Professor Bainbridge Reflects on Twenty Years of Law Teaching

On April 16, 2008, Professor Bainbridge received the UCLA School of Law’s Rutter Award for Excellence in Teaching. This essay consists of a revised and extended version of the remarks he gave on that occasion. In it, he addresses his progression from frustrated Socratic teacher to happy lecturer and his aspirations for incorporating new technologies into his teaching.

One point of contention was whether to block internet access in the law school classrooms. They felt the students were distracted and multi-tasking. Professor Bainbridge made this quote about law firms embracing technology:

Law firms doubtless will resist these trends. Law firms are incredibly slow in adopting both new technologies and new approaches to human resources. Just as Chicago is trying to perpetuate the Kingsfieldian style of legal education, big law firms are trying to perpetuate the 1980s Wall Street model of lawyering. Just as Canute was unable to keep the sea from rolling in, however, these institutions will find that the tides keep coming. They’ll need to adapt or die.

J. Robert Brown over at the Race to the Bottom, notes:

The most interesting insight is his view on technology in the classroom.  Luddites at Chicago have proposed that Internet access in the class room be cut off.  Some professors likewise suggested that computers be banned from the classroom.  As Bainbridge notes, the potential distraction provided by comptuers and the Internet are merely an “up-to-date version of an age-old issue.”

As Bainbridge notes, its more than just a battle with technology (or even behavior).  Its a refusal to find a way to integrate technology into the classroom.  In my securities/corporate law classes, power point slides are augmented by routine use of the Internet.  In securities, it’s to go to the SEC web page and examine relevant SEC filings.  Sometimes it involves a trip to the NYSE web site to look over the company’s definition of independent director.  Bainbridge notes that he has experimented with the use of blogs and is considering requiring students to construct wikis.

Clearly lawyers need to do a better job embracing technology to practice law, learn their craft and deliver their services.

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