Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Evolving Law School, Part II: Can We Stop Using Casebooks?

Once upon a time, cases were only available from case reporters in the law library, and each student had to use those materials to learn the law. The library books were getting worn with use, and book publishers realized that they could compile those cases along with other textual materials and sell them to law students. That was how the casebook was born.

 It is 2013, and I decided not to use a casebook when I taught Wills and Estates this semester. The casebook I had used for over two decades had come out in yet another new edition, which had a price tag of around $200. The difference between the newest edition and the older editions was pretty marginal.  The authors added some new cases and moved some old materials to different parts of the book. I could have used an older edition, and supplemented my own materials to reduce student costs, but I decided to create and post my own materials on TWEN, instead.

While I did have to spend more time putting the materials together than I would have, had I used a book, the effort was definitely worth it. Posting materials for students is easy, and I was able to use the cases that I thought best fit the doctrine I was covering. I added my own problems and PowerPoints.

When you consider that a student will take approximately 20 classes in law school, and that casebooks cost around $200 each, doesn’t it make sense to move away from using casebooks for our classes?

Alternatively, doesn’t it make sense to use freely available materials from a source like CALI?  CALI has been a leader in this effort with their eLangdell initiative. More information can be found at:

and at:

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One small point, CALI is not free and has a membership charge of $7,500, but the return on investment for what they offer makes it a much wiser spend than $200/casebook.

Posted by: Edward Hart | Dec 10, 2013 10:16:05 AM

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