Friday, December 1, 2006

laptops & learning

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently ran a story summarizing some research indicating that laptops do not improve student academic performance.  You can access it at:

hat tip:  Professor R.J. Robertson, Southern Illinois University


December 1, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 30, 2006

jury instructions

At the AALS annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2006, at 10:45 a.m., there will be a special program on Jury Instructions in Plain English. The program is sponsored by Scribes, The American Society of Legal Writers, the oldest professional organization devoted to better legal writing in the United States. The panelists include two California justices and others who have been involved in jury-instructions projects or who have written about instructions.

hat tip: Professor Mary Phelan D'Isa, Thomas M. Cooley Law School


November 30, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

job at St. John's

St. John's University School of Law has a full-time position available for an Assistant Professor of Legal Writing, which will commence in August 2007.

Starting Assistant Professors of Legal Writing are afforded renewable one-year contracts for three years, to be voted upon by the Faculty Council and Dean.  Upon successful peer and student evaluations, as well as any other pertinent considerations (scholarship and service are considered but not required), a three-year renewable contract may be offered by the Faculty Council and the Dean.  Upon completion of a three-year contract, a Legal Writing Professor may be eligible for a renewable seven-year contract.

The school anticipates that the starting annual academic year base salary for the position will be in the range of $65,000 to $75,000.

In the Fall, writing professors teach Legal Writing, a two-credit course. The responsibilities of the writing professors include creating and critiquing writing assignments emphasizing case law analysis, statutory interpretation, and basic writing skills. In the Spring, writing professors teach Legal Research and Writing, a two-credit course.  The responsibilities include teaching legal research, memoranda writing, appellate brief writing, and oral argument. Summer research stipends may be available as well as some conference travel or other professional development funds.

St. John's seeks individuals with strong interest and competencies in teaching legal research and writing.  Candidates should have excellent academic records (including a J.D. or its equivalent).  Teaching experience, scholarship, and practice experience as a lawyer would be viewed favorably.

Applicants should submit a cover letter, curriculum vitae, the names of three references, writing sample and teaching evaluations (if available) on or before December 15, 2006 to:

Robert A.  Ruescher
Coordinator, Legal Writing Program
St. John's University School of Law
8000 Utopia Parkway
Jamaica, NY 11439

St. John's University School of Law is part of St. John's University, a Catholic and Vincentian institution of higher education committed to academic excellence and the pursuit of wisdom and truth.  As an Equal Opportunity Employer, St. John's encourages applications from women and minorities.  The University is located in the New York metropolitan area and is accessible by highways and public transportation to NYC.


Which of the following best describes the position you wish to advertise?
___ Position is tenure-track.
_X_ May lead to successive long-term contracts of five or more years.
___ May lead only to successive short-term contracts of one to four years.
___ Has an upper-limit on the number of years a teacher may be appointed.
___ Is part of a fellowship program for one or two years.
___ Is a part-time appointment, or a year-to-year adjunct appointment.

Will the person hired be permitted to vote in faculty meetings?
_X_ Yes
___  No

The school anticipates paying an annual academic year base salary in the range: (A base salary does NOT include stipends for coaching moot court teams, teaching other courses, or teaching in summer school; nor does a base salary include conference travel or other professional development funds.)
___  $30,000 to $39,999
___  $40,000 to $49,999
___  $50,000 to $59,999
_X_ $60,000 to $69,999
_X_ $70,000 to $79,999
___  $80,000 to $89,999
___  $90,000 or more
___  Part-time appointment paying less than $30,000
___ Adjunct appointment paying less than $10,000

The person hired will teach legal writing each semester to a total number of students in the range:
__  less than 30
___ 31 to 35
___ 36 to 40
_X_ 41 to 45
___ 46 to 50
___ 51 to 55
___ 56 to 60
___ more than 60

What is the deadline for submitting resumes?
December 15, 2006.

November 29, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

writer's block

Blocked In an effort to avoid grading, I've been perusing books on the shelves on my office, with the ostensible goal of weeding out things I don't need or want any longer. One of the keepers is Good Advice on Writing, a collection of quotations about writing compiled by William Safire and Leonard Safir (Simon & Schuster 1992). Here's a quotation I like, about writer's block (something that has affected my blogging of late):

You might enjoy Writer's Block as some people enjoy their illnesses, removing them from the responsibilities of running their lives. If you do love Writer's Block, and I think we all do sometimes, just as we like being laid up with the virus (under our covers where no one can touch us), remember this: The world feels sorry for you only for three days. After that, no one listens.

--Leonard S. Bernstein


November 29, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

maybe hum a bar

Long_3 Many legal writers at some point make a reference to popular music in their work.  Professor Alex Long at Oklahoma City University explores this phenomenon in [Insert Song Lyrics Here]: The Uses and Misuses of Popular Music Lyrics In Legal Writing, 64 Washington & Lee Law Review ___ (2007).

You can download the full article free of charge at:

For a preview, here's the abstract:

"Legal writers frequently utilize the lyrics of popular music artists to help advance a particular theme or argument in legal writing. And if the music we listen to says something about us as individuals, then the music we, the legal profession as a whole, write about may something about who we are as a profession. A study of citations to popular artists in law journals reveals that, not surprisingly, Bob Dylan is the most popular artist in legal scholarship. The list of names of the other artists rounding out the Top Ten essentially reads like a Who's Who of baby boomer favorites. Often, attorneys use the lyrics of popular music in fairly predictable ways in their writing, sometimes with adverse impact on the persuasiveness of the argument they are advancing. However, if one digs deeper, one can find numerous instances in which legal writers incorporate the lyrics of popular music into their writing in more creative ways."


November 28, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Homer Simpson's IRAC?

Lschulze Professor Louis Schulze at Suffolk University  has written an article with an intriguing title: Homer Simpson Meets the Rule Against Perpetuities: The Controversial Use of Pop-Culture in Legal Writing Pedagogy, 15 Perspectives __ (2006).

The abstract explains:

"Imagine that you have returned to your first year of law school. In your legal writing course, you are required to finish the year with an extensive brief analyzing a legal problem. After months in your doctrinal courses dealing with mind-bending legal issues such as liquidated damages, substantive due process, felony murder, personal jurisdiction, and shifting executory interests, you are ready to sink your teeth into a challenging legal writing assignment. You want to show your stuff and prove that your writing is law review caliber.

"Your assignment starts as follows: Greenacre is a parcel of land bounded on three of its sides by Redacre. James Green, your client, owns Greenacre. Steve Red owns Redacre. Red and Green have been disputing the rights of Green to maintain a dirt road leading from Greenacre through Redacre, which leads to Highway 109. . . .

"Fascinating stuff, no? This problem, while possibly viable as a device for inculcating legal writing skills, could nonetheless use some zest. One way to improve its readability and interest level might be to use familiar or humorous character names from pop-culture. The claim has been made, however, that the use of such names in legal research and writing pedagogy is inappropriate. The argument is that students should take these assignments seriously, and populating one's writing problem with characters from pop-culture makes it less likely that they will do so.

"But is this position truly defensible? Do students really take these assignments less seriously if a challenging legal issue happens to be in an amusing context? On the other hand, are there any justifications for the use of pop-culture references in legal writing pedagogy? If so, does the upside outweigh the downside?

"This article analyzes the issue whether teachers of legal research and writing should dare to go where our sisters and brothers of the doctrinal faculty have gone for years - into the realm of designing writing assignments using pop-culture references as characters as a means by which to balance doctrinal learning with heightened interest. Put quite simply: does a little sugar indeed help the medicine go down?"

You can download the full text, free, at:


November 28, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Ten Minute Mentor

The Texas Young Lawyers Association has a collection of short instructional videos on topics of interest to new lawyers.  They are available at "Ten Minute Mentor."

hat tip:  Jennifer Horn, Texas Tech University School of Law


November 27, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

last day of class

Not sure what to do on the last day of class?  Here are some ideas!!


November 27, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

what law students may be reading about legal writing

At your local law school, you may be able to find a copy of the November issue of The Student Lawyer, in which you might enjoy these writing-related articles:

Erin Binns, When Networking, Use the Right Kind of Correspondence (p. 5),

Bryan A. Garner, Legal Writing: If You Care About Language, Consider Yourself a SNOOT (p. 11), &

Mark E. Wojcik, Add an E to Your IRAC (p. 26).

hat tip:  Professor Mark Wojcik, The John Marshall Law School


November 27, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

top ten

Ruthanne_2 Recently an article by Professor Ruth Anne Robbins, at Rutgers-Camden, made a list of "top ten downloads" in the legal ethics category.  Click on the article title to see the list and a link to the article, Harry Potter, Ruby Slippers and Merlin:  Telling the Client's Story Using the Paradigm of the Archetypal Hero's Journey.  It certainly has as much to tell legal writers as it does legal ethicists.


November 26, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

changes ahead in re-accreditation

The ABA's Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar publishes a hard-copy newsletter that is sent to all Section members, mostly law school administrators and professors.  In the most recent edition, on page 2, Dean Steve Smith, past chair of the Section, has a piece entitled "The Best System of Accountability in America."  After saying how great the ABA accreditation process is, he continues on page 3:

"The current system, in part, is a victim of its own success.  The ability to enforce meaningful standards has led groups to seek to use accreditation for their own narrow purposes.  Such claims are made, for example, about deans, faculty, clinicans, legal writing instructors and librarians...."

I disagree strongly with his assertion that the sustained effort by the legal writing community to improve legal education for the benefit of the bar, the bench, and the public has been for our "own narrow purposes."  And I cringe at the suggestion that "legal writing instructors" are somehow not "faculty," since we are listed separately, and somehow not entitled to be addressed as "professors," since we are identified as "instructors" only.
You need to read that entire piece to get the full flavor and detail.  The upshot is that there will now be a task force looking into revamping the ABA's accreditation and re-accreditation process.  In that same publication, a page 1 article reports "Accreditation Policy Task Force Announced."  The members of that task force are listed where the article continues on page 25.  Big surprise, most of the task force is deans.  Yet "deans" are one of the groups Steve Smith accuses of using the re-accreditation process for their "own narrow purposes."

If you are not a member of this ABA Section, you can probably access the Syllabus newsletter at any U.S. law school library.  Subscriptions are also available at:


November 26, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)