Legal Education and IT: Oasis or Mirage?

The theme for this year’s Conference for Law School Computing …

Legal Education and IT:Mirage or Oasis?

I fear that this choice of theme may be mis-interpreted, so let me provide some thoughts.

As conference themes go, it’s a little ambiguous – which is good. By leaving wide latitude for interpretation, the speakers can riff of it and it’s intended to be a bit challenging and thought-provoking.

This article "Who Needs a CIO" by Chris Anderson (author of the Long Tail book) articulates it better than I can…

Like Anderson, I fear that IT in legal education is becoming irrelevant either through outsourcing, technology-shifting to the ends of the network, malaise or lack of vision. I never really subscribed to the "technology for technology’s sake" approach and what with the law school’s traditional resistance to change, it’s hard to introduce new tools, ideas or services that make things more efficient or help law schools achieve their purpose.

This is the mirage. IT slowly disappears into the email that can be had from Yahoo, the research that can be had from Google and so on.

There is another angle to the theme. IT is becoming so pervasive or "built-in" that IT thinking must shift it’s focus away from plumbing and closer to the actual goals of legal education. This new type of thinking affects priorities, job skills and decision-making all over the place. You can no longer be simply in charge of the computers or in charge of the lab or in charge of the network – you have to be a collaborator and coordinator of services to the people that use the computers, labs and network. This is the oasis – it’s just there, it just works, it nourishes existing activities instead of impeding them.

Finally, there is the strategic. This too is part of the oasis. It’s a somewhat distant, but reachable promise that IT can make things possible that were not possible without it. I really am astounded by the power of the tools we have available today, but I think we are only just beginning to figure out how to use them effectively.

As we all know, IT has not always been equal to its hype. Where is our natural language search? AI? … and what about the problems it has created? Spam! Viri! Phishing! Information Overload!

This too is the mirage – a promise not kept or a hope not realized.

There are plenty of excellent sessions at this year’s conference.

Here’s the conference home page where you can register and see the preliminary and constantly changing agenda…

Hope to see you there.

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