Monterey College of Law (http://www.montereylaw.edu), a California accredited law school located in Seaside, California is the first law school in the US to adopt the iPad as an integral part of the law school curriculum. Law students at Monterey College of Law returned from summer break to the exciting news that they are part of a unique pilot program that will provide iPads to each law student at the school. Through an innovative program developed by the law school with BAR BRI, the country’s largest bar exam review company, each MCL law student receives an iPad when they enroll in the BAR BRI supplemental curriculum program that the students use while attending school and in preparation for the California Bar Exam.
“Law schools are rarely found close to the leading edge of technology,” said Mitchel Winick, President and Dean of the law school. “However, it is clear to me that combining this technology with interactive, portable, timely content and harnessing the energy of on-line social networking provides a number of immediate educational opportunities.” This is particularly true for an evening law school like MCL that has a traditional classroom-based legal education program in which many students are balancing a full work and family schedule while attending law school.
“Many of our law students work the equivalent of three jobs,” said Wendy LaRiviere, Dean of Admissions. “Between law school, work, and family, it is a constant challenge for them to set aside enough time during the week to study.” Winick believes that “ the iPad will provide time-challenged students an easy way to add 30 to 45 minutes of studying each day . . . during a lunch break, waiting in the car-pool line, or even getting their oil changed. The result will be an additional 3 to 5 hours per week of valuable study time.” It is a compelling argument because it has the potential to add 200 to 250 hours of study time per year and possibly as much as 600 to 700 additional hours over the course of the law degree program. “If our students use this ‘found’ time to do additional reading and incorporate a more extensive use of their class notes, study guides, and practice exams . . . we expect to see a positive result in law school performance and continued improvement in the bar pass rates of our graduates,” said Winick.
Chris Marohn, a third-year MCL law student who is the immediate-past President of the Student Bar Association noted that “excited Facebook posts about the iPad program were circulating through the rest of the student body before the Dean finished announcing the new program to the first-year class. There was a lot of excitement among my classmates, particularly once Dean Winick started handing out iPads,» said Marohn. Winick noted that 100% of the entering first-year students and approximately 70% of the upper level students enrolled in the new program by the end of the first week of law school. He expects that most of the remaining students will enroll over the next few weeks as students begin experimenting with new ways to study using the iPads. It is only a matter of time before virtual study groups are formed to support each of the core law school classes.
The second step of the program is to provide access to iPads for MCL law faculty members who are interested in integrating the iPad into their regular course materials and classroom presentations. “Historically, law faculty members are known to be very traditional in their approach to teaching. In some law schools, classes have been taught the same way, with very few changes, for more than 100 years” said Winick. “The objective of the MCL faculty pilot program will be to develop examples of using iPad technology to enhance and expand traditional legal education without diminishing any of the core academic values,” said Stephen Wagner, law professor and President of the faculty senate. The law school will pilot-test the faculty program during the current academic year and anticipates expanding the program to include all interested faculty members next year.
Being the first law school out of approximately 220 accredited law schools in the US to broadly adopt the iPad is a bold step. However it is not the only innovative program announced this year at MCL. In April, the law school celebrated the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day by hosting a ribbon-cutting of its new Community Justice Center, a LEED Platinum registered project. LEED Platinum is the highest green-building standard for sustainable design and construction. According to the US Green Building Council, MCL is only the third law school in the US to open a LEED Platinum facility. The new center is home to a courtroom, regional mediation center, and a new community legal clinic that will be staffed by MCL law students. “We are fortunate to live, study, and work in one of the most beautiful and ecologically unique regions of the country,” said Winick. “We not only teach about environmental rights and responsibilities in the law school classroom . . . through our LEED Platinum facility we are providing a tangible example of the importance of sustainability and stewardship of our precious environmental resources.”