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JILT 2000 (1) - Abdul Paliwala




CTI Law Technology Centre:
A Retrospective Review

Professor Abdul Paliwala
Law Courseware Consortium,
UK Centre for Legal Education
University of Warwick


This paper was first published as part of the CTI Retrospective Publication, November 1999 and presented at the BILETA 2000 Conference, April 2000

This is an Information Paper published on 30 June 2000.

Citation : Paliwala A, 'CTI Law Technology Centre:A Retrospective Review', 2000 (2)The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <>

1. Introduction

I should like to congratulate you for the work which has been and is being undertaken by the CTI Centres across the UK. Together you provide a unique access route for the academic community to an extensive range of teaching and learning technologies and act as a stimulant to their implementation.

Tony Worthington, then Minister for Education in Northern Ireland, CTI Retrospective 1989-1999, November 1999

The Law Technology Centrewas established in 1987 under the second phase of the CTI initiative and became the model for the establishment of the discipline based CTI Centres under the third phase. It was a result of an identified need within the academic community, it was sponsored by 21 University Law Schools, and was a key initiative of the British and Irish Legal Education Technology Association (BILETA). It subsequently received the firm support of all the leading law academic organisations as well as IBM. A key to its abiding success has been the continuing support of Warwick Law School and University.

During the period of its existence, the law academic community moved from being a relatively non-computer-literate group to one which makes sophisticated use of communications and information technology in teaching, research and administration. It has also shifted, to some extent in line with national trends, from being concerned mainly with technology as a development tool to one which places primary emphasis on pedagogy. Whilst the LTC cannot claim the sole credit for the change, it has been responsible for keeping in step with pedagogical and academic trends and developing initiatives based on the widest possible collaboration. This has been crucial to the process of transition.

2. What we achieved

We achieved this through the provision of information and support and the development of major new initiatives. Our close links to the academic community and its support enabled us to adapt ourselves according to need:

  • BILETA. We were a child of the British and Irish Legal Education Technology Association (BILETA), but the relationship was mutually transformed into one in which the LTC became the executive arm and secretariat of BILETA. We also became the main providers of information and support on C&IT matters to the main law academic organisations.

  • On-site support. Our roadshows have been based on need. Institutions have invited us to visit when they were most ready to receive us, and they were able to discuss with us what their staff would find most useful. The roadshows have therefore evolved in line with the community from 'what are computers and what they can do for you?' issues to sophisticated pedagogical concerns.

  • Information services. Our information services have also adapted to changing needs. We shifted from a newsletter to the academic quality Law Technology Journalin 1991 when it became clear that there was a need for high quality output. We shifted back to a combination of paper newsletter, gopher and the web and the all-electronic (and award winning) Journal of Information Law and Technology (JILT) when the academic community was ready for it. We have not hesitated to cut down email lists once they had become redundant.

  • Gatherings. The themes of conferences, seminarsand roadshows have moved with the times. Early seminars emphasised hands on experience and training for the attendees; in later seminars people were more interested in issues. The balance between personal contact and virtual seminars has been maintained with the future shape of seminars being successfully demonstrated by the recent combination of worldwide video-conferencing and on-site presentations in our recent seminar on electronic conferencing.

  • Research. There was a consistent emphasis on research needs into the use of technology in legal education. The Law Technology Journaland subsequently JILTwere developed to promote and support this research, and the Centre staff and Director (as well as members of the executive) played prominent roles in developing literature on the subject. Two BILETA Inquiry reportsas well as our involvement in the Information Systems for Law Schools project were intended to provide the academic community with much needed information on development strategy. But our involvement with research went further. The ESRC funded Constructing a Methodology for Legal CAL Project provided much needed insight into author needs and problems in CAL development. The Evaluation of User Needs in relation to Electronic Law Reports enabled us to identify the needs of the legal profession as a whole.

  • Courseware development. There was a crucial awareness among law academics that co-ordination of activity which, in the case of law, was at a very low base would be co-ordination of nothing. In the circumstances, the Centre has been at the forefront of support for development projects, especially at a collaborative level. Even before the advent of TLTP, the CMLCAL project had performed the role of being an experiment in collaborative project development. The CTI developed a prototype funding proposal on the basis of this and other experiences which ultimately became the model for the TLTP Law Courseware ConsortiumProject. The success of the LCC was based on the wide involvement and support of the academic community (currently nearly 100 authors), careful meeting of authors' needs (avoiding complex authoring systems) and of an afterlife, and of course a successful project team. The CTI Co-ordinator moved over to become the Technical Director of the LCC. The continuing strong support of the law academic community has ensured the successful self-sustaining development of the LCC courseware. Although the LCC is a separate organisation, (though closely related) the CTI Centre has continued to play a key role in the successful implementation of law courseware.

  • Electronic Law Journals. A similar model of collaboration was apparent with the ELJ projectfunded under the JISC eLib programme. The aim was to develop an electronic journal culture among authors and readers. While it was a project between ourselves and Strathclyde, the intention was to ensure maximum involvement of the entire academic community in editing, authoring, developing new journals and assisting the transition from paper to electronic.

  • The NCLEand the new LTSN Centre for Law. As technological developments took hold, it became apparent that we had to move out of the technological ghetto into the world of general educational implementation, as technology was itself becoming more pervasive in all aspects of higher education, be it learning and teaching, research or administration. The LTC therefore took the lead in the development of the National Centre for Legal Education which was funded under the FDTL project. The philosophy of the NCLE was to promote information about best practice in legal education and in particular to use the web and other electronic communication devices to do so. Once again, the intention was to mobilise all those specifically interested in legal educational development and provide channels of communication for their efforts. However, the co-existence of two separate centres with two different briefs was likely to create difficulties for the proper development of legal education. Therefore closer harmonisation discussions were going on between the two centres even before the mooting of the new LTSN centres. In the circumstances, it is no surprise that even as we write this, the new LTSN Centre for Law is likely to arise phoenix-like from the ashes of the LTC and the NCLE.

3. Some Problems

The picture has not been entirely rosy and a few problems need to be mentioned.

If it had been known in 1987 that the Centre would still be in existence in the year 2000, things would have been done differently

Abdul Paliwala, Retrospective 1989-1999

1. Identity. On the whole we believe we obtained a national identity, however, there was always a residual belief that the centre was associated with Warwick in spite of our best efforts to dissuade other law schools. This can create difficulties in a period of intense competition between academic institutions. The continuing relative unity of the legal discipline has to be seen in the context of these tensions.

2. Short-termism. If someone had informed us in 1987 that we would still be in existence in the year 2000, we would have done things differently. Instead our staff invested considerable effort in sustaining our funding base and developing business plans which were subsequently never referred to. Some key staff sought their fortunes elsewhere rather than wait for the inevitable. Yet, the need for support for C&IT continued to be apparent throughout and a coherent and successful strategy could have ameliorated a considerable number of problems.

3. Non-recognition of post-graduate and professional training. Law was and continues to be regarded as a medium sized rather than a large discipline in spite of our wide range of postgraduate and professional training programmes which makes it one of the largest disciplines. This means that the focus of the Centre is inevitably a narrow undergraduate one and does not fulfil the needs of legal education.

4. Insufficient support for implementation. Ourselves and the LCC were quite amazed when our joint TLTP 3 proposal for implementation of law courseware was not funded. As a successful TLTP project which was then paying its own way, and which involved the vast majority of law schools, we believe it was in the interest of the Funding Councils to continue to support it. Unfortunately, implementation for law has suffered because TLTP 3 appears to be an 'experimental' exercise in innovation.

5. Mushrooming Initiatives. The thrust of the Atkins Report was entirely sound on this. Common co-ordination of the CTI and TLTP initiatives would have helped a great deal. For law we were fortunate in developing a coherent structure for a number of initiatives.

The CTI has done valuable work in providing institutions with subject-specific advice on technology- based educational practice and by testing and promoting materials...we see a central role for the CTI Centres working as part of the [proposed new] Institute for Learning and Teaching.

Dearing Report.

6. Hesitancy about the nature and role of C&IT. There seems to be a surprising lack of direction on the significance of C&IT in the development of the new subject centres. This is surprising in view of the clear direction of the Dearing Report which was followed by the Atkins Report. The argument seemed to have been won, yet there is an impression that we are at the stage of a new beginning to the argument.

4. Vote of thanks

However, these are minor problems compared with the courageous decision to develop the CTI Centres. The then Computer Board and the Funding Councils deserve thanks. The CTI Support Service had critics from time to time, but keeping disparate centres together was a great achievement of Jonathan Darby and Joyce Martin and their teams. We would like to thank in particular BILETA, the Committee of Heads of Law Schools, the Association of Law Teachers and the Society of Public Teachers of Law for their support and of course all the academics who contributed to our success.

Finally, the CTI Law Technology Centre was an invention. There was no blue print when we started and we had to reinvent it continually to meet exponentially changing needs. So finally a vote of thanks to the team - past and present!

And now we look forward to exciting developments in the UK Centre for Legal Education.




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