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Turn Them Loose as Web Detectives on Cold Cases: A Digital Age Remedy for Casebook Boredom and Relevancy

44 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2011  

James Jay Brown

Stetson University - College of Law

Date Written: June 13, 2011


What is it about casebooks that is so challenging for novices and so shunned by upper level students? Do casebooks present such barriers to learning that their knowledge-gaining features remain unexploited by many students? These questions were the proximate cause for Brown’s creation of a learning template that demonstrates how case study does not have to be boringly irrelevant to future professionals.

Learning from casebooks, a challengingly foreign experience compared to college, appears to be irrelevant to what lawyers do in practice. Then there is the educationally numbing effect continuous case studies have on law students’ enthusiasm. Brown applies his research and experience by demonstrating a methodological strategy for stimulating students to web investigate their decontextualized “cold” appellate cases to resurrect its human aspects. Initially, this methodology can be employed by 1Ls to bridge the difficulties of learning from cases. It guides novices by suggesting appropriate questions to facilitate better Socratic dialogues. In progressive stages, students are assigned to explore internet “surfing” to re-assemble the case’s context with location maps, party history, judicial profiles, etc. It asks students to use their experiences/imaginations to create a virtual story about how the human or business conflict developed prior to trial. It then uses that virtual recreation to explore lawyering functions by in-class role plays of interviewing, drafting, framing a cause of action; negotiating, and mediating.

A Web Detectives Template is offered as a practical, easily applied educator’s process tool to aid novices study skills; to indicate an organizational structure for filing notes, rules, etc; and to suggest questions for those not experienced in asking relevant ones. The Template shows where to integrate horn-book materials, critique judicial analyses, and experience a simulation process of client/attorney interactions that reveals how law and problem solving are intertwined. At its best, this builds long term memory about the law and promotes learning from formerly boring cases.

Keywords: legal education, casebook method, horn-book, law students, Socratic method

JEL Classification: K10, K40

Suggested Citation

Brown, James Jay, Turn Them Loose as Web Detectives on Cold Cases: A Digital Age Remedy for Casebook Boredom and Relevancy (June 13, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

James Jay Brown (Contact Author)

Stetson University - College of Law ( email )

1401 61st Street South
Gulfport, FL 33707
United States

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