Saturday, February 4, 2006


"Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious.  When you're conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader.  He or she will recognize his or her life in what you say, in the pictures you have painted, ....

"Try to write in a directly emotional way, instead of being too subtle or oblique.  Don't be afraid of your material or your past.  Be afraid of wasting any more time obsessing about how you look and how people see you.  Be afraid of not getting your writing done.

"If something inside you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal.  So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work.  Write straight into the emotional center of things.  Write toward vulnerability.  Don't worry about appearing sentimental.  Worry about being unavailable; worry about being absent or fraudulent.  Risk being unliked.  Tell the truth as you understand it.  If you're a writer, you have a moral obligation to do this.  And it is a revolutionary act -- truth is always subversive."

- Anne Lamott, in Bird by Bird (Doubleday 1994)

February 4, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 3, 2006

favorite language from cases--#1

First in a series celebrating the colorful language and writing choices of judges across the country and over time.  This is a long-time favorite of mine from South Dakota, distinctive due to its colorful and widely ranging references:

"Perhaps, like John the Baptist, I am a cry in the wilderness. Perhaps, also, like John the Baptist, my message rings true. From the day of the issuance of the Magna Carta, June 15, 1215 A.D., to the pioneer cry of 'Wagons West,' free men have longed to call a piece of land or chattel their very own. This longing, this spirit, this right, is of ancient tenure. It is deeply ingrained and embedded in the American way of life. When a government can take and/or destroy property--acquire title--and then advocate 'you have no appeal,' my blood begins to boil and my sense of justice stiffens against such absolute state authority. Therefore, I would hold, under the purview of SDCL 15-26A-3(4), that an appeal lies by right from a circuit court order affirming the necessity of the taking and permitting condemnation." 

South Dakota Dept. of Transp. v. Freeman, 378 N.W.2d 241, 247 (S.D.1985)(Henderson, J., dissenting).


February 3, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 2, 2006

ESL resources

For an excellent list of resources for legal writers using English as a Second Language, see today's post on the law school academic support professors' blog. (spl)

February 2, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

grammar hotlines

Many colleges and universities have grammar hotlines, and you can find a listing of these, state by state, at  The next time a grammar question stumps you, it might be interesting to contact (or have your students contact) a few of these hotlines and see how their advice compares.  At the same website there are also links to many other websites with grammar advice, some with a specialized focus.  (spl)

February 2, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Ralph Brill honored

from the Legal Writing Institute's listserv, posted by Terri LeClercq:


Brill_ralph_135w72d Chicago-Kent's Dean Hal Krent announces its first-ever endowed chair--honoring RALPH BRILL.

Ralph has taught at C-K for more than 40 years (and served as dean too).  But mostly, he is responsible for their legal writing program.  According to the dean, "Ralph has taught torts to generations of Chicago-Kent students and was the primary architect behind our innovative legal writing program."
The 9-member alumni committee that chose Ralph adds, "We are pleased to lead the campaign for the Ralph Brill Chair.  We were all influenced by Ralph's teaching and leadership.  He has reached out to so many of us in so many different ways ... We invite all alumni and friends to join us in this effort [to build a $1.5 million endowment]."
What super news for the legal writing community, and what a wonderful tribute to Ralph Brill!

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

teaching administrative law research

Although there are many websites with useful administrative law information, two useful sources set out a hierarchical list of federal administrative agencies and provide links to both federal and state agency materials (see the "by organization" list on the left side of the screen).

Students are impressed and amazed by the lengthy lists of agencies!  Also, the links to those agencies are a great bonus.


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

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

job in L.A.

Loyola Law School - Los Angeles has announced an opening for a full-time, non-tenure-track position as an Associate Clinical Professor for the 2006-07 academic year, teaching the legal writing component of two sections of required first-year Legal Research and Writing and one section of Ethical Lawyering.  Ethical Lawyering, a required upper-division course, teaches legal ethics, client interviewing and counseling.  The initial appointment will be for two years and may be renewed for unlimited successive five-year periods.  Applicants must have a degree from an ABA/AALS accredited law school, and an outstanding academic record, along with excellent written and oral skills.  To apply, send your resume and the names of two references, by March 3rd, to:  Loyola Law School Human Resources,, fax #:  213-386-6966.

1.  The position advertised may lead to successive long-term contracts of five or more years.
2.  The professor hired will be permitted to vote in faculty meetings.
3.  The school anticipates an annual academic year base salary in the range $60,000 to $69,999.
4.  The number of students enrolled in each semester of the courses taught by the legal research & writing professor will be:  56 - 60 (in LRW and 32 in Ethical Lawyering).


January 31, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

helpful bad spelling?

A reader has pointed out that sometimes bad spelling is a good thing. See (spl)

January 31, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 30, 2006

appellate practice tips

The North Dakota Supreme Court has a wonderful list of appellate practice tips.  Two of my favorite items about professionalism?

"Civility is not too much to expect in a civilized society's alternative to brute force, stealth, and deception." See Jacobson v. Garaas, 2002 ND 181, ¶ 37, 652 N.W.2d 918.

Not every lawyer excess is justified by the mantra of zealous representation. See Jacobson v. Garaas, 2002 ND 181, ¶ 23, 652 N.W.2d 918.


January 30, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

the ethics of legal writing

Professor Melissa Weresh at Drake University Law School has written a new book on Legal Writing:  Ethical and Professional Considerations (LexisNexis 2006).  Chapter by chapter she covers different types of documents, such as office memos, client letters, appellate briefs, and transaction documents, explaining both content-based considerations and format and practice considerations.  The book includes excerpts from key cases, as well as notes to encourage classroom or office discussions.  It's a good text for a legal writing or professional responsibility course, a practical gift for new attorneys, and an interesting refresher for experienced attorneys.  One fun touch for legal writing professors are the quotes by colleagues that start each chapter.  (spl)

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

Sunday, January 29, 2006


Some of us see errors in spelling and sigh.  Others see errors in syntax or grammar and wince.  If you see such errors and get really mad, you might be interested in joining an organization called the Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature (SPELL).  This is "an organization of people who love our language and are determined to resist its abuse and misuse in the news media and elsewhere."  SPELL is best known for its Goof Cards, bright yellow cards that members send to language offenders to inform and educate them.  SPELL also publishes a newsletter and sponsors a high school essay contest, with case prizes.  (spl)

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