Oregon State Bar Bulletin — JUNE 2009
Alive and Well:
Law Schools Continue to Innovate Online
By Robert J. Ambrogi

Law schools have long been innovators online. It was at a law school, after all, that the first web browser was developed for Microsoft Windows. Even to begin to list some of these trailblazers would be to exclude too many others.

Fortunately, the thread of innovation by law schools has continued unbroken ever since. Recent projects launched online with the support and backing of law schools show that there is no waning of clever and useful ideas coming from law students and faculty. Here are some examples.

IP Case Clearinghouse
In December, Stanford Law School launched the Intellectual Property Litigation Clearinghouse, http://lexmachina.stanford.edu, a first-of-its-kind online database that offers comprehensive information about intellectual property disputes within the United States. The clearinghouse allows users to review real-time data, often in striking graphical formats, about legal disputes involving patents, copyrights, trademarks, antitrust and trade secrets.

The clearinghouse database includes data summaries, industry indices and trend analysis, together with a full-text search engine. See, for example, a “heat map” showing the busiest litigation dockets. View graphs illustrating outcomes in key federal courts. Find the most litigated patents. Browse individual case dockets.

Stanford said that the clearinghouse’s data will be rolled out over time in phased modules. The initial release focused on patent litigation. It covers more than 23,000 cases filed in U.S. district courts since 2000. It includes raw data for every district court patent case and all results, including opinions.

Law, Meet Journalism
The Grace Case Project, http://blog.umt.edu/gracecase, is a joint undertaking of the schools of law and journalism at the University of Montana. Students from both schools teamed up to cover the federal criminal prosecution of W.R. Grace and five of its executives and managers in U.S. District Court in Missoula.

The trial, which started Feb. 19 and continued as of this writing, focuses on charges that the defendants engaged in a conspiracy and cover-up that risked the lives of people in Libby, Mont., by allowing them to be exposed to asbestos stirred up by the company’s vermiculite mining and ore processing near town.

At least one student from each school is in the courtroom whenever the trial is in session, but their duties differ. The journalism students, most of whom are undergraduates, are writing as journalists to tell the story that the jury hears. They also write background and explainer stories to provide context and clarity to the daily court action.

The law students, all in their second or third years, are charged with explaining the legal nuances and strategies of the trial. Their posts are meant to explain why the jurors are hearing what they are and the reasons for the legal challenges and rulings. They also provide legal background and context.

Open-Access Law Journal
Harvard University Press recently announced the launch of the Journal of Legal Analysis, https://ojs.hup.harvard.edu, an open-access law journal published in cooperation with the John M. Olin Center for Law, Economics and Business at Harvard Law School. JLA’s editors say their plan is to publish “the best legal scholarship from all disciplinary perspectives and in all styles, whether verbal, formal or empirical.” Articles are faculty-edited and subject to peer review.

By describing itself as an open-access journal, the JLA is promising to maintain immediate and no-cost access to its articles via the web. Once a year, articles published online will be gathered into bound volumes and made available for purchase. The JLA’s editor-in-chief is Harvard law professor J. Mark Ramseyer.

The debut issue included an article that argued that raising judicial salaries would do nothing to improve judicial performance. Another contended that judges should be deferential in reviewing class action settlements. The articles all were written by well-known names from the world of legal academia.

Tracking Bankruptcy Cases
The American Bankruptcy Institute and St. John’s University School of Law have teamed up to launch the ABI Bankruptcy Case Blog, http://stjohns.abiworld.org. The blog is written by the student editors of the American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review at St. John’s and promises to deliver in-depth research on cutting-edge bankruptcy issues.

“Each entry is the product of extensive research and constitutes a succinct analysis of the issue and holding of the particular case, how that issue is situated in the larger discourse of bankruptcy law and why the case is important,” says an introduction to the blog.

IP Law Podcasts
With its first program having debuted in October, the Intellectual Property Colloquium, www.ipcolloquium.com, is a promising series of monthly podcasts devoted to intellectual property law. It is produced through the UCLA School of Law with support and sponsorship from the law firm Loeb & Loeb, the consulting firm LECG and the Intellectual Property Symposium.

The podcast’s description says that it aspires to be “something like an NPR talk show, but focused on copyrights and patents and aimed primarily at a legal audience.” Guests are drawn from academia, the entertainment community, the judiciary and various technology industries.

Even better, the show offers CLE credit to lawyers in California, New York, Texas, Illinois and Washington, with other states to come.

One recent program featured an interview with Paul Michel, chief judge of the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, who talked about patent reform. Another has Harvard Law School professor Charles Nesson and RIAA general counsel Steven Marks debating statutory damages in file-sharing cases.

Life After Exoneration
A new blog, Life After Innocence, http://blogs.luc.edu/afterinnocence, serves as the online home of the Life After Innocence Project, a new practicum at Loyola University Chicago that provides law students with the opportunity to offer guidance and legal assistance to recent exonerees.

Laura Caldwell, a Loyola law alumna and distinguished scholar in residence, leads the practicum. Caldwell, who is also a successful novelist, worked as a civil attorney when she became involved in the pro bono case of a 19-year-old suspect who was forced into a murder confession and imprisoned in a Cook County holding cell for six years without a trial. Caldwell and well-know criminal defense lawyer Catherine O’Daniel eventually won a not-guilty verdict for their client.

The project at Loyola will work with clients like Caldwell’s who have been exonerated after serving time in a county jail or those who have spent time in a penitentiary before having their convictions overturned.

Estate Planning Forum
Students at the Texas Tech University School of Law recently launched The Codicil, www.thecodicil.org, as an online companion to the school’s Estate Planning and Community Property Law Journal, www.estatelawjournal.org. The journal is the only student-led law journal devoted to national coverage of estate planning, community property and related legal topics. Founded in 2007, it recently published its first edition.

The Codicil is intended to supplement the print journal with articles, comments, book reviews, case-law updates and other pertinent information related to estate planning and community property. The editors hope the site will allow further discussion and exploration of articles published in the print edition and also highlight additional topics. “We hope the site will become a useful and dynamic resource,” they write.

As you can see, innovation online is alive and well at law schools throughout the country.

© 2009 Robert Ambrogi

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