The Open Casebook Revolution
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The open access law book “revolution” (as named by The Faculty Lounge), is gaining momentum. Open access law books are materials compiled and edited for law students, practitioners and/or the public that are freely hosted on websites and as downloadable, searchable, printable, mark-up-able PDFs. In the United States, dozens of open access law casebooks are popping up on platforms such as SSRN, Open Textbook Library, eLangdell and H2O.
In Canada, CanLII hosts Professor Beswick’s casebook, Tort Law: Cases and Commentaries, and Messrs
Fiddick and Wardell’s handbook, The CanLII Manual to British Columbia Civil Litigation. These materials are freely available alternatives to commercial cas
ebooks and handbooks, which are typically expensive, heavy, and have a short shelf-life.
Open access law books have clear practical, pedagogical and societal advantages. On the practical side, compared to commercial alternatives, open access books are simpler to edit, faster to publish, easier to update, and free. On the pedagogical side, they empower flexibility and innovation. They can be more readily structured to suit the editor’s teaching aims. They can link to podcasts 🎧, videos 📺, blogs, news, articles, books, and judgments. Readers can keyword search and highlight text. Students don’t break their backs carrying them. They can also be integrated with quizzes and exam exercises. On the social side, open access legal materials advance access to justice. Commercial materials are often beyond the reach of the public and, in some cases, students.
Open access legal publications help to keep the law accessible.
This roundtable will appraise and praise the practical, pedagogical and societal benefits of open access law books for law teachers, students and lawyers. We will begin by taking 10 minutes each to highlight the design innovations of our respective books and the impact we see them having.
We will then discuss among ourselves and with attendees the tricks and challenges for making such materials. We hope to encourage others to venture into creating open access casebooks, handbooks and other resources for students and curious members of the public.
Sarah Sutherland (session chair), President and CEO, Canadian Legal Information Institute
- Samuel Beswick, Assistant Professor, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia (presentation slides)
- John Fiddick, Director, Whitelaw Twining.
- Cameron Wardell, Partner, Mathews, Dinsdale & Clark LLP