What would a law school casebook of the future look like? Professor Matthew Bodie’s article "The Future of the Casebook: An Argument for an Open-Source Approach," published in the Journal of Legal Studies, discusses the possibilities for creating a digital casebook as an open-source project. (Hat tip to video visi visum).
Despite dramatic technological change, the thick, attractively bound casebook remains ensconced as the written centerpiece of legal education. That will soon change - but its replacement has not been established. This paper argues that the legal academy should take this opportunity to implement an open source approach to future course materials. Guided by analysis and examples of commons-based peer production such as open source software, professors could establish electronic commons casebooks with a myriad of materials for every course. These joint databases would unshackle individual creativity while engendering collaboration on levels previously impossible. Although there may be concerns that such a project would not draw any interest, or might be swamped by too much interest, the successes of other peer-production projects demonstrate that such concerns are generally unwarranted or manageable. Copyright ultimately poses the biggest difficulty, but even that barrier can be circumvented to greater and lesser degrees. Although as yet an untried experiment, an open source approach has the potential to open a new era in legal pedagogy.
If you let your imagination run free, what opportunities do you see for a future casebook? Perhaps, audio files of cases, possibility to search related materials with keywords and tags, templates for case notes, briefs and outlines, collaborative legal wikis? Nothing heavy to haul around, please... Everything available at a click of a button, including virtual chats with your professor during office hours.