Saturday, December 29, 2007
Kristen Murray and Christy Desanctis, at George Washington University, have written a very helpful article on The Art of the Writing Conference: Letting Students Set the Agenda Without Ceding Control.
As they explain in their abstract:
"Student writing conferences are employed in a variety of contexts at the law school level. Though such conferences are typically most effective when students set the agenda, a professor need not cede control of the conference and become solely a passive listener. To the contrary, effective, efficient student conferencing is an art that requires forethought and active planning on the part of the professor. This article attempts to establish a 'philosophy of conferencing.' It explores theoretical basis for implementing student-driven writing conference as part of a legal writing curriculum, and then discusses ways in which law professors can adhere to these principles while also engaging in their own agenda-setting. Finally, it provides suggestions on how this concept can be executed in three law school settings: first-year legal research and writing courses; upper-level legal research and writing courses; and upper-level seminar courses in which a research paper is written."
An interesting article in The New Yorker magazine, on the Twilight of the Books, suggests that as each generation of incoming students tends to read less literature, the job of law professors generally, and legal writing professors in particular, may become increasingly challenging. The anecdotes about non-literate people trying to explain "which thing doesn't belong" in a list of items is hauntingly familiar.
hat tip: Prof. R.J. Robertson, Southern Illinois University
Friday, December 28, 2007
Santa Clara University School of Law has announced an opening for the Director of Legal Analysis, Research, and Writing. To apply, submit a cover letter expressing your reasons for interest in the position, a resume, a short writing sample, a law school transcript, and the names of two references, to:
Professor Margaret Russell
Santa Clara University School of Law
500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 94563
"This position is a full-time, non-tenure track position. The Director is eligible for renewable, multi-year employment contracts. Santa Clara's three-semester legal writing program instructs both first-year and second-year law students. Legal writing faculty typically teach small sections (approximately 25-28 students) of both the year-long first year course of legal analysis, research, and writing, and a semester of Advocacy to second year students. Santa Clara's legal writing program introduces first-year students to case law and statutory analysis, legal research, and good writing principles through assignments involving the creation of traditional predictive and persuasive legal documents. In Advocacy, students draft a significant brief or memorandum of points and authorities and participate in an oral argument.
"The Director's position has the following responsibilities:
(a) teach, as appropriate, legal research and writing to first-year students and advocacy to second year students; (b) supervise both the first-year component and the advocacy component of the legal writing program; (c) support continued professional development of the legal writing faculty; (d) establish and implement a plan for the evaluation of legal writing faculty and report evaluations to the Dean; (e) work with the legal writing faculty to establish and implement long-term goals for the program; (f) advertise and conduct interviews for legal writing faculty as needed and make hiring and contract renewal recommendations to the Dean, (g) assist the work of the School of Law’s Academic Affairs Committee and report to the Committee on the legal writing program; and (h) provide advice to Faculty of Law and leadership to legal writing faculty on contemporary trends and directions in effective teaching of legal analysis, research and writing. The salary for this position will be competitive and based on the applicant's experience and qualifications.
"Applicants must possess the following qualifications: (1) A law degree from an ABA accredited school. (2) A strong academic record. (3) Demonstrated legal research, writing, and editing ability. (4) Demonstrated ability to lead and make decisions strategically. (5) A commitment to inclusion and diversity and a demonstrated ability to work with an increasingly diverse law school community. (6) Ability to interact and collaborate successfully with the law school faculty, including legal writing faculty, and law school staff and students. (7) Strong organizational, interpersonal, and communication skills. (8) Experience teaching legal research and writing or other similar teaching experience is required. (9) Experience directing a legal research and writing program (or directing a comparable academic program) is strongly preferred.
"job security: 1-4 years
vote in faculty meetings: no
salary range: 90+k
# of writing students per semester: 31-35
"Santa Clara University School of Law is an equal opportunity employer interested in receiving applications from a diverse group of people, including women, persons of color, disabled persons, veterans, and members of other under-represented groups."
hat tip: Professor Vangie Abriel
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Lunch speaker Chris Jernstedt, Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences and Director of the Center for Educational Outcomes at Dartmouth College, offered an intriguing lecture on the physiological aspects of learning.
His first point was that successful learning and memorization cause permanent physical changes in the brain. Memory can vary each time because the process of remembering is a process of construction that draws on fragments in the brain; hence, learning is a construction process that should be actively practiced. Effective learning activities help students to construct memories and use skills.
He gave an example of a motor movement repeated 10,000 times: the repetitions were represented not by a straight line on a graph, but by a scattering of dots that cluster ever closer and more consistently to that line. Because the construction process is new each time, it does not come out at exactly the same place on the graph.
He then listed the potential roles of the classroom teacher to facilitate learning: as designer of the learning experience, as demonstrator of the skill, as diagnostician of mis-steps. (He noted that "telling" is not on the list!)
And that was just the start of his fascinating presentation . . .
The lawyers and law professors who read this blog are interested in legal writing in particular and good writing generally, and tend to be good writers themselves. It takes a good writer to parody bad prose well. So perhaps some of you will be interested in submitting entries to the Bulwer-Lytton Writing Contest. Bulwer was the author who first penned, "It was a dark and stormy night." And this contest awards prizes to the worst potential opening lines for a novel. This is the kind of writing you could accomplish by mulling over possibilities in your mind, say, while stuck at the airport or waiting in a long check-out line at the store.
hat tip: Professor Laurence Gillis
A new Best Practices Blog, hosted by Albany Law School, has been launched, with two announced goals:
"1) to create a useful web-based source of information on current reforms in legal education arising from the publication of Roy Stuckey's Best Practices for Legal Education and the Carnegie Foundation's Educating Lawyers; and
"2) to create a place where those interested in the future of legal education can freely exchange ideas, concerns, and opinions. The blog will attempt to document and record the most recent innovations and academic experiments accompanying the legal education reform movement and stimulate dialogue between and among all sectors of the legal academy."
Doubtless there will be posts there of interest to legal writing professors and opportunities for the same to comment.
hat tip: Prof. Mary A. Lynch
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
After a warm welcome on a lovely, wintry Vermont morning, conference participants had a choice of concurrent sessions. The session I attended was "Narrative Persuasion" with Phil Meyer (Vermont Law School), Sophie Sparrow (Franklin Pierce), and Kathleen Mangold-Spoto (Franklin Pierce).
Professor Mangold-Spoto discussed creating mini-stories from facts and inferences, as well as using a number of real-life articles and briefs that illustrate the effective use of facts by both parties to tell their own versions of the story. Participants then discussed Maslow's hierarchy of needs to identify where an emotional appeal is based, as well as using product advertisements in carying magazines to demonstrate shaping the emotional appeal to meet the needs of a particular audience.
Professor Meyer discussed analytical form and storytelling, including features such as plotting, what constitutes a complete story, types of stories, showing versus telling, and rhythm.
Professor Sparrow discussed a simple visual equation to illustrate the components of story, as well as how to effectively use concrete facts.
Other ideas included using language in a brief similar to that used by the jusge who would be reading the brief (e.g., use kinesthetic language for a kinesthetic judge and big words for a judge who uses big words); giving students a picture and asking them to create the story to go with it, then using their different stories to discuss how life experience shapes the stories we recognize and tell; and alternating between scene and summary in telling a story.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
The colonial government of New Hampshire, sitting in Portsmouth, felt compelled to pass a law concerning December 25th, prohibiting "Loose Idle Persons going about the streets in Companies in a roisterous & Tumultuous manner halooing huzzaing firing guns beating drums to the great disturbance & Terror of many of the inhabitants on the evening Preceeding and evening following said Day ...." An Act To Prevent And Punish Disorders Usually Committed On The Twenty Fifth Day Of December Commonly Called Christmas-Day, The Evening Preceeding & Following Said Day, And To Prevent Other Irregularities Committed At Other Times (Dec. 23, 1771).
Whatever you're doing this day, hope it's a good one.
Monday, December 24, 2007
One more event to mark on your 2008 calendar, as announced by Professor Jane Scott:
"St. John’s University School of Law is pleased to announce that it will host a Legal Research and Writing Conference on Friday, December 5, 2008 at the University’s Manhattan campus, near the World Financial Center. The conference will explore how legal research and writing as taught in law school can best prepare new lawyers for practice in the workplace. We plan to offer perspectives from judges, law firms, other legal employers, and, of course, legal writing professors. Topics will include developments in the workplace affecting the skills expected of, and the training available to, beginning lawyers. There will be much food for thought and ample opportunity for holiday shopping!"
According to Professor Dan Barnett, of Boston College Law School:
"The Resort is located on three miles of pristine Southwest Florida beaches. With over 225,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor function space, a full-service event planning staff, several renowned restaurants, championship golf, a world-class spa, and a wide range of activities and amenities, the Resort seemed like an ideal setting for the first LWI Conference to be held at a non-campus site. The impressive meeting space, beach location, and affordable accommodations should entice members to not only attend the 2010 Conference but also to combine it with a family vacation, especially since the LWI special rates have been extended to before and after the conference dates."
You can still -- until January 12th -- submit a proposal to give a presentation at the Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference. The University of Utah College of Law is hosting the conference this Spring, on March 21st and 22nd.
"The conference will be held on campus at the University Guest House and Conference Center, a collection of beautiful, late 19th century buildings completely remodeled for the 2002 Winter Olympics. The University Guest House/Hotel (130 rooms) is a few yards from the conference facilities. We are holding a block of rooms there ranging from double queen to deluxe suite. The average cost for attendees is $75/night, which includes a generous continental breakfast, fitness center, free WiFi, free parking and walking access to TRAX, a 10 minute ride to the city center area. The Marriott University Park Hotel is within walking distance to the conference site. The rate for conference attendees is $95 for a King.
Salt Lake International Airport is about 15 minutes from downtain and 20 minutes to the University. Spring weather in Salt Lake typically allows you to golf in the city and ski at any of the seven resorts within 30-45 minutes from campus."