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Dec 16, 2012 (4 years and 8 months ago)

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1

a WEB
-
based tool for LEGal Study



Udom Silparcha, PhD

Engineering Faculty, Pathumwan Institute of Technology, Thailand

Email : u_silparcha@yahoo.com, udom@ptwit.ac.th

ABSTRACT

In general, Law students learn their ropes by reading various Codes, legislatio
ns, and
countless number of cases. A good practice by a law student, apart from typical study works as
done in other disciplines, requires constant practices in analyzing legal cases. Forming up a
peer group, picking up an interesting legal case, and pract
icing legal arguments are commonly
done among law students. Such practices allow them to apply various elements in the Codes
and legislations that they have read to different cases. Such discussion groups are
conventionally bounded by face
-
to
-
face interact
ions, mostly within classrooms.

Internet and its services, especially the WWW, allow long distance communications with
relatively low expenses. The use of Internet technology in legal education adds a very
interesting flavor to it. This alternative allow
s students to easily work together over the
Internet. By setting up appropriate tools, students can practice legal arguments without any
geographical barrier. This paper reviews the attempts that have been done to use the Internet
in legal study. We also p
ropose a model that better utilizes the Internet in legal study in
Thailand.

Keywords:
World
-
Wide
-
Web, Internet, Web
-
based learning, Legal study, Legal informatics,
Information technology and law, Computer and law

1. INTRODUCTION

Legal system in Thailand mainly foll
ows the Romano
-
Germanic law systems with
strong influences of the Common law systems in practice. The main difference between
the two families of legal systems is that the Romano
-
Germanic law system relies
mainly on written codes and legislation, while the

Common law system does not.
Examples of countries that practice Common law are England, the United States of
America, and most commonwealth countries. While examples of countries that use the
civil law system include Germany, France, Japan, and Thailand.

In general, Legal education involves reading various Codes, legislations, and countless
number of cases. However, students’ success will not be achieved through only the
readings. The process of making a good lawyer from a law student, apart from typical
study works as in other disciplines, requires constant practices in analyzing legal cases.
Discussions on various legal cases among students in a group will help students for
their practices on legal arguments. Such practices allow them to apply various el
ements
in the Codes and legislations that they have read to different cases.

The methods of legal studies are slightly different between the two legal systems.
Common law students intend to extract legal reasons from the courts’ decisions on past
cases th
at have been brought into the courts, then practice legal arguments on other
cases by applying such reasons. On the other hand, civil law students read not only the

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pre
-
written Codes and legislation, but also the past cases brought to the courts,
especiall
y the Supreme Court (or Thailand’s Dika Court). They practice legal
arguments by decomposing each case into a number of points to concern. Then apply
the appropriate codes to each concern. It is also common that law students often look at
the past cases in

the Supreme Court, re
-
analyze the cases, and finalize their conclusions
which sometimes are different from what had been decided by the Supreme court.

Long distance data communications become more inexpensive these days, mainly
because of the widely used

Internet and its services, especially the WWW. Lately, the
technology has become an attractive educational media in many disciplines, with no
exception for legal education. It makes the study become more interesting and allows
students to easily work toge
ther over the interconnected computer networks. With
appropriate tools, geographical distance becomes no longer a limitation that used to
prohibit students from their discussion while they are not sitting face
-
to
-
face with each
other.

As Law researchers an
d educators become more aware how this powerful technology
can be beneficial to legal education, several models have been proposed and developed.
In this paper, models of computer and Internet application in legal education that have
been developed are rev
iewed. We also propose a model that utilizes the Internet in legal
study that fits particularly for the legal system of Thailand.

The next section will provide background information about the legal system families
in the world today, with an emphasis on t
he systems that are applicable to Thailand.
Legal study methods are also discussed in the next section before an alternative model
based on WWW technology is proposed with great detail in Section 3. Section 4
provides the technological details regarding th
e development of our system. The paper
is then concluded in Section 5.

2. BACKGROUND

It is understood that one important thing that distinguishes a country from others is the
legal system. Although some countries adopt very similar ways of legal practices,

none
of them are comparably exact. The reasons are that once a country adopts a legal system,
it always needs to modify the details to fit the cultures and its society. However, experts
have suggested that the legal systems in all countries in the world t
ogether can be
grouped into families. Section 2.1 will summarize the legal system families in the world
today. Section 2.2 will discuss about the legal education methods in several aspects.

2.1 The Legal Systems

The major legal systems in the world can be
classified into three families and other
minor systems [1]. The three legal families include the Romano
-
Germanic law,
Socialist law, and Common law, each of which can be characterized as follows.

(1)

The Romano
-
Germanic law systems

The First family of laws in
the world, starting back since the time of ancient Rome is the
Romano
-
Germanic family. This system relies on formulated legal rules that decant and
purify judicial practice. It is not always the case that in such systems one can forecast

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actual solution to

any particular dispute. The legal rules are defined in general terms
that require “legal interpretation”. This first family of law systems are used in several
countries, including France, Germany, most Latin American countries, Japan,
Indonesia, Thailand,

etc.

(2)

The Socialist law systems

The Socialist family of law systems was first introduced by the former U.S.S.R. This
family of laws follows the Romanist laws with some adaptations to accommodate the
political philosophy. Some major differences to be mentio
ned are that family law is
distinct from civil law, new laws named a
kolkhoze

law and a law of habitation have
been created, while the commercial law has disappeared. The terms such as democracy,
election, parliament, federalism, trade
-
union, etc. are defi
ned differently.

(3)

The Common law systems

The Common law systems are used largely by English
-
speaking countries and
countries that have been politically linked with England. The systems do not rely on a
general principle of liability for civil wrongs, but in
stead developed a series of
nominate civil wrongs, eg., deceit, nuisance, trespass, etc. The law is formulated in
such a way that courts continue rendering justice according to the custom of their
territory.

Among the three families, Thailand has adapted f
eatures in the Romano
-
Germanic
family law systems as the foundation for their legal system. However, a number of legal
practices rely on the processes as used in the Common law systems.

2.2 Modes of Legal Study

Legal study is distinctive from other courses

of study leading towards a profession in
such a way that it must be concerned with developing in students the ability to both
understand and utilize legal knowledge. A law practitioner’s success in such utilization
depends upon the understanding of how th
e law concerns about problems, the reasons
behind it, and what resources are to be drawn. What the academic stage emphasizes in
its best practice is a critical, in depth, examination of how the law reasons about social
and economic issues [2].

It is certai
n that law students will continue to acquire their knowledge about the law
from reading texts. The textbooks, Codes, legislation, cases and materials books,
collections of statutory materials, articles from journals, and the primary sources of
cases and st
atutes themselves will provide the foundation of legal education. Instructors
usually engage in lectures and provoke in
-
class group discussions of difficult topics in
order to strengthen the students’ knowledge and understanding. The discussions
generally
concentrate on exploring the practical application of the law, and critical
feedback on students' work. This traditional pattern of face
-
to
-
face legal education can
function extremely well.

Looking at the economies of legal education, as pointed out by Wi
ddison [3],
face
-
to
-
face tutorials and small
-
group teaching have become very costly in terms of
staff hours and operating expenses. For the reasons, there have been attempts to apply
computer technology to legal education by either providing supplements to

the

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conventional mode or by replacing it completely. The future of law has been projected
by academia that it is inevitably emerging with computer and information technology
[4, 5, 6]. The applications of computer technology in legal education range from
simple
tasks such as word processing, electronic mail [7], and legal database servers [8] to
complicated tasks including on
-
line electronic tutorials and legal expert systems.

A number of contributions have been put for producing electronic coursewares.
El
ectronic law coursewares have been actively developed among universities and
organizations all over the world, especially throughout the UK. Law Courseware
Consortium is major courseware developer at University of Warwick [12]. BILETA is
another group unde
r the UK Centre for Legal Education who organizes conferences
and constantly generates publications regarding law courseware in the UK [13].

The first generation of law courseware dates back to the time when the computer
technology was much less powerful
than it is at the present time. The coursewares were
developed by individuals with very little recognition from their institutions. Most of the
coursewares run on low
-
speed stand
-
alone systems with a few kilobytes of memory and
monochrome monitor under DOS

[9]. Since the first generation of law courseware,
computer technology


to be more precise: information technology


becomes much
more advanced. The Internet and the World
-
Wide
-
Web (WWW) is a ground
-
breaking
technology in every area, including legal educ
ation and practices. Generations of law
coursewares will inevitably be based on this technology.

3. WebLegS


A Web
-
Based Tool for Legal Study

In section 3.1, we will further explore the development of legal courseware based on
the Internet and WWW technol
ogy with deeper technical perspectives. In Section 3.2,
we will introduce a model of web
-
based learning named WebLegS, which will be
explained in more details in section 3.3 regarding its design methodology.

3.1 Web
-
Based Learning

It is clearly noted earli
er that the face
-
to
-
face and small group teaching and learning is
undeniably the best model of legal education. The roles that information technology
may play in this field is supplementing the traditional method, rather than replacing it
completely [2]. W
hat information technology can offer to the field are the capabilities
of dissemination, processing and storage of information, and data communications [6].
The technology has been used to develop on
-
line educational environment in various
areas. Among sev
eral available techniques, web
-
based learning is one of the most
commonly used techniques. Web
-
based learning environment facilitates the use of
hypermedia system. Hypermedia is a more general term of the previous term hypertext.
The hypermedia system allo
ws the Internet users to explore information stored
anywhere in the cyberspace by following the links that are embedded in lines of text or
pictures


a.k.a. surfing the net.

There are concerns in the development of a web
-
based learning system. The major
concerns include the contents, techniques, and learning strategies, each of which is
explained in greater details as follows [10]:



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(a)

Contents

It is always a wise way to plan what information is to be provided by the system. This
may include both the informa
tion stored in the local system and the information that
can be retrieved from other sources via the communication.

(b)

Learning strategies

Learning strategies denote the learning environment that the on
-
line system may
provide. The strategies may include det
ailed lecture notes, drills and practices, tutorials,
tests, and examinations.

(c)

Technology

The technology that will be used to provide the most effective way of learning,
including communication tools such as email, web
-
board, and interactive chat. The
tech
nology to be concerned may also include the use of text, graphics, images, sound,
animation, and videos.

3.2 WebLegS

This paper proposes a model for web
-
based system for legal study. The system is
named
WebLegS
, which is short for
Web
-
Based Tool for
Leg
al

S
tudy. The model uses
WWW as a medium for conducting legal tutorials. The system aims to overcome most
of the limitations that are found in the traditional legal study. The limitations concerned
are time, location, and costs as described in detail as foll
ows.

(1)

Traditionally, the tutor needs to be present in a particular place at a particular
time when materials are to be delivered to students. Any student who misses a
session is unlikely to be able to repeat the session alone. WebLegS, the
proposed model, a
llows students to repeat any material as often as they wish.
The materials come in various forms, including text, images, sounds,
animations, and video clips.

(2)

The traditional face
-
to
-
face teaching and small group discussions require that
every participatin
g students, and possibly, tutor will need to gather in a
particular place at a particular time. WebLegS will allow the participant to join
in the discussions from home or anywhere at their own convenience. The
system is virtually free from geographical bou
ndaries.

(3)

Once a small group has gathered, it is normal that tutorials need to be squeezed
into the short available period. The proposed model allows any tutorial to take
place over several days.

(4)

In a traditional tutorial, access to additional information r
esources during a
tutorial is usually limited to what have been prepared prior to the start of the
tutorial. Such an access to assist the case discussions is normally not possible
during the on
-
going tutorial, hence students have to wait until the tutorial

is over.
Unfortunately, on many occasions, this extra search is forgotten or ignored.
WebLegS provides students an instant access to more resources as available on
the Internet.


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(5)

Although the classroom discussion is effective, its operational cost, as
ment
ioned earlier, is considerably high. Apart from a one
-
off fixed investment
on hardware and software components (which usually are already available in
most institutions), the cost to operate WebLegS mainly involves the
communication expenses, which usually

gets less and less expensive.

Apart from the advantages as given above, the proposed model also provides the
following facilities.

(6)

WebLegS is embedded with the capability to provide feedbacks to students.
Once a discussion comes to a conclusion and an a
nswer is submitted, the system
can automatically provide the preliminary evaluation of the answer
in terms of
scores. Such feedback is generated immediately by the system without the need
that the tutor sees the answer.

(7)

WebLegS has a collection of legal ca
ses; both classical and recent ones.
It also
facilitates tutors in adding more cases to the system.

(8)

WebLegS includes a text
-
based conferencing tool so that discussions can be
conducted via inter
-
networking. Later developments of WebLegS will likely
include

video conferencing facilities.

If the amount of storage allows, all
discussion details during such conferences should be recorded for a later
evaluation.

(9)

It is clear that WebLegS are not only beneficial to university students who are
majoring in Law. It i
s also useful to students in other disciplines and, in fact, to
anyone who are willing to learn and practice law.

3.3 The Design

The proposed model of WebLegS as proposed earlier in the previous section needs a
systematic design. The design and implementat
ion of such a system will concentrate on
the three concerns of the development of web
-
based learning environments.

Looking at a typical group discussion environment, students first gather at a particular
place, normally in the classroom. The tutor then div
ides students into groups, and
provides each group with a legal case. Each student individually reads and analyzes the
given case until the group discussion begins. After a long series of arguments, ideas are
concluded and the case is wrapped up. The group

representative presents the tutor with
a written report. Tutor then goes over the report and decides on marks based on the
report. WebLegS intends to simulate such a similar learning environment with the
advantages as described earlier in the previous sec
tion.

The Methodologies

The contents of WebLegS mainly simulate the small
-
group discussion environment. It
intends to provide access to complete sets of Codes and legislations. For the first stage
of this system, the complete codes of civil and commercial
laws are included. Links to
other legal institutions are also provided. WebLegS enables tutors to supply cases and
pre
-
defined criteria to solve each case. As WebLegS intends to supplement the legal
education in Thailand where the legal system follows the
Romano
-
Germanic family of

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laws, which relies on formulated legal rules, it is possible that a set of criteria is
pre
-
determined. Such criteria are simply the legal rules that are needed for solving a
particular case.

In order to make the contents availabl
e to students, the learning environment is
carefully design. Once a student visit the home page of WebLegS, the page will always
announce schedules for the upcoming on
-
line case discussion so that students can
participate in the discussion at the particula
r time. Figure 1 demonstrates the WebLegS
homepage which is the first page displayed to all users. It is worth noted here that the
picture appears in the middle of the page is Thailand’s “Democracy monument” that
symbolizes the democracy in the country. To

the left of the picture, menu items are
listed (also shown in Figure 2). Most items required user logins and passwords.
However, the last two menu items, ie., “Resource links”, and “Schedules”, are
accessible by public without restriction.

The “Resource
links” menu item will open up the resource page, which provides links
to a lot of materials regarding legal matters, including Codes and legislations. The other
menu item is “Schedules” is the link to an announcement page that will display the
schedules fo
r up
-
coming case discussions so that students can join the discussion
accordingly. The past case discussions are also displayed in a separate section on the
same page.


Figure 1: WebLegS homepage displaying menu items

At the scheduled time for a case, any

student who will participate in the case login to the
system using the supplied login name and password. Once a student has successfully
logged in to the system, the student is presented with a menu of all on
-
going cases and
allowed to join in one of them

at a time. The selected case is then presented to the
student with textual information describing the details of the particular case.

What the student will need to do is to supply all article numbers that are related to the
analysis of the case together w
ith the detailed analysis when those articles are applied to
the case. Figure 2 shows the screen interface demonstrating the case details and the
input boxes that allow a student to enter article numbers and the analysis text. The

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article numbers and analy
sis text are submitted through the communication line to the
system database in order to supply the feedback to the student. This feedback
mechanism will be explained in more details later in this section.


Figure 2: Detailed case and answer boxes

Discuss
ion Groups

Normally a student will not submit the answer right after the student finishes reading
the case, without any discussion with other students. The student can start a textual
conferencing discussion, which will join the student into a discussion r
ing with other
students who are currently working on the same case in front of their machines
somewhere else. The discussion window will appear on the right side of the page so that
student can still read the case details while discussing with others. As c
an be seen in
figure 3, the discussion window is divided into two separated boxes, one on top of the
other. The upper box, a larger one, displays all conversation messages entered by every
participant according to the sequence when they are entered. Each d
isplayed message
starts off with the login name of the student who enters the message. The smaller box
below is an input box where the student types in a conversation message. Once the
student finishes entering a message, it will appear in the upper box of

everyone’s screen.
During the discussion, students may leave the discussion by closing the discussion
boxes. The student may rejoin to the same discussion group as many times as they
want.

It should be noted here that, although several cases are scheduled

and operated by the
same system simultaneously, any student who joins a case discussion will always be
put into the discussion group under that particular case only.

Sometimes students may need to obtain some further information for references.
WebLegS p
rovides channels for such resources. WebLegS comes with a complete set
of Codes, including civil law, commercial law, and civil law. It also provides links to

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other Internet resources on the WWW, where unlimited amount of information is
available.


Figure

3: Discussion boxes

Interactions with Students

After a long series of discussion, the group may come up with an agreement about the
case. Each student will then submit an individual answer which is not restricted that it
needs to agree with ones submitted

by others. It should also be noted that each case is
bounded within a preset period of time, the discussion is cut once the period is up, and a
short period is allowed for answer submission before the case is over.

All answers submitted by individual stud
ents are stored in the database separately. As
mentioned earlier in this paper, there are two parts of answers, ie., numbers of the
related articles, and the detailed analysis. The system will compare the first part which
is the article numbers with the ar
ticle numbers provided earlier in the system and give
an immediate feedback to the student regarding the matched and unmatched numbers
so that the student has a preliminary evaluation of the answers.

The other part of the answers is stored in the system d
atabase. Later the tutor can access
the stored information and obtain all submitted answers. The tutor can evaluate the
analysis and provide separate feedback to each student via email or a written report. For
the current version of WebLegS, the possible d
etailed analysis predetermined by the
tutor is not stored in the system, so the students will not get to read any possible analysis.
This is because we intend to allow some flexibility for the tutor. However, there is a
possibility that such facility may b
e added to the system with an option whether or not
to be given to the students automatically.

Facilities for Tutors

WebLegS also facilitates tutors so that they can handle the on
-
line tutorials effectively.
As described earlier, every tutor has an access
to the database that stores answers
submitted by students. Figure 4 displays the screen that is provided for tutors to

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manipulate the database using a database administration tool called “phpMyAdmin”,
which will be described further in section 4. All store
d data can be transferred into text
files, which can be printed out using the typical printing utility. Tutors will need to
evaluate individual answers manually because currently WebLegS does not provide
any support to the tutor’s evaluation process. Howev
er, it is possible that in the future
upgrade of the system, some Artificial Intelligence technology may be used to
implement tutor’s evaluation supports.


Figure 4: Tutor’s interface for an access to students’ answers

WebLegS also allows tutors to add, e
dit, or remove cases from the database. To add a
case to the database, the tutor needs to type in the case details (or simply cut and paste
from other sources) together with a set of article numbers that are related to the
particular case. The “add case” s
creen is shown in figure 5.


Figure 5: “Add case” screen


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4. THE IMPLEMENTATION

This section will provide further technical details how WebLegS was implemented. We
will begin with the criteria that were used to determine which tools would be
appropriate fo
r the development of our system. Two kinds of tool, the web
programming language and the database server, are described in great detail.

4.1. The System Platform

WebLegS relies on the Internet and WWW as the primary means for communication.
All features of

WebLegS as described earlier are presented on a number of web pages.
WebLegS requires a web browser on any client that runs it. All script codes are loaded
to a web server and all data are stored in a database server, which can be physically on
the same s
et of hardware as the web server. The actual hardware platform that runs
WebLegS is not rigid according to the platform independence of the implementation
tools. Before describing in great details about the tools that are used for implementing
WebLegS, a s
et of preferences for the selection of appropriate tools is set as follows:

1.

An Open source script language is preferred because WebLegS intends to be an
academic package and welcomes any contribution of whoever shares the interest.

2.

The selected tools shoul
d not be dependent to just a few operating systems and
web server systems since WebLegS intends to be operable on all system
platforms.

3.

The tools must be simple and easy to learn. It is also a preference that tools that
are used widely by other system deve
lopers are considered.

4.

It also takes into consideration that the overall performances of each tool and the
integrated system must be satisfactory. This also covers the analysis on cost
-

effectiveness.

Next in this section, the implementation tools are desc
ribed in greater details.

Web Programming Languages

Regarding the programming language to be used for the system implementation,
among all possible web
-
scripting languages such as C, Java, PERL, PHP, etc., we have
chosen PHP for our WebLegS implementation.


PHP or php, a recursive acronym for "PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor", is a widely
-
used
Open Source general
-
purpose scripting language that is especially suited for Web
development and can be embedded into HTML. Its syntax draws upon C, Java, and Perl,
and i
s easy to learn. PHP runs on many different platforms and can be used as a
standalone executable or as a module under a variety of web servers. It has excellent
support for databases, XML, LDAP, IMAP, Java, various Internet protocols, and
general data man
ipulation, and is extensible via its powerful API [14].

What distinguishes PHP from something like client
-
side JavaScript is that the code is
executed on the server. A PHP script on a server, once is executed, will generate code
that can be displayed as a

webpage on the client. It is possible even to configure a web
server to process all HTML files with PHP without any user recognition how the pages

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are generated. The best things in using PHP are that it is extremely simple for a novice,
while still offers

many advanced features for a professional programmer [14].

Writing a PHP script is different from a script written in other languages like Perl or C,
ie., instead of writing a program with lots of commands to output HTML, the code is
written as a simple
HTML script with some embedded code to do something (such as
output some text). The PHP code is enclosed in special start and end tags that allow you
to jump into and out of "PHP mode". Figure 6 demonstrates two PHP script codes that
are used in WebLegS. F
igures 6 (a), and (b) respectively show a code that sets a
connection to the database server and a code that check for user’s authorization.







(a)

<html>

<head>

<title>Connecting to Database Server</title>

<meta http
-
equiv="Content
-
Type" content="text
/html; charset=">

</head>

<body bgcolor="#FFFFFF" text="#000000">

<?$connect=mysql_connect("localhost","udom","admin");

$database="law";?>

</body>

</html>









(b)

<html>

<head>

<title>Authorized Login</title>

<meta http
-
equiv="Content
-
Type" content="
text/html; charset=">

</head>

<body bgcolor="#FFFFFF" text="#000000">

<? include"connect.inc.php";

$s_u=mysql("$database","SELECT * FROM law_user WHERE u_id='$u_id' AND
passwd='$passwd'");

$login=mysql_num_rows($s_u);

if($login>=1){


$group=mysql_res
ult($s_u,0,u_group);

}?>

</body>

</html>

Figure 6: Examples of PHP codes, (a) connecting the database server, and

(b) checking user’s authorization

PHP can be used on all major operating systems, including Linux, many Unix variants,
Microsoft Windows, Mac

OS X, RISC OS, and probably others. PHP has also support
for most of the web servers. This includes Apache, Microsoft Internet Information
Server, Personal Web Server, Netscape and iPlanet servers, Oreilly Website Pro server,
Caudium, Xitami, OmniHTTPd, a
nd many others [14].


13

One of the strongest and most significant features in PHP is its support for a wide range
of databases. Writing a database
-
enabled web page is simple. The databases that are
supported include Ingres, Oracle, dBase, InterBase, Empress,

FrontBase, PostgreSQL,
mSQL, Solid, MS
-
SQL, Sybase, IBM DB2, MySQL, Informix, ODBC, and more [14].
So PHP allows the freedom of choosing an operating system, a web server, and a
database.

These features of PHP make it the web programming script for WebLe
gS because it
meets all the selection criteria


as it is Open Source, it flexible enough to be operable
under any operating system, it is easy to learn, and it supports most of the powerful
database servers that will ensure the system performance.

The Dat
abase Servers

Turning to the selection of the database server, there are several systems that are widely
used by web developers. Some criteria are also set in order to select an appropriate
database server for the development of WebLegS. One of the publicl
y available and
reliable database servers is MySQL.

MySQL is the world's most popular Open Source Database, designed for speed, power
and precision in mission critical, heavy load use. MySQL is developed by MySQL AB
who also supports and markets MySQL. Th
e MySQL database server embodies a
software architecture that maximizes speed and customizability. It also allows reuse of
pieces of code within the software. MySQL is a database management system that is
fast, compact, stable, and easy to deploy.

The com
bination of PHP/MySQL servers is a commonly used architecture by many
web sites. Once the PHP package is installed properly on the web server, a useful tool
becomes available especially for handling the database server. Such a tool is
“phpMyAdmin”, which a
llows users (in this case, tutors) to handle the database freely,
including create, remove, and modify databases in the database server. The current
version of WebLegS allows tutors to handle databases in all technical details via this
tool. However, in th
e next version of WebLegS, tutors should not be able to create or
modify the database without technical knowledge as it turned out to be dangerous for
the system. Tutors will be allowed to access data, e.g., students’ answers, through some
specifically des
igned interfaces without affecting the database structure.

Examples of how user interfaces as provided by phpMyAdmin look like are displayed
in figures 4 and 7. In figure 4, which appeared earlier in this paper, shows the MySQL
database table that collect
s students’ answers. Figure 7 shows the interface that allows
tutors to create or modify a database structure by defining the table fields and domains.

A Few Words about WebLegS User Interfaces

WebLegS is designed to have simple user interfaces. What disp
layed on each page are
mostly textual information. The use of images and other multimedia information is
limited to minimal in order to keep the system compact and fast. This is because
multimedia components are normally large and takes up a lot of both st
orage and
communication resources, which will obviously slow the system down. Moreover, an
excessive use of such media may distract students from their interest in the case and
discussion, which of course are the main purposes of the system.


14



Figure 7:
phpMyAdmin interface to create or modify a table structure

5. CONCLUSION

WebLegS, the proposed model, involves the use of the WWW as the means for on
-
line
interactive communication among students. In this primary study, textual messages are
entered by the

students who are arguing on the provided case. Embedded in the given
study case are hidden tags used for determining the scores for which arguments each
students state. At the end of the process, the case is concluded with the majority
agreement and the

overall group scores are calculated based on the preset criteria. Each
student is reported individual scores earned during the process. The study finds that
this technique will encourage law students to utilize the knowledge obtain from reading
the Code
s, legislations, and court decisions, which will prepare them to become a good
lawyer, attorney, or judge.

The benefits of WebLegS can be summarized as followings:

1.

It enables students to join in any discussion from anywhere, which is concerned
as a kind of

distance education. It is possible that students from several Law
schools across the world to join in some major international legal cases.

2.

WebLegS not only frees students from distance, but also frees them from time
barrier. Although students will need
to login the system at a particular time for
any discussion session, it is the only time
-
restriction of the system. Students can
access the resources whenever they prefer, including the past cases that have been
discussed. Tutors may repeat interesting cas
es again for different student groups.


15

3.

The operational cost for this system is low. The only major running expense is the
cost to keep the communication on all the time.

4.

WebLegS provides opportunities to more audience, including non
-
academic
people, to joi
n in the circle. This system may be beneficial to



Educational institutions, e.g., universities, colleges, or even primary
schools.



Anyone who is interested because the system is good for self
-
studies.



Companies and Law firms

5.

Activities that take place in
the system are always recorded, including all
discussion messages (if the storage capacity allows to). These recorded
information may be helpful for students to go back and review the processes.

6.

The nature of the Internet and WWW enable WebLegS to provide
enormous
amount of information via on
-
line resources with very little effort. Ommon
resources that are provided within WebLegS itself include, Codes and
legislations, discussion messages, real judgments on past cases, etc.

Suggested Future Works

The propos
ed system is still a primitive model and there are a number of possible
improvements. The followings are some improvement to be considered.

Currently, WebLegS has very little concern about the system security. Apart from
password accesses by students and t
utors, it does not have any other means of system
protection. All tutors can access the shared database freely, which is not a good practice.
More restrictions on system securities, including all accesses and encryption, should be
considered.

As mentioned

earlier, at present, tutors need to evaluate students’ submitted answers
manually. An intelligent tool may be implemented in order to assist such tutor’s task.


Another possible adaptation of WebLegS is “long
-
distance judgments” where
judgments are conduc
ted via the Internet using a WebLegS
-
like system with video
conferencing facilities.

6. REFERENCES

1.

Ren
é David
, John E. C. Brierley,
Major Legal Systems in the World Today
, Stevens
& Sons Ltd., 1985.

2.

Hugh Collins, “The Place of Computers in Legal Education”
,
Reviewing Legal
Education
, 1994.

3.

Robin Widdison, Francis Pritchard, "An Experiment with Electronic Law
Tutorials",
10
th

BILETA Conference Electronic Communications
, 1995.

4.

Richard Susskind,
The Future of Law: Facing the Challenges of Information
Technolo
gy
, Oxford University Press Inc., 1996.


16

5.

Luke Nottage, “Cyberspace and the Future of Law, Legal Education and Practice in
Japan”,
Web Journal of Current Legal Issues
, Blackstone Press Ltd., 1998.

6.

Georgios N. Yannopoulos,
Modelling the Legal Decision Process

for Information
Technology Applications in Law
, Kluwer Law International, 1998.


7.

David Calderwood, “An Internet Exercise in Conveyancing Practice”,
Web Journal
of Current Legal Issues
, Blackstone Press, ltd., 1996.

8.

Franco Zizzo, “Legal Resources via World

Wide Web”,
10
th

BILETA Conference
Electronic Communications
, 1995.

9.

Colin Scott, Robin Widdison, “Law Courseware: The Next Generation”,
Law
Technology Journal
, vol. 3, no. 2, 1994.

10.

P.Tiranathanakul, P. Kiattikomol, Gou Dingjun, “The virtual University : Vi
rtual
Education via Web
-
Based Instruction”,
KMUTT Industrial Education Journal
, no.3,
1999.

11.

Robert M. Abbey, “Information Technology and the Legal Practice Course”,
Web
Journal of Current Legal Issues
, Blackstone Press, ltd., 1995.

12.

http://www.bileta.ac.uk

13.

http://www.law.warwick.ac.uk/lcc

14.

http://www.php.net/manual/en/introduction.php