Wednesday, November 26, 2014
The Burton Awards for Excellence in Legal Writing is, without a doubt, the single most glamorous evening for legal writing. That's been true for years, and next year's award ceremony promises to continue that trend. It will be held at 4:45 p.m. on Monday, June 15, 2015 in the Great Hall of the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. Awards will be given for public interest, public service, "Legends in Law," distinguished legal writing awards, outstanding journalist in law, and an award for "Outstanding Contributions to Legal Writing Education." Entertainment will be provided that evening by Kristin Chenoweth, the Emmy and Tony Award winning superstar. It's a black tie event and tickets can be pricey, but the value of the evening makes it all worthwhile.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
The events in Ferguson Missouri have focused much needed national and global attention on race issues. Although the following guest blog post is not about legal writing, we are pleased to share the insights and challenges from writer Leonce Gaiter.
A Writer’s Racialization, and Keeping Black Writers in Their Ethnic Places
I am black and in my latest novel, all the main characters are white.
My previous novels portrayed black principals and almost all-white supporting casts. They received admiration from publishing houses, but few takers. Publishers told me that they could not see a route to commercial success for my books. I soon learned what that meant.
There remains in publishing a very Jim Crow notion of what black authors should write. We are supposed to write about “The Black Experience.” That means we can write about slavery and the civil rights movement; we can write protest fiction of one sort or another; we can write victimized characters who take the world’s abuse and turn it self-destructively inward.
And black writers know this. That’s why self-censorship enters the picture. We know what kind of books will gain mainstream acceptance, and we know what kinds of books will receive the polite publishing industry ‘no thank you’ regardless of merit.
Partly due to the boundaries mainstream publishing erects around black letters, I wrote a book with white principal characters. Then I discovered a writer who had done the same over 50 years ago, and his example shows how little has changed when it comes to African-Americans and American mainstream publishing.
I learned about Frank Yerby from Troy Johnson of the African-American Literature Book Club (aalbc.com). I contacted Troy about marketing my new white-charactered book to his mainly black audience. Troy mentioned how rare it is for black writers to ‘write white’ and mentioned Yerby as a one who had done so starting back in the 40s, and whose reputation suffered for it. Per the New George Encyclopedia:
“Yerby was often criticized by blacks for the lack of focus on or stereotypical treatment of African American characters in his books. Thus, ironically, while Yerby held the distinction of being the first best-selling black novelist, he also became one of the most disparaged for his lack of racial consciousness.”
Further research led me to an essay on Yerby by A.J. Aronstein in Bookslut. In it, Aronstein discusses Yerby’s first and breakthrough novel, “The Foxes of Yarrow.”
“For the last forty years, defenders of Yerby have attempted to justify the fact that he wrote romance novels, suggesting that he dodged confrontations with racial issues in order to publish on his own terms. According to these readings, the value of Yerby's work arises mainly from his rejection of expectations imposed upon his generation of African-American writers. But a reading of The Foxes of Harrow presents an opportunity for rethinking Yerby's handling of racial themes, and suggests that we should reconsider the importance of his work among mid-century African-American writers like Wright, Hurston, and Ellison.”
Kudos to Aronstein for working to resurrect a writer he finds underrated; however, it’s interesting that the grounds on which he attempts to resurrect him are the very well-worn fields of the African-American race novel—a soil Yerby spent a great deal of his career purposefully sidestepping. Discussing his indifference toward typical racial themes in a 1981 interview, Yerby called the ‘race novel’ “an artistic dead end,” from which he said, “I’m glad to have escaped.” Nonetheless, Aronstein insists in stuffing him into a category the author himself minimized. It’s as if Aronstein knows that publishing only admits black writers through a particular back door, so that’s the one through which he tries to slip Yerby.
Aronstein wrote, “Yerby did write romance novels. But genre snobbery risks brushing aside his significant accomplishments in the publishing industry, and ignores the way race actually operates in his books.”
Aronstein rests Yerby’s literary significance on his incorporation of race into his novels, as if that is the only standard by which a black author could or should be judged. Perhaps, like Wilkie Collins or Marion Zimmer Bradley, he produced a genre masterpiece that deserves in-print status through eternity. But Yerby is black, so that cannot be the basis for his reconsideration. He has to be made ‘a credit to his race’ instead.
Publishing seems desperate to keep ethnic writers neatly sealed in racial Zip Lock bags. The underlying idea is that writers write novels. Black writers write Black Novels, a decidedly separate and unequal subset.
The hope is that more black writers will exploit our exhaustive intimacy with the American mainstream to cast our eye and voice upon that world, and so put the lie to the idea that our range, ambitions, or abilities should ever be limited.
Leonce Gaiter is a prolific African American writer and proud Harvard Alum. He's contributed articles to theNYTimes, NYT Magazine, LA Times, Washington Times, and Washington Post, and has written two novels. His newly released novel, In the Company of Educated Menis a literary thriller that highlights racial and socio-economic themes.
Hat tip to Stephanie Armiger
The Legal Writing Institute's One Day Workshops offer a fantastic national opportunity for legal writing professors to gather and exchange information not only on the day-to-day topics that confront us in the classroom but also on the larger issues for all legal writing professionals.
San Diego, California, is one of the host cities this year, where an LWI one-day workshop will be hosted by California Western School of Law on Friday, December 5, 2014.
Speakers there will include:
- Dean Niels Schaumann (California Western School of Law)
- David Austin (California Western School of Law)
- Elizabeth Carroll (USC Gould School of Law)
- Maureen Johnson (Loyola Los Angeles)
- Joanne Merino (Stanford Law School)
- Lisa Black (California Western School of Law)
- Charles Calleros (Arizona State University)
- Joe Kimble (Western Michigan University Thomas Cooley Law School) [Winner of the 2010 Lifetime Contribution Award from the AALS Section on Legal Writing Reasoning and Research]
- Julie Ryan (USC Gould School of Law)
- Fiona McKenna (Golden Gate University)
- Tim Casey (California Western School of Law)
- Lance Long (Stetson University College of Law)
- Mark E. Wojcik (The John Marshall Law School-Chicago) [Winner of the 2015 Lifetime Contribution Award from the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research]
Registration for the One-Day Workshop is an extremely reasonable $45.00 (with discounts for speakers and host school attendees). Click here for more information and for the registration link.
The Sheraton Four Points, 1617 First Ave., San Diego, CA 619-239-9600 · 866-716-8133, is located one block from California Western School of Law. Discounted rooms are available for this conference, please reference California Western when making your reservation. The room rate is $99 per night (plus 12.5% tax and fees) Thurs., Dec. 4th & 5th. A free airport shuttle to and from the hotel is available daily from 7:00 am to 10:00 p.m., and the hotel is then only a three-minute walk from the school.
The Westgate Hotel, 1055 Second Ave., San Diego, CA 619-238-1818· 800-221-3802, is located in the heart of downtown San Diego near the Gaslamp nightlife area, approximately four blocks from the Law School. Discounted rooms are available by using the reference California Western and the number 308649 when making your reservation. The room rate is $149 per night (plus 12.5% tax and resort fees) (10 minute walk from the school).
Other hotels are of course available, including one on Sunset Cliffs in Ocean Beach (not far from where the picture above was taken).
Hat tips to the Legal Writing Department at California Western School of Law
One-Day Workshop at the University of Detroit Mercy, co-hosted by the University of Windsor, on Friday, December 5, 2014.
Theme: Reaching, Teaching, and Employing Today’s Evolving Law Student
The Premise: Students in the “Millennial” and “Next Gen” generations approach the world, collaboration and social interaction, and the use of technology differently than previous generations. On the one hand, these characteristics may have a positive influence on their capacity to learn and on the practice of law. On the other hand, some behavior is equally likely to create challenges for these students. Either way, this generational shift invites us to explore how we might adjust our teaching approaches for Millennial and Next Gen students.
Special Conference Opportunities: In addition to a series of thoughtful presentations from our colleagues, you can
1. Consider the topic from several unique perspectives:
- *Undergraduate writing professors who can foreshadow what is to come
- *Judges and employers with insight into the impact Millennials are having on the practice of law and the challenges they may face
- *International speakers from Canada and Qatar;
2. Participate in an interactive roundtable discussion where participants explore how they might adjust their teaching approaches in light of the day’s presentations;
3. Celebrate Detroit, at the beautiful and historic conference setting, UDM’s Dowling Hall, which was built in1890 and restored just in time for UDM Law’s 100th anniversary in 2012, and enjoy a special outing to the Detroit Institute of Arts and its “Friday Night Live”; and
4. If this wasn’t sufficient reason to share the day in Detroit, please bid a fond farewell to Pamela Lysaght, who is retiring from UDM next spring. She will be honored (including a Skype appearance by LWI President Linda Berger) during the conference luncheon for her many contributions, including her leadership as a former President of ALWD, her work with the LWI and LWI Journal of Legal Writing, and her active role with the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and membership on its powerful Accreditation Committee. In addition to all of this, however, Pam may be most respected by her UDM colleagues as the Program Director who led the charge on security of position. As a result of Pam’s efforts over the course of more than ten years, UDM Law shifted from an adjunct program, to a program with one-year renewable contracts, then to clinical tenure, and, finally, in 2007, to a tenure and tenure-track program.
For all of these reasons and more, the workshop organizers hope you will join them on December 5. Please visit our conference page for registration and other logistical information:
Saturday, November 22, 2014
John Marshall's Mark Wojcik has been selected by the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research as the Section Award Winner for 2015. The Section Award is given to an individual who has made "a significant lifetime contribution to the field of legal writing, reasoning, and research."
Mark is known for his many contributions to the field, including spearheading international conferences, working with the Library of Congress, and contributing as an editor of this blog.
Section chair Kim Holst announced that the award will be presented on Saturday, January 3, 2015, at the section luncheon at the Association of American Law School's Annual Meeting in Washington.
Congratulations, Mark! He joins this list of past winners of this award:
- 1993: Marjorie Rombauer
- 1994: Ralph Brill
- 1996: Mary Lawrence
- 2002: Helene Shapo
- 2003: Laurel Oates
- 2005: Marilyn Walter
- 2006: Terri LeClercq
- 2007: Anne Enquist
- 2008: Eric Easton
- 2009: Richard Neumann
- 2010: Joe Kimble
- 2011: Betsy Fajans
- 2012: Susan Brody/Mary Barnard Ray
- 2013: Terrill Pollman/Jill Ramsfield
- 2014: Jan Levine
- 2015: Mark E. Wojcik
Thursday, November 20, 2014
The Applied Legal Storytelling Conference will be held July 21-23, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. The 2015 Conference is co-sponsored by the Legal Writing Institute, the Clinical Legal Education Association, and Seattle University School of Law). The deadline for proposals is December 15, 2014.
One of the most overlooked resources in a library is the professional library staff. The Law Library of Congress--the largest law library in the world--is no exception. Pictured here with me (I'm the guy on the left) are some of the professionals who make the magic happen at the Law Library of Congress.
From left to right (after me) are Robert R. Newlen (Assistant Law Librarian for Legislative and External Relations), David Mao (the Law Librarian of Congress), and Nathan Dorn (Rare Book Curator and Curator of the Magna Carta Exhibit). They were among the attendees at a recent meeting of the American Bar Association's Advisory Commission to the Standing Committee on the Law Library of Congress. I was recently appointed to that Commission along with Associate Justice Samuel Alito of the U.S. Supreme Court. (Just more proof that it pays to get involved with bar associations!)
Mark E. Wojcik, Professor, The John Marshall Law School
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
The Law Library of Congress has organized a magnificent exhibit of the Magna Carta for the 800th Anniversary of that document. If you're going to the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools, plan to get over to the Jefferson Building to see that exhibit. Connected to the exhibit are many side events at the Law Library of Congress, including this conversation with David Mao (the Law Librarian of Congress), Chief Justice John Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court, and the recently-retired Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, The Right Honourable The Lord Judge.
Hat tip to the Law Library of Congress
Saturday, November 15, 2014
Peter W. Martin, the Jane M. Foster Professor of Law (Emeritus) at Cornell, has a website called "Citing Legally: Occasional Observations Concerning the Citation of Legal Authorities by Lawyers and Judges." That blog, we're told, is a byproduct of the annual revision of "Introduction to Basic Legal Citation," an online resource that looks to be not only pretty darn good but also one that invites serious discussion of legal citation.
The Citing Legally Blog contains a detailed and analytical response to a post we had earlier noting that the Westlaw "Copy with Reference" feature for ALWD copies to the fourth, rather than the fifth, edition of the ALWD Manual. His practical and useful suggestion to fix that was to simply delete the ALWD option because, as he correctly notes, the citations in the new edition of the ALWD manual produce exactly the same citations as the Bluebook. (I think I'm going to start calling the new edition of ALWD "the fantastic fifth edition.")
Please visit that website and have a look at the other treasures it offers. Congratulations Professor Martin on the serious study of citation you share with us all.
Mark E. Wojcik (mew)
Thursday, November 13, 2014
[a] respected and compassionate jurist as well as an exceptional writer, teacher, and mentor. . . . He has engaged the judiciary, current and future lawyers, and the public in a much-needed dialogue about two major challenges facing the criminal justice system: the death penalty and the extremely high rates of incarceration in the United States.
The November issue of the Journal of Legal Education contains a thought-provoking piece by UNLV's Linda Edwards titled The Trouble with Categories: What Theory Can Teach Us about the Doctrine-Skills Divide. Edwards identifies flaws with the usual classification of law school courses into skills courses on the one hand and doctrinal, podium, or casebook courses on the other. As she explains, that division can send inaccurate messages, because the difference between the categories is not so clean; for example, both kinds of courses cover doctrine. In order to meet the challenges currently facing legal education, Edwards proposes that law schools use the new categories of “foundation,” “bridge,” and “capstone” courses. The full article is available at 64 Journal of Legal Education 181.
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Scribes, the American Society of Legal Writers, is a national organization of legal writers promoting a clear, succinct, and forceful style in legal writing. Founded in 1953 by New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Arthur T. Vanderbilt, Scribes creates an interest in legal writing by awarding annual writing awards, conducting writing seminars, and publishing a quarterly newsletter and the Scribes Journal of Legal Writing.
My fellow blog editor, Mark Wojcik of Chicago's John Marshall Law School, has been appointed to the prestigious ABA Advisory Commission to the Standing Committee on the Law Library of Congress. There he joins some very influential people, including Justice Samuel Alito of the U.S. Supreme Court. Congratulations, Mark!
hat tip: Anthony Niedwiecki
The Charlotte School of Law is hosting an LWI One-Day Workshop on December 5. The theme at that location will be “Preparing Practice-Ready Students: What Every Legal Writer Needs to Know Before Putting Pen to Paper,” and the day will include the following LWI apeakers:
- Laura Graham (Wake Forest University School of Law), First Things First: How to Build Foundational Pre-Writing Lessons Into Your Legal Writing Class
- Lucy Jewel (University of Tennessee College of Law) and Alexa Chew (University of North Carolina School of Law), Categories and Conventions: Teaching Students to Critically Assess Boundaries
- Anne Burr (University of Michigan Law School), Cultural Exchange: Teaching Pre-Writing Skills to International Law Students
- Suzanne Rabe (The University of Arizona James E. Rogers School of Law), Use of Oral Presentations and Client Interviews to Help Reach a Variety of Learners in a Legal Writing Class
- O.J. Salinas (University of North Carolina School of Law), Think, Talk, Listen, Learn: Using Oral Exercises to Teach Case Analysis and Writing Fundamentals
Breakfast and lunch are being provided by BNA and Lexis.
Hat tips to Mandana Vidwan and Heather Davis.
The Legal Writing Institute's One-Day Workshops are coming up in December. These events, spread across the country, create a great gathering space for legal writing professors, law librarians, writing specialists, and others interested in teaching legal writing.
UNLV's William S. Boyd School of Law is one of the places hosting a One Day Workshop on Friday December 5, 2014. Our Workshop will explore the theme of "Developing and Implementing Upper-Level Legal Writing Courses," and will feature some wonderful speakers, including several current LWI Board Members. At UNLV they are planning several interactive features, including "Lunch with Practitioners" and a "Speed Mentoring" session. More information on the program and how to register for it is available by clicking here.
Should the Legal Writing Institute formalize what was known as the Pink Ink Caucus? That was the group of LGBT legal writing professors and allies. It met a couple of times (but not recently). Should LWI bring it back and foramlize it into an LWI committee?
Friday, November 7, 2014
“Legal educators don’t need empirical research to tell them what they already know—students coming to law school are ill prepared for the academic rigors of law study.” So begins an article recently posted by Jennifer Cooper of Seattle University. Cooper writes that in addressing this problem, law professors can benefit from undergraduate research showing that “retrieval [encoding and retrieving information from memory], self-testing, and periodic review are highly correlated with academic success.” To apply these concepts in law schools, Cooper recommends that professors calendar specific study steps, model case reading and synthesis in class, use practice questions and quizzes, and modeling effective use of course outlines.
Thursday, November 6, 2014
This is a temporary glitch that I suppose will eventually work itself out, but in the meantime it is best to be aware of a small issue with the feature called "Westlaw Copy With Reference." In case you don't know it, that feature allows you to copy a block of text from a case with the reference. You can put the reference in Bluebook format or in ALWD format. And hey, since my students figured out how to do that I can spend a little less time teaching citation format. It works quite well and is just one of those amazing things I wish we had back when I was in law school. Perfect citation format every time.
But here's the issue. The current Westlaw Copy with Reference (ALWD) seems to still be set for the Fourth edition of the ALWD Guide to Legal Citation rather than the current, can't-tell-it-apart-from-the-Bluebook-anymore Fifth edition. This means that a citation to an Illinois Appellate Court case will come out like this:
Doe v. Dilling, 861 N.E.2d 1052, 1066 (Ill. App. 1st Dist. 2006) aff'd, 888 N.E.2d 24 (Ill. 2008).
Rather than this:
Doe v. Dilling, 861 N.E.2d 1052, 1066 (Ill. App. Ct. 2006) aff'd, 888 N.E.2d 24 (Ill. 2008).
Of course it was more useful to practitioners and scholars to know the district, but that's not the format now for either Bluebook or ALWD. And yes, I remember to good ole days when all you needed was "Ill. App." rather than "Ill. App. Ct." (because back then everyone realized it was a court.
Is this a big deal? Obviously not.
Am I trying to avoid grading papers? Obviously yes.
But in the meantime, Westlaw powers that be should be alerted to the discrepancy in the new edition of ALWD and it's rather fabulous copy with ALWD reference function.
Tuesday, November 4, 2014
If you're going to Washington D.C. this January for the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools, plan an extra day to stop by the Library of Congress which will have a special exhibit on the Magna Carta.
The year 2015 will mark the 800th anniversary of the 1215 Magna Carta, the first document to limit the power of the King and to uphold the rights of the individual.
An exhibit called "Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor" will open at the Library of Congress on November 6, 2014 and continue to January 19, 2015. It features the "Lincoln Cathedral" copy of the Magna Carta, which is being loaned by Lincoln Cathedral in England (pictured here).
Thursday, October 30, 2014
Many readers of this blog have visited the Law Library of Congress (or at least its rather fabulous website).
While we've all been somewhat distracted with upcoming gala celebrations of the 800th Anniversary of Magna Carta, the Law Library of Congress has been undergoing a facelift of sorts with new construction in the Reading Room. You can click here to visit the Law Library of Congress Blog to have a look at the "before" pictures of the Law Library Reading Room. This is a major overhaul and we look forward to seeing the final results! And yes, we're still super-excited about the Magna Carta events at the Law Library of Congress while all of this construction goes on.