October 27, 2007
"It's none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way. "
- Ernest Hemingway
AALS Section newsletter & posters
Now you can access on-line the excellent newsletter of the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Research, and Reasoning. Also included at that site are links to the posters that have been chosen to represent the section at the AALS annual meeting in January.
hat tip: Tracy Bach, Vermont Law School
October 25, 2007
symposium on Plain Language Jury Instructions
Professor Lyn Goering, at Washburn University, reminds us to sharpen our pencils this weekend:
"We are extending the deadline for proposals from October 15 to Monday, October 22, 2007. Please follow the link below for the complete Call for Proposals and other details about the event:
October 24, 2007
new LWI brochure makes its debut
The Legal Writing Institute has just published its new brochure at http://www.lwionline.org/about/brochure-2007.pdf. Highlighting the varied activities of the Institute, the brochure presents an updated overview of legal writing's role in legal education. Kudos to the team behind the brochure: Betsy Fajans and Jim Levy.
HLE: first concurrent presentation
The next session at the HLE conference forced one to choose from several presentations; I chose "Integration and Peer Bullying." Professor Susan Grover of William and Mary spoke on outsider status . . . a person may feel or be perceived as an outsider by both visible and invisible characteristics--race, gender, economic status, sexual orientation. Although law school asks most law students to give up parts of themselves in the acculturation process, outsiders may not be able to--or want to--give up their outsider traits. Resisting the compulsion to fragment may take strength. But that needed strength is also a gift, for it may enable the outsider to challenge the status quo. Outsider status my also result in an inability to identify with the professors, which may result in an inability to emulate. Ideas for addressing outsider concerns? Hold focus groups to identify concerns; be fair in exam preparation (don't reward those who come in for 1-on-1 help, as doing so penalizes those--especially outsiders--who don't feel comfortable coming in); respect differences by acknowledging them in class and inviting other views.
Professor Rebecca Flanagan of Vermont Law School spoke on law student peer-to-peer harassment. She first observed that behavior occurs every day in law school that would be both addressed and not tolerated in K-6 education. Adult students may act like children, bullying both their peers and professors. Games ranging from playing gunner bingo to hiding books to being disrespectful of novice professors demonstrate that behavior. Law school sets up an environment that fosters bullying: inflexible rules, locked-in roles, and rationalization of behavior. Students see their classmates as hurdles in a competitive game. They may bully electronically, with IMing and anonymous postings on Facebook, or in person, with comments and note and unwanted physical behaviors. Others may be sycophants out of fear of being bullied themselves. While students may protest that they are being treated like children with rules about classroom behavior, the result of enforced rules is that they do not act like children.
October 23, 2007
why it's hard to teach legal writing ...
Your first-year legal writings students have read about selecting authority. They've been hearing all semester about the weight of various authorities. And now, when they're doing their first fully independent research project, one of them asks you when you might cite to a trial court decision. If you also happen to be in Illinois, the answer is not simple, and explaining it might strain your students' faith in your credibility.
October 22, 2007
mark calendar for New England Consortium
The 2007 regional conference of the New England Consortium of Legal Writing Teachers will be hosted by the Vermont Law School on Friday, December 7, 2007. The morning program features three panels on teaching techniques, narrative persuasion, and LRW program models; the afternoon program features three presentations on the use of ethos in persuasive legal writing, evolving LRW governance models, and effective use of writing specialists in the LRW curriculum. Professor Chris Jernstedt, Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Dartmouth College and Director of Dartmouth's Center for Educational Outcomes, is the luncheon speaker. Professor Jernstedt specializes in human learning, educational technology, and evaluation research, and frequently lectures about learning and teaching, potentials of the human mind, educational technology, and institutional and program assessment and development.
The registration deadline is Tuesday, November 27, 2007. Direct questions about conference registration or area accommodations to Randee Rule, Administrative Assistant to the Legal Writing Department, (802) 831-1261.
hat tip: Tracy Bach
Do we need a new word to describe judicial opinions that buck authority--or just a spellchecker? Posts on a state trial practice blog were discussing the precedential value of intermediate appellate court decisions when different districts reach conflicting outcomes. One commenter opined that if three districts hold one way, and then a fourth district holds the opposite way, the fourth opinion is "an abhoration."
October 21, 2007
HLE conference--Saturday morning
Saturday morning--Plenary II
Professor Larry Krieger of FSU School of Law spoke on empirical studies relating to humanizing legal education. He began with the idea that we have an old, no longer workable philosophy that shaped traditional legal education and that legal education needs to be transformed by a philosophy that recognizes and respects human nature, including its characteristics of choicefulness, consciousness of progress, self awareness, and a desire for happiness. (He then pointed out that traditional legal education tends to violate all four.)
He proposed a definition of humanizing that includes the following: promotion of autonomy and competency; promotion of growth; promotion of integrity; provision of autonomy support; and emphasis on intrinsic over extrinsic motivations and assessment of self-worth.
He then briefly reviewed research into linguistic patterns in law school that maintain the dominant (and arguably outmoded) philosophy: parties rather than people; precedent rather than morality; win/lose rather than right/wrong. A new philosophy--transformative of legal education--would encourage metacognition (reflective awareness), morality and choices, a respect for the whole person and that person's genuineness, and a constant awareness of possible suppression of feelings and displacement of values. This new philosophy would not deny the traditional mindset, but would reposition it as one that works only part of the time, rather than being the only one.