St. Mary's University School of Law

Mediasite provides a platform for St. Mary’s School of Law to offer cutting-edge

Mediasite provides a platform for St. Mary's School of Law to offer cutting-edge legal education and extended reach in the legal community.  St. Mary’s University School of Law built a courtroom in 1966 to provide students with a real-world environment in which to practice their legal skills. More than 30 years later, the space was outdated, needing a more flexible configuration and a high-tech renovation. A faculty design committee formed and partnered with an audiovisual consulting firm, which presented the committee with three rich media options. The school chose Mediasite by Sonic Foundry for its ease-of-use, talented support personnel and limitless applications.

The school recorded multiple three-hour mock trials and is expanding its use of Mediasite to include continuing legal education, a series of curriculum vignettes and a guide to each of the courtroom technologies. Students include their technology experience on their resumes and bring presentation samples to interviews, making themselves more marketable to successful law firms. The school also partners with the State of Texas to webcast Supreme Court oral arguments and state judicial meetings. Mediasite allows St. Mary’s School of Law to offer students a cutting-edge legal education and extend its reach outside classroom walls.

At a glance

  • Outdated courtroom needed high-tech renovation
  • Video production too time-consuming for students to self-critique legal skills
  • Mediasite selected for ease-of-use, support personnel and limitless applications
  • Courtroom designed with multiple configurations, hidden technologies and cutting-edge evidence display
  • University partnered with State of Texas to webcast Supreme Court events and judicial meetings
  • Enhanced its ability to extend reach worldwide and provide progressive legal education

Challenge

St. Mary’s University School of Law moved from its downtown location in 1966 and built a mock courtroom where students could practice their legal skills in a real-world setting before graduation. The school developed three primary advocacy programs to provide students opportunities for skill-based learning. Through the programs, students learn, practice and critique specific courtroom skills. Students also compete in internal, regional and national moot court, mock trial, client counseling and negotiations contests. In the past, volunteers would record student courtroom presentations and make home videos, allowing for self-critique. Courtroom setup was limited to an appellate configuration and furniture was immovable and outdated.

When Dave Schlueter, Hardy Professor of Law at St. Mary’s, became the advocacy programs director in 2001, he wanted to offer students a cutting-edge environment that would prepare them for a successful legal career after graduation. “One of the things on my agenda was to take a long look at the space and see what we could do to really bring it up to the 21st century,” said Schlueter.

Schlueter formed a design committee with other faculty members to develop ideas for the courtroom renovation. To make the space more compatible with today’s practice of law, the committee decided the courtroom should keep in decorum with a real courtroom, have the flexibility to accommodate both appellate and trial court configurations and go high-tech. “The integration of technology was absolutely essential for the functionality of this space,” Schlueter said.

The design committee met with Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon & Williams (WJHW), an audiovisual consulting firm based in Dallas, Texas, to begin work on the courtroom renovation, hoping for a transformation that would allow the school to extend instruction beyond the classroom walls. WJHW presented the committee with three rich media system manufacturers, including Sonic Foundry. “The market share Sonic Foundry brings was a leading indicator of where St. Mary’s wanted to be,” said Bill Kistler, WJHW design consultant. St. Mary’s was also impressed with Sonic Foundry’s quality of personnel available to assist in maximizing its Mediasite use.

Solution

WJHW consultants implemented Mediasite into the courtroom to allow impressive technological capabilities without significant effort from St. Mary’s students and faculty. WJHW wanted to avoid cluttering the courtroom with bulky, noticeable technology. “There are not too many people who want the technology in their face,” Kistler said. “The technology should be second to the teaching and not forefront in appearance. Mediasite was seamless in its integration.” The courtroom renovation was completed in the summer months before the 2006-2007 academic year.

The courtroom was a unique space for WJHW to design. Different from a traditional classroom with one professor speaking, courtroom technology needed to capture multiple speakers in various locations. Six cameras, mounted in small domes and remotecontrolled, record court proceedings from six different angles. WJHW chose high-quality microphones, speakers and monitors, and made them inconspicuous with wooden structures and strategic placement.

A modular, adjustable design allows the courtroom to accommodate jury trials or appellate court arguments. There are 11 false floors, allowing for several courtroom configurations. The standard courtroom setup seats nine judges, and the jury privacy wall can be moved to accommodate additional judges. The courtroom also features a moveable podium.

Electronic evidence from laptops, document cameras, DVDs or digital whiteboards can be presented with a large projection display, an in-wall plasma display and flat screen monitors at the bench, tables and jury box. The presentation display is covered with wood paneling when not in use, and as with the high-quality lighting and other technology, is easily controlled by an interactive touch screen system.

The courtroom also features a video-teleconferencing system, enabling communication with parties at distant locations; for example, a witness could testify without physically appearing in the courtroom. A touch screen at the witness stand captures exhibit annotation and displays it throughout the courtroom, such as a police officer circling the location of an accident on a map.

St. Mary’s University hired a full-time courtroom technologist to help integrate the technology into curricula. Currently, the school is publishing presentations to DVDs that students or professors can take with them to view later. “We hope to abandon the production of DVDs and get around some of the privacy issues so student presentations can be automatically posted by Mediasite,” said Schlueter. “With rich media technology, now we not only have the ability to capture a presentation, but we can also edit it and literally make it available on a worldwide basis online.”

Result

Faculty and staff have quickly taken to Mediasite, despite lack of technology experience. “I simply turn it on and off. It is user-friendly, dependable and limitless,” said Schlueter. The school has recorded multiple mock trials that average three hours each and will soon increase their production. “We’re looking forward to expanding our use of Mediasite”, said Schlueter.

Students, recognizing the value of this instruction, include their technology experience on their resumes, even bringing presentation samples to interviews. “This makes them more marketable to a law firm because they’re able to tie in their experience in this courtroom,” said Schlueter. “It’s not only the great things they can say about themselves. With Mediasite, they can actually show a law firm, ‘This is what I’m capable of doing.’ For smaller law firms, it is essential they know how to use the technology themselves.”

Schlueter said this increase in student marketability is one example of Mediasite’s return on investment. “I have no doubt that return on investment is going to continue to roll in,” he said.

The school hopes to provide continuing legal education to law firms and for the bench and bar, making hands-on experience available through Mediasite.

The state of Texas has partnered with St. Mary’s University School of Law to record, archive and webcast oral arguments and other special events at the Supreme Court of Texas, as well as State of Texas Judicial Meetings.

“Mediasite is a very powerful platform. The data storage it can maintain is very advantageous,” said Kistler. “I see rich media more and more becoming an aspect of the applications we can bring to our clients, making it a part of the function of their space. The courtroom at St. Mary’s School of Law is a magnificent space.”

About St. Mary’s University School of Law

St. Mary’s University is the oldest Catholic university in Texas and the Southwest. Its origins date to May of 1852 when members of The Society of Mary (Marianists), a Catholic religious teaching order, arrived in Texas. In December of 1949, the School of Law was admitted to membership in the Association of American Law Schools. There are approximately 800 students at the School of Law, almost half of whom are women, and about 30 percent of whom are members of minority groups. The LL.M. programs at the School of Law have drawn students from Mexico, Germany, England, China and Chile, as well as the United States. The school combines a tradition of excellence in legal education with new programs and methodologies that prepare students for the practice of law in a changing world. St. Mary’s teaches its students the practical skills and habits of mind that enable them to become professional leaders and effective advocates of legal and social justice.