The Computer in American Legal
Donald T. Trautman
Computer technology is beginning to come of age in its application to the teaching of law, and it is perhaps useful at this time to survey what has been happening in the United States and to make some predictions about the future.1
Ideally one would accompany a chapter on the products in this field with demonstrations because a picture is worth a thousand words. This chapter will have to suffice with inadequate descriptions of the products, but any reader with a serious interest is urged to take a look at them "live."
Interactive text lessons are designed to engage students in a dialog with the computer, which asks questions and is programmed to respond to wrong answers in a way that will help the student to discover a better response. Responses to correct answers give immediate feedback and encouragement.2 A simple example of that process is found in a lesson on accounting for lawyers that I wrote a few years ago. Students are asked for the annual cost on equal allocation (that is, a straight-line basis) of five telephone poles each costing $1000 and having a fiveyear life. If they cannot quickly come up with $1000 as the correct answer, they are told to think of the cost per year of one pole, which is $1000 for five years or $200 per year and then asked what the correct answer is for five poles. This simple illustration is used not because it is profoundly interesting but because it demonstrates how a well-written set of responses to wrong answers could help a student think through to a correct answer.____________________