I'm in the midst of a series of posts on the movie Michael Clayton (here and here), but two news items from the ABA Journal warrant a detour.
Item #1: Professor Kibosh and the Evil Laptop. First, on the ever-popular (or not) subject of laptop bans in classrooms, there is an article in the ABA Journal concerning the increasing popularity of laptop bans in law school classrooms. I've blogged about the subject numerous times; look for my posts labeled by the "computer" category. And of course every time I suggest that a ban might be justified in some circumstances, I get angry reader comments.
I am undecided on the subject, and my current position on the matter is that if I can't decide whether a ban is desirable or not, then I should just leave matters be. Perhaps I should let students vote on the matter? I don't know. But this article points out yet more perils of laptop use: IM harassment in class and obscene videos.
Virtual Law Practice. This article really, really interests me. Apparently at least one law firm is setting up shop in the online 3D gaming world of "Second Life." As Craig Jones of the UK's Simpson Millar explains, "Many of our clients have injuries which can make it difficult for them to meet us at our offices. Others are too busy. Second Life is a way of 'seeing' your legal representative and receiving advice without coming to our office."
So in other words, this is real legal advice, provided in avatar-to-avatar format. How very fascinating, and it raises interesting questions. In a very large sense, this is no different, substantively, from communicating with clients by e-mail or phone. But what if avatars can one day be programmed to provide advice independently (provided, of course, that a fee is paid)? Is that different somehow than having general legal memos available for download for a fee? Is it different from the practice of having canned legal advice that is modified, around the edges, for a client, and then charging the client for it? Could a law firm establish a subsidiary company to provide general "legal" (and perhaps strategic) player advice pertaining solely within the Second Life world? Law firms set up subsidiaries quite often to provide business and personal services-related advice, so why not in this context?
Also, what if a law school set up shop in Second Life? Is this a viable means for long distance (or e-commuting) education? Would this run into trouble with the ABA? Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig and Judge Richard Posner have in fact made appearances on Second Life, so the intersection of legal academia and the online world is not farfetched by any means. I don't play Second Life right now (but boy, it intrigues me), so for all I know there is already a law school in the game.
And perhaps most interestingly, what if an avatar-professor decided to prohibit her avatar-students from using simulated laptops in her Second Life classroom?
Makes my (non-simulated) brain hurt.
**Photo credit: Steve Garfield**