Saturday, December 8, 2007
A few weeks ago, when my semester was far too busy to follow up on it, I received a suggestion to post a very helpful reminder from the manage your writing blog. It reminds us that if we aspire to perfection in our writing, we needn't get there all at once. Of course the same perspective applies to our writing students. As I tell my students, once you've done enough researching, thinking, analyzing, and organizing to think you're ready to start writing, give yourself psychological permission to do a brain dump draft. Just dump all those ideas ricocheting around in your brain into the keyboard. Then see what you have. And then little by little, start cleaning it up.
hat tip: Professor Diane Murley
Over on the (new) legal writer blog, there's a great lament reproduced, originally written by a judge circa 1910, about counsel's inability to cite to cases. The judge wasn't asking for much: just enough information to be able to actually find the cases. It certainly puts current citation woes in perspective.
hat tip: Professor Diane Murley, now in balmy Arizona!
Friday, December 7, 2007
As co-author of this blog and co-author of a new article, I've decided to dispense with third person and let you know that Professor Hollee Temple, at West Virginia University, and I will be publishing our study of the credentials of legal writing professors in the Brandeis Law Journal (at the University of Louisville) in March 2008. Just click on the title, Did Your Legal Writing Professor Go to Harvard?: The Credentials of Legal Writing Faculty at Hiring Time, and scroll down, to access the full text, including charts reporting our data. (This is the draft before the law student editors have had at it.)
As our abstract states:
In this article, we share the results of the first comprehensive study of the credentials of today's legal writing professors. Legal writing professors have been working for many years to improve their status within the academy, and this study confirms that many legal writing professors hold impressive credentials comparable to typical tenure-track hires. The article situates our findings within the context of the previous research on the credentials of law professors, and calls upon the academy to explain why it has not conferred the privileges of membership (e.g., equal salary and status) upon a group of professors who have traditional professorship credentials. It also suggests that gender bias and purposeful mommy-tracking of women faculty candidates may explain some of the discrepancies.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Professor Ian Gallacher, at Syracuse University, has been writing thought-provoking articles this year at a rate that might be alarming to those less prolific and trying to keep up. His two most recent articles, with each title followed by its abstract, are:
"This article is a manifesto that outlines the principles of the open access to legal information movement and sounds a call to action for law schools to become leaders in that movement. The article surveys the present legal information environment, reviews the development of computer-assisted legal information and the long-term future of book-based legal research, and discusses the problems inherent in a system where two large “information resource” corporations control access to legal information. After considering the need for open access to the law for pro se litigants, scholars from outside the legal academy, and practicing lawyers, after considering and rejecting courts and legislators as viable guarantors of open access, and with the model of the clinical legal community’s tradition of engaged scholarship as an example, the article concludes that America’s law schools have both the opportunity and obligation to provide an alternative to the commercial legal information sites and make America’s law freely available to all. The article ends with a series of proposed principles that might guide such an open-access legal information site."
"As the law moves inexorably to a digital publication model in which books no longer play a role, the problem of how to continue to make the law available to all becomes more acute. Open access initiatives already exist, and more are on the way, but all are limited by their inability to provide more than self-indexed search options for their users. Self-indexing, although a powerful alternative to the traditional pre-indexed searching made possible by systems like West's “Key Number” digests, has inherent limitations which make it a poor choice as the sole means of researching the law. But developing a new pre-indexed legal digest would be a prohibitively expensive and complex undertaking, making it unlikely that open access legal information sites can develop and maintain a fully-implemented digesting approach to legal research. This article proposes a reconceptualization of the information already contained within most American judicial opinions in order to permit open access sites to offer a form of pre-indexed research to their users. By mapping a case's location in a graphical representation of the doctrinal development of an issue under consideration, this approach allows the court's citations to prior authority to act as a pre-indexing tool, allows the researcher to update the law by showing more recent cases that have cited to the target case, and gives the researcher the opportunity to trace network links in order to uncover connections between cases that might otherwise have been difficult to discern."
Here's your chance to become involved in and help shape the future of legal education in the United States. The following announcement appeared today on the lawprof listserve:
"As part of Georgia State Law's 25th Anniversary Celebration, we are hosting an International Conference on the Future of Legal Education, February 20-23, 2008. This conference will take as its point of departure the highly critical report on American legal education recently issued by the prestigious Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching: Educating Lawyers. The report calls for fundamental changes in both the structure and content of legal education in the United States to integrate realistic and real-life lawyering experiences throughout the curriculum, and challenges American law schools to produce lawyers who are not only smart problem-solvers but also responsible professionals committed to service of both clients and the larger society.
"The conference will ask two related questions:
"1. First, if one was charged with starting a new law school, how would one implement the Carnegie recommendations? What would the budget look like? How would the faculty be recruited and structured? What would one want the student body to look like? What would be the curriculum?
"2. Second, how would an existing law school transform itself into the kind of law school envisioned by the Carnegie Report? What would a 5 year transition plan look like?
"There are already 22 speakers scheduled for the Conference including Dr. William Sullivan, Senior Scholar, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and lead author of Educating Lawyers; deans and law professors from both the United States and other countries who are already engaged in innovative legal education along the lines of the Carnegie Report; and representatives of the ABA, the Conference of Chief Justices, and other major professional organizations.
"We will shortly provide hard copy and web-based materials for conference registration; we also will be offering limited opportunities for interested parties to apply to be panel participants at the conference. If you wish to be placed on an electronic mailing list to receive these and other notices about this conference, please send an email to the conference chair, Professor Clark Cunningham: firstname.lastname@example.org . Put "FUTURE OF LEGAL EDUCATION CONFERENCE MAILING LIST" in the subject line and place your contact details in the text of the email message.
"For further information, visit the conference website at http://law.gsu.edu/FutureOfLegalEducationConference/
"Best wishes for a happy holiday.
"Steven Kaminshine, Dean
Clark Cunningham, Conference Chair & W.Lee Burge Chair of Law & Ethics"
Monday, December 3, 2007
One way to put our own assumptions about legal citation into cultural perspective is to read the story of another country’s citation disputes.
Professors Shulamit Almog and Ronen Perry, at the University of Haifa, have written an interesting account in Legal Citation Rules: Reflections on the Formation of Discourse Norms, 3 Haifa Law Review 239 (2007).
Here’s how they summarize the story:
"In the spring of 2006, an 80 pages booklet, sponsored by four Israeli law reviews, and titled Uniform Citation Rules in Legal Writing, was published in Israel. Given its cover color and notable similarity to the American Bluebook, we called it The Purplebook. The Haifa Law Review had to decide whether to substitute the new rules for its traditional citation method. The Editors' reflections on this seemingly technical matter generated interesting queries about the need for uniform citation rules, the process of their formulation, endorsement and modification, their substance and their form. The unprecedented opportunity to seriously deliberate on the various aspects of legal citation has yielded this essay. To begin with, the essay examines the need for uniformity in citation, and discusses the advantages and shortcomings of such uniformity on different levels of abstraction. Considerations pertaining to aesthetics, efficiency, and preservation of unique-identities (pluralism) go against the attempt to impose a uniform set of citation rules on Hebrew legal writing in its entirety. Next the essay appraises the production process of the new booklet on two levels. First, it presents the historical development of legal citation rules in Israel and demonstrates that the Purplebook pretends to be the successor of a long-standing custom, where none actually existed, and makes false claims of originality by ignoring the historical background - as a means for acquiring legitimacy and authority. Second, the essay criticizes the exclusion of second- and third-tier journals from the process - as a means for perpetuating the existing hierarchy in Israeli system of legal education. Finally, the essay criticizes the Purplebook's substance and form from various theoretical perspectives. The conclusions have led to an outright rejection of the new rules by the editorial board of the Haifa Law Review."
Professor William Mock, at The John Marshall Law School, has published an article entitled: When a Rose Isn't 'Arose' Isn't Arroz: A Student Guide to Footnoting for Informational Clarity and Scholarly Discourse, 34 International Journal of Legal Information 87 (2006). This article could be a helpful classroom handout for a law school course that requires students to write scholarly papers.
As the abstract explains:
"This short article is a guide for authors, student editors, and research assistants to the major types of footnotes and how to prepare them. First, I introduce the three basic types of text requiring footnote citations – those containing (a) references, (b) facts, and (c) ideas. Footnotes for references are designed to allow your readers to retrace your research and to decide for themselves whether your line of analysis is correct. Footnotes for facts are designed to provide your reader with additional background information about anything you have mentioned that may not be familiar to your readers, including potentially obscure people, places, objects, events. Footnotes for ideas are designed to place your arguments, ideas, and analyses in the broader intellectual context of those scholars who have already considered your subject, and often offers glimpses down the side avenues of discourse that cannot be pursued in the article itself. The article concludes with some guidelines for undertaking research in ways that make it easier to prepare scholarly footnotes efficiently and correctly."
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Susan Duncan, Chair of the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research, announced today that Professor Eric Easton, at the University of Baltimore, has received the Section's annual award. As Susan explains:
"Eric has made many contributions to the field of legal research and writing. Eric is an officer of ALWD and chaired the ABA Communication Skills Committee that revised the legal writing Sourcebook that so many of us have relied upon to work for the advancement of our programs. Eric was instrumental in getting his law school to develop an Introduction to Lawyering Skills/Torts course, a seven-credit course fully integrating doctrinal instruction in Torts with research, writing, and analysis. He also helped transition the writing instructors from adjuncts to tenure track professors. Finally, his nominator specifically noted that Eric is the ideal friend, colleague, and mentor."