many other law schools:  We researched what’s happening at other law schools, in other countries, and in other genres of professional and undergraduate education.  We studied opportunities at our university and elsewhere in our region.  We assembled a long and pretty comprehensive report — not a strategic plan by name, but a strategic plan in many other respects — and delivered it to the Dean and the faculty.  It’s not ambitious enough by some measures and too ambitious by many others.  I wish that I should share it here, but it’s not my report to share.  We will see, as the coming year(s) unfold, whether and how our recommendations are adopted.  The task force was aware of the work of the ABA in the accreditation area, and some of our recommendations anticipated the recently-announced changes regarding experiential education and student learning outcomes.  So, at minimum, there will be developments on those fronts.

The general question is still on the table, only very incompletely answered:  Amid changes in the legal profession, changes in what’s now called the legal services industry, emergence and evolution of a multi-faceted legal tech industry, and concern among law school faculty, graduates, students, and prospective students regarding the adequacy, appropriateness, and affordability of legal education — what can and should any particular law school do?  What can and should any particular faculty member do?

If there are lessons here, they are reminders that change is hard, at a collective or institutional level, and change in academic institutions is especially hard.  It’s hard even if a group of committed faculty members want to see change, see an urgent need for change, and lay on the table a broad range of specific things to change.  Change in legal education can’t really be understood or approached without thinking carefully (and at the same time, creatively) about change in undergraduate education, and other professional education — domains that taught our task force a lot of good things — as well as change in the worlds of professional services.

My experience last year did motivate me  to move more aggressively in my own courses to make some changes that I had been thinking about for some time.  Small changes, to be sure, but first steps and all that.  This Fall, I’m teaching Contracts (resuming a course that I taught for years but gave up back in 2007) and Trademark Law.  I will not require that students purchase a casebook; the primary readings will be free for downloading (and printing, and editing, annotating, etc.).  There will be substantial amounts of graded writing during the semester (something that I’ve been doing for a while in my upper-level courses) and relatively little emphasis on end-of-semester final exams.  There will be an increased emphasis on mandatory group work.  I will continue my existing practice in upper-level courses of banning student electronics in the classroom, but I’ll extend that to my first-year class.  I’ve been talking with our career services staff about how to make explicit, for the benefit of current students, connections between how and what I teach and the skills and knowledge that our students need to have in order to succeed in the profession.  I’ve been spreading the word among my former students — our alumni — about these modest changes and about hopes for more, and where appropriate incorporating their feedback into my methods.  There is more on my plate than that, but for now, at least with respect to what goes on in my classrooms, that’s enough.

Perhaps in a year’s time, I’ll have more news.  Good luck to everyone on the start of the new academic year.