Law School to Host CALI Computing Conference

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Ken Hirsh
Ken Hirsh, Duke Law's director of computing services and organizer of the conference, makes a presentation about courtroom technology

Four hundred technologists, faculty members and librarians from more than 135 law schools attended the 13th CALI Conference for Law School Computing held at Duke Law School from June 19 to 21. The annual conference, sponsored by the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction, focuses on the use of technology in law schools.

Tracy Futhey, Duke University’s chief information officer and vice president of information technology, gave the opening plenary talk. Futhey addressed the convergence of important factors that influence technology’s impact in education: environment, savvy users, widespread and pervasive technology. She examined both positive and negative impacts of technology: increased communication among faculty and students as an example of the former, exponential growth of spam, or unwanted email, as an example of the latter. She noted that academic institutions are serving as living laboratories for the integration of new technologies into society and concluded, “there remain more good than bad developers out there who are helping to make sure safe options eventually win out.”

The second plenary session was presented by Paul Duguid, research specialist in social and cultural studies in education at the University of California, Berkeley and John Seeley Brown, co-author of “The Social Life of Information,” published by Harvard Business School Press in 2000. His article The Social Life of Legal Information: First Impressions appeared in the online journal First Monday in September 2002. Duguid used the theme “The Devil is in the Context.” Context, communication and community all affect the use of technology and the interpretations one makes of the information technology helps deliver, he said. Throughout his talk he related several examples of modern and historical cases in which understanding context is crucial to determining information relevance. Duguid closed with the note that context can be both constraint and resource.

Sessions throughout the conference addressed a wide range of issues facing law schools in their application of technology. These included a debate on the pedagogical value of live Internet access in the classroom, the growing need for instructional technologists, IT security, and the design of modern courtrooms.

Several Duke Law staffers presented sessions at the conference. Ken Hirsh, director of computing services and organizer of the conference, Melanie Dunshee, head of reference services for the Law Library, and Wayne Miller, director of educational technologies, discussed the evolution of the Law Library to an information services department that provides traditional and electronic resources, educational technologies in the classroom, and computing and network services to the entire Law School. The technological underpinnings of file sharing services and the laws attempting to control them were the subjects of a session led by reference librarians Mike Hannon and Valerie Weis. Miller, Web Services Coordinator Nicholas Drury, and Director of Communications Diana Nelson gave an overview of the recent redesign of the Law School’s website. Chris Schroeder, Charles S. Murphy Professor of Law and Public Policy Studies, participated in a discussion of the U.S.A. Patriot Act, and Professor of Law Thomas Metzloff discussed his project for extending distance learning to Chinese law schools.

In addition to the formal sessions, the conference afforded attendees the opportunity to meet, network and socialize, and the conference banquet featured a performance by the Durham School of the Arts Chorale. John Mayer, CALI’s executive director, judged the entire event a great success. “It was simply the smoothest running conference in all 13 years of CALI conferences,” he said. “The Duke team really stepped up and delivered.”

Hirsh, who had been planning the conference for two years in addition to his other duties, said he was pleased with the outcome.“ I wanted to host the conference for two reasons,” he said. “To showcase our talented information services staff and technology infrastructure and because I thought it would be nice to have ‘400 friends’ over.”

For details about CALI, visit