Teaching without a textbook

A benefit of being here at Stanford for a long time is to see how teaching evolves.  Back when I started it seemed like everyone taught from a textbook.  Today approximately 40% of the courses being offered at the law school do not require a text and I predict that percentage will only increase. 

My own course, Advanced Legal Research, does not require a textbook.  We (I co-teach with Erika Wayne) are very fond of several books, and we were going to assign Murray and DeSanctis’s Legal Research Methods (it’s very good – great explanation of Boolean, useful “Practice Pointers,” and more) but I just couldn’t bring myself to make our students buy a slim, paperback book with a “Suggested Retail Price” of $67.00.  If the book was $ 19.99 or less, we probably would have required it.  But $ 67?  That’s just too expensive in my mind.    So instead we search the Web for relevant readings and find great material in places like the Legal Scholarship Network and throughout the Free Web.

The Law of Access to Government

“The Law of Access to Government”

RICHARD J. PELTZ, University of Georgia School of Law

This is the only casebook geared entirely to the study of the law of access to government, or freedom of information law, in the United States. The book takes a multistate approach, familiarizing students with norms of state and federal open records and open meetings laws, and exposing students to statutes, regulations, and cases at both state and federal levels. Though the book is designed principally to employ the law-school case method of study, it is suitable as well for graduate and advanced undergraduate students in journalism schools. Extensive notes follow primary-source materials raising legal and policy questions, and providing ample fodder for class discussion. Graphic elements drawn from public-domain sources enhance the flow of the text. Coverage is organized in three parts – Access to the Judiciary, Access to the Executive, and Principal Issues in Access Law – and in ten chapters: (1) Criminal Proceedings, (2) Juries, (3) Court Records, (4) The FOIAs, (5) Law Enforcement and Corrections, (6) Homeland Security and the War on Terror, (7) Open Records, (8) Open Meetings, (9) Electronic Access, and (10) Scope of Laws. Table of Contents available for download.

Source:  LSN Information Privacy Law Vol. 2 No. 44,  11/18/2009

Digital Statutory Supplements for Legal Education


“Digital Statutory Supplements for Legal Education” 


C. STEVEN BRADFORD, University of Nebraska College of Law

MARK HAUTZINGER, affiliation not provided to SSRN

Law students spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year on statute books or statutory supplements for their courses. These statutory supplements, notorious for their weight and bulkiness, are compilations of subject-specific statutes and regulations, most of which are publicly available at no charge. This article discusses the advantages of digital statute books, details how the authors created a digital statute book that was used in two securities regulation courses, and evaluates the result of that experiment.


Source:  LSN Law Educator: Courses, Materials & Teaching Vol. 5 No. 12, 06/19/2009

e-casebook costs

A story in today’s Financial Times points out that e-casebooks won’t necessarily cost less than today’s (in my opinion vastly overpriced) traditional casebooks.  The story, “Publishers seek chapter and verse on e-prices,” points out that

The hot issue at this week’s Frankfurt book fair is how to set the right financial formula for electronic books.

And Genevieve Shore, global digital director at Penguin, is quoted as saying

Ninety-nine per cent of our overheads remain unchanged.

And won’t students just print out their reading assignments?  Here at Stanford, where we offer unlimited “free” printing, I fear that the magic unicorn that brings our paper and toner will indeed take a wrong turn at the rainbow bridge (see this cartoon – it’s great).