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Thursday, October 12, 2006

YouTube and Legal Education: An Unempirical Study

Google's deal to buy out YouTube has brought a lot of press as well as blawging.  The folks at the Glom have excellent coverage here and here, and the good Professor Bainbridge has an interesting political spin here.  Earlier this year I blogged about the YouTube phenomenon here and here.

Critics of the deal, such as Mark Cuban, believe YouTube can only survive by showing copyright-infringing works, and that this model (like Napster) is doomed to failure.  It seems clear that YouTube must either deliver original content that its owners will not copyright-protect, or it must arrange for deals with the holders of large numbers of copyrighted works.  YouTube is moving in the second direction with its arrangement with Warner Music.  But YouTube has also generated a fair amount of original content, most (in)famously LonelyGirl15.

A few months ago, at a symposium at Lewis & Clark, I suggested that perhaps this generation's "One L" would not be a book, but rather a video or set of videos posted on a site like YouTube.  In fact, there is already original law school content on YouTube.  A search of "law school" on YouTube revealed 328 videos.  More importantly, it turned up some original content from law school students.  Here is some of what I found.

By far the most professional presentations were a set of videos based at the University of Chicago: the Goofus and Gallant Guide to Law School, and the March of the Law Students.  These videos appear to be the work of Dave Haendler, a recent U of C graduate.  (Here is his mySpace page -- as he says, "I'm kind of like a modern-day Thomas Edison, except I don't invent things. ")  "Goofus and Gallant" is a riff on the good guy-bad guy morality plays of old.  (A modern example is here.)  The twist, as you might expect, is that Gallant ends up with a great firm job but a rather miserable life, while Goofus is a DUI lawyer with short hours and a happy-slacker existence.  Haendler does not appear in "Goofus," but he is the narrator for the "March of the Law Students" video (broken into parts 1 and 2).  Modeled after March of the Penguins, the video endeavors to follow the life cycle of  U of C law students.  The video is broken up into chapters, such as "Social Organization and Hierarchy," "The Search for Food," and "Mating Rituals."  (A warning: All three of these videos have liberal and sometimes shocking profanity.)  I'm curious about why these videos were produced -- were they part of official law school follies?  They are fairly complicated productions, with pretty big casts and multiple sets.  Mr. Haendler clearly has a zest for this; who is this nascent impresario?

Another law school auteur, ESQU1RE, has posted three short videos of his daily law school experience (here, here, and here.)  These seem to be less about law school, however, and more about the struggles of the young and angst-ridden.  There's this personal rant, entitled "Law school actually has evil people in it."  There are also two videos from Emory Law School -- outtakes, apparently, from the law school's annual follies.  One video stars a yodeling professor, while another has a mock Ali-G interviewing profs.  Again, watch for salty language in the second video.  I can only hope Rob Ahdieh wasn't arrested.

This small pool of content represents a cross-section of the possibilities for law school life via the Internet.  By posting on YouTube, these videos take law school follies or personal reminiscences and put them out there for the world to see.  The potential for entertainment is there, as is the potential for embarrassment or worse.  But of course, "One L" itself was fairly controversial.  It will be interesting to see how law students use this new means of communication, and whether it differs much from the old ones.

Posted by Matt Bodie on October 12, 2006 at 12:17 AM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink

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