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JILT 1996 (1) - Bileta

 

Information Technology For UK Law School

The Second BILETA Report into Information Technology and Legal Education

 

©BILETA, 1995-1996

 

Consultative Stage - January 31 to March 31, 1996

 

Contents

 

1. Executive Summary

2. Introduction

3. Changes Since the Jackson Report

4. The Rationale - I.T and Law

5. Law School Hardware Scarcity - Possible Solutions

6. Computer Competency

7. Training

8. The New Course-Type Models

 

9. Computer Audits

10. Timetable for Action

11. Appendix I - Draft Annual Computer Audit Outline.

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This report is a draft upon which BILETA intends to produce a final report in July 1996. We are issuing the draft in order to consult as widely as possible with legal academics and other interested parties on the various issues addressed herein. We would very much welcome your comments and hope that a useful debate on the developing role of information technology in UK law schools will result. (Note to electronic readers. This report is also being distributed to all Heads of UK Law Schools. If you wish to obtain further copies please contact the BILETA Secretariat at the following address)

The BILETA Secretariat,
CTI Law Technology Centre,
University of Warwick,
Coventry,
CV4 7AL, UK.


 

1. Executive Summary

 

This report is intended to take account of changes in the last five years (1991 -1996) in the substantive uses of information technology in UK law schools and also assist in setting the agenda for the next five years, (1996-2001.) As with any report of this nature, there are inevitable tensions between a radical forward looking approach on the one hand, and the need to maintain a healthy realism on the other. In finding a balance, the BILETA Committee has focused on the need for standards and makes its proposals to reflect this need. These suggested standards are intended to build on the existing strengths and specific achievements by the UK legal academic community in the area of information technology.

A full summary of all conclusions will be incorporated into the final version of this report which is due for publication at the end of July 1996.

However, our initial conclusions are as follows;

  • The study of law can no longer be considered a “talk and chalk” discipline. The skills associated with new technology are of such importance that proficiency in this field must now be viewed as an integral element in the education and skills development of all undergraduate and postgraduate lawyers;

     

  • The acquisition of I.T. skills serve two purposes - to allow law students’ participation in a more rounded legal education in terms of both independent and academic-led learning and also to equip law students for the technology they will encounter in their later careers;

     

  • In the last five years, there have been significant developments in information technology. Law schools must react to these developments and develop strategies for integrating them into the legal educational framework in terms of delivery of training, acquisition of hardware and education integration;

     

  • Given the technological developments, the immediate problem facing law schools are two fold; the acquisition of further computer hardware and support of computer-related activities. This report provides a number of solutions in relation to the former. In particular, BILETA has investigated and is looking to establish a trust fund in conjunction with the major professional legal bodies to assist law schools with the acquisition of further hardware;

     

  • In 1991, BILETA advocated student to computer ratios of 15:1. In light of developments in the last five years, law schools should now be aiming at ratios of 10:1.

     

  • Every legal academic should have access to a computer from which they may produce word-processed documents, send and receive email, and navigate information resources of all descriptions whether their own University library catalogue, networked CD-ROM-based materials or the Internet;

     

  • Every law student should have the ability to use information technology to perform specific law-related tasks. These are the ability to produce documentation, the ability to perform legal research, the ability to communicate electronically and the ability to use the major legal Computer Assisted Learning packages;

     

  • All UK Law Schools should perform annual computer audits of their hardware and software provision and of their training schemes for both students and academics;

 

2. Introduction

 

The objective of this report is, amongst others, to develop a minimum common denominator of skills in the area of information technology within legal education according to each University’s teaching, learning and research objectives. The Committee advocates the view that the skills associated with new technology are of such importance that proficiency in this field must now be viewed as an integral element in the education and skills development of all undergraduate and postgraduate lawyers. How these skills are imparted is primarily a matter for the particular institution and within its discretion. Nevertheless, regardless of the means of communication, these information technology skills must be imparted.

In spite of the technological and legal educational developments which are outlined in this report and the above statement that information technology skills must be imparted, the BILETA Committee is equally convinced that the key core skills acquired by any undergraduate lawyer in his or her academic education remains the development of intellectual capability, including, inter alia, the skills of reasoning and textual analysis. BILETA has no wish to usurp the accepted value of a law degree in any way. However, the Committee considers that there are new skills which have come to assume a special importance in the lives of lawyers, and that they will become ever more important with the passage of time. These are skills of computer competency and basic technological aptitude. By this, we mean the ability of law students to manipulate the tools of modern technology, whether PC, Macintosh, UNIX or other computer operating systems in order to perform the tasks immediately required of them and those that they will encounter in their later careers. They should also be able to apply their understanding of software packages that they encounter in the law school context to similar software packages that they may encounter later in their careers. Law schools have a vital role to play in the I.T. education of our future lawyers. If this view is accepted by the legal community, then the question that arises is how are these skills to be imparted?

This report aims to be of practical assistance to the UK legal academic community. This has been a difficult and complex task given the variety of organisations that deliver legal education in the UK. This report intends, inter alia, to set some markers for computer competency for legal academics, and law students. First, we must posit the question - what is computer competency? Many law schools have equipped both their academics and students with high technology without knowing either the capability of the machines they buy or the purposes of such technology. There are pockets of I.T. excellence located within legal academia and it is arguable that many, perhaps the majority of legal academics and students are now able to manipulate text on screen, at the very least. Does this make them computer literate? On average, it is likely that they really only understand 5 -10% of a computer’s functions. Would we describe someone who can read 5-10% of the words in a book as literate? Probably not. However, there is a fundamental difference in terminology. Computer literacy is a relative rather than a logical concept; it is a matter of degree. If we accept this last statement, we are then able to develop a series of levels that represent degrees of computer competency which starts with mundane skills such as the ability to turn a computer on and off, access a computer program on a hard drive, perform basic word-processing tasks through to more advanced skills such as the ability to create a software routine using a programming language. At the most advanced level there are skills such as the ability to develop a programming language or an operating system. Clearly the latter two skills are way beyond the abilities of most computer users, let alone “mere” legal academics. More realistically then, what should law schools aim for? Perhaps we should take a more sociological and pragmatic approach and argue that if a computer user can do the job required of him/her, then they are computer competent. The term is so fluid that by placing fictional “markers in the sand”, we are in danger of committing the legal academic community to learning skills that are immediately out of date.

Hence we have not tried to provide specific indicators in relation to a particular piece of computer software. For example, Microsoft products proliferate throughout legal academia and LEXIS is used by the majority of law schools. However, we have attempted to make recommendations that are applicable to those law schools that do not subscribe to products produced by these two corporations. We are concerned about teaching law students portable information technology skills that they can use both at their place of study and at their later place of work.

 

2.1 What Is The Relationship Between IT And The Law?

 

Issues relating to law and technology must fall into one of three areas;

  • The teaching of substantive law as it relates to information technology;

     

  • The applications of technology to the law (in the sense of legal practice; this would include applications such as document assembly, expert systems, relational databases, spreadsheets and other law office applications); and

     

  • The application of technology to legal education, in the form of CAL (computer-assisted learning), the use of information retrieval and electronic communication (electronic mail and conferencing.)

In our view information technology skills are relevant to all three aspects. Such skills enable students to understand better the context in which information technology law operates and to acquire skills which will be useful immediately and in the longer term regardless of student career aspirations.

 

2.2 Why Do We Need This Report?

 

By the time the final version of this report is published it will have been five years since BILETA first reported on the provision of I.T. in UK law schools. This report of the BILETA Committee on IT provision in law schools builds upon the 1991 report of the BILETA Enquiry into the Provision of Information Technology in UK Law Schools led by Professor Bernard Jackson of Liverpool University ("the Jackson Report"). At the time, the Jackson report was hailed by UK legal academics as providing much needed guidance in the area and laying down a number of important markers for the uses of technology in legal education and standards of IT provision in UK law schools. It is a daunting task to summarise a complex report which deals with an equally complex area, but in the interest of developing the debate further it is helpful to remind ourselves of the salient points within the 1991 report.

 

2.3 Key Points of the Jackson Report

 

The Jackson Report concluded as follows;

  • There is an increasing level of expectation that law students must have information technology skills; (Page iii, Para 2.1)

     

  • A basic threshold level is required in order to support the efficient teaching of legal rules and the inculcation of basic legal research techniques (Page iii, Para 3.)

     

  • A dedicated networked legal technology computing laboratory is desirable for more specialised functions; (Page iii, Para 4)

     

  • Law Schools spend on average £14,000 per year on computer hardware; (Page iii, Para 5.)

     

  • There is a vital need for staff development and training within law schools - at all levels of staff: academic, library and secretarial; (Page iv, Para 6.2)

     

  • Law Schools ought realistically to include around £150 per student for technology in their estimation of unit costs.) (Page iv, Para 7.1)

     

  • Law Schools should seriously consider their educational objectives in designing their I.T. programmes. (Page v, Para 8.1)

     

  • Funding should be sought from external sources as internal funding is clearly inadequate (Page v, Para 8.6)

     

  • A hardware norm of 1 computer to 20 students ought to be available to law students for word-processing facilities. Where a law school adopts the substantial use of CAL, the ratio should be reduced to 1:15 (Page v, Para 8.2.7)

     

  • The success of an IT program depends on the presence of a core of committed staff and upon the provision of staff development at all levels. (Page vi, Para 17.)

One of the criticisms that might be aimed at the original BILETA Committee with respect to the Jackson report was that the necessary follow-up to the Jackson report was somewhat lacking. There was little empirical research performed subsequent to the publication of the Jackson Report to demonstrate what effect it had on law schools’ approach to information technology. The Committee proposes to perform a number of case studies on I.T. provision and computer competency in a number of UK law schools in the months between January and July 1996. However, it is apparent to this Committee that the Jackson Report served at least one purpose in that many UK law schools were able to make a claim for further funding for Information Technology resources on the basis of its contents. We hope that this report will be used in the same way.

One important area that was not addressed by the Jackson report was the issue of minimum standards of computer competency (MSCC) for undergraduate law schools. To this end, some initial work has been performed by Peter Osbourne of Queen’s University, Belfast, who, as a member of the BILETA Executive started work on this issue in 1993 . Thus, this report serves two purposes; to provide an update on the Jackson report for the latter part of this decade; it also serves to incorporate issues relating to MSCC. In addition, this report is intended to complement the SPTL Report on Library minimum holdings, known as “A library for the modern law school - a statement of standards for university law library provision in England and Wales ”

 

2.4 Scope Of This Report

 

The Jackson report was based on an inquiry which included a detailed questionnaire and which took oral and written evidence from both legal academic and professional sources. This report differs from the Jackson Report in that it does not make use of empirical research. It has developed in part as a result of internal BILETA discussion and in part through discussions with key academics and practitioner-related bodies such as the Law Society and the Bar Council. At present, it reflects the views of a number of key academics, law librarians and information technology consultants . No research has been commissioned directly by BILETA in relation to this report as there has been much work already on this area. However, as stated above, empirical research will be commissioned in the first half of 1996.

This report covers issues of hardware scarcity, suggestions for alternative sources of funding for hardware provision, makes recommendations for and provides outlines in relation to law school computer hardware audits, develops three new models for student learning, and outlines both minimum standards and standards of “best practice” for computer competency within each student model. It does not seek to cover areas of research in law student IT literacy and IT provision that are already being addressed. For instance, the Committee is aware of a number of on-going initiatives such as research being undertaken under the guidance of David Wall of Leeds University on the levels of IT literacy required by the professions (particularly solicitors in the greater Leeds area.) The Committee is also aware of the "Information Systems for Law Schools" project which is being supported in part by BILETA. This is looking at all aspects of legal education and builds on previous evaluative studies performed by the Association of Law Teachers. (BILETA is involved in the latter of these projects through its support of the CTI Law Technology Centre at the University of Warwick.) The Committee is also aware of the contents of the 1995 Robson Rhodes survey of I.T. provision in UK law firms.

This Committee has adopted a two stage strategy;

Stage One - The Consultative Stage following the release of this report on the World Wide Web;

Stage Two - Production of a final report which will take into account all those comments made by members of the academic and professional communities and take account of the empirical work that will take place during the intervening months. We hope that readers of this report will find the time to send their comments to cti-law@mailbase.ac.uk and that a successful electronic debate will result.

 

3. Changes Since The Jackson Report

 

It is fair to say that we now live in a culture where electronic media of all descriptions are becoming pervasive within the academic environment. For example, when the Jackson Report was published by BILETA in 1991, the Internet was an unknown concept for the vast majority of legal academics and students, Computer Assisted Learning was not viewed as a serious comprehensive resource for the teaching of law and most law schools still had relatively little in the way of appropriate hardware resources.

 

3.1 Significant Changes Within Legal Education

 

We have witnessed the increasing fragmentation of and change within the legal educational “market”. There has always been a division between academic and profession-oriented models for legal education. Up until the late 1980’s the division was fairly clear - law schools in Universities and Polytechnics provided the academic stage of training during which time, law students would be inculcated with an understanding of legal rules and principles. Admittedly there has been some diversification in the delivery of legal education for many years. Law schools such as Kent and Warwick have been teaching law within a contextual structure for some considerable time. In addition, a number of new Universities law schools have made considerable contributions to the diverse delivery of legal education. In the 1990’s we have seen a dramatic increase in the numbers and types of courses taught at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels and a further proliferation of higher level law degrees. The SPTL Report sums up the position succinctly; “Steadily growing interest in theories of law and of learning has meant a radical weakening of consensus as to what should lie at the heart of a law degree.” (Page 8)

In 1993, the Law Society replaced its Law Society Finals Course with the Legal Practice Course. This represented a sea change in the professional education of lawyers from “learning by telling” to “learning by doing.” There are now 5 core skills, namely; interviewing and advising, legal research, writing and drafting, negotiating and advocacy. This skill set has replaced the rote learning of legal procedure. Abbey describes the purpose of the course succinctly; “The aspiration is to provide a course that reflects the needs of the legal profession and the desire of students to pursue practice in either general or commercial areas of work. ” There are now 31 providers of the Legal Practice Course (LPC). Providers of the LPC are now diverse and include the four branches of the College of Law, various “old” and “new” Universities, as well as one private provider.

Over the past 5 years, we have seen the onset of Teaching Quality Assessments (TQA’s) of law schools by the Funding Councils. A function of these has been to inquire about the resourcing, the provision and the teaching of information technology. We believe that this strengthens our case for suggesting that I.T. literacy is now understood as being an integral part of the legal educational process.

 

3.2 Significant Technological Developments

 

The Personal Computer (PC) is now the main system in use in UK law schools. There are notable exceptions to this such as the use of Macintosh computers at Bournemouth and King’s College, London. Other Universities such as Strathclyde have a mixed environment of PC and Macintosh computers. Perhaps the most important technological development for the PC has been the development and dissemination of the Windows™ Graphical User Interface in Windows 3.1, 3.11, Windows NT and now Windows ‘95. More particular to the law school context, we have seen the development of comprehensive courseware, and immense growth in the use and publication on the Internet World Wide Web. There has also been considerable growth, in the use of CD-ROM datasets and in practitioner markets of litigation support and case-management software. However, we confine our comments to the developments within the academic context.

 

3.2.1 Courseware

 

The Jackson report stated that "the pressure of staff resources in law school emphasises the need to make cost-effective use of computer-assisted learning packages, either as a background to or supplementation of "live" teaching. The progress made in Computer Assisted Learning in law has been immense. The credit for this impressive development lies with the TLTP Law Courseware Consortium, its associated authors but also with the UK legal academic community which has supported and will, we hope, continue to support its work. The BILETA Committee takes this opportunity to publicly acknowledge the achievements of the Law Courseware Consortium. The Consortium has developed imaginative, innovative and comprehensive software packages for teaching and learning through the TLTP (Teaching and Learning Technology Programme ) in law which has culminated in the release of the package known as IOLIS ‘95 on CD-ROM. The Consortium’s Scottish arm has also separately produced courseware on Scottish law. These releases are, in the opinion of the Committee, the most important developments in information technology in legal education. We look forward to further developments by the Consortium, to the development of new courses, new and innovative forms of Computer Based Learning and to new initiatives which take the very best of today’s technologies and apply them to the benefit of the entire legal academic community.

 

3.2.2 The Internet

 

Although the Internet has existed for decades in the form of ARPAnet, the Internet has, until very recently, been a relatively meaningless term to the vast majority of legal academics. Even now there are many legal academics for whom the term is largely meaningless. Yet many academics have had JANET (Joint Academic Network)-based electronic mail accounts for many years. The key developments took place in 1991 with the development of the ever-evolving standard called HTML or Hypertext MarkUp Language by Tim Berners-Lee of CERN in Geneva and then in 1993 with the arrival of the first Internet World Wide Web browser known as NCSA Mosaic developed by the National Centre for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois, Urbana, Ill. Within the space of two years, the Internet has been transformed from an esoteric technology of interest and use only to computer scientists (and those familiar with the quirks of UNIX-based operating systems) to an increasingly essential asset for business, education and entertainment.

In the UK, the CTI Law Technology Centre at the University of Warwick was the first academic site to set up a dedicated legal information service using Gopher technology (in 1993.) Since that time many law schools have followed in their footsteps using the World Wide Web (WWW) to provide information to users. It is difficult to estimate the numbers of law schools that have their own "Web pages" or indeed the numbers of academics who regularly use the Internet for research or for interest. The estimates of the CTI Law Technology Centre are that in excess of thirty law schools now have their own Web sites and that this number is increasing all the time.

Readership of electronic journals is also a new phenomenon in law. The figures for readership of the first UK electronic journal for law, the Web Journal of Current Legal Issues (Web JCLI) are provided below.

On 11th January, 1996, there had been 1812 visitors to edition [1995] 5 edition of the Web JCLI since 22 November 1995.

On the same date, there had been 3028 visitors to the [1995] 4 edition of the Web JCLI since 28 September 1995.

If these are to be taken as a good estimate of UK legal academic use of the World Wide Web, it would appear that use of the Internet by legal academics is becoming increasingly commonplace. The Committee is of the opinion that the Internet and its associated “information superhighways” will prove to be one of the most useful information resources to both legal academics and law students in years to come. As yet, its potential is vast but un-exploited for most UK lawyers and students of law. In the coming years we may see a vast array of information services being made available to both students and academics. However, at present the technology is immature, numerous policy issues regarding intellectual property rights protection, secure transactions, encryption, etc. remain unresolved, and regulation of the Internet is haphazard. Nevertheless there are some innovative uses of the Internet in the form of electronic journals and other information resources. We hope that other law schools will follow in due course in developing and imaginative projects using Internet-based technology.

We acknowledge that the position of HMSO and other major legal publishers has been somewhat hesitant in relation to the Internet. This is regrettable as there is great potential in the Internet for legal research. Given that they are now a Government agency with a cost recovery target and there is the possibility of their privatisation, their position is not altogether surprising. However, it does appear that HMSO are becoming a little more reasoned in their approach to new technology over time.

 

3.2.3 Whither Artificial Intelligence?

 

The Jackson report stated that "there is an increasing level of expectation...that law graduates must have information technology skills. These skills are partly needed for legal research...and partly for the efficient running of the legal office." The report continued "In addition there is an increasing interest in expert systems for lawyers. " With respect to this final point, the reverse has proved to be the case. By contrast to the UK legal academic experience with Computer Assisted Learning, the Artificial Intelligence initiative in the UK has been reduced to a small "cottage industry" of legal academics. Part of the reason is that in the early 1990’s with a harsh recession underway, law firms were loathe to invest in projects that did not have an immediate positive impact on their business interests. Indeed it was not only the expert system domain that was singled out. Virtually all funding for non profit related activities ceased. It was unfortunate to say the least that the Artificial Intelligence initiative suffered as a result. In any event, the BILETA Special Interest Group in Artificial Intelligence/Expert Systems is currently attempting to revive interest in the area.

 

3.3 Other Significant Reports

 

We await the publication of the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Legal Education and Conduct review of legal education in Spring 1996. It is likely that this will recommend some major changes in the nature of legal education at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Hopefully the comments provided within this report will prove timely for their own considerations.

 

3.3.1 The Follett Report

 

December 1993 saw the publication of the Higher Education Funding Councils’ Libraries Review, otherwise known as the Follett Report. Amongst other things, this report considered the implications of information technology upon academic libraries and as a consequence of the recommendations made therein, the Higher Education Funding Councils have made a significant amount of money available for innovative uses of technology in alleviating some of the problems that academic libraries currently face. This is being administered through the 'eLib' programme.

The terms of reference of the report were as follows:

Taking into Account;

a) The planned expansion of higher education.

b) The current and potential impact of information technology on information provision.

c) The possibilities of greater co-operation and sharing of capital and recurrent resources.

i) To investigate the future national needs for the development of library and information resources including operational and study space requirements for teaching and research in higher education institutions and;

ii) To identify ways to meet those needs.' [Follett Report p.75]

The report looked at:

  • The management of the library and information services in the institution
  • Libraries and teaching provision
  • Libraries and the researcher
  • Information technology

A number of recommendations relate to libraries in general - development of information strategies, spending on libraries, performance indicators, staff and staffing management, purchasing, quality assurance and audit, space and space management, library co-operation in support of teaching and library provision and the needs of researchers. Under the broad heading of Information Technology, recommendations were made in relation to Copyright, Networking, Navigational Tools, Electronic Documents/Journals/Tools, Databases, Datasets and Catalogues, Awareness and Training and Library Management Systems.

The Follett Report noted some worrying trends in the decline of University library budgets, a steadily worsening trend in student to seat ratios, and reduced per capita spending. In response to these factors, it concentrates on making recommendations to the funding councils and to institutions which are practical and likely to achieve maximum benefit, founded on an assessment of likely changes over the next five to ten years, and an appreciation of the enormous diversity of library and related provision within higher education. The Report highlights the need for;

'...a sea-change in the way institutions plan and provide for the information needs of those working within them. The view of the learning, and research is no longer adequate. Information is now available through many different media, and in all manner of locations. Depending on history, geography and the resources available, more or less of this material may be in the "library", but it is no longer possible for any single "library" alone to contain it all. The emphasis is shifting towards information and information access. This has profound and far reaching implications, and all institutions act to ensure that they are in a position to deal with these to best advantage."

£15m has been made available via FIGIT (Follett Implementation Group for IT) to fund projects in the Electronic Libraries Programme which implement IT recommendations of the Follett Report. At the time of writing, nearly 40 projects are being undertaken by various groups of HE institutions under the following programmes:

  • Electronic Document Delivery
  • Training and Awareness
  • Electronic Journals
  • On Demand Publishing

Other projects are subject specific in different areas whilst some are non subject specific at the outset with developments in particular areas. One example in the On Demand Publishing programme is SCOPE (Scottish On-demand Publishing Enterprise) - a project to build an electronic resource bank of articles and book chapters in key areas to demonstrate copyright clearance and logistical issues of course reader publishing and on line viewing. The suitability of Scots Law on first and second year undergraduate law courses is under consideration as one of the subject areas. There is only one project that is specific to law, namely the Electronic Law Journals project based at the Universities of Warwick and Strathclyde, of which the Journal of Information, Law and Technology in which this report is published is the first of hopefully many new electronic journals in law.

There are many complex issues that have been addressed by the Follett and other subsequent related Reports. It is far too early to conclude what effect either the Report or the eLib initiative may have on law libraries and upon legal education generally. We await future developments. However, it is increasingly clear that if the eLib initiative develops into part of the infrastructure of UK academia, distributed libraries will become commonplace in future. Hence both law students and legal academics must, as a matter of urgency obtain the necessary I.T. skills to navigate and retrieve electronic information resources of all descriptions.

 

3.3.2 "A Library for the Modern Law School" - The SPTL Statement of Standards

 

In September 1995, the Society of Public Teachers of Law published their Statement of Standards for University Law Library Provision. One cannot expect to adequately summarise a 63 page report in a few short paragraphs. Instead we consider this Statement with reference to our own report and look for meaningful areas of overlap between libraries and information technology. Importantly, the SPTL Report recognises the importance of the new electronic media; “..we...recognise the fact that a law library is not simply a collection of books. The electronic revolution, and the consequent arrival of new media have helped in this...” (page 10). Thus, the SPTL include non-book (electronic) (e.g. products such as the British Official Publications database, “Books on Screen”, LEXIS, Legal Periodicals Index and the JUSTIS CD-ROMs (to name but a few) as well as traditional book material to their new Statement. In addition, this report notes that “technological development is leading us with increasing speed towards reliance on non-book materials for the storage and transmission of legal information...” (Page 9). One hears echoes of Follett in the Introduction to the SPTL Statement.

 

3.3.3 "Access to Justice" - The Interim Woolf Report

 

The aims of this report were;

  • to improve access to justice and reduce the cost of litigation;
  • to reduce the complexity of the rules and modernise terminology;
  • to remove unnecessary distinctions of practice and procedure.”

The role of Information Technology in bringing about the transformation of the administration of civil justice is explicitly acknowledged in this report, with an entire Chapter devoted to the issue. Woolf explicitly identifies a number of areas where I.T. has a significant role to play in the administration of civil justice by the Courts, including case management, court administration, computer-supported listings, accounting, generation of standard correspondence, orders and other documentation. In addition the Report identifies courtroom real-time transcription services, the value of video and telephone conferencing systems for the combined benefit of judges, lawyers and clients, and the uses of self-service legal “kiosks”. To briefly summarise, the Woolf Report clearly identifies information technology as a necessary part of the new legal infrastructure in assisting all relevant legal actors. It is inconceivable, therefore to believe that law schools are equipping their students for the legal marketplace without reference to some very necessary I.T. skills.

Thus much has changed. This report seeks to reconsider the findings of the Jackson report in the light of the above developments.

 

4. The Rationale - I.T. and Law

 

4.1 The Rationale I - I.T. and Lawyers

 

While not strictly within the remit of this Committee, the justifications for the use of I.T. within legal practice are perhaps worth repeating;

The primary product of a lawyer, whether barrister or solicitor, is paper. Lawyers produce letters, memo’s court documents and agreements. The production of all of these items is enhanced through the use of I.T; the speed of production of standard form documents in the law office is greatly enhanced by the use of information technology. If mistakes are made in the law office, the consequences (in terms of wasted time and resources) are much fewer if using I.T. More recently, we have seen court cases where the numbers of documents has increased massively. Again I.T. has a vital role to play in the management of documentation. I.T. also has a role to play in case management, effecting a more efficient and hopefully less costly legal service. Lawyers are also driven by the needs of their clients. Clients, particularly at a corporate level, use information technology on a daily basis and expect their service providers such as their accountants, auditors and solicitors to work in a similar manner. Lawyers should be seen as responding to the needs of their clients. This is one such way in which they can respond.

We have no wish to expound the entire argument in favour of the use of I.T. in the legal professions. We take such matters to be self-evident and we would trust that the professions themselves accept the validity of the arguments as set out above.

To conclude this point therefore, it is the view of the Committee that in modern times the education of a lawyer would be less than complete if these I.T. skills were not imparted. While the primary skill of the lawyer will remain intellectual capability, he or she must also as a minimum be able to effectively manipulate the modern tools of information technology.

 

4.2 The Rationale II - I.T. & The Law Student

 

However, the reason for teaching law students I.T. skills do not lie entirely with the future careers. The study of law itself can no longer be considered a "talk and chalk" discipline. We have indicated above our contention that I.T. skills must be viewed as an integral part of legal education. Therefore, the Committee is of the opinion that law schools should make potential law students aware that law is a discipline in which some use of IT will be required over the 3-4 years of law studies. The Committee recommends that this point should be mentioned in all law school prospecti and in addition law schools should suggest to potential students that they might consider acquiring their own computer. This committee has considered and rejected the more radical proposal that students should be obliged to purchase their own computer before the commencement of their legal studies. We believe that this would impose an undue financial burden on prospective law students. Instead, law schools should aim to ensure the adequate provision of technology to allow students to satisfy the learning objectives of the course. There are a number of approaches to this issue which we consider later in this report.

It is evident that law schools supported by the Higher Education Funding Councils have not been financially capable of providing sufficient computing facilities to all their students. There have been a number of reasons for this;

First, the representations made by the various representatives of legal education that the teaching of law requires a higher unit of cost per student have not been looked upon with favour by the Higher Education Funding bodies;

Secondly, the arguments that law is more than a “talk and chalk” discipline have until recently been undermined by a lack of software that is specific to law. In the eyes of the Higher Education Funding Councils, the needs of the average law student are little different from those of student in Humanities or Social Science disciplines, i.e. word processing and possibly e-mail. However, with the introduction of comprehensive Computer Assisted Learning packages as developed by the Law Courseware Consortium, into the Law School curriculum (which is occurring as this report is being written,) law schools have a much stronger argument to make. This state of affairs should not be viewed as purely incidental. The Committee encourages all law schools to take advantage of these new initiatives in developing its arguments within each HE institution for the better provision of computer hardware.

Thus, advising students that the purchase of a computer for their studies would be a wise move which may reduce the financial burden on the law school. However, this proposal should not be looked upon as an opportunity for law schools to shirk their own responsibilities for the adequate provision. We advocate a dual approach whereby both law school and law student work together to ensure adequate hardware provision.

We are conscious that in making the above suggestions, a law school might be in danger of discriminating against those students who may have the academic ability to obtain a law degree but may not possess the funds to purchase a computer in order to pursue their studies. Therefore the Committee recommends that law schools should consider a number of mechanisms to ensure that law students, (especially those who cannot afford computers) have access to the necessary technology. The solutions are explored in Section 5.

 

5. Law School Hardware Scarcity - Possible Solutions

 

Many law schools provide law students with dedicated workspace, particularly at a post-graduate level. We would encourage law schools to continue to upgrade these facilities if at all possible and in addition would encourage other law schools to investigate the potential for such facilities at their own institution. The Jackson report stated that '..the experience of a number of law schools shows that a dedicated legal technology computing laboratory is desirable for the more specialised functions. ' Having one's own work space brings with it control of timetabling arrangements and control over the types of hardware and software one makes available to students. However, dedicated law school computing facilities can also be a drain on resources in terms of time and people. Nevertheless, we encourage all law schools to investigate this possibility as we believe that the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. Furthermore, by making these facilities available to students, a law school can effectively demonstrate to its host institution its own commitment to information technology in legal education.

We recognise that for many law schools the above solution of dedicated law school computing facilities is not feasible for a variety of reasons. However, most Universities have “open access” computer work areas for students or so-called "drop-in centres". Indeed there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that large numbers of Universities are adopting this approach to computing facilities. This may, in part be due to the various software developments produced by the seventy or so TLTP projects; Universities have realised, perhaps somewhat belatedly, that having useful relevant teaching and learning software available for students is only half the battle - there must be adequate hardware also available. Since the original 1991 report, many UK law schools have joined with other disciplines within their own institution in support of such ventures. This is only a partial solution, however, as law students have to compete with students from other disciplines for space or time.

University law schools should investigate and consider leasing or lease/purchasing of lap-top computers for use by law students. This solution would be more appropriate if implemented at a University-wide level. This would provide students with the freedom to work where and when they wish. However, lap-tops computers are expensive items subject to theft, date rapidly, are more difficult to maintain than desktop PC’s and would require significant insurance cover, particularly if taken off campus. Indeed, anecdotal evidence suggests that University administrations are less than enthusiastic about lending laptop computers to the academics, their employees because of the theft risk. Thus to suggest that laptops may be lent to students outside of the law-school/campus may be unreasonably optimistic. However, arguably the most technologically innovative law school in the world, namely Chicago-Kent School of Law have lap-top computers available for law students in the library. This may be a workable solution for many UK law schools.

None of the above solutions is ideal - each is problematic in its own way and create new difficulties for the institution. Nevertheless, the Committee is insistent that all of the above options should at least be investigated by every UK law school.

In these times of scarce financial resources, we encourage law schools to be creative in their thinking regarding funding of computer hardware and software. There may be sources of funding available to law schools outside of the traditional Higher Education Funding Councils sources. Here, we have in mind law firms which may be able to assist with the purchase of additional computers in return for a law-firm related research projects, either co-ordinated through organisations such as BILETA or perhaps individual law schools should approach particular law firms and establish formal links for this purpose. Perhaps BILETA would be better suited to providing guidelines on how this is best done? Comments on this point would be welcomed. The Jackson report addressed the issue of computer hardware scarcity and suggested some solutions; "the establishment of an educational trust specifically for the support of I.T. projects in law schools, the establishment of a Professional Training Board within the Law Society, through which a levy in support of IT in Law Schools might be administered" or "the sponsorship of individual students." The BILETA Committee is not in favour of this last suggestion because it believes that this may create a student technological "elite" and funding for computer resources would be short-lived; i.e. funding will last only as long as a given student is at an institution.

 

5.1 A New Trust Fund for Computer Hardware?

 

A representative of the Law Society of England and Wales has indicated to us that, in principle, they would be very interested in the establishment of an educational trust for the purchase of hardware and software by law schools. The idea behind the establishment of an educational trust is that law firms/barristers’ chambers may be able to assist law schools with the purchase of additional computing resources in return for a law-firm/chambers related research projects. This arrangement might also be in the interest of the legal professions; Indeed we see two key benefits; law firms and barristers' chambers want technologically literate trainees that do not have to be trained in the use of technology. Also an alliance between law firms and law schools may bring forth solutions to some pressing law office procedures that could be improved through the uses of technology. Such a trust scheme might be administered by a specific BILETA Committee, which would include representatives of the Law Society of England and Wales and the Bar Council, with the day to day administration organised by the CTI Law Technology Centre. Law schools might make specific bids for projects that may be of benefit to the profession i.e. the development of databases, document assembly software, the development of expert systems, litigation support tools, etc. In return for such projects the law firm in question might supply the law school with an amount of computer hardware .

However, there is a problem with this solution, namely that it would assist only those law schools who already have expertise in law-related technology. Technology-literate law schools would have few difficulties in putting together a bid, whereas other University law schools without a "track record" in technology might have significant difficulties in putting together a convincing and therefore successful bid. An alternative solution to this might be bids developed on the basis of need. Here law schools do not have to develop a case to prove they can deliver a product but merely that they have currently unfulfilled technological needs. If the latter solution is adopted, the CTI Law Technology Centre be required to produce a circular and bid template.

At this stage of the report, we are not in any way wed to any particular solution. We would welcome comments by interested parties and from all quarters on the relative merits of each solution.

It is increasingly clear to the Committee that there is a willingness on the part of both law firms and software companies to assist in the purchase of both hardware and software for law schools. For instance, the Committee is aware that Liverpool University Law Faculty has received support from local law firms in order to purchase computer hardware. In the United States, Microsoft is working with the Association of American Law Schools to make available copies of Office Professional for Windows ‘95, a software suite that law students are likely to encounter in later years. The question is therefore how do we proceed from here? The educational trust is one solution but there may be others. Again we would welcome comments.

In an ideal world all UK law schools would have a unified computing facility under one roof available to all users outside of regular office hours, providing 24 hour access to both undergraduates and postgraduates and providing extremely favourable ratios of students to computers. However, we recognise that such an eventuality is extremely unrealistic at least in the short term. Also this committee has no wish to be prescriptive regarding the way in which law schools provide computer hardware or software - we intend only to provide alternatives and let the individual law schools themselves decide.

 

5.2 Student-Computer Ratios

 

The Jackson report of 1991 stated, at paragraph 10.2.7, "A hardware norm of no less than 1 computer to 20 students ought to be available to law students for basic word-processing facilities...substantial use of CAL might reduce the ratio to 1:15." This Committee is now of the opinion that these ratios are now dated. We would like to recommend that for word-processing, ratios of 1:15 are now appropriate. There is now the potential for substantial use of CAL through the work of the Law Courseware Consortium, and thus all UK law schools should now be looking to obtain computer/student ratios of 1:10. Every law school that is funded by the Higher Education Funding Councils should now have access to CAL packages produced by the Law Courseware Consortium and therefore ratios of 1:10 should be pursued at the vast majority of UK law schools.

 

6. Computer Competency

 

6.1 Minimum Standards for Legal Academics

 

Before the Committee turns to the issue of minimum standards of computer competency for undergraduate law students, we would wish to address the issue of minimum standards of computer resources for legal academics and law school support staff. The Committee is of the opinion that every legal academic in the UK must have permanent access to a computer, from which they can perform the following tasks;

  • produce word-processed documents;
  • send and receive email;
  • navigate the Internet and other information systems, whether networked or CD-ROM based;
  • access their own University library catalogue;

In addition, every law school secretary should have access to a computer from which they can perform the following tasks;

  • produce word-processed documents;
  • send and receive email;
  • access their own University library catalogue;

In addition to the above, there may the occasional need for law school secretaries to produce print-outs from spread-sheets and/or databases.

 

6.2 Minimum Standards for Law Students

 

As with the original Jackson report, BILETA recognises that it cannot prescribe a single formula for the provision of IT that will apply equally to all UK law schools. Rather than adopting 5 models of law school teaching, we have instead adopted 3 models of student learning which are based largely upon the types of courses that law students encounter in their education. The Committee feels that it is inappropriate to describe a given law school in terms of a single model. For instance, we recognise that law schools may teach the LL.B and/or joint-honours degrees in law, whilst also teaching courses in the Legal Practice Course (the Solicitors Professional Examinations). In addition, individual courses in law schools may also be taught in different ways, according to the wishes of the academic and the needs of the students. Therefore we attempt to provide to the reader a minimum standard and a standard for best practice for each model of student learning in a particular course.

 

6.3 Student Tasks - The Key Areas

 

The Committee has identified four overlapping areas in which students should have some degree of IT proficiency. The degree of proficiency will depend upon the defining educational purpose of a given institution, whether pedagogical, (i.e. primarily teaching-based,) research-based or aimed at vocational or professional training. The Committee believes that regardless of the educational approach of a given institution, all law students should be able to use IT to perform certain legal tasks. These tasks are as follows;

  • The production of documentation of all descriptions, such as essays, assignments, and c.v.’s, etc;
  • The ability to perform legal research using on-line, Internet or CD-ROM resources;
  • The ability to communicate electronically with other staff and students;

In addition to this, we have identified Computer Assisted Learning (CAL) as a key element in IT provision in law schools. The Committee believes that all law students should possess an awareness of and an ability to use the major legal CAL packages. However CAL, as produced by the Law Courseware Consortium for example, has application in all of the above three topic areas as well as justifiably occupying a skills area all of its own. The IOLIS ‘95 package enhances general computer literacy in enabling students to use the computer to carry out multimedia interactive exercises; it enables students to use simple word-processing skills; it provides a sophisticated hypertext-based information retrieval tool to access a substantial library of student material and it provides a mini-conferencing communications system through its annotation facility. Thus IOLIS combines all of the above three tasks. Yet arguably it also occupies a "skills area" of its own.

 

7. Training

 

Whilst the Committee is of the belief that it is becoming more necessary for everyone, whether staff or students, to have access to the basic, minimal hardware configurations, we also recognise that the adequate provision of hardware must be accompanied by comprehensive training of both staff and students in information technology. Many legal academics may consider themselves to be what we term “technologically dis-enfranchised” in terms of their understanding of computer technology. Many students may be in a similar predicament. By providing guidelines for minimum standards and also for so-called “best practice” later within this report, we hope to set some standards by which law schools can judge their performance.

Even when students have all the necessary hardware available to themselves, perhaps because they purchased their own computer(s), they are still precluded from learning the essential law/technology research skills by the fact that their lecturers are incapable of introducing them to the necessary tools or alternatively those tools are available only to faculty members. The burden is therefore upon the legal academic, the law school and HE institution to which he/she belongs and upon national support agencies such as the CTI Law Technology Centre to assist in the training/self training of legal academics. Again this is no small undertaking and is an additional drain in terms of time and resources of both staff and students.

The level of training provided within a law school can vary dramatically according to available resources and the degree of importance that is attached within each given institution to the issue of computer competency. The Committee appreciates that in the past there has been a passing of responsibility for training in IT skills so much so that many lawyers have ended up with no training in I.T. whatsoever. For instance, at the undergraduate level it is assumed that I.T. skills are a matter for the professional training level of legal education and visa versa. The Committee is of the opinion that IT skills should be taught at undergraduate, post-graduate levels and professional training levels. We would also wish to differentiate between I.T. training in isolation and I.T training within the context of legal education - learning I.T. skills applicable within the teaching and learning of law. With this in mind, this report makes recommendations as to what each type of institution (professional or academic/pedagogic) should provide in the way of IT training.

 

7.1 Models Of Training

 

There are various models for the training of legal academics, support staff and students in I.T., each of which can be either law-related or non law-related, namely;

·Law Student self-training

·Legal Academic self-training

·Law Student workshops/seminars

·Legal Academic workshop/seminars (such as those provided by the CTI Law Technology Centre)

This Committee cannot make sweeping generalisations about the way in which training should be delivered at a given institution as each has their own needs and capacity to deliver. However, there are enormous resource implications of each. We would be very interested to hear of the various approaches used by law schools as part of this consultation exercise.

 

7.2 Legal -v- Non Legal I.T. Training

 

It is possible to train students in the use of word-processing, email and the use of spreadsheets, etc. completely independent of their legal education. However, in a number of law schools it is felt that I.T. skills are best learnt as part of their overall legal education. For example, word-processing skills may be best acquired in conjunction with the writing of essays or assessments. A number of law schools have put in place a requirement that students must word-process some or all of their essays. Similar approaches apply to the uses of electronic mail, the Internet, etc. However, there are law-specific products such as LEXIS and other information retrieval systems, the Law Courseware and practice-based products such as document assembly systems which are best taught within the context of law school courses.

 

7.3 Training The Academics

 

Whilst we can expect increasing level of computer literacy amongst incoming law students, a key area that requires urgent attention is the training of legal academics. For legal academics the most effective form of training is self training. There are an enormous variety of packages available for training legal academics the uses of computer technology. There are a large number of software packages that may of interest and value to legal academics attempting to train themselves in aspects of information technology. We would encourage all law schools to investigate and invest in some of these packages according to their own needs. The CTI Law Technology Centre is currently updating its resource book on this area and this will be available in the near future.

For law students, there are a variety of models for training. The type of delivery to be preferred will depend upon the skills that students are meant to acquire. Given that an increasing percentage of law students will have a reasonable level of computer competency when they arrive at law school, it may not be appropriate to teach an entire year’s intake the basics of computer competency; training must be delivered at the correct level or it is as good as no training. At the same time, there are those law students for whom technology is entirely alien. Hence the whole issue of I.T. training for law students is fraught with difficulty. There will be some software packages such as LEXIS, Westlaw, JUSTIS Celex and the various Computer Assisted Learning packages as produced by the Law Courseware Consortium which law students are unlikely to have encountered. Thus, a lecture to an entire year’s intake will be highly effective. Small group training is often more effective as students have the opportunity to apply what they have learnt and in learning about a new software package it is often far more memorable to learn by trying out various features and making mistakes. However, in many HE institutions the small group sessions are already under threat in traditional law subjects, the very core of the law degree, let alone such so-called “peripherals” such as computer competency. Hopefully, law schools will be aware if their own institution provides training to its students at a University-wide level. Training in generic software packages such as word-processing and email is highly effective, often available at little or no cost to the Law School’s own training budget and passes the burden of direct training. This Committee cannot present a template for training that can be applied. We feel our role must be to set standards and ask law schools themselves to decide how they can fulfil such objectives.

 

8. The New Course-Type Models

The Jackson report originally developed 5 models of legal education. The first of these models, the so-called “traditional model” was one where “I.T. is ... regarded purely as an aid to the personal productivity and research of staff ”. The Committee believes that all UK law schools have evolved from this situation; we believe that all law schools now see the value of at least some I.T. literacy for their students as well as staff.

Described below are a series of requirements that the Committee believe to be basic minimum standards of computer competency (MSCC) for law students. In addition we indicate what we believe should be best practice for each of these models. We have attempted to avoid lists of particular computing skills because of the enormous rate of change in the technology. We believe that within a few years terms that are commonplace today such as “a knowledge of cutting and pasting” may be obsolete. Thus we adopt the above “four quartile” approach to IT skills; document production, research, communication and computer-assisted learning; we accept that in most, if not all law schools, that there will be an overlap and interconnection between learning models at a single institution. For example, a law school may have the overall aim of equipping its law students with an understanding of legal rules and principles and providing him/her with the ability to “think like a lawyer.” However, within the law degree there may be clinical courses, that allow law student to act like lawyers, or research-oriented courses that allow law students to perform independent research. Similarly a University that teaches the Legal Practice Course may also offer students courses which teach them legal research skills.

Thus the new models for this report are based upon course types and are as follows;

Course Type 1: "Pedagogic" (usually applied in LL.B courses)

We refer to the Pedagogic course type as the first appropriate paradigm for today’s law schools. We define this as follows; the primary objective is to enhance the basic teaching of traditional Law School subjects, through the most effective (including cost-effective) ways of teaching legal rules and principles.

Course Type 2 - “Research-Based/Independent Learning” (usually applied in Postgraduate and some undergraduate courses.)

Under the Research-Based/Independent Learning course type, we include any courses taught at any stage of legal education i.e. undergraduate/postgraduate/professional that profess to teach students skills of independent research/learning.

Course Type 3 - “Profession-Based Learning” (usually applied in Professional courses and some undergraduate clinical-based courses.)

Under the Profession-Based Learning course type we include courses taught at the various Colleges of Law, as well as those Universities and private colleges that provide the Legal Practice Course, or courses provided by the Council for Legal Education and any courses taught within Higher Education institutions that profess to teach student practical legal skills of relevance and use to their professional careers. We include both so-called “professional legal education” and clinical courses as part of undergraduate degrees.

The vast majority of law schools will offer degree courses which consist of a mixture of different courses. Each of the course types have different requirements. We do not expect law schools to provide different forms of training in relation to each course - it is for the law school to consider the types of courses it delivers and develop a training solution that is a compromise between the differing training needs and ideally adheres as closely as possible to the indicative targets set out below;

 

8.1 Course Type 1 - The Pedagogic - Minimum Standards and Best Practice

 

The Committee believe that as a minimum, under this pedagogic model, law students should be able to use IT to;

Produce documents; essays and/or assignments and c.v.’s using a software package . The Law School should be responsible for the organisation of the training (by the most appropriate and effective means) of undergraduates either directly or alternatively ensure that undergraduates are able to learn about the electronic production of basic documentation through courses organised at the institution of which the Law School forms a part.

As a model of best practice students should have the ability to modify seminar/lecture materials, to create their own materials for revision purposes and prepare complex documentation such as that required for lengthy essays or dissertations. In this area, the law school should be either providing training directly to all of its law students (if this is perceived as appropriate) or making students aware of facilities that exist at a University-wide level and ensuring that they attend. In addition, the institution should specify that all assessed work should be word-processed.

Perform Legal Research - Students should have the ability to search law library/main library electronic catalogues and have an "awareness" of IT resources such as the major on-line legal resource packages and CD-ROM-based products in law. By this, we mean that all law students should have been introduced to the major I.T. resources by means of lecture or small group sessions.

As a model of best practice, students should have the ability to search on-line resources and CD-ROMs for material of relevance to their own essays/assignments. In this regard, the law school, in conjunction with the law library should be providing basic and directed training in the usage of such resources so that students can perform the research unassisted.

Communicate - The Committee has no recommendations for minimum standards in the use of IT for communication purposes. It may be that students will have the opportunity to use and learn about electronic mail (email). However, the Committee feels that it would be inappropriate to recommend to UK law schools that usage of email is an essential element of IT training for law undergraduates in this model. The Committee recognises that the decision regarding the provision of email accounts to undergraduates may be taken at a University-wide level and thus it would be unfair to impose such a burden on individual Law Schools.

However, as a model of best practice, students should be trained in and have the unhindered usage of electronic mail and in relation to this technology, the Committee believes that, law schools should be exploiting email for providing feedback on essays, developing the use of tutorials based around the uses of email and encouraging law students to use email in a comprehensive manner. Given that email is an inexpensive technology (in terms of actual cost of software and zero on-line charges), law schools should be making every effort to utilise the full potential of this technology. In Universities where the level of contact time between lecturers and students is under threat, electronic mail can be a most effective technology by allowing communication out of hours. As a model of best practice, such law schools should be adopting it as the preferred method of communication so that lecturers may concentrate their time and attention where face to face communication is essential.

Computer Assisted Learning - As a minimum standard, the Committee believes that law students should have access to and awareness of all relevant Law Courseware packages. The Committee is of the opinion that law courseware materials will be an increasing feature of the teaching of law in the future. Therefore student access to such materials is of the highest priority for law undergraduates. In addition, law students should have such packages demonstrated to them so that they understand the features contained and how they may be used as part of their legal studies.

As a model of best practice, students should be trained in small groups on how to use the software packages currently available and have free unhindered access to these packages at all times, for the purposes of pre-seminar/small group preparation and/or revision.

 

8.2 Course Type 2 - "The Independent Learner" - Minimum Standards and Best Practice

 

The Committee believe that as a minimum, under this research-based model, law students should be able to use IT to;

Produce Documentation - Students should have the ability to use IT in order to produce more complicated documentation such as dissertations.

Under the best practice model, law schools should be providing direct training to the students or making students aware of the current training facilities that exist within the institution. In addition, the institution should specify that all assessed work should be word-processed.

Research - Students should be able to perform more advanced and non-directed research. They should be aware of the different forms of electronic research in that they have received some basic instruction on how to perform their own independent research.

As a model of best practice, students should be able to perform more advanced and non-directed research. In addition to an ability to use the library electronic catalogue effectively, students should have the ability to use the various electronic legal resources such as the Legal Resources Index, LEXIS, and CD-ROMs for example. They should be aware of the different forms of electronic researching (e.g. keyword searching using Boolean operators, title/author/subject searching, proximity searching and truncated searching) as well as an awareness of the facilities that are accessible using the Internet/World Wide Web to access more generalised information resources such as BUBL, SOSIG, etc.) Having sought and discovered information of use to the student, the student should be able to download that material and integrate it into their texts.

Communication - Independent learners often feel isolated from other students in an institution. Therefore students will need to be able to communicate with other independent learners and with their supervisor(s). Thus the ability to use electronic mail is of fundamental importance to such students as it allows communication outside of traditional contact hours. We would recommend that as a minimum standard, students involved in research-based courses should have an email account and some facility whereby they can learn how to use the relevant package in order to communicate with other research students, their supervisor and potentially useful organisations/individuals who may be contactable by email.

A model of best practice, an awareness of, and an ability to use Mailbase-type and Usenet newsgroups is essential. Email is an under-utilised but often vital source of information particularly in relation to non-UK materials or research subjects.

 

8.3 Course Type 3 - “The Profession-oriented Learner” - Minimum Standards and Best Practice

 

Produce Documentation - Word-processing for basic legal document production including the use of Macro’s. We have considered and rejected the notion that law students should be able to produce a basic court form from scratch as there appear to be a large number of court form production products currently available. We believe that in relation to the production of court form, law students should be familiar with at least one such package so that their acquired skills can be transferred to a competitor form production package if needed.

As a model for best practice, law schools might wish their students to have an ability to develop their own basic word-processing routines such as macros for use in legal practice, which would involve the ability to manipulate word processing packages for a particular usage within a future legal office.

Perform Research - As a basic minimum standard, law students should be able to search law library/main library electronic catalogues and have an “awareness” of IT resources such as the major on-line legal resource packages and CD-ROM-based products in law. In the solicitors office, the CD-ROM tends to be the first electronic product that the lawyer is likely to consult. Hence every law student should be familiar with (by this we mean, able to conduct a basic search unassisted) on a CD-ROM product such as that which they might encounter in their professional careers. Introduction to these resources is likely to be most effective by means of lecture or small group sessions.

As a model of best practice, law students should have the ability to use LEXIS for legal problem solving, an ability to use other IT tools such as spreadsheets, databases and decision-support systems such as expert systems and statistical packages. An ability to use the Internet would also be desirable for the purposes of solving specific legal problems, although given the present availability of UK-based legal resources on the Internet, this does not appear to be a priority. Law schools that profess to prepare students for the professional world they will encounter should also place some emphasis on the fact that the modern lawyer is in a business as well as a profession. Thus, the ability to develop and/or manipulate spread sheets of financial information or databases of contacts are an integral part of computer literacy within this course type.

Communication - As a minimum standard law students should have the ability to use an email package. Law students who intend to practice law are likely to encounter and use an email package of some description in their work environment. Therefore an ability to use an email package is an essential pre-requisite for computer literacy in a professional environment.

As a standard for best practice, law students should have the ability to use email as above, but in addition should have an understanding of and ability to use computer-based conferencing systems for group work on case-solving. New software packages such as First Class and Lotus Notes to name but two, appear to offer new possibilities to the legal professional in collaborative work.

Computer Assisted Learning - In addition, the law school adhering to the "best practice" model for profession-based learning, would have the full integration of all relevant CAL packages into the curriculum as and when they appear.

Providers of professional legal courses are in a unenviable position in that there are an impressively large number of law office software packages such as document assemblers, accounts packages, case-management packages, litigation support tools, etc., all of which might potentially be of value to a law student. However, given the diversity of legal practice that a law student might enter, those institutions that deliver professional legal courses are always in danger of either teaching their students about irrelevant software or software of marginal value.

 

9. Computer Audits

 

In terms of practical action that can be take now, every law school is encouraged and advised to perform an annual audit of its own I.T. provision for undergraduates and postgraduates. We recognise that this will place an additional burden on computing support officers or upon those law lecturers who are responsible for I.T. in each law school. Therefore, in order to assist with this process, we describe in Appendix I those types of questions that every law school should ask itself each year. This computer audit would serve three purposes, at least two of which would be of immediate benefit to all UK law schools;

It would make the comparisons between the standards defined within this report and the facilities available within each law school far easier to make (a vertical comparison; i.e. what a law school has as opposed to what a law school should have.) This would in turn assist law schools in developing their arguments for further and better funding for computing facilities within their own institution.

It would assist organisations such as BILETA in making summaries about the overall state of technological provision in law schools. An annual nation-wide survey (based upon the audit form attached at the end of this report) would in turn provide those law schools with less than adequate computing provision with a notion of what it is that they should be aiming for (a horizontal comparison; i.e. what a law school has as against what other law schools have.)

It would allow organisations such as the CTI Law Technology Centre to judge where assistance may be required in bringing law schools “up to speed” with information technology resources. Naturally the Centre cannot of itself provide adequate computer hardware to particular law schools but readers should be aware that it does have a successful track record in working in association with a given law school in developing bids for further funding.

 

10. Timetable For Action

 

We hope that this report will serve as a basis for ongoing electronic and face-to-face discussion. Besides placing this draft report on the World Wide Web for discussion, we will be sending copies to the Executives of the three major legal academic organisations, namely the Committee for Heads of University Law Schools, the Society for the Public Teachers of Law and the Association of Law Teachers. In addition to this, copies will be sent to the representatives of the Law Society, the Bar Council. We wish to allow for a period of consultation and discussion leading to final publication in the summer of 1996. Following full publication, the BILETA Committee will retain its brief through a sub-committee or Special Interest Group and provide follow-up reports, (hopefully every year) which can summarise and demonstrate empirically the developments that occur year on year and also provide useful guidance to the UK legal academic community on the state of I.T. provision in legal education more generally.

We await the comments of our community.

 

Appendix I

 

We welcome your comments:
cti-law@mailbase.ac.uk.

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