Friday, January 6, 2006
This evening at 7:00 p.m., Professor Mary Beth Beazley (Ohio State) is receiving the prestigious Thomas M. Blackwell Memorial Award. This award recognizes Professor Beazley's outstanding contributions towards improving the field of legal writing. The official criteria for the award call for the demonstrated: "ability to nurture and motivate students to excellence; willingness to help other Legal Writing educators improve their teaching skills or their Legal Writing programs; and the ability to create and integrate new ideas for teaching and motivating Legal Writing educators and students."
More information about Professor Beazley's work is available at http://moritzlaw.osu.edu/faculty/facultyprofiles/beazley.html.
This award also honors the late Professor Tom Blackwell (Appalachian), who was killed by a disturbed student in January 2002. Professor Blackwell was an active member of both the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) and the Legal Writing Insitute (LWI). These two organizations are co-sponsoring the award ceremony and reception this evening, at 7:00 p.m., in the Mariott Wardman Hotel in Washington, D.C. The actual award includes both money and a desk lamp, a symbol of the light that Tom Blackwell shed on his students and a reminder of his penchant for lightbulb jokes. (spl)
Thursday, January 5, 2006
The two people who have been posting to this log, Professor Nancy Soonpaa (Texas Tech) and Professor Sue Liemer (Southern Illlinois), currently have posters on display at the AALS annual meeting.
The theme for the annual meeting this year is Empirical Scholarship: What Should We Study and How Should We Study It? The Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, & Research was one of the sections asked to display academic posters this year, and the Section chose three entries:
Professor Nancy Soonpaa's work on Law Student Stress,
Professor Sue Liemer's work on Participation in Faculty Self-Governance, and
Professor Judy Fischer's (Louisville) work on Empirical Research on Student Evaluations.
Although the posters will be on display throughout the multi-day annual meeting, these scholars have been given a time slot tomorrow morning, Friday, January 6th, 9:30 - 10:30 a.m., to stand by their posters and give a brief presentation, answer questions, etc. Professor Ruth Anne Robbins (Rutgers-Camden) has graciously agreed to step in and field questions for Sue Liemer. If you are at AALS and have time, do stop by and see what this new (for law profs) type of academic communication is all about. (spl)
Wednesday, January 4, 2006
If you're heading to the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) annual meeting in Washington, D.C., don't forget tomorrow morning, Thursday, January 5th, at 10:30 a.m., the Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, & Research presents its program. The topic is Teaching Professionalism in a Way That Respects and Honors Law Students. An official announcement states: "In response to consistent complaints about incivility in the legal profession, the program's speakers will share their perspectives on how to teach and assess professionalism.... This program will provide ideas, exercises, strategies, resources, and food for thought for all law professors interested in teaching professionalism." Of course professionalism topics come up frequently in the legal writing classroom, as the expectations and ethics of the profession, courts, clients, and general public have a direct impact on a lawyer's writing, and so this program promises to be very helpful. (spl)
Sunday, January 1, 2006
A few years ago, Professor Jill J. Ramsfield wrote a legal writing textbook that is elegant in its concepts, writing, and production. In The Law As Architecture: Building Legal Documents (West 2000), she encourages legal writers to approach each document with the systematic care and practical creativity of an architect designing a building.
A more plebian analogy occurred to me today while packing the family car to drive halfway across the continent. Everything we arrived with has to fit in the car, minus two bags of gifts we arrived with and distributed, plus three bags of gifts we received and an odd assortment of items purchases while traveling. The space into which these things must be packed has not changed.
The challenge is a bit like having a word limit for a legal document. You might decide to edit out some paragraphs, lines, or words that aren't working hard, aren't using your word count efficiently. But then you may have found an additional authoritative source or thought of some stronger points to make. The "space" into which these additional things must be packed has not changed.
The key in both situations is to take time and care to sweat the details. Sort through items to pack in the car and arguments to pack in the document, to figure out which will best fit next to each other, using the least "space." At each level of scale (small containers placed in larger bags placed in the vehicle or words placed in sentences placed in paragraphs placed in sections), make sure everything is neatly arranged, with no wasted space or words. At times you may need to re-approach sections of the car or sections of the document, pull things out, and rearrange them for a better fit. Don't be afraid to try ordering or arranging things in a way you haven't tried before; you might just discover a better way.
Pack everything systematically and creatively, as an architect would, into your car space or document word limit, and it will all fit in. (spl)