2008 Conference for Law School Computing – Help Me Pick a Theme

The 2008 Conference for Law School Computing will be held on Thursday – Friday, June 19 – 21, 2008 at the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore, MD.

We haven’t set up the website or even put out a call for speakers yet because I am stumped on deciding a theme for this conference. After AALS, I was thinking of something like "From MacCrate to Carnegie: Back to the Future", but it doesn’t have that much to do with Law School IT.

We ARE planning to have a dedicated track just for law faculty with all sorts of innovative presentations on technology that are specifically aimed at the classroom and teaching, but I can’t really figure out how to make this work theme-wise.


Below you will find some mockups for themes. Take a look and send me a note (jmayer@cali.org) with your suggestions or whether or not you especially love/hate any of these. I currently have comments turned off due to frequent comment-spam attacks.

I won’t say which one is my favorite. You can probably guess.

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CORRECTION – CALI currently has 208 U.S. Law School Members

CALI’s Director of Membership, LaVonne Molde has pointed out that in my talk at AALS and in my slides, I list CALI as having only 206 U.S. law school members when that number should actually be 208!

Click here for the complete list and if you are a student or faculty at a law school that is NOT a member … please tell me why not.

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2008 Annual CALI Members Meeting – Screencast Version

Here is the link to the screencast version of my talk at the 2008 Annual CALI Members Meeting held on Friday, January 5, 2008 in New York during AALS.

I had previously posted the podcast/audio recording and Powerpoint slides.

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Podcast of AALS Session: Rethinking Legal Education For The 21st Century

Here …


… is the recording of the AALS Session: Rethinking Legal Education For The 21st Century. The speakers included…

  • Moderator: Edward L. Rubin, Vanderbilt University Law School
  • Speakers: Vicki C. Jackson, Georgetown University Law Center
  • Robert Mac Crate, Esq., Senior Counsel, Sullivan and Cromwell, New York, New York
  • Martha L. Minow, Harvard Law School
  • Suellyn Scarnecchia, University of New Mexico School of Law
  • William M. Sullivan, Senior Scholar The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Palo Alto, California
  • Judith W. Wegner, University of North Carolina School of Law

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CALI 2008 Annual Members Meeting – CALI and Carnegie

Here is the recording of my talk at the 2008 Annual Membership Meeting for CALI during AALS in New York, NY on January 5, 2008 … AALS2008CALIBreakfast.mp3

Here are the slides … 2008AALSBreakfast_final.ppt

I will be posting a screencast version soon and posting more information about ELangdell into the future.

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Mayer Family Sings the 12 Days of Christmas – Think of the Children!!!

The Family was over to the house to celebrate Christmas yesterday. One of our many annual traditions is to sing the 12 days of Christmas with different individuals/groups handling each "number". Others are tasked to try to confuse them with alternate lyrics … hilarity ensues.

Here you go… MayerFamily12days2007.mp3

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Advice to (soon-to-be) Dean Chemerinsky of UC-Irvine

Paul Caron, blog-emperor and CALI Board Member asked me to contribute to the fascinating thread about "Advice to Erwin Chemerinsky".

The biggest constraint was the 250 word limit…. here’s my advice…

As the Executive Director of CALI, I read a lot of feedback from students that pertains to their perceptions of legal education. The single biggest thing that students crave is more feedback. Imagine if you took a job where you were paid at the end of 15 weeks based on your performance -better performance= more pay, but you weren’t told how well you were doing until the end of the 15 weeks. That’s law school. Students are studying hard, but they aren’t sure that they know what they know until the results of the final exam are in.

I would advise Dean Chemerinsky to mandate that all classes provide some form of personal feedback to all students. This doesn’t have to be graded, but it should be substantive. This could be in the form of midterm exams, quizzes or even students evaluating each other’s mini-essays or shared collections of multiple choice questions. The technology tools exist so that this isn’t an undue burden on the instructor or require the hiring of teaching assistants for every class.

It is worth noting that feedback can be bi-directional. The aggregate results of weekly quizzes can tell the instructor where she has lost the students and should provide some additional instruction. If instructors want to read really excellent final exams, then you have to make sure that students are on track throughout the semester. The surprises you get reading the finals are no less disconcerting than the surprises that the students get when you grade it.

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Announcing Elangdell: Berkman Center, CALI Announce New Partnership to Create A Legal Education Commons

I am so excited to make this post.

Here’s the press release.

Cambridge, MA – Today at the 17th annual CALI Conference on Law School Computing, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School and the non-profit Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) proudly announced a new partnership to stimulate innovation in American law schools through a new educational resource sharing platform. This work will be perpetuated by the establishment of the CALI-Berkman Research Fellowship.

“We are looking forward to renewing a fruitful relationship with Harvard Law School through the Legal Education Commons project, which will provide innovative tools and access to open-licensed course materials to our more than 200 member law schools” said CALI Executive Director John Mayer.

The partnership will establish the Legal Education Commons – known as eLangdell for Harvard Law School’s first Dean and the Law Library’s namesake, Dean Christopher Columbus Langdell – where law faculty can share and use openly-licensed course materials to offer students free or low-cost course packs, casebooks, podcasts, and video. Berkman and CALI will also research and develop innovative teaching tools to advance practice skills like client interaction, negotiations, and trial advocacy.

The first CALI-Berkman Research Fellowship will be held by current Berkman Fellow Gene Koo, a 2002 graduate of Harvard Law School, whose research has centered on the use of technology in legal instruction. Gene also helped found Legal Aid University, which provides training and development to poverty lawyers across the country.

“The Berkman Center is happy to build on the relationship Harvard Law established some 25 years ago as co-founder of CALI,” added Berkman Center Executive Director John Palfrey. “Gene’s devotion to improving education through technology will certainly make this effort a great success.”

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Rate My Lawyer Site Gets Sued…. but a CALI Award Will Increase Your Score!

What does the new website, Avvo, which rates lawyers and CALI Awards have to do with each other?

Read on…

A new website, Avvo (shortened "avvocato" which is italian for lawyer) purports to rank lawyers based on objective algorithmic evidence…

"…scores are calculated using a mathematical model, all lawyers arejudged by the same standards. The Avvo Rating takes into account manyfactors, including experience, professional achievements, anddisciplinary sanctions…"

I looked up some famous lawyers I know about and they did indeed have a lower score. For example, see "Fast Eddie" Vrdolyak’s rating here. Mr. Vrdolyak was a longtime alderman in the Chicago City Council and was recently indicted on fraud charges. This wasn’t the reason for his low score – rather he had been sanctioned by the ARDC in the past.

Of more personal interest, a commenter on Slashdot noted that they have a higher score due to the CALI Awards they received in law school. Law students receive a CALI for achieving the highest grade in a course. Looks like Avvo’s been crawling the CALI website.

Only half the law schools in the U.S. participate in the CALI Excellence for the Future Awards program. Perhaps I will get a few more emails this week.

A few years back, someone started posting death rates for hospitals and doctors on the web. It was a simple statistic, but it’s one of those statistics that is easy to misinterpret out of context. Some doctors just have sicker patients, right?

I was wondering why no one seems to have posted attorney ratings based on wins/losses in court cases. Wouldn’t you like to know if your attorney was a "winner"?

Avvo doesn’t do that…yet.

The reason for the Slashdot story is that an attorney is suing Avvo for his low rating. It looks like the data that Avvo is using is publicly available information, which would be an argument in their favor, I presume (IANAL).

More relevant, Avvo lets former clients post reviews of their experiences with attorneys. Sort of like an Angie’s List for lawyers (though Angie doesn’t have any listings or ratings for lawyers). Why shouldn’t clients rate lawyers like they do plumbers, carpenters and dog-walkers?

It looks like someone has thought about suing Angie’s List for a poor rating posted by a user, but …

"… he’d like to sue Angie’s List but that his attorney tells him it’s protected…"

Angie’s List doesn’t rate vendors though – the users do. Angie just aggregates the information.

I can certainly see a downside to non-contextual rankings and sites like RateMyProfessor.com and the US News Rankings of law schools have both been villified for their lack of context (former) or opaque/unfair methodology (latter).

Still, more information is better and the web is certainly all about more information.


It will be interesting to see where this goes.

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What if Law Schools Bid For Law Students?

Techcrunch mentions a new service called Usphere where undergrads can pay $65 to apply to 33 unnamed colleges. The colleges then send acceptances letters (or not) with the costs of tuition that the student would pay.

LSAC (Law School Admissions Council and purveyors of the LSAT) has had a service for a long time where law students can fill out a single application and have it transmitted to many (most?) law schools that participate in the program. It’s a single-sign-on idea applied to law school applications which are pretty similar from school to school.

What if they took it one step further and like Usphere allowed law schools to affirmatively "bid" for students. This already happens to a certain extent – schools compete for students – but the current system does not expose a law school applicants application to every law school. Applicants pick a small number of schools to apply to and the costs of applying to law school is not trivial (several hundred dollars in many cases).

My idea is a riff on Usphere where law schools can view all the applications whether the student has indicated they want to apply or not. This would allow them to approach students that might not otherwise have applied. I believe it could be handled smoothly without generating a boatload of unwanted spam. Schools could indicate a willingness to make an offer and applicants could see who is looking at them.

The network statistics from this would also be amazingly interesting. What kinds of applications result in what kinds of offers? What types of applicants are schools looking for?

As the Techcrunch article points out about USphere, this is more like a Match.com or dating service where personality traits and desired personality traits are matched up …. maybe more like an eHarmony for law school admissions.

It would be difficult to predict if law schools would participate or if there would be any benefit. It sure seems like it would be a good idea. It’s a way to escapte the "tyranny" of measuring applicant quality by only LSAT score, GPA and undergrad institution rank.

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