The executive director of The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI), John Mayer, is a totally wonderful guy. He’s funny and smart and cares about cool technologies and access to justice — all good things. That’s especially good news for us, since he’s giving the Berkman Center luncheon series talk today. If you’re familiar with CALI, you know what an amazing resource he and his colleagues have created for law students and those who teach them. If you’re not, it’s well worth a look.
In their own words: “CALI is a U.S. 501(c)(3) non-profit consortium of law schools that researches and develops computer-mediated legal instruction and supports institutions and individuals using technology and distance learning in legal education. CALI was incorporated in 1982 and welcomes membership from law schools, paralegal programs, law firms and individuals wishing to learn more about the law.”
One of the things they are up to is eLangdell. The idea is to make the legal casebook of the future. Rather than buying a $120 casebook that comes out every four years on Evidence, say, eLangdell will let all of us collect the cases that we teach in our respective courses and rip-mix-burn our syllabi and teaching materials. His vision: these casebooks could serve a law professor and her students at a fraction of the cost of traditional casebooks and fund ongoing development of the system and the course-materials. The parallels to H20 Playlists is obvious. (One thing I wonder: why hasn’t someone set up a wiki server that lets people create syllabi for courses we teach in every high school in America?)
Not everything they do at CALI is about legal education in the strict sense. One of the ideas that he’s talking about is legal aid case management systems, an important concept for the provision of legal services to the poor.
I think some of the most interesting things he’s talking about has to do with taxonomies. Fortunately, The Man on taxonomies, David Weinberger, is right here next to me, tap-tapping away on his little ThinkPad — hopefully, for the rest of us, he is blogging away. Look to him for insights on this score, as always.
In response to questions, John says he’s very big on “legal literacy.” He points to a CALI service called Learn the Law that lets anyone get access to CALI lessons if they want to learn more on a given topic of law. He notes that in some areas, like intellectual property, we all need to know something about the law, whether we’re lawyers or not.