Legal Research Blog


Revolt Against the High-Tech Classroom?

Photo by Iain Buchanan

In Law Technology News this week there was an article discussing the use of laptops in law schools that caught our collective eye. According to the article, a paper written by a Temple University James E. Beasley School of Law professor Kristen Murray “concluded that laptops actually can enhance the educational experience — and suggests educators think twice about banning them.”

What was surprising about the article was not necessarily that a growing number of students brought laptops to lecture or even how they used them in class- whether it is to verify answers, take notes, or Facebook chat. Five minutes with any twenty something would be able to testify to the trend. It was the suggestion that there was a trend of professors banning the devices in the classroom. Only a few years ago law students would not dare show up to class without their laptop. Many schools required first year students to have them. PowerPoint lecture presentations from professors were becoming the rule, not the exception, and many departments were providing lectures online for later viewing.

Apparently, the backlash has been building for some time. According to a Washington Post article professors have banned laptops from their classrooms at George Washington University, American University, the College of William and Mary and the University of Virginia. One professor at Georgetown Law had banned them from class as early as the 2006-2007 academic year. The feeling being that they offer too many distractions for the user as well as the students around them. Professors also fear that students merely type without thinking about what it is that is being said- a familiar complaint that has not been limited to the laptop.

Murray wrote in “Let Them Use Laptops: Debunking the Assumptions Underlying the Debate Over Laptops in the Classroom” that “laptops should be a welcome addition to law school classrooms because they can provide substantial educational benefits to today’s law students.”

Plenty of professors still allow laptops. According to the Washington Post Siva Vaidhyanathan, an associate professor of media studies and law at U-Va., senses a losing battle. “In an era of iPhones and BlackBerrys, Internet-ready cell phones have become just as prevalent in classrooms as laptops, and equally capable of distraction.”

“If students don’t want to pay attention, the laptop is the least of your problems,” he said.

What do you think? Do laptops in class do more harm than good?

Game On

Photo by Joo0ey

Games are definitely on our mind here at Fastcase. March Madness is in full swing, MLS opening day was just this past weekend, and the beginning of baseball season is within sight. While the NFL lockout and the beginning of the Barry Bonds trial may be the big legal hitters right now, there are other games to be enjoyed – like those in front of your TV, PC, and handheld of choice.

The videogame industry has been giving lawyers a lot to cheer about, especially as its mainstream popularity continues to grow. Mainstream acceptation of the pastime has grown through the introduction of devices like the Wii and DS from Nintendo and the Blu-Ray capacities of SONY’s Playstation 3. Who could forget the iPhone platform and the popularity of games like Angry Birds or Flight Control?

This is a multibillion dollar industy, American consumers have spent at least $15.4 billion on game content, according to estimates from market research group NPD. In comparison, movie box office revenues totaled $10.5 billion in 2010. As the industry continues to grow, so do its legal requirements. That is why on February 8 the Video Game Bar Association launched with a five-member board that includes in-house counsel and firm lawyers.

The association, which hopes to host continuing legal education seminars and networking events, has sent out membership invitations to over 100 lawyers, according to The National Law Journal. In an interview with Law Technology News Patrick Sweeney, head of Reed Smith’s video game practice, who helped launch the new bar association says that “Over the years, the number of people whose core practice is in the games business has grown significantly,” said “And there is no organization that allows us to get to know each other and share ideas. The Copyright Society is too broad. The California bar, or anything California-based, doesn’t necessarily fit, either. It goes beyond any territorial or broad practice area affiliation. We want something more specifically catered to us.” The group’s inaugural meeting was held on March 2 at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Hopefully, a dedicated online site will be created relatively soon so that news and community issues can be shared.

For now, over at Video Game Law Blog there is a .pdf file that you can peruse that contains a list and brief summary of cases that the industry has been a part of for the last thirty years, from copyright infringement cases to first amendment rights. There is also a run down of ongoing legal action, such as the pending decision in Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association. If you are interested in an area where technology, entertainment, copy right, and first amendment issues collide there are plenty of places to look. Two that we recommend are Gamasutra, a leading industry site and Game Politics, a sister site of the Entertainment Consumers Association.

Where in the world is Fastcase?

The Fastcase team with Judith Glaser (center)

This month, Fastcase team members could be found at the Bar Leadership Institute sponsored by the American Bar Association in Chicago . Fastcase has been a proud supporter and sponsor of the valuable event for half a decade. Even in our fifth consecutive year as a sponsor of BLI, the team at the ABA continues to impress us with their 3-day program. BLI features programs focused on skill development for bar association leaders from around the country including workshops and panels on management, public speaking and, what else? Social media!

One of the program (and Fastcase) favorites was keynote speaker Judith Glaser, founder of the Creating WE Institute and CEO of Benchmark Communications, Inc. We loved how Glaser applied her expertise in social sciences and human behavior to the inner workings of bar associations. If you’d like more information on Glaser’s presentations or to view some of her prior keynotes, check out her website here.

Looking back on the week, we wanted to say thank you to the ABA for allowing us to take part in such a wonderful program. Not only were we able to sit in on a number of the sessions but we also had the opportunity to meet many of the great current and future bar association leaders. Best of luck to everyone taking office this year, we can tell you’re off to a great start!

Thursday – 3/24 – Fastcase Training in Chicago

The ISBA is offering a free Fastcase training on March 24, 2011 at its Chicago regional office. Join us for an overview of the free legal research member benefit through the ISBA.

ISBA Chicago Regional Office
20 S. Clark St., Suite 900

1PM to 2:30PM

1.00 MCLE hours, including 1.00 approved Professional Responsibility MCLE credit hours

For more information, visit: