Saturday, December 31, 2005
On the assumption that people who care about getting the words right on the page might also care about getting the words right in a song, here's a website with the words to Auld Lang Syne: http://www.english.zone.com/holidays/auldlang2/html. Several variations of the traditional words are known, and available on other sites, but this site offers the advantage of a modern English translation, so at least you'll know what you're crooning. (spl)
Friday, December 30, 2005
Attorney Raymond Ward maintains a website on legal writing with a strong practical orientation, at http://home.earthlink.net/~thelegalwriter/. There you will find links to his blog entries about legal writing, too. He gives good advice this week on sources of help for those who resolve to improve their legal writing in the coming new year. (spl)
Thursday, December 29, 2005
One opportunity for U.S. professors to teach in other countries that may be particularly suitable for busy legal writing faculty is the Fulbright Senior Specialists Program. Through this program, U.S. professors can visit at a university in another country for a two to six week time period (which could even be over the summer, especially in the southern hemisphere). In most countries, the teaching expertise that U.S. legal writing professors have would be most welcome. It's fair to say that the skills curriculum in legal education is not as developed in many other countries as it is in the United States. The Fulbright Senior Specialists Program is described in detail at http://www.cies.org/specialists. (spl)
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Twice a year, the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) awards grants for research on topics related to legal education. The topics that have received grants in the past cover a broader range than you might at first imagine, and some legal writing professors might well be contemplating a project that could receive LSAC funding. The next deadline for applications is February 1st. Detailed information is available at http://www.lsac.org/LSAC.asp?url=lsac/lsac-legal-education-grant-program.asp.
Remember, February 1st is also the deadline to apply for an ALWD summer research grant (see 11/16/05 in the archives for this blog). The next couple of weeks could be a good time to prepare a grant application, before the flurry of the new semester. (spl)
Monday, December 26, 2005
One of the funniest cases on record is Miles v. City Council of Augusta, 710 F.2d 1542 (11th Cir. 1983). If you don't have access to a commercial legal database or the books of U.S. law reports, one place you can access the case online is http://members.aol.com/schwenkler/wcc/miles2.htm. The case concerns a dispute about a talking black cat named Blackie. It is just one entry in a book full of funny cases, Blackie the Talking Cat: And Other Favorite Judicial Opinions, now out of print, but still available via the usual sources and in law libraries. It's a good choice if you're still looking for a gift for a colleague or a vacation read. (spl)
Sunday, December 25, 2005
Saturday, December 24, 2005
It is important for all writers, even legal writers, to not take themselves too terribly seriously and to retain a sense of humor. An excellent example of this precept can be found at a special seasonal website posted by the military organization NORAD, which is responsible for defense of the skies over Canada and the United States. At http://www.noradsanta.org/index.php, NORAD provides regularly updated information on the progress of Santa's sleigh in airspace around the globe. While much of the website will be available for reading later, today is THE day to visit the site for real-time updates. (spl)
These days we rarely to have to circle a word on a student's paper and mark "sp" for "spelling." More frequently now, we circle a word and write "wrong word." Computer spellchecking hasn't eliminated spelling errors, it's only changed the type of proofreading errors that writers make.
By way of example, I recently graded 43 legal memos about whether a teenager who was detained on suspicion of shoplifting might have a cause of action for false imprisonment. Several papers located the teen in the candy "isle." It was hard not to picture palm trees made of chocolate.
Segueing from paper grading to vacation reading, I started reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling's 6th book in the famous series. On page 10, I reached for my correcting pen: "The site, therefore, of Fudge stepping out of the fire once more, ... was about the worst thing that had happened ...." (emphasis added)
Seems even a book full of spells has spelling errors these days. (spl)
Friday, December 23, 2005
For a few years now, CLEA, the Clinical Legal Education Association, has been gathering information on best practices in clinical legal education in the United States. The document that has resulted from this effort quite naturally includes references to legal writing, as well as many related skills that are often covered in legal writing courses. Both a summary and the full document can be found at http://professionalism.law.sc.edu/news.html#CLEA. (spl)
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Some helpful new content has been added to the homepage of the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research, at http://law.pace.edu/aals/. It now contains a link to "Recent Publications of Interest." The listing includes both recent articles and books on legal writing, legal analysis, legal research, lawyers' professionalism, and related topics. (spl)
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
There's another place where you can read the posts of a professor blogging about legal writing. Professor Wayne Schiess at the University of Texas was writing his blog at http://plainlegalwriting.blogspot.com. Earlier he was blogging at http://legalwriting.net/, and he's recently returned to that location. Wherever you locate his posts, he presents helpful and interesting ideas and information about legal writing. (spl)
Monday, December 19, 2005
There is a wonderful article on how to use graphics in legal writing, by Professor Ruth Anne Robbins at Rutgers-Camden. "Painting with print: Incorporating concepts of typographic and layout design into the text of legal writing documents" at 2 J. ALWD 108 (2004), explains how a lawyer's written communication can be enhanced by understanding the graphic effects that can be used in a page of text. The article also explains how to incorporate charts, graphs, and other visuals in a way that will aid the legal reader, including courts, and not be distracting. (spl)
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Chapter 4 of the ABA's accreditation standards covers faculty matters, and it includes a few interesting details about legal writing faculty.
Standard 402 sets out the requirements for the size of a law school's full-time faculty. Interpretation 402-1 describes how to calculate the student/faculty ratio of a law school. It indicates that full-time legal writing professors who are not on the tenure track are to be counted as 0.7 of a faculty member.
Standard 405(d) discusses the terms of employment for legal writing professors:
"A law school shall afford legal writing teachers such security of position and other rights and privileges of faculty membership as may be necessary to (1) attract and retain a faculty that is well qualified to provide legal writing instruction as required by Standard 302(a)(2), and (2) safeguard academic freedom."
Interpretation 405-9 further explains:
"Subsection (d) of this Standard does not preclude the use of short-term contracts for writing teachers, nor does it preclude law schools from offering fellowship programs designed to produce candidates for full-time teaching by offering supervised teaching experience."
Of course these requirements are best understood in context, and the full set of standards can be found at http://www.abanet.org/legaled/standards/standards.html. (spl)
Friday, December 16, 2005
The American Bar Association (ABA) is the organization to which the federal Department of Education delegates the work of accrediting law schools in the United States. The ABA uses detailed standards in the accreditation process.
Here's the requirement for legal writing instruction:
"A law school shall require that each student receive substantial instruction in ... writing in a legal context, including at least one rigorous writing experience in the first year and at least one additional rigorous writing experience after the first year."
And here's how that requirement is to be interpreted:
"Factors to be considered in evaluating the rigor of writing instruction include: the number and nature of writing projects assigned to students; the opportunities a student has to meet with a writing instructor for purposes of individualized assessment of the student's written products; the number of drafts that a student must produce of any writing project; and the form of assessment used by the writing instructor."
The full text of the ABA accreditation standards can be found at http://www.abanet.org/legaled/standards/standards.html (spl)
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Did you know that there's a website where students can download other students' law school outlines for free and submit their own for possible purchase? See http://www.ilrg.com/students/outlines/. It ends with a list of other websites that also offer outlines. (njs)
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
On the Plain Language website, one of the article links is to a clear and well-written article by Judge Mark Painter of the Ohio Court of Appeals, at http://www.plainlanguagenetwork.org/Legal/legalwriting.pdf.
He writes forcefully and passionately about plain writing, and he does so with a sense of humor: "Footnotes detract from readability. Encountering a footnote is like going downstairs to answer the door while making love."
Now that quote is hard to top, but rest assured that there are many more articles listed on the site, all united by the theme of Plain Language and its inarguable merits. (njs)
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
The Plain Language Association has a website at http://www.plainlanguagenetwork.org/. As the website indicates, "Our site provides free plain-language articles, writing tutorials, Web links, news, networking opportunities, professional support, and e-mail discussion groups." There's a section on Plain Legal Writing. More about that website tomorrow!! (njs)
Monday, December 12, 2005
Another good article ... debunking myths that law students believe about legal writing and its role in law practice. See http://www.abanet.org/lsd/studentlawyer/may04/get-real.html. (njs)
Sunday, December 11, 2005
A great little article on legal writing can be found at http://www.sims.berkeley.edu/~pam/papers/goodwriting.html#fnBO.
This 1984 article, full of simple and clear advice, was written by Pamela Samuelson. (njs)