Friday, December 8, 2006
For the latest on the ABA's authority to accredit law schools, see http://www.abanet.org/journal/redesign/d11skul.html. Apparently the U.S. Department of Education has approved an 18-month extension of the ABA's accreditation authority, rather than the usual 5 years.
Thursday, December 7, 2006
After lining up with other state employees to receive a flu shot today, I returned to my office to discover, via an e-mail message, that I can also innoculate myself against sloppy language usage. To learn more, see http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB116546247393343110-lMyQjAxMDE2NjA1NzQwNjcyWj.html.
hat tip: Attorney Steven Sholk
Wednesday, December 6, 2006
It is that time of year again--no, not Christmas, not Hanukkah--it's grading time! And today, the first haiku of the season* appeared on the LRWPROF listserv. Some grumpy people claim not to like the haiku--but for many of us, they are a welcome diversion.
I found this delightful non-legal web site today, himonkey.net, which is full of hilarious and whimsical recipes, observations, and poetry (including haiku). If you need a break between papers, check it out.
*Steve Homer wrote:
More and more papers
I can't be the only one
Who needs good haiku
Tuesday, December 5, 2006
This morning was the last class of the semester, when the memos are turned in and I lecture to exhausted survivors of the last-minute all-nighter about applying the principles of legal writing to their upcoming examinations. Among those principles is the advice, "Before you start writing, read the instructions."
I wonder whether the lawyers who provoked Judge Richard Posner's ire in Smoot v. Mazda Motors were the kind of law students who plunged into their exams with nary a thought of double-checking to see if they had followed the instructions, in this case, FRAP 28. Judge Posner bitterly complains about "the carelessness of a number of the lawyers practicing before the courts of this circuit" in failing to draft accurate jurisdictional statements, in this case, establishing diversity jurisdiction. Posner asks (rhetorically) whether the members of the court are just "fusspots and nitpickers" about such things as federal jurisdiction, or whether they are following "a duty of care that [they] are not at liberty to shirk."
For some interesting short essays on writing, language use, and education generally, check out:
Included there you will find essays on such topics as In Praise of Stark Lucidity, An Inquiry Into Modifier Noun Proliferation, and Precision Worth Preserving, all delivered with great gusto.
Exploring drawbacks with the traditional emphasis on litigation writing in first-year legal writing courses, Professor Louis Schulze, at Suffok University, has written an article on Transactional Law in the Required Legal Writing Curriculum: An Empirical Study of the Forgotten Future Business Lawyer.
You can read his data, analysis, and suggestions for improvement in full via SSRN at:
And for a quick summary of his article, here's the abstract:
"Legal Writing courses traditionally focus on litigation writing. The course usually includes assignments on writing interoffice memoranda, drafting trial or appellate briefs, and conducting oral arguments - all in the context of a lawsuit. But, how does this exclusive focus on litigation treat students with no interest in that subject? For future transactional lawyers, the dominance of litigation writing might seem to ignore their needs. Should they be learning how to draft contracts, create corporate documents, or write commercial leasing agreements?
"This Article examines whether legal writing courses, either in the first year of law school or later, sufficiently address the needs of future business lawyers. It first examines statistics describing current subjects covered in legal writing courses.
"This examination shows that while transactional writing instruction is increasing, it still is not as prevalent as litigation writing, especially in the first year. The paper then determines, by means of original empirical research (both quantitative and qualitative) the need - or market demand - for instruction in transactional writing. Because this need is so great, the paper concludes that law schools should focus more efforts on non-litigation writing instruction. It then canvasses several proposed methods by which to achieve this goal.
"Methodologies represented in these proposals include writing-across-the-curriculum, adding transactional subjects to the first-year course, adding transactional subjects to the upper-class curriculum, and a 'hybrid model' which co-mingles instruction by transactional and writing faculty in the same course."
Monday, December 4, 2006
On Friday, December 1, Suffolk University School of Law hosted the Northeast Consortium of Legal Writing Teachers. The topic--using conferences to take student drafts to the next level--produced lively discussion in the small groups. Some of the pointers included having students be responsible for the agenda of the conference and giving them guidelines for how to do so; using rubrics and commenting sheets to complement the conferencing process; using conference time to explore process as well as product; assigning a narrow task on a returned draft for the student to rewrite and bring to the conference; and how to reach students who do not seem to be motivated.
Thanks to all who participated, and a special thanks to Ann McGonigle Santos, who organized the workshop.
Professor Sarah Schrup, at Northwestern University, has written an interesting article on The Clinical Divide: Overcoming Barriers to Collaboration Between Clinics and Legal Writing Programs. You can read and download it free at: http://ssrn.com/author=706980. Her abstract informs us that:
"Increased communication between legal research and writing programs and clinical programs is desirable because it provides students with a seamless learning experience, enhances faculty teaching in both departments, and creates opportunities for collaboration that benefits a law-school community generally. But barriers presently exist that hinder collaboration. Specifically, barriers that impact collaboration and integrated learning between LRW and clinical programs stem from: (1) differences in the development of the two disciplines and the resultant differences in teaching methodologies; and (2) other practical barriers including physical separation, status issues, lack of communication, competing demands within the law school and the reality of how little collaboration presently occurs. With respect to the first barrier, which is the most deeply rooted and the most salient, the differences in the development of clinics versus LRW programs has created, on the clinical side an approach to teaching that is defined by progressive, client-centered and reflective learning and on the LRW side teaching methodologies guided by traditional, lawyer-centered, and forward-looking principles. Because these approaches are so different and because in practice clinicians and LRW faculty are not regularly communicating on these issues, faculty cannot provide seamless instruction to students. But clinical and LRW faculty can overcome these differences with increased communication and a conscientious commitment to incorporate principles of each other's teaching into their own pedagogy. The author encountered and addressed these very difficulties in the context of designing a hybrid LRW-clinical course at Northwestern University School of Law."
The announcement below arrives courtesy of Professor Sarah Ricks, at Rutgers-Camden, who is happy to answer questions at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2007 ALWD SUMMER RESEARCH GRANT PROGRAM
The Association of Legal Writing Directors is pleased to announce the ALWD Summer Research Grant Program for teachers of legal research and writing for 2007. This Program reflects the Association’s commitment to the professional development of legal research and writing professionals.
Each year, the Association awards several research grants to teachers of legal research and writing. These research grants will enable these gifted educators to spend their summers exploring scholarly ideas of interest to them, producing the type of scholarship that will be of assistance to others in the field, and providing tangible evidence of the Association’s support for the scholarly pursuits of legal research and writing professionals.
In the past, the grants have been for varying amounts, from $2000 to $5000. The actual number of grants varies and reflects the royalties from the ALWD Citation Manual. These royalties are the primary source of funding for the grants and every attempt will be made to provide as many grants as is feasible each year.
1. Eligibility. The ALWD Summer Research Grant Program is open to both full-time and adjunct teachers of legal writing. ALWD Board members, officers, and members of the ALWD Scholarship Committee are, however, ineligible to participate until they have been out of those positions for a full academic year. Legal Research & Writing program directors are encouraged to invite colleagues in their programs to apply for the grants to ensure a rich diversity of proposals and ideas from both veteran professionals and those new to the field.
2. Deadline. To be considered for funding for the summer of 2007, the application must be received by 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on February 1, 2007. Applications should be sent in a Microsoft Word attachment to an e-mail to email@example.com.
3. Application materials: The application must consist of:
- The Application Form that is included at the end of this notice.
- A five page Synopsis/Abstract of the research project that includes:
· a preliminary list of targeted research sources;
· a description of the research methods to be employed;
· a detailed description of the project;
· a table of contents for the piece;
· a timeline for completion of the work; and
· a discussion of both the contribution the piece will make to legal research and writing scholarship and the gap in the current literature that it fills.
There should be no identifying information on this Synopsis/Abstract since the applications will be reviewed blindly.
4. Where to send the application: Applications should be sent to the Chair of the ALWD Scholarship Committee:
Sarah E. Ricks
Clinical Associate Professor of Law & Co-Director,
Pro Bono Research Project
Rutgers School of Law – Camden
5. Review Process and Standards: All Synopses/Abstracts will be blindly reviewed by at least three people who are either members of the ALWD Board or members of the ALWD Scholarship Committee. Those members will rank the proposals based on the following criteria:
· How well thought-out is the proposal?
· Is the topic one that has previously been covered in the relevant literature? If so, does the proposed work add something substantive to the discussion?
· Is the proposal well written?
· Does the author seem to be targeting appropriate research sources?
· Is the scope of the project realistic?
· Is the work likely to be published?
· Is the proposed work related to Legal Writing?
· If not, why not?
· Is the topic interesting, and likely to appeal to targeted readers?
· Are the research methods (empirical research, multi-disciplinary research, statistical analysis, traditional legal research) chosen likely to result in a quality written product?
At the time that the three or more readers rank the submissions, they will not be privy to any of the identifying information available on the Application Form. Once the readers have scored the anonymous applications and have made their recommendations, the Scholarship Committee will forward those recommendations to the ALWD Board. The Board will then make the final grant recipient selections. The ALWD Board will, at the time it makes its selections, have access to the information on the application forms in order to balance substantive review of the projects with due consideration for need (as reflected by eligibility for research grants at one’s own institution). Eligibility for or receipt of summer research grants from one’s own institution will not, per se, disqualify an applicant from eligibility, but preference will be given to those who have no other source of research funding.
6. Selection date and grant disbursement. Recipients of the research grants will be selected by April 1, 2007. At the time of selection, 60% of the research-grant award will be paid to each grant recipient. The grant recipient will receive the remaining 40% of the award when the written manuscript is completed and submitted to ALWD. “Completed,” for purposes of the grant, means that it has been accepted for publication. The completed manuscript should be submitted to the ALWD Scholarship Committee along with a copy of the acceptance for publication.
7. Mentors. At the time that the awards are announced, each grant recipient may be assigned a “mentor” by the Scholarship Committee. It is ALWD's hope that this mentor -- chosen based upon the topic of the proposed scholarly work or any other criteria mutually agreed upon by the applicant and the Committee -- will provide the recipient with guidance and assistance in developing the project through to completion and placing it for publication.
8. Presentation. Papers supported by the ALWD Research Grant Program must be presented by the author at the next ALWD meeting following completion of the manuscript. This will allow the author the opportunity to share his or her scholarly efforts with the legal research and writing community, and also allow ALWD members to benefit first-hand from the scholarship supported by ALWD funding.
9. Formalities. Grant winners should thank ALWD for the grant in the footnotes of the article.
10. Publication rights. Grant winners should negotiate permission from the publisher to post the article on the ALWD website. This requirement can be waived if it would prevent placing the article in a well-regarded publication.
Phone __________________ Fax ____________________
How many years have you been teaching Legal Writing?_______________
Are you eligible for research grants at your school? _______yes ________no
If yes, please explain the grant process and your history of receiving grants at your institution, including the likely amount of grants. Have you applied for a grant for this year? If not, why not?
If you have applied for a grant from your institution, when are you likely to know whether you have received one?
Are you tenured or tenure-track?
Topic of Proposed Scholarly Work (if not related to Legal Writing, please explain basis for choice of topic)____________________________________________________________
Where are you hoping to publish your work?_____________________________________
What, if any, assistance would you like from ALWD in completing your work?___________
Are you willing to present your work at the next ALWD meeting after completion of the work? ________yes ________no
Please attach the Synopsis/Abstract to this Application as required by the ALWD Grant Application Rules and Criteria. Please be sure that there is no identifying information on any copy of your Synopsis/Abstract."
Sunday, December 3, 2006
Attorney Roger W. Hughes has penned Legalese in the Age of IM (Instant Messaging), 18 App. Advoc. 14 (summer 2005). He suggests that, due to word limits and lawyers' desire to "write the short brief that still 'says it all,' " briefs may soon be written in "IM." Perhaps some of his suggested acronyms will catch on?
hat tip: Professor Diane Murley, Southern Illinois University