Archive for September, 2006

What this blog is for and why I’m here

September 19, 2006

For the next nine months—until about June 2007—I will be doing full-time research of public legal education (PLE) in Canada. This research is the focus of my Fulbright fellowship, a grant from the U.S. Department of State that is administered by the Foundation for Educational Exchange between Canada and the United States of America.

This blog is meant to provide a chronological account of my research and to offer a forum for those interested in my research to contribute suggestions as my Fulbright year progresses. The posts I publish here will be mostly substantive reports on the results of my work, plus some occasional analysis and opinion. For anyone curious about my general thoughts on PLE and other topics, or my experiences in Canada as a Fulbrighter, email me and I’ll direct you to my other blog.

For the first entry on this “research blog,” I thought I’d briefly cover two things: (1) point out this blog’s features and (2) explain what brought me to Canada to study public legal education.

Blog features

  • The posts: you know what they are—the dated entries like this one. The important thing to know about them is that you can add your comments to them (look for a link at the bottom of each post). Comments are one way to discuss my research with me or just provide one-way feedback on it; another way is to email me.
  • Research documents: these are listed towards the top of the “sidebar.” At the time of this first post, this list only includes my research plan, the original research proposal, and a research schedule. As I prepare research reports, manuscripts, and articles, I’ll add those to the list. And I’ll be updating the schedule (and occasionally the research plan) as the year goes on. Note that you can comment on these documents, just like with the blog posts.
  • PLE organizations: my research is keenly focused on what I call “standalone” public legal education organizations—organizations whose primary if not sole purpose is to educate communities and the public about the law. There are an unusually large number of these organizations in Canada. I’ve tried to list all of the current Canadian standalone PLE organizations on the sidebar. If I’ve left one out, please email me.

Why I’m here

In the United States, where I’m from and will be returning in the summer of 2007, community legal education (as PLE is more often called there) is almost always a sideproject. Although a whole range of organizations tackle the unfathomable legal illiteracy of the American public, almost none of them consider it their primary purpose. The few primary-purpose PLE organizations that there are tend to focus on school curricula (so-called “law-related education) or operate at a national and therefore necessarily detached level. I believe that the Canadian standalone PLE model makes a lot of intuitive sense, especially since the legal profession has never committed to public education the way the medical and scientific professions have.

So, I’m here in Canada because I want to see if the intuitive attractiveness of standalone PLE is deserved or a mistake. I’m here in Edmonton, specifically, for three significant reasons: Lois Gander, a Canadian PLE pioneer and leading scholar; the Legal Studies Program, a long-running PLE organization and research center; and the world’s largest Canadian PLE archives, which are held by the University of Alberta libraries and the Legal Studies Program.