Saturday, October 14, 2006

essential scholarship in legal research and writing

Over at Prawfsblawg, they've started compiling references to the essential scholarly works that should be recommended to a new professor who wants to get up to speed in the field. Works cited so far include the following specific works and journals:

  • ABA Sourcebook on Legal Writing Programs (Eric B. Easton et al., eds., 2d ed. 2006).
  • Terrill Pollman & Linda H. Edwards, Scholarship by Legal Writing Professors: New Voices in the Academy, 11 Leg. Writing 3 (2005).
  • Peter M. Tiersma, Legal Language (U. Chi. Press 1999).
  • Eugene Volokh, Academic Legal Writing
  • Bryan Garner (no specific books named)
  • Christine Hurt et al. Interactive Citation Workshop
  • Journals in general:

  • Journal of the Legal Writing Institute
  • Journal of the Association of Legal Writing Directors
  • Scribes
  • This list is just getting started. No one has contributed research titles. What do you think should be added?


    October 14, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (1)

    Friday, October 13, 2006

    free research access for law students

    The Illinois State Bar Association has a new FREE legal national research service for ISBA members.  It is called Fastcase.  More details are at the top of the webpage that's at,  including an FAQ link about the legal research service.  A couple of other states also offer this specific service now too.  This is a fantastic membership benefit for a bar association to offer.

    And the Illinois State Bar Association just also made student membership FREE for all law students (as long as they agree to get everything electronically).  Your students do not have to be in Illinois - they can join from any part of the country (or outside the country too for that matter).  There is a "join" link at the bottom of the page at 

    - Prof. Mark E. Wojcik, The John Marshall Law School


    October 13, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    Thursday, October 12, 2006

    article on comma case

    The New Jersey Law Journal published an article last week (October 2) titled "It's a Comma That Makes a Difference," about the Canadian contract interpretation case that turned on an analysis of comma placement.

    Thanks to author Steven Sholk for providing the citation to the article.


    October 12, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    upcoming AALS section deadlines

    Srowe Professor Suzanne Rowe, Chair of the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research, reminds us of the following deadlines:

    "November 1 -- Deadline for nominations for Section Award.  The award is made periodically to an individual who has made a significant lifetime contribution to the field of legal writing and research.  Please send a short summary of the nominee's contributions to Suzanne Rowe, Section Chair, at

    "November 30 -- Deadline for nominations for Section Chair-Elect and Section Secretary. The Chair-Elect assists in Section functions and often serves on several of the Section's committees.  The Chair-Elect automatically becomes the Chair of the Section the following year.  The Secretary prepares the Section's newsletter, which is published twice annually.  Send nominations to Susan Kosse, Chair-Elect, at

    "November 30 -- Deadline for proposals for the 2008 program.  The Section will sponsor a program at the AALS annual meeting in January 2008.  Samples of past program proposals are posted on the Section's website at  Details for program proposals will be circulated next week."


    October 12, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    Tuesday, October 10, 2006

    recommended reading

    Last Friday, I read an article that changed the way I think about teaching legal writing.  Jessica Price has written a piece identifying the orthodox description of a “law-trained reader” that many or most of us use in teaching audience and suggesting that we reconsider this oversimplification.  The article is Price, Jessica, "Imagining the Law-Trained Reader: The Faulty Description of the Audience in Legal Writing Textbooks" (September 8, 2006). Available at SSRN:  Part of the article suggests that by teaching based on an assumption that the audience will be “extraordinarily impatient, aggressively critical, and conservative and formalistic in outlook” we are creating more lawyers like that.

    - Professor John Mollenkamp, University of Missouri


    October 10, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    Monday, October 9, 2006

    Harvard's curricular overhaul extends to law school

    I reported a few days ago about changes to Harvard's undergraduate curriculum. It seems they are retooling the law school curriculum as well. Last week the law faculty unanimously approved a number of changes. The first-year curriculum will lessen the emphasis on the traditional courses in property, torts, contracts, civil procedure, and criminal law, and it will add three new courses: Legislation and Regulation; an elective in international/comparative law; and Problems and Theories, a course in problem solving.

    On the listservs, some faculty members have reported that their schools' previously required courses in legislative and administrative law were dropped due to lack of interest by students and faculty. One has to wonder whether Harvard's experience will be different.


    October 9, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    the challenges of correct word usage

    A local restaurant has as its motto, "Tasty is our main ingredient."  (not even tastiness . . . how can an adjective be an ingredient??)

    With an example like that, is it any wonder that our students struggle to use words correctly?


    October 9, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

    conjunctions to start a sentence?

    There is no rule against beginning a sentence with a coordinating conjunction.
    --Bryan Garner, The Redbook:  "[F]orget the idea that a conjunction should never start a sentence. Any writer can benefit from unlearning such baseless nonsense."
    --Wilson Follett, Modern American Usage: "A prejudice lingers from the days of schoolmarmish rhetoric that a sentence should never begin with 'and.'  The supposed rule is without foundation in grammar, logic, or art."
    --Jacques Barzun, Simple and Direct:  "It is plain from American and English literature that the most exacting writers use them ['and' and 'but'] without hesitation as normal openers."
    --Joseph Williams, Style: Ten Lesson in Clarity and Grace:  He calls the supposed rule "folklore."
    --Theodore Bernstein, Miss Thistlebottom's Hobgoblins: [after noting the superstition against starting a sentence with "and" or "but"] "Nothing need be said about 'for,' 'nevertheless,' 'nor,' 'still,' and 'yet' as sentence starters because no one has thought (yet?) of raising any taboo against them. The fact that such taboos do exist should in itself suggest how idle are the ones conjured up against almost parallel words."
    --Yours truly, in Lifting the Fog of Legalese: "Listen to how you talk. 'But' is far more common and more deft than 'however' to show contrast at the beginning of a sentence."
    For more:
    - Professor Joe Kimble, Thomas M. Cooley Law School

    October 9, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    stories and Columbus Day

    We know that it helps to be a good story teller when you're a lawyer.  Not "story teller" in the sense of making up stories, but "story teller" in the sense of presenting the facts of your client's situation in an interesting and compelling way.  The power of any particular story may depend on the common cultural understanding of your audience.  Stories deeply engrained in a culture rise to the level of myth.

    It's one of those myths we're supposed to be celebrating today on Columbus Day.  But all lawyers know there are at least two sides to every story.  If you'd like to learn about another take on the Columbus-discovered-America story (or for that matter the-starving-Pilgrims'-first-winter-at-Plymouth story), I highly recommend a book by Michael Kurlansky entitled simply Cod.  Kurlansky does not give the Native American's view of these events, but an alternate view from Europe.  His early history of cod fishing in North America will shatter the myths you learned in grade school and remind you, as all lawyers know when we stop to think about it, that somewhere there's another side to every story, if we just dig deep enough for all the facts.


    October 9, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

    Sunday, October 8, 2006


    "The reason one writes isn't the fact he wants to say something. He writes because he has something to say."

    - F. Scott Fitzgerald


    October 8, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)