November 26, 2005
"Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man."
- Francis Bacon, in Of Studies (emphasis added)
November 25, 2005
Legal Writing at AALS
The Association of American Law Schools' (AALS) annual meeting is fast approaching, January 3 - 7, 2006, in Washington, D.C. If you're still on the fence about whether to go, or if you want to fill your dance card, listed below are some of the events that may be of particular interest to legal writing professors. There are many more events, enough to keep anyone busy all day and evening. You can view the full schedule and registration materials at http://aals.org.
Tues., Jan. 3rd:
4-6 p.m. Legal Writing Insitute (LWI), Board meeting
Weds., Jan. 4th:
8:45 a.m. - 5 p.m. Workshop on Integrating Transnational Legal Perspectives into the IL Curriculum
8:45 - 5:30 p.m. Workshop on the Search for Balance in the Whirlwind of Law School, including:
2 - 3:30 p.m. Teaching Methods & Grading
12:15 - 1:30 p.m. Section on Law Libraries luncheon
Thurs., Jan. 5th
7 - 8:30 a.m. Section on Women in Legal Education breakfast (75% of legal writing profs are women -- women in legal education)
7 - 9 a.m. Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD), Board meeting
10:30 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, & Research presentation:
Teaching Professionalism in a Way That Respects and Honors Law Students
4 - 5:45 p.m. Section on Academic Support presentation:
The First R: The Role of Students' Reading Skills in Decoding the Law & Performing Well in Law School
Fri., Jan. 6th:
7 - 8:30 a.m. Section on Academic Support breakfast
8:30 - 9:30 a.m. ALWD new directors breakfast
12:15 - 1:30 p.m. Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning & Research luncheon
3:30 - 5:15 p.m. Section on Teaching Methods presentation:
The How Tos and Whys: Exploring the Consequences of Our Pedagogical Choices
7 - 9 p.m. LWI Golden Pen Award & ALWD-LWI Blackwell Award reception
Sat., Jan. 7th:
9 - 10:45 a.m. Section on Graduate Programs for Foreign Lawyers presentation, co-sponsored by Section on Legal Writing Reasoning, & Research (and others):
Techniques to Internationalize the First Year Curriculum
November 23, 2005
Yes, there are professional ethics involved in every aspect of lawyering, including legal writing. Judge Gerald Lebovits provides a concise review of the ethical considerations inherent in legal writing in his recent articles in the New York State Bar Association Journal. Legal-Writing Ethics -- Part I appears in the September/October 2005 issue, and Legal-Writing Ethics -- Part II appears in the November/December 2005 issue. These articles are both short enough and informative enough for student reading assignments.
Judge Lebovits is a judge of the New York City Civil Court, Housing Part, in Manhattan, and he also teaches as an adjunct at New York Law School. In recent years he has been the primary author of The Legal Writer, a regular column in the NY State Bar Association Journal. His tone and his thoroughness make it obvious he speaks from long experience in the courtroom.
Making Judge Lebovits's articles on legal writing ethics even more interesting are the sources he cites. The scholarship of many legal writing professors is cited in the footnotes, including books and articles by:
Donna Chin (Seton Hall)
Beth Cohen (Western New England)
Nancy Lawler Dickhute (Creighton)
Judith Fischer (Louisville)
Linda Edwards (Mercer)
Terri LeClercq (Texas)
Wayne Scheiss (Texas)
Lou Sirico (Villanova)
Michael Smith (Mercer)
Melissa Weresh (Drake)
November 22, 2005
Barger on Legal Writing
One of the best websites created (and well-maintained!) by a legal writing professor is Barger on Legal Writing, at http://www.ualr.edu/cmbarger/.
Like many legal writing professors, Professor Coleen M. Barger posts materials specific to her own courses. But she also posts a plethora of links to resources that are helpful for many legal writing students -- and many legal writers.
In the category of Writers' Resources alone, she includes links to solid sources on:
- formatting documents,
- grammar, style, composition,
- inspiration and reference,
- plagiarism avoidance, and
- plain English.
Other categories full of useful links include appellate resources, legal writing programs, and legal research. Under legal writing programs, you will find links to many other legal writing professors' websites, with their own links to still more resources. (spl)
November 21, 2005
What happens if you're not concise?
Everyone who teaches legal writing should know about the case of Mylward v. Weldon, decided on February 15, 1596. (No, that date is not a typo.) This is a famous English case in which the plaintiff submitted a document to the court that was "six score sheets of paper" long, "yet all the matter thereof which is pertinent might have been well contrived in sixteen sheets of paper."
The court's response to this unnecessary verbosity:
"[I]t is therefore ordered, that the Warden of the Fleet shall take the said Richard Mylward, alias Alexander, into his custody, and shall bring him into Westminster Hall, on Saturday next, about ten of the clock in the forenoon, and then and there shall cut a hole in the myddest of the same engrossed replication (which is delivered unto him for that purpose), and put the said Richard's head through the same hole, and let the same replication hang about his shoulders, with the written side outward; and then, the same so hanging, shall lead the same Richard, bare headed and bare faced, round about Westminster Hall, whilst the Courts are sitting, and shall shew him at the bar of every of the three Courts within the Hall, ...."
This is a good case to use to persuade legal writing students that judges do take brevity seriously, and they have done so for over four centuries. You can find the complete text in a facsimile at: http://www.languageandlaw.org/TEXTS/CASES/MILWARD.HTM (spl)
November 20, 2005
easy way to survey students
From time to time, legal writing professors may have a need to survey students, or perhaps colleagues or alumni. Perhaps you want to find out answers to questions not on the standard, end-of-the-course student evaluation forms. For example, how many 1L students this semester actually did the reading assignments in the legal writing textbook? Or, how well prepared did your newly-returning 2L students feel for their on-the-job writing in their first summer law jobs?
Students are much more likely to respond to a survey if they can do it on-line and their responses will be anonymous. There is a website that will help you create an on-line survey, and you do not need any particular technological know-how:
If you are expecting 100 or fewer respondents, you can use this survey site free of charge. That makes it feasible for asking questions to all the students an individual legal writing professor teaches or an entire law school class that isn't too large (or too responsive). For larger groups of respondents, there is a fee. (spl)