Open Content & Legal Education Tranformation

Changing the landscape of how higher education operates is perhaps a bit too humble. Revolutionizing the business of higher education is much more succinct. In reading last months issue of Fast Company the article “How web-Savvy Edupunks Are Transforming American Higher Education” my first thought was that I would like that title – Edupunk. My second was that this “transformation” should and could be applied to law school.

The legal industry is facing its own transformation. Why allow the transformation to begin with just the practice why not at the inception of the industry – law students. Law school like the law is a stalwart institution that does not change easily. There are many reasons for this that I will not go into now. Nevertheless, it can change and the easiest is for the consumers (law students and prospective law students) to force it – even create it themselves.

Content is like water in many ways – it seeks to be free and will always find a way out of most things that try to contain it. Education is pure content. Books are being digitized. Lectures are being taped and disseminated over the Internet. Learning is happening virtually. But all of this is currently happening in one of two ways in our law schools. One, is on a school-by-school basis – each with its own protocol and agenda for allowing access to content outside its lecture rooms. These are typically extremely primitive and often lack such basics as user-friendly user interfaces and security measures. The second way is by grassroots sharing. What began as sharing hand written outlines amongst peers or study groups to prepare for exams has expanded into the virtual world of virtual workspace, other-internet media, file sharing and even social networking tools.

Law schools charge a premium for their content. Much of it is identical to all other law school. In fact, most first year law students are learning the exact same thing whether they are attending Yale or Quinnipiac. The classes are the staples, the foundation for the remaining two years. So if all content is the same at least for the first year (arguable for all three years) why is it that law schools charge differently and what are they charging for anyway? Obviously it is the professors’ salaries and the facilities in which they lecture. Opening the content of education would erase those costs or most of them anyway.

Then again many make the argument that law school has little to do with the actual practice of law (that is what first year associate-hood is for) and nothing to do with the business of law (that is for some partners and all solos).

Perhaps opening content is not enough – transforming it also necessary. For that see Mr. Paul Lippe.
Joshua KubickiComment