Saturday, December 3, 2005
Friday, December 2, 2005
Clarity is an international organization whose raison d'etre is "the use of good, clear langauge by the legal profession." It publishes a journal, also called Clarity, that might just provide the sanity check needed by a legal writing professor who is slogging through a stack of mediocre student papers. You can find some past issues on-line at:
You'll also find a helpful list of links to other plain-language-in-the-law organizations. The benefits of membership in Clarity include an opportunity to attend conferences in some interesting locales. (spl)
Thursday, December 1, 2005
On the assumption that anyone interested in writing might also be interested in the origins of words, here are some websites where you can look up where a word came from:
The latter has an interesting description of the origin of "boilerplate," that dense writing that lawyers can cut and paste into a document so easily and legal writing professors eschew. Click on: http://www.word-detective.com/111097.html. (spl)
According to its website, "The National Council of Teachers of English is devoted to improving the teaching and learning of English and the language arts at all levels of education." (http://www.ncte.org/) One of its related groups, the Conference on College Composition and Communication, publishes the journal College Composition and Communication (CCC). This is an excellent journal for anyone interested in composition studies, which often dovetail nicely with issues in the legal writing field. (One can view abstracts of the September issue at http://www.ncte.org/pubs/journals/ccc/contents/111784.htm.)
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Legal writing as a distinct academic discipline is only a couple of decades old, but the oldest legal writing organization in the U.S. dates back to 1953. Scribes, The American Society of Writers on Legal Subjects, promotes better writing throughout the legal community, including law schools.
Scribes encourages good legal writing with an annual book award, a law-review award, and a brief-writing award. It also publishes The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, which frequently accepts articles by legal writing professors and its other members. And it publishes an informative newsletter, The Scrivener.
Many legal writing professors are eligible to join Scribes. You qualify if you've published two articles, ever served as a journal editor, published a book on a legal topic, or published two judicial decisions. Many professors are able to cover the annual dues with their professional development accounts or by simply asking their schools for assistance.
Scribes is an organization in which practitioners, judges, deans, and law professors come together with the common goal of improving legal writing. Its website announces:
"Advocating lucidity, concision, and felicitous expression, Scribes seeks to spread the growing scorn for legal writing that is turgid, obscure, and needlessly dull."
If that sounds good to you, check out http://scribes.org/ for more information. (spl)
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
The Florida Supreme Court reviewed the state bar's attempted discipline of two attorneys who used pit bull imagery in their television ads, including the firm phone number 1-800-PIT-BULL. You can read the case at http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2005/sc04-40.pdf.
Let's just say that the court did not approve.
A wealth of numerical information about legal research and writing programs in United States law schools is easily available via the annual ALWD-LWI Survey results, posted at http://www.alwd.org. It is usually the best first place to look for information on any aspect of legal writing instruction in the U.S. The response rate for ABA accredited law schools has recently been above 90%, so this is very reliable data.
The core questions have remained the same from year to year for the last 5 years, so you can follow trends and changes, as well. In addition, there's a "hot topics" section that changes every year. It is also possible to do customized searches, number crunches, and identification of individual schools' responses, by contacting the survey directors:
Phil Frost (Michigan), firstname.lastname@example.org
Jean Rosenbluth (Southern California), email@example.com
Catherine Wasson (Widener), firstname.lastname@example.org
The topics covered (not an exhaustive list) include:
- credit hours
- types of research assignments
- types of writing assignments
- teaching methods
- citation methods
- writing specialists
Upper-level Writing Courses:
- required courses
- elective courses
- access for LRW profs
- use by LRW profs
Faculty (broken down for Directors, Full-Time Profs, & Adjunct Profs):
- types of appointment
- salary averages (broken down by region, school size, etc.)
- scholarship requirements & support
- governance participation
- hiring processes
- developmental funding
Sunday, November 27, 2005
As the semester ends, many second and third (and fourth) year law students are busy finishing seminar papers. Few of them realize that with very little extra work, they can submit their papers to a myriad of legal writing competitions. There are so many legal writing competitions out there, the odds are pretty good for those who take the little extra time required to send in a submission. They could be in a position to win a prize ($$$), gain some recognition for their hard work, and add a really nice resume line. Many websites provide lists of legal writing competitions, and many include links to other listings.
Although it hasn't been updated recently and it doesn't include links, the listing at the University of Memphis is likely still the most comprehensive and informative:
Other helpful listings, more current, and mostly including helpful, direct links to competition sites, include:
The next time you see your seminar students, why not ask them which competitions they're planning to submit their work to?