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)