January 21, 2006
Professors Grace Wigal and Hollee Temple, legal writing colleagues at the West Virginia University College of Law, have started their own business, called Just Write Seminars. They are offering CLE and professional development programs to law firms, as well as one-on-one critiques of lawyers' writing. To find out more, click on http://www.justwriteseminars.com. (spl)
literacy among college students
The Associated Press recently reported that "[m]ore than half of students at four-year colleges - and at least 75 percent at two-year colleges - lack the literacy to handle complex, real-life tasks such as understanding credit card offers . . . . "
The literacy study was funded by Pew Charitable trusts; it also found that "[m]ost students at community colleges and four-year schools showed intermediate skills. That means they can do moderately challenging tasks, such as identifying a location on a map."
The idea that college graduates may find it challenging to analyze an editorial or identify a location on a map is terrifying and suggests major challenges as these students arrive in law schools.
January 20, 2006
humanizing law school
Quite a few legal writing professors are involved in a movement within legal education called "humanizing legal education." The aim of this movement is to counter the disillusionment and personal disengagement that many law students experience during their legal education, in an effort to do something about the alarming statistics on law student and lawyer job dissatisfaction, depression, and substance abuse. Professor Larry Krieger (Florida State) has an excellent website, with resources for both law students and law professors:
Use the links on the left-hand side of the screen if the links within the introductory message aren't working.
January 19, 2006
Writing Across the Curriculum
More and more law schools in the U.S. are implementing Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) requirements, to give law students more opportunities to hone their writing skills in all their courses.
In response to the rising need for information and ideas on WAC, Brooklyn Law School is sponsoring a symposium on Teaching Writing and Teaching Doctrine: A Symbiotic Relationship? The symposium takes place February 17th, from 2:00 - 4:30 p.m. If you're planning on attending, please indicate so at https://www.brooklaw.edu/rsvp. The speakers will include the following legal writing professors (among others):
Marilyn Walter (Brooklyn)
Carol Parker (Tennessee)
Pamela Lysaght (Detroit Mercy)
Philip Meyer (Vermont)
Elizabeth Fajans (Brooklyn)
For even more coverage of WAC, including professors from many different discliplines and many countries, consider attending the Eighth International WAC Conference at Clemson University, May 18-20, 2006. More information about WAC and this conference is available at http://virtual.clemson.edu/caah/pearce/wac2006/.
Finally, at the July 2006 meeting of the Southeastern Association of American Law Schools (SEAALS), there will be a panel presentation on WAC. Some information is available now at http://www.nsulaw.nova.edu/seals/, and more will be posted here as it becomes available.
January 18, 2006
At some law schools, legal writing professors are told that there is no money for raises, travel to conferences, summer research grants, computer printers, etc., etc. Usually, though, it is not a question of the existence of money; more often it is actually a question of choices made in the allocation of money and other resources. If resources seem to be lacking, it can be helpful to be well-informed about how much money the law school really has and how it is allocated.
In other words, it can be a very enlightening experience to read your law school’s budget. How do you get ahold of a copy of your school’s budget? If you work for a public school, the budget is a matter of public record, and you have the same right as any other member of the public to see it. If you work for a private school, you may be surprised how easy it is to see the budget if you simply ask.
At every law school a copy of the budget will be filed somewhere in the dean’s suite. If you’d rather not ask the dean’s staff, a copy also likely is available in your law school’s library, and at most schools the librarians will be glad to assist you in locating it. If your law school is part of a public university, there will also be a copy of the full university’s budget, including the law school, in the university’s main library. If your law school is part of a private university, it’s at least worth the try to inquire at the university’s main library.
Once you find a copy of your school’s budget, it should not take long to figure out how it is organized and how items are listed within it. The salaries of every employee will be there. Some employees, such as faculty or administrators who wear more than one hat, may be listed in more than one department or category, so it’s helpful to peruse more than just the law school’s pages. If you’re at a large university, expect the budget to fill more than one very fat volume, and do not expect to be allowed to lug it back to your office. Be prepared to take notes or make photocopies. Because of the sensitive nature of salary information, even at a public school there may not be a detailed, line-item budget available electronically.
In addition, don’t overlook people at the law school who may be glad to take a few minutes to explain budget matters or answer questions for you. At many schools, the accountant or the director of development would welcome faculty interest in how the money works. And law school library directors, in particular, can be a very useful source of information on how to find the money you might need within your school’s budget. (spl)
January 17, 2006
"A sentence should never be cruel and unusual."
- William C. Burton, Chairman
The Burton Awards for Legal Achievement
January 16, 2006
Green Bag Almanac
"The Green Bag" has posted its new "Almanac of Useful and Entertaining Tidbits for Lawyers & Reader of Good Legal Writing From the Past Year," which includes opinions, books, briefs, and articles selected by its Board of Advisers. It’s a diverse and interesting list!
[Go to www.greenbag.org. Click on the Almanac title page.]
(kem)(contributing editor Professor Kristen E. Murray, Associate Director, Legal Research & Writing Program George Washington University Law School)
January 15, 2006
Begging the question
Yet another phrase is being transformed from its original meaning to something entirely different: "begging the question."
In formal logic, to beg a question originally and correctly means to improperly take for granted or as true the conclusion one is attempting to reason towards or prove--when the proposition to be proved is assumed in one of the premises. For example, "The defendant must be liable for the plaintiff/smoker's lung problems because it's an evil big tobacco company"; "I should get a good grade in LRW because I work really hard"; "Smoking marijuana is bad for you because it's against the law." Begging the question and circular reasoning are related.
The increasingly common usage is to mis-use "begs the question" to mean "brings about the question"--wrong, wrong, wrong!!!!! I realize that one can engage in an argument about the evolution of our language and can be comfortable with one phrase having two meanings, but why is it good to take a phrase that meant and conveyed one discrete idea and turn it into a phrase that means two quite different things? There were already plenty of ways to express the "new meaning" of the phrase--raises the question, brings about the question, leads to the question. No need to add another expression that meant (and for many continues to mean) something quite different.