May 12, 2006
the dangers of legal jargon
Last week the question of the week in the ABA's e-report was, essentially, what misunderstandings of legal jargon have you lawyers heard? The humorous responses are available at http://www.abanet.org/journal/ereport/my12answers.html.
While a few of these writing myths actually are sound precautions in the context of formal legal writing, for most general writing contexts they are useful reminders. In a day and age when many people no longer understand the grammatical references these myths refer to, at least someone is using words like "infinitive," whether or not we need to be concerned about it being split.
May 11, 2006
legal writing observations
For some humorously expressed observations by a practitioner who taught legal writing at John Marshall Law School, see http://www.dcba.org/brief/octissue/2002/art61002.htm.
lucid legal writing
For a lovely little essay on legal writing, see http://www.sims.berkeley.edu/~pam/papers/goodwriting.html or http://library.karrtuttle.com/good.htm (same article, two different sites).
May 10, 2006
legal writing bloopers
What do legal writing professors e-chat about on a listserve when they are going bonkers grading papers? Well, recently they shared the gems below, from actual law student papers. Remember, in the United States law students already have at least one university degree. (disclaimer: None of the text in the rest of this post is mine; only student text is in quotation marks.)
"pledge of a legions"
The judge's ruling was "incontinent."
A recent one I came across was a "circuit spit."
Appellant expressed his desire to be "apart" of the program.
... referred to the cause of action as "tortuous interference" or "torturous interference"
In a recent brief a student wrote several times that the court "righteously" adopted the majority rule.
"pre-Madonna" instead of "prima donna"
He referred to it as the "desperate impact" theory throughout his paper.
"flush out" instead of "flesh out"
On a Torts final, one student wrote that the statement was defamatory "per say" because it was spoken.
"abusive discretion" instead of "abuse of discretion"
"for all intensive purposes"
"In Jones, as appose to the case before this Court ...."
"For the four going reasons, the Defendant respectfully requests ...."
"It was not a four prophet organization."
I "must of" missed it (see also could of, should of, would of -- you get the drift).
"Therefore, even private property that posts a warning is liable if their dog bites someone who is there doing lawful business."
"Even though the snowball was not thrown very hard and could not have caused the dog pain, it reacted by attacking Harvey."
"Whether, under Illinois law, a person will be able to recover damages for a severe dog bite he received from the defendant where the plaintiff's son ...."
"The case among the present president which indicated unpeaceable conduct was Nelson." (I guess the President can be precedent.)
"The court concluded that an unintentional cat can provoke a dog." (should "of" been "unintentional act")
"The dog swiped the child with its paw, which permanently damaged the child's tire duct."
A defendant's use of racial or religious "epitaphs" in a hate crime case.
In Chicago United Industries v. City of Chicago (7th Cir., April 25, 2006), a party asked the court to return the parties to the "status quo ante bellum."
"Public form." And, the student went to a great deal of trouble to explain the "form" part of the speech. He never mentioned "forum" or seemed to know what one was. He even had case law pertaining to a public forum, but doggedly called it "form," and discusssed whether it was speech "that could be listened to," and whether it was on radio or T.V. Maybe he thought all those cases just misspelled the word.
"In that case the plaintiff was viscously assaulted ...." I have visions of a gang of amoebas.
"The evidence was obtained when police officers attempted to enter the defendant's residents." The mind boggles.
"The offer peeked her interest."
I'm grading briefs about whether sleeping counsel gives rise to an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. Counsel had a law clerk with him in trial, who did not wake him up. One student wrote that "counsel was not aroused by the law clerk."
I had a student write in a client letter that "we share in your sediments that the contract is truly unfair ...."
A student wrote a brief about "percussive" evidence, rather than "persuasive" evidence. Does this mean the jury was beating the drums?
I have frequently encountered "illicit" when the student means "elicit." It's a good one for getting the imagination going.
For some reason, students frequently write "intact" as two words.
In a memo about an IVF procedure gone wrong: "There are three testes for parentage."
hat tip: two dozen legal writing professors who would prefer to remain anonymous
May 9, 2006
appellate practice scholarship award
The American Academy of Appellate Lawyers gives a $2,000 award annually for "the best article on appellate practice and procedure." The Eisenberg Prize memorializes Howard B. Eisenberg, former Dean of Marquette University Law School. You can enter an article until July 9, 2006, by e-mailing it to email@example.com.
May 8, 2006
problem solving at Hahvahd
According to a Boston Globe article on Sunday, May 7, 2006, Harvard Law School is exploring using more problem-solving methods in the curriculum. The impetus? A recognition that the traditional Langdellian method fails to equip students with the problem-solving skills necessary in law practice. It used to be that Harvard Law School's teaching methods led the country's approach to training lawyers, but now they seem to be just starting to catch up to what many schools, certainly most legal writing programs, have been doing for a couple of decades.
hat tip: Ellen Swain, Vermont Law School