Coming Full Circle: Law Library as Laboratory

As we consider an innovative law library of the 21st Century, a few things are self evident:
Couple these fairly universal truths with a recent article in Inside Higher Ed about an academic library creating an artificial intelligence lab, and there seems to be something there for law libraries, as well.

The 600-square-foot AI lab will be located on the library’s first floor and will offer beginner- to advanced-level tutorials in areas such as robotics, natural language processing, smart cities, smart homes, the internet of things, and big data.

The lab will also provide a space for faculty members, students and the local community to discuss the social and ethical implications of these technology developments. Faculty may also use the space for teaching, and will be encouraged to incorporate AI topics into their syllabi, said Boughida.

Could a law library follow similar suit and create "labs" for various hands-on learning opportunities? Might there be a public-interest lab, for example? Would it work to house the law library materials on point within a specific area to facilitate a required "lab" component to a doctrinal class where the faculty or law librarian could provide hands-on experiential learning -- applying the content learned in class (and working as a form of assessment)?

In undergrad, I recall many courses having a lab component where we applied what we learned in class. Why aren't we doing more of this in law? There's been an ongoing call for many years for more "across the curriculum" instruction. Law library labs would be a perfect way to blend doctrinal courses with the research and writing necessary to apply and communicate the law in a way more closely aligned with real-world practice.

After all, a common complaint of traditional legal education is that it doesn't actually prepare students for practice. To successfully prepare students for practice, we should continue to bust out of our silos and create programming that builds a true bridge to law practice.

In some ways, this would bring us full circle to the foundation of legal education as Langdell remarked that the law library is the lawyer's laboratory


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