Creating a virtual law office in Second Life engaged law students in practical problem-solving and client advising.
February 28, 2011
ATLANTA -- Randall L. Hughes, a Faculty Fellow in the Center for Law, Health & Society, wanted to engage the law students in his health care regulation course in the kind of practical problem-solving and client advising that goes on in law firms. He wondered if it might be possible to create a virtual law office setting for the students to address health law issues, without the expense of hiring professional actors to simulate a practice setting.
Hughes approached Christine Heaton, then the Georgia State Law educational technologist, to help him develop videos using avatars from the online site known as "Second Life."
Heaton introduced Hughes to a Georgia State videographer and the person responsible for the University "island" on Second Life. She also arranged for students from the Georgia State drama department to be the voices of the avatars.
"I knew I needed to try out this concept before too many resources were devoted to it," said Hughes. "So I wrote a script for a half-hour video that would be the centerpiece for a review class at the end of the semester."
The "sets" for the video are a law office, a hospital CEO’s office, and a conference room. The video creates a scenario that raises many legal and business issues often faced by practicing health lawyers and health care providers: the hospital CEO learns that a group of physicians is considering developing an Ambulatory Surgery Center that would compete with the hospital.
The video shows the calls and meetings among the parties - the CEO, the senior lawyer, his associate (who is a recent Georgia State Law graduate), and the physicians’ representative. Hughes periodically stopped the video and allowed the students at different stages in the counseling and negotiation process to discuss the legal and practical issues presented and how they would have handled them.
"The use of this technology was incredibly valuable," said Raymond Lindholm, a third-year law student who took the class. "It gave us the opportunity to take the abstract legal concepts we had been learning about all semester and apply them as real lawyers would who were advising clients and negotiating health care business deals."
Heaton arranged for a real-time electronic survey of the students’ reactions to this innovative technology, which was uniformly positive. She also presented the finished product to a national conference of educational technologists. The conference participants were very interested and seemed to consider Second Life technology to be a viable alternative to much more expensive live productions. "That, of course," said Hughes, "was the idea from the beginning."
Inspired by the success of this first effort, Hughes is developing a second video for a mid-year review class this spring semester.
Director of Communications