Saturday, July 7, 2007

ALWD-LWI survey results in

Now available are the results of the 2007 survey by the Association of Legal Writing Directors and the Legal Writing Institute.  Over 92 % of all ABA accredited law schools responded to the survey, so this is solid data.  In addition to salaries and other terms of employment for legal writing professors, the survey results include information on staffing models for first-year legal writing programs, curricular choices, upper-level writing courses, technology use, non-lawyer writing specialists, and teaching assistants.  Data from the past three years are reported next to this year's data, so trends are easily discernible.  Survey results going back to 1999 are also available. 


July 7, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

legal levity

It's summer. The air is heavy and hot.

If you need to lighten up a little, here are some sites with legal humor:

Please note that there is plenty of humor gratis at those sites; this is not an endorsement of any items being sold there.

hat tip: Lawrence E. Savell


July 5, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

the multiple drafts that made July 4th possible

Declaration_stone_thumb_295_dark_gr Sometimes it's hard to persuade legal writing students that to arrive at a strong, final written product, they have to write and revise a lot of drafts.

Perhaps it would help if they realized that even as iconic a document as the Declaration of Independence was the process of multiple drafts.


July 3, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

recommended reading -- about written common law

Tiersmabw Professor Peter Tiersma at Loyola-Los Angeles has written a very interesting article that explores changes in the dynamics of the common law, all related to the ways we use the written words of common law decisions:  The Textualization of Precedent, 82 Notre Dame Law Review 1187 (2007). 

As he explains in his abstract:
"Statutes have long been regarded as quintessentially written law. In contrast, the other main source of law in a common-law system, judicial opinions or precedents, have traditionally been extolled as lex non scripta, or "unwritten law," even though cases have been reported in writing since the thirteenth century.

"In fact, it is true that the common law was traditionally unwritten in an important way. For many hundreds of years, English judges expressed their opinions orally; those opinions were only later summarized in writing by a reporter, and sometimes not reported at all. Even today, precedential opinions may be delivered orally in England, and they are, moreover, often delivered seriatim. Because there may be no clearly authoritative text of a judicial opinion, the nature of English precedent remains relatively conceptual. In such a system, the ratio decidendi, or holding, of a case is something that must be deduced by reasoning rather than by close analysis of the text.

"In the United States, on the other hand, precedent has become far more textual as a result of judicial innovations such as requiring judges to write their opinions, elimination of seriatim opinion delivery, the appointment of official reporters, and the increasing availability of verbatim copies of the judge's opinion. Additionally, appellate courts have started to express their holdings in formulaic or canonical fashion, which results in language that resembles the authoritative texts produced by legislatures. Lawyers and judges are consequently interpreting opinions in more textual ways.

"A related development is the adoption by many state and federal courts of rules that designate only certain appellate opinions for publication, thus entailing that only those opinions are binding precedent. Opinions not designated for publication have been reduced to persuasive status or may not be cited at all.

"Recently, there has been a counter-movement that aims to allow all cases to once again be cited as authority. If adopted, such a measure might return us to an earlier state of the common law, where all cases were precedents, but where the value of a precedent was variable, depending on factors such as the prestige of the judges, the strength of their reasoning, or the number of other cases reaching a similar result. The attraction of this proposal is its potential to detextualize precedent by affording judges greater flexibility to reinterpret earlier cases. In reality, however, changes in the profession (the vastly increasing numbers of lawyers and judges), as well as technological innovations (especially the development of large on-line databases of cases) make it likely that allowing all cases to function as precedents will only further textualize the common law.

"The textualization of precedent has some real advantages in a large and relatively bureaucratic jurisdictions, particularly in promoting the rule of law. At the same time, it reduces the flexibility of courts that must apply the rules. In writing their opinions, judges should therefore carefully consider just how textual their holdings ought to be."

hat tip:  Prof. Diane Murley


July 3, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 2, 2007

Congratulations, Rachel Smith!

Here's a belated report on good news from Cincinnati:

Smithr100 This year Rachel Smith won the prestigious Goldman Prize for Excellence in Teaching at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, the first time a Research and Writing Professor has won this award at UC.  Some of the nice things, inter alia, the award committee said about Rachel, were: 

“Professor Smith has had a profound effect on the students of the College of Law since joining the College in 2004.  She consistently works to improve her skill in teaching by reflecting on her curriculum and reforming it to better serve her students.  Her ability to incorporate her extensive professional experience and vast substantive knowledge of the law into the problems for her students brings a welcomed sense of reality and challenge to her students.  Students also appreciate Professor Smith’s skill at recognizing and responding to individual student’s strengths and weaknesses in an effort to aid them in understanding the curriculum.  This expertise allows her to transform oral advocacy from an intimidating obstacle to an empowering achievement.”

hat tip:  Professors Nancy Oliver & Michele Bradley, University of Cincinnati


July 2, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)