The Future of Legal Academic Publishing

What is the future of legal academic publishing in Canada? I ask for two reasons. First, as the leading publisher of Canadians legal casebooks I’d rather be on the cutting edge than on the trailing edge of new developments in publishing. I’d like even less to fall off the edge! Smart companies must anticipate changes in the marketplace and position themselves accordingly. That means, not being too far in front (remember, it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese) and not being too far behind. Secondly, as a law professor I reflect often on how to improve the student learning experience and the role of legal content and technology in that experience.

So what are we, as publishers and teachers, doing to get it right? First, we’re not always sure what teaching resources will work best for professors and their students. Technology is changing everything. As a result, my company has embraced the principle of flexibility – providing the teaching academy with unrestricted access to our content and then letting them decide how best to use it. They may be happy to use it as a traditional print casebook (those hard bound books do look good on a young lawyer’s bookshelf); they may prefer to make it available to their students electronically; they may wish to insert their own teaching notes into our content and then provide their students with either a print, electronic or hybrid version of the teaching material; or they may wish to supplement a principal resource (such as casebook) with other proprietary material (such as text from a doctrinal work) or public domain material (via links to cases, statutes and other resources). The print portion of their resources can either be prepared in house (at the law school) or by us. Unsure about what will work best, we thought it best to give you as much choice as possible.

How will this happen? The first three options are currently available from us: traditional casebooks; electronic casebooks; and print/ electronic casebooks that incorporate your teaching notes into a custom course pack made up of material from one or more casebooks. The fourth option will be debuted January ’09 as a pilot project under the aegis of Access Copyright. Emond Montgomery and Irwin Law are the only 2 Canadian law publishers participating in the pilot. Here is how it will work. First, the combined content of the two companies will be posted on an Access Copyright database and made accessible on a Website for you to view (browse) and to use as the constituent elements of your teaching resources. Using as much or as little EMP/Irwin content as you wish, and supplementing it with additional content (your own or public domain material), you may develop course material in whatever configuration you wish. The resource building exercise will be menu- driven, teacher-centered and most importantly — simple. Material will be assembled and then laid out in whatever format that is most appropriate for you and your students. That’s the plan. The casebook, the text and other resources morph into a super-resource that can expand, contract and change each year to meet your needs.

But this isn’t scheduled to happen until next January. In the meantime, we’d be happy to build a custom casebook for you from our current database of casebook content. Like to view all that content? No problem, all of our casebooks will be posted on Google Book Search late this spring, early summer.

Our second response is to work with faculty members to reconceptualize the nature of the casebook. We know that some professors prefer highly edited cases (although there will be disagreement on what should come out and what should stay), and others prefer to expose their students to much if not all of the decision(s). Casebooks are, of course, static in the sense that the decision about what and how much to include in a bound- book is made by others and then remains fixed until a new edition is published. In keeping with the principle of flexibility, it may be better for a publisher like EMP to focus on and publish only the author text (notes, commentary, analysis and questions) and then link that material to a database of cases, leaving to instructors (and students) the decision about what to read in connection with the course. Furthermore, the electronic database can be updated in a timely fashion, ensuring that the resource stays current. Our first of this new generation “casebook” is Administrative Law in Context by Lorne Sossin and Colleen Flood. It will be published later this spring and we will be very interested in your reaction to this new teaching and learning resource

This describes our thinking on the subject. What is far more important is what you are thinking. How can we best serve your teaching and your student’s learning needs. If you have a moment, please drop me a note at I’d love to hear from you. If there’s enough interest, we’d be happy to host or support (another) online forum on the subject.

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