Friday, August 17, 2012


With the crisis in US legal education and the UK undergoing a fundamental review of its own legal education, you would think that most law teachers would be retrenching and keeping their heads low. Despite that a few ventures shine through the gloom and make what we do feel worthwhile. I'm involved with one, Law Without Walls, but here's another that has captured my imagination.

LawMeets is the brainchild of Karl Okamoto at Drexel University's law school. (H/T to Peter for this.) Okamoto's own experience covers the practice of law as well as being in the corporate world. All that is now being distilled into his teaching. In 2009 Okamoto wrote a paper, "Teaching Transactional Lawyering", which has an interesting opening:
Over the years I have developed a habit. Whenever I meet a “deal lawyer” of some
experience and the opportunity presents itself, I ask this question, “what makes a ‘great’
deal lawyer better than a simply ‘average’ one?” While my interlocutor is pondering his
or her answer, I clarify my inquiry in two ways. First, I explain that I want to discount
for experience. So in answering the question, I ask my interlocutor to have in mind two
lawyers of roughly comparable vintage. Second, I ask him or her to keep in mind that my
second question will be, whatever they identify as the critical components of this
difference, are the components teachable?
LawMeets attempts to answer those questions so that future deal lawyers will have the skills to work in a changing and globalizing world. The idea takes elements of apprenticeship, moot court, and observation and blends them. It's web-based so that it is scalable and relatively inexpensive to operate.

The sequence a student follows is watching a video with a hypothetical client which is followed by research on possible answers for the client. The student submits a performance to the the LawMeets platform (which is on video) and then students review other students' performances. Those that receive the top ratings are funneled to a panel of experts who review and rate the students. The experts leave both written feedback and video demonstrations of how they would do it. All students have access to the expert deliberations. And all the performances are saved in LawMeets portfolios.

You can watch a short video here

LawMeets has been successful. One measure is that it has managed to gain $500,000 of funding from the National Science Foundation. Others are that an increasing number of law schools are participating in its programs; more professors are piloting it; and a rising number of lawyers are eager to participate in LawMeets.

LawMeets is one of those simple ideas that makes one wonder why it hasn't been done before. Why did it take so long? The structure and processes of LawMeets are easily transferable to other areas and fields and could potentially reach thousands.

A recent article by Christopher Caldwell in the Financial Times predicts Ivory Towers will be Toppled by Online Tsunami. As professors at Stanford and MIT run massive online open courses for up to 200,000 students across the globe, we can see that the demand for education, and legal education, will alter. Will your student body be from your own country or will they be online from China and India? 

The recent LawTechCamp London 2012 demonstrated how different approaches to law were not only exciting and engaging, but more importantly actually demonstrated how they could open up areas of law and its analysis that we didn't before appreciate.

Ideas such as LawMeets and LWOW show to us why we need to come up with new modes of education. We know that in five to ten years we won't know what knowledge we need. That's a frightening thought. But rather than being scared off by it, we should challenge it and get creative as LawMeets and LWOW are doing.



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Self-preservation is the first law of nature.

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Concepts such as LawMeets and LWOW display to us why we need to come up with new ways to train and learning.