Saturday, July 14, 2007

Is that even a word?

Whether you're critiquing a student's paper, reading the opposition's brief, or listening to the evening news, at some point you're going to wonder: "Is that really a word?"  One place to look for the answer is at the Word Spy website, where "lexpionage" is practiced.  The site spies on our language and reports on the newest words that are used at least enough to be considered real words.


July 14, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 13, 2007


"It takes me about twenty drafts to sound spontaneous."

- John Kenneth Galbraith

hat tip: Professor Jill Ramsfield


July 13, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

recommended reading -- on recommended writing

Sarah Ricks, at Rutgers-Camden, and Jane Istvan, at the City of Philadelphia Law Department, have written an article on Effective Brief Writing Despite High Volume Practice: Ten Misconceptions that Result in Bad Briefs, 38 University of Toledo Law Review 1113 (2007). You can download the full text gratis by clicking here, scrolling down, and then clicking again.

As they explain in their abstract, "[t]his article can help lawyers (and law students) avoid ten of the most common ways to write a bad brief.

"There is an art to writing effective briefs and each brief is different. But many ineffective briefs contain the same mistakes, regardless of the brief's subject matter or the brief's intended judicial audience. Many recurring brief writing errors may be caused by the demands of a high volume law practice, which allow little time for the brief writer to achieve the critical distance from the document necessary to edit and revise effectively.

"Lawyers can avoid committing many common brief writing errors if they are more able to put themselves in the place of their intended readers, the busy judge and the often inexperienced law clerk. Understanding recurring brief writing misconceptions and errors can assist lawyers in assessing the effectiveness of a brief from the perspective of the intended reader."


July 13, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

symposium on legal rhetoric and language

060228wcl_exterior_fall_05dscf005 Terry Phelps, at American University in Washington, D.C., has announced a symposium on How Legal Rhetoric Shapes the Law, to take place on Friday, November 2, 2007.

As Terry reports, the symposium "is designed to do two things: first, to have an interesting symposium on the power of legal language and second, to celebrate some of the wonderful scholarship that legal writing professionals have been doing. The conference will begin with a keynote by James Boyd White entitled When Language Meets the Mind: Three Questions. That talk will be followed by three panels on Metaphor, Narrative, and Archetypes." If you are doing work in any of these areas and would like to be on a panel, let Terry know at

Also, you can register for the symposium, which is free of charge, at


July 12, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

quotable: Prosser on Teaching

"I think teaching is rather like herding sheep.  You run around behind the students and bark at their heels, and head off the ones that start for the hilltops, and after a while, if you create enough commotion, they move down the valley and arrive at a destination without ever knowing how they got there.  Of course whether it's the right destination is another question, and there is always somebody who wants to argue about that."

Prosser, Lighthouse No Good, 1 Journal of Legal Education 257, 264-65 (1948).


July 10, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 9, 2007

recommended reading -- post 1L legal writing

Kchestek Ken Chestek, at Indiana University in Indianapolis, has written an article updating us on MacCrate (in)Action: The Case for Enhancing the Upper-Level Writing Requirement in Law Schools. (Click on the title here, then scroll down, and you'll see where to click to upload the full text gratis.)

As Ken explains in his abstract:

"In 2001, the American Bar Association amended the Standards for Accreditation of Law Schools to require, for the first time, a 'rigorous writing experience after the first year.' During the summer of 2004 the author conducted a nationwide survey to determine how law schools responded to this change. The author found that most schools did little more than to require students to take at least one course which was evaluated by means of an academic paper rather than an examination. The author concludes that this is probably not the response the ABA had hoped for, but suggests that a 2005 amendment to the Standards, which now require 'writing in a legal context', holds more promise for encouraging law schools to focus more on practical legal writing skills. "

The 2007 ALWD-LWI Survey, in its "hot topics" section this year, included questions on what law schools are doing about this new ABA requirement. That information was collected just this spring, adding to the helpful context and findings that Ken's article provides.


July 9, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)