Court TV For Cooley Students

February 2, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — As technology continues to become more ingrained in the workplace, Thomas M. Cooley Law School is helping prospective attorneys become familiar with the technological tools they might use after graduation.

Assistant Dean Nelson Miller said keeping up with technology is a continuous process, both in law school and in legal practice. For instance, instead of carrying several notebooks of work, he now conveniently carries work from the past two to three years on a tiny “thumb drive” attached to his key chain.

Miller said technology has made attorneys more efficient, which in turn helps them better serve their clients. He said he discusses issues such as document security, e-mail confidentiality and e-discovery with his law students.

Miller also uses technology to deliver his lessons, with PowerPoint presentations, visual projectors and his new favorite innovation — a wireless remote that allows him to stand in the back of the class, in view of his students’ computers. This enables him to make sure his students are on the correct Web site and paying attention to the lesson.

There is also an online program that allows Miller to poll his class to see if they understand the subject matter that is being covered. Instead of asking students to raise their hand to show if they support or oppose an answer, he can ask them to answer a question online and see the results instantly. The results will also be posted in the form of a bar-graph or pie chart that indicates how the students have answered.

Miller said the online poll is highly useful in determining a student’s comprehension, certainly much better than reading facial expressions or body language.

“Instead of relying on a physical demeanor, you can do a more formal instant test,” he said.

There is also an electronic quiz that Miller uses to determine an individual student’s score to see which students are struggling and which issues are being missed by the class as a whole. Miller then takes those issues and reviews them.

“We display it, we talk about it, we work through it,” he said.

Miller’s students also use technology throughout the curriculum. Mike Lichterman, a third-year student, said in addition to his taking notes electronically, much of the research that is necessary in law school and in the practice of law can be accomplished online.

Mike Molner, also a third-year student, agreed, saying that technology has changed the way he researches.

“It’s a lot harder to use the library; the computer is so much quicker and easier to use. It becomes a chore to use a book,” he said.

Third-year student Roger Chapman said online research can also make it easier to get information for clients instantaneously while they are meeting, rather than making them wait until he has access to his reference books or uses the library.

“Everything is at your fingertips,” he said. “It’s nice.”

All three students agreed it was also helpful to have information from professors posted on a Web site, where they can review PowerPoint presentations, class materials and even post-discussion questions that can be answered by the professor and reviewed by other students.

Miller said Cooley has put in place a strategic vision when using technology, attempting to prepare students for what they may encounter in a law practice. He said the technology the students are learning will also benefit the law firms they eventually work for, as the firms become more involved in the learning techniques and new technology that may not be familiar to senior attorneys.

Cooley also has two classrooms that are set up as courtrooms — an appellate court and a trial courtroom — with the appropriate technology in each.

Associate Dean Marion Hilligan said the courtrooms help prepare students to use the technology in a real setting.

“The courts are moving more and more to doing things electronically,” she said.

The trial courtroom has screens for the jury to view evidence as well as access to VHS and DVD displays.

“We really are very pleased with the building,” Hilligan said, referring to the state-of-the-art technology that is used throughout Cooley’s Grand Rapids location. Cameras and microphones in several classrooms make them accessible for distance learning through the Oakland and Lansing campuses, and allow for video conferencing, guest speakers and professional training to be shared between the campuses.

“It’s a very efficient way to do things if you have an expert in one place,” Hilligan said.    

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