Friday, April 15, 2005
Casebooks and Contracts go together like, well, horses and carriages. The first casebook was, of course, C.C. Langdell's work on Contracts. Through the years most of the titans of Contract law have written them. They've uniformly been big, square, heavy, and expensive. But are they destined to be that way forever?
Matthew Bodie of Hofstra (left) doesn't think so. In a new paper, The Future of the Casebook: An Argument for an Open-Source Approach, argues that modern open source technology allows for a much more collaborative approach to classroom materials, that will simultaneously allow for greater collaboration and more individuality. Click on the link for the abstract.
Despite dramatic technological change, the thick, attractively bound casebook remains ensconced as the written centerpiece of legal education. That will soon change - but its replacement has not been established. This paper argues that the legal academy should take this opportunity to implement an open source" approach to future course materials. Guided by analysis and examples of commons-based peer production such as open source software, professors could establish electronic commons casebooks with a myriad of materials for every course. These joint databases would unshackle individual creativity while engendering collaboration on levels previously impossible. Although there may be concerns that such a project would not draw any interest, or might be swamped by too much interest, the successes of other peer-production projects demonstrate that such concerns are generally unwarranted or manageable. Copyright ultimately poses the biggest difficulty, but even that barrier can be circumvented to greater and lesser degrees. Although as yet an untried experiment, an open source approach has the potential to open a new era in legal pedagogy.