The Latin maxim Docendo Discimus means “by teaching, we learn.” So true, because absent my need to stay up-to-date to teach, it’s easy to fall behind. I teach various places, but of longest standing at the University of Texas School of Law, my alma mater. My subject is E-Discovery and Digital Evidence, a three-credit, 14-week course. In my course, information technology enjoys equal status with case law and procedure. Half the semester is dedicated to mastering the “e” in e-discovery: the foundations of modern information storage and retrieval. That balance is unique among law school courses. I don’t elevate information technology because I happen to know how to teach it; I do it because I think it’s what the students need most and don’t get. It’s certainly what lawyers need most and don’t get.
Surprisingly, that’s a contentious question. The arguments against teaching the technology side of e-discovery and digital evidence range from “it’s not law” to “lawyers hire people for the tech stuff, so why bother?”
I think the explanation for the marginalization of information technology in e-discovery classes is simpler: lawyers teaching law school classes have a limited ability to teach technology. My guess is that if the teachers knew the technology as well as they know the law, there would be more balance in the curriculum.
The limits of instructors hobbles the curriculum of e-discovery, which should spring from the needs of the students. We should gear our syllabi to what must be learned rather than what can be taught. First, let’s teach the teachers.
That won’t be easy. The level of interest is low, and who wants to draw the circle of competence to leave themselves outside the circle? Too, there are virtually no instructional channels or materials. No formal incentives. No funding. Many invested in the status quo ante. And all that aside, there’s a dearth of experienced instructors. We are fuc… challenged.