IBM as a Model of Legal Education Social Networking

The New York Times is reporting that IBM has released a new enterprise social networking suite called Lotus Connections.

What does this have to do with legal education?

The New York Times pieces quotes…

"…Lotus Connections has five components — activities, communities, dogear(a bookmarking system), profiles and blogs — aimed at helping expertswithin a company connect and build new relationships based on theirindividual needs…"

Let’s break those features down and apply them to law schools…

  • activities – the two main activities of legal education is teaching and scholarship. Knowing what someone teaches tells you a lot about them and reviewing their scholarship tells you more.
  • communities – law faculty form communities of scholars within their own schools (somewhat), across institutions but by teaching and scholarship discipline and students form natural communities in the courses they take and among their peers in their class.
  • dogear(a bookmarking system) – two words – legal research. Also a way to find things that is better than search (or at least – augments search).
  • profiles – the bio or the collection of work that defines you (or that you present to the community)
  • blogs – for many law faculty, this is scholarship in progress. For students, there are tons of class-related blogs at Classcaster.

What is not listed, but is inherently assumed is that all of these functions reside within a single system with the ability to enter at any point and traverse the links to find people, activities, scholarship and courses that are related to your interests. This is social networking applied to legal education.

CALI is working on a similar beast. At present, we define it across five areas of context…

  1. Personal – your articles, powerpoints, podcasts, cases, etc.
  2. Small Groups – like co-authors of a book or panelists working on a presentation or seminar courses with students and the digital artificacts that they want to share.
  3. Communities – slightly more formalized like AALS sections, all teachers of a particular subject area, all faculty at a law school, all scholars writing in the same area and even courses.
  4. The Commons – everything that everyone above is willing to share with anyone else.

Within CALI, these are manifesting themselves as …

CALI Spaces where individual faculty and students can store their own (personal) digital artifacts and share them a few people they are working with (groups) or a community of like-minded folks or everyone. It’s a matter of boundaries, context and sharing.

Some things are between you and your co-authors or between you and your students.

Some things are useful and valuable to other torts teachers or other scholars writing in your area (this is also a form of personal marketing of your ideas).

Some things are useful to many teachers and students and you are willing to let them have them under some sort of license like Creative Commons. This is the idea behind the Legal Education Commons.

CALI has been building towards this for a long time, but only recently has our understanding matured sufficiently – and have the tools become powerful enough – for us to implement this system.

If it’s good enough for IBM, it’s good enough for legal education. Don’t you think?

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