Thursday, March 29, 2007
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Law.com reports that a New Jersey law firm put its plans for a blog on hold because its malpractice carrier said blogging would make the firm uninsurable. Others commenting on the move have advised firms to be sure to post strong disclaimers. Here's mine.
CAUTION: Reading this blog will not necessarily make you a better legal writer.
Monday, March 26, 2007
I've long maintained that these young whipper-snappers who think they can multi-task and still learn how to analyze the law are just kidding themselves. After all, the human brain could not possibly have undergone a dramatic evolution in the single decade we've all been using e-mail and the Internet. And now I feel vindicated by New York Times writer Steve Lohr, in his article on Slow Down, Brave Multitasker, and Don’t Read This in Traffic.
hat tip: Professor Schoot Fruehwald, Hofstra University
Friday, March 23, 2007
Olugbenga Oke-Samuel (left, Adekunle Ajasin University) and Tewodros Alefe (right, Mekelle University) discuss The Contribution of Clinical Legal Education to Effective Legal Writing. Professor Oke-Samuel talked about the importance of experiential learning and the benefits of working with real clients in advancing students' lawyering skills. Professor Alefe discussed the development of clinical education in Ethiopia after a major study that criticized the traditional models of legal education that resulted in students graduating without the skills needed to effectively represent clients.
Mimi Samuel (Seattle University) and Scola Nafuna (Nkumba University) discuss Teaching Students to Draft Letters to Clients. Professor Nafuna discussed the initial client interview (prior to giving oral or written advice) and offered a checklist for that interview. She also cautioned against treating an interview like a cross-examination and suggested understanding the client's point of view and expectations. (She can come and teach my class anytime!!) Professor Samuel talked about the tone conveyed in a letter and goals for a class session.
Laurel Oates (Seattle University) and Edwin Abuya (Moi University) discuss Teaching Legal Research. Professor Oates focused on novices' and experts' differing ability to transfer information learned in one setting to another. Professor Abuya emphasized using multiple examples and scenarios in teaching research to help students develop critical and flexible research skills.
George Kasozi (top; Uganda Christian University) and Tefferi Yishak Kassa (bottom; Mekelle University) discuss the importance of effective legal writing in advancing human rights and the rule of law. Their advice included the importance of knowing one's audience, the importance of persistence in knocking at doors, and the challenges of teaching and lawyering in countries where there is a "warehouse of nationalities" and thus multiple languages.
Steve Johansen (Lewis & Clark) talks about Conducting Effective Conferences. The African professors were quite interested in how conferences support a process approach to writing instruction, but a bit frustrated by how to achieve the benefit in light of their large student loads.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Are you interested in "Unlocking the Secrets of Highly Successful Legal Writing Students"? If so (and who isn't?), you will enjoy reading this new article by Anne Enquist (Seattle U) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
Why are some law students successful in their legal writing classes and others are not? To identify the secrets to success, I did a case study of six second-year law students as they wrote a motion brief and an appellate brief for their 2L legal writing course. Based on their 1L legal writing course, two of these students were predicted to be highly successful, two were predicted to be moderately successfully, and two were predicted to be only marginally successful. Through daily records of all their activities related to writing the briefs, interviews with the study subjects, drafts of their two brief projects, and their professor's critiques of their work, the study reveals not only the results of working harder but the specifics of working smarter. The secrets to working smarter included note-taking and note-reviewing strategies; how to divide one's time between researching, drafting, revising, editing, and proofreading; how to research and read cases efficiently; strategies for efficient time management; techniques for organizing one's research and staying organized while writing; and accessing the professor as a primary resource. Pitfalls to avoid included procrastination, poor management of distractions, and scapegoating.
Hat tip: Ryan Owsley (student at the UALR Bowen School of Law)
Your students can earn cash prizes, ranging from $300 to $500, depending on how many prizes are awarded. Submissions must be postmarked by June 1, 2007. Look for entry and eligibility information on the Legal Writing Program page of Mercer's website.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
"The Faculty of Law of the University of British Columbia invites applications for the position of Lecturer and Director of Legal Research and Writing. The position is for a 14-month term commencing on May 1, 2007 - June 30, 2008, with the possibility of renewal. Salary will depend on qualifications and experience. The appointment is subject to budgetary approval.
"JOB DESCRIPTION: UBC Law Faculty offers students a first year research and writing program integrated into the substantive curriculum along with upper level advanced courses in legal research and writing. The Director will be involved in all facets of the first year and advanced program, including the development of problems, instruction, coordination of instruction by others, program modification, and assessment. The Director will also serve as the first yearprogram liaison to the Associate Dean, Academic Affairs and the Faculty's Competitive Mooting Coordinator.
"JOB QUALIFICATIONS: The successful candidate will have an excellent record of experience and achievement in legal research and writing and a dynamic and creative approach to providing training and education in legal research and writing to a diverse group of students at one of Canada's premier law schools. Experience teaching in or directing a legal research and writing program is an asset.
"APPLICATION PROCEDURE: Applications for the position, curricula vitae, the names and contact information of three referees, and summaries of teaching evaluations (if available) should be submitted to:
Ms. Lillian Koh
Faculty of Law
The University of British Columbia
1822 East Mall
Vancouver, B.C. CANADA V6T 1Z1
"Materials should be submitted by April 20, 2007 to receive fullest consideration. For further information, please contact:
Professor Susan Boyd
Tel: (604) 822-6459
Fax: (604) 822-8108
"The University of British Columbia hires on the basis of merit and is committed to employment equity. The Faculty of Law is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from visible minority group members, women, Aboriginal persons, persons with disabilities, members of sexual minority groups, and others who may contribute to further diversification of ideas. We encourage all qualified persons to apply. Canadian citizens and permanent residents will be given priority.
It was announced today that Temple's current legal writing director, Jan Levine, will be joining the faculty at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, where he will direct the legal writing program.
The legal writing faculty at Temple (Kathy Stanchi, Ellie Margolis, Susan DeJarnatt, Bonny Tavares, and Robin Nilon) will also see changes, as they move to a collaborative "directorless" program in the coming year.
Hat tip: Kathy Stanchi (Temple)
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Pictured here are featured speaker Professor Mary Beth Beazley from Ohio State University and the legal writing professors from Washburn University, at Washburn's recent conference on Writing to Win: The Art of Advocacy. The school has posted more fine photos from this event.
Law students are often surprised by the amount of time it takes just to type out the front pages of an appellate brief. I ask them to draft and hand in those pages a week before they start drafting the actual argument sections of their apppellate briefs, so they can focus on getting the mechanical details of the front pages right. For example, they have to set up the Table of Contents and the Table of Authorities, even though they do not have all the information yet needed to complete those tables. And so, this Dilbert cartoon seems particularly apropos.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Legal writing students often ask whether they can use unpublished cases. The entire concept of a case being "unpublished" when it is right there on the computer screen takes some explaining for a generation of students who can't even imagine relying solely on books for legal research. Once they understand the concept though, there's still that thorny question about whether they can use the case they found. "Well, yes sometimes, maybe, it depends" may be an accurate answer, but it doesn't make the legal writing professor sound particularly intelligent. To the rescue is a chart of the previous and current position taken on this topic by each federal circuit, with the exact wording of each circuit's relevant rule(s). After reading these rules, students should have more sympathy for your original reply.
hat tip: Prof. Diane Murley
Friday, March 16, 2007
Here's the group on Wednesday, posing outside the Kenya High Court after a talk by the court's public relations man, during which we asked many questions about the court's structure and compared/contrasted it to the US system.
We also visited the Kenya Professional School and the University of Nairobi Faculty of Law.
Grace Tonner of University of Michigan wrapped up the morning with a session on critiquing student work, with some advice targeted specifically at those with large student loads--the situation that our African colleagues all have as a challenge in teaching skills to their law students.