I wrote last month on a recent conference, The Future of Law School. The backchannel and later discussion was considerable, as I've noted, and several others wrote about the rich panel presentations and their own ideas about the future of law school. Weeks later, I still find myself pondering ideas from it often. I'm thinking lately about the place of the law school and its connection—in Canada—to the university and its library.
The focus of the conference was where law school curricula are, should be, or could be headed. Participants and presenters discussed various factors that do or might drive the future of law school and what, if anything, can or should be done about them. Forceful presentations and related discussion pointed us to the importance of excellent and innovative teaching, in which big ideas are pursued, technological possibility is exploited, and critical thought is grounded in a solid doctrinal foundation.
Professors and lawyers spoke about the law school's place in the profession and the broader community. One element of the broader community for Canadian law schools is the university, and the advantages of the university setting for legal education were noted. Experiential learning was touted as a wonderful component of legal education, if integrated with the academic environment. The university as the place of legal education also brings about opportunity for interdisciplinarity in research and learning, and, frankly, the benefit of the resources of the broader campus.
Though it is possible I missed it, I didn't hear discussion of the law library and its role in the future law school. Legal research and writing and the instruction of these—which, of course, involves the library and librarians—were certainly given their fair due.
Perhaps the law school library's future is accepted as a given component of legal education. Or perhaps issues of the future of the law school library simply are for so many other conferences and symposia that corner of the academic universe.
I suspect one reason discussion of the future of the law school library did not arise overtly during the University of Alberta conference is the place of the law school in the university. I believe most (but not all) Canadian law school libraries are connected to and operate heavily in conjunction with campus-wide library systems. The efficiencies that result from shared resources—collection and human—likely forestall any sense of impending doom for the law school library.
Apart from questions of crisis and survival, though, I would love to hear ideas about the role of the law library in the the future of law school. Reconfiguration of services, infrastructure, and resources are taking place in Canadian law schools and I expect we will see much more. It is interesting to envision the future law school library in 5, 10, 15 years.
Another topic, another conference?