Sunday, November 30, 2008
As recently reported in this New York Times Sunday book review, humorist and NPR personality Roy Blount Jr. has just published "Alphabet Juice: The Energies, Gists and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Thereof" by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Described as a guide to Blount's "personal lexicon, usage manual, writers' guidebook, [and] etymological investigation," the NYT's reviewer enthusiastically recommends the book to anyone interesting in adding another valuable and fun resource to their writer's bookshelf.
According to Alphabet Juice, writing "needs to be quick, so it's readable at first glance and also worth lingering over." Ah, that's the trick, isn't it?
More reviews, courtesy of Amazon.com, are collected here.
I am the scholarship dude.
The ABA website is promoting a new book by Bryan Garner called Garner on Language and Writing. The foreword was written by Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. The book is being published by the American Bar Association.
We haven't seen the book itself yet, but I'm sure one of us here on the blog will come across a copy of it soon enough. If YOU happen to have seen a copy, please share your thoughts about it here with us. Thanks.
Photo of Bryan Garner courtesy of Scribes and Professor Joe Kimble. Garner appeared with Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at the Scribes luncheon in New York last during the ABA Annual Meeting.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
The (New) Legal Writer Blog has posted a summary of work by Professor Judith Fischer, who analyzed 50 appellate briefs from six states. Although Professor Fischer does not conclude that one format is better than another, she comes up with some helpful tips on writing effective issue statements. Click here to read more. That link has a further link to her article on SSRN if you'd like to read even more.
Hat tip to Raymond Ward at the (new) legal writer.
Our friends at the Law Librarian Blog have posted a trailer for "The Library Chronicles," with characters such as the Enigmatic Librarian. It's just over two minutes long if you would like to take a look at it by clicking here. Here's a warning: "Anything read in the library, must stay in the library!" Enjoy.
Hat tip to Joe Hodnicki.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Now for a walk on the lighter side. The legal blogosphere has been burning up with a story about an ASU first year law student who successfully fended off an armed burglar when the intruder tried to steal his laptop containing his class notes and outlines. As a local Arizona TV station reports, the intruder, armed with a metal softball bat, broke into the sleeping law student's room in the middle of the night and demanded the student's wallet and guitars. But when the burglar tried to take Alex Botsios' laptop containing his outlines, Mr. Botsios shouted:
"Dude, no -- please, no! I have all my case notes…that's four months of work!" At which point Mr. Botsios grabbed the bat from the intruder and beat him to a pulp. After being treated at a local hospital for his injuries, the intruder was arrested on armed robbery and kidnapping charges. Other than a bruised knuckle and some scratches, Mr. Botsios was right as rain.
The lesson? Putting yourself between a first year law student and his outlines is asking for major trouble. Who knows, perhaps the intruder would have gotten away with it if he'd just left the laptop alone.
Mr. Botsios gets massive style points for referring to an armed assailant who broke into his room in the middle of the night as "dude."
I am the scholarship dude.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
We like to celebrate winners of writing competitions here on the Legal Writing Prof Blog. So we are happy to post news that the Association of American Law Schools announced the winner of the 2009 competition for scholarly papers, and it was a tie! The winners are Assistant Professor Laura A. Cisneros (Texas Southern University, Thurgood Marshall School of Law) for her paper entitled “Standing Doctrine, Judicial Technique, and the Gradual Shift From Rights-Based Constitutionalism to Executive Constitutionalism,” and Visiting Assistant Professor Deborah Widiss (Brooklyn Law School) for her paper entitled “Shadow Precedents and the Separation of Powers: Statutory Interpretation of Congressional Overrides.” Both winning authors will present their papers in San Diego at the AALS Annual Meeting on Thursday, January 8, 2009 from 4:00 until 5:45 p.m.
The Office of the Federal Register announced that it has created an Electronic Public Inspection Desk to provide free worldwide electronic access to public documents. For the first time in the 72-year existence of the daily Federal Register, documents on file are available for viewing anytime, anywhere. Every Federal business day, anyone with access to a computer now can read critical documents governing Federal regulations relating to business, health, and safety as soon as the documents are placed on file. To view these documents, go to www.federalregister.gov (link opens in a new window). See “View Documents on Public Inspection" (link opens in a new window) on the left hand side. This new desk grants the public access to documents that will be published in the next day’s Federal Register as early at 8:45 a.m. EST. Previously, such documents could only be seen by viewing the documents physically located at the Office of the Federal Register in Washington, DC.
Hat tip to the Novalawcity blog.
I am the scholarship dude.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Last week on the legal writing professors' listserve, there was a lively exchange about President-Elect Obama's campaign speeches and what our legal writing students might learn from them. Now Professor Judy Fischer has blogged about The Rhetoric of Obama's Election-Night Speech. (Scroll down to the second post.) It, too, could be the topic of a productive classroom discussion on the use of rhetoric in persuasion.
If you aren't already familiar with him, Professor James McElhaney authors a great monthly column on trial practice in the ABA Journal. Often focusing on effective communication skills, this month's column entitled "Stop Sounding Like a Lawyer: Plain Language Works Best to Effectively Tell the Story of Your Case" encourages both lawyers and law students to keep it as simple as possible. As the author says: "Because we are professional communicators, it is our obligation to be plain and simple. It’s not our readers’ and listeners’ jobs to try to understand us. It’s our job to make certain that everything we write and say commands instant comprehension."
This would make a great handout for 1Ls since Professor McElhaney seeks to dispel the myth that law students should take their cue about how to write well from the generally intractable opinions they read in class.
I am the scholarship dude.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
In State v. Flores, an unpublished decision by the Texas Court of Appeals for the 14th District dated October 23, 2008, the court refused the appellant's request to take judicial notice of a Wikipedia entry describing the "John Reid interrogation technique." The court reasoned in footnote 3 that Wikipedia entries are inherently unreliable because they can be written and edited anonymously by anyone. The court relied on a recent article from the Wall Street Journal entitled Wikipedians Leave Cyberspace, Meet in Egypt, noting that the egalitarian nature of Wikipedia is both "its greatest strength and its greatest weakness."
The Flores decision is also available on Westlaw and Lexis at, respectively, 2008 WL 4683960 (Tex. App.-Hous. (14th Dist.)) and 2008 Tex. App. LEXIS 8010.
Hat tip to BNA Internet Law News.
I am the scholarship dude.
If you haven't yet had the chance to visit operations at West headquarters in Eagan, Minnesota (and even if you have), you may enjoy this podcast (with jazzy soundtrack) that shows how a case (in this instance, District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. ___, 128 S. Ct. 2783, 171 L. Ed. 2d 637 (2008)) goes through all the editorial processes, from raw opinion to headnote drafting to assignment of topic/key numbers to published case in Westlaw and print.
hat tip: Law Librarian Blog
Deans, law faculty, law librarians, and law school staff interested in curricular reform, professional responsibility training, and skills training are invited to learn more about a new program for legal educators: Skills Training for Ethical and Preventive Practice and career Satisfaction (STEPPS). (Click here to view the website for STEPPS and here to read an article with more information about the program.)
California Western School of Law is hosting a presentation and reception from 4-7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 6, 2009, on its campus at 225 Cedar Street, San Diego, and it will provide transportation between the AALS Conference Hotel and the Law School for this event. Click here to register for the program.
Speaker for the program is Catherine Sanders Reach, Director of the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center, who will discuss "Technology, Ethics and the Practice of Law: Training the 21st Century Law Student."
Editors of the Legal Writing Institute's newsletter, The Second Draft, are calling for submissions for the Fall 2009 issue. The theme of that issue is "Implicit Reasoning.” How do you teach your students to recognize implicit reasoning and to incorporate implicit reasoning into their analysis? And can you describe those techniques in a short article (not more than 650 words)?
The firm deadline for submitting an article is June 1, 2009. Submission guidelines and directions are available on the Second Draft page of the LWI website.
The newsletter also publishes announcements and other news of interest to the legal writing community, such as information about publications, presentations, promotions, or events from your department. If you would like your news to appear in the Fall 2009 newsletter, please send it no later than June 1, 2009, to [email protected].
Saturday, November 22, 2008
"The Power of Brevity: Adopt Abraham Lincoln's Habits"
JULIE A. OSEID University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)
This short article focuses on the persuasive power of brevity in legal writing, using Abraham Lincoln as a role model. Lincoln's eloquence was grounded in his ability to express much with few words. He learned the power of brevity while practicing law.
The article reviews Lincoln's legal career, and examines Lincoln's use of brevity to persuade in three of his presidential speeches. I explore Lincoln's writing and editing habits. I urge modern lawyers to adopt Lincoln's habits of writing early, visualizing audience, and editing with ruthlessness to increase eloquence and persuasiveness.
"Toward a Deeper Understanding of Professionalism: Learning to Write and Writing to Learn during the First Two Weeks of Law School"
BEN BRATMAN, University of Pittsburgh - School of Law
Law schools are under pressure to instill in their students a sense of professionalism, but what exactly does professionalism mean? And what can professors of legal writing do to lay an educational foundation of professionalism? They are, after all, the teachers who at most schools have the greatest interaction with the impressionable first-year students.
Professionalism is frequently used to mean a variety of behaviors that are important for lawyers to exhibit, but that are also important for those in business - outside the traditional professions - to exhibit. In the context of legal education, professionalism is better understood to mean those characteristics of a profession that distinguish it from a business. The most important distinguishing characteristic of a profession is that its essence and primary imperative are public service. The notion that lawyers, as professionals, must prioritize public service over profits is a romantic one, but an essential one for law students to understand.
As a professor of legal writing, my first of what I hope will become many steps in conveying this sense of professionalism to my first-year students is a writing assignment to be completed during the first two weeks of law school. The assignment asks students to analyze whether a fictional personal injury attorney is running a permitted professional office or a prohibited business office under a zoning ordinance. The students write a short inter-office memo applying a real precedent case in which a court ruled an insurance agent ran a business office. In crafting and using this memo assignment, I have dual goals - ensuring my students learn to write and also write to learn (about professionalism).
"The Citation of Wikipedia in American Judicial Opinions"
LEE F. PEOPLES, Oklahoma City University School of Law
Wikipedia has been cited almost 300 times in American judicial opinions as of September, 2008. Courts cite Wikipedia for a wide range of purposes. Some citations are merely mundane references to everyday facts well known by the general public. In other opinions, Wikipedia is cited as a basis for the court's reasoning or to support a conclusion about an adjudicative fact at issue in the case. In a notable recent case, Badasa v. Mukasey, 2008 WL 3981817 (8th Cir. 2008), The Eighth Circuit remanded a Board of Immigration Appeals decision because it upheld a lower court's finding based on information obtained from Wikipedia.
This article will comprehensively examine citations to Wikipedia in American judicial opinions. The impact of references to Wikipedia in judicial opinions on law of evidence, judicial ethics, the judicial role in the common law adversarial system, the de-legalization of American law, and the future of stare decisis will be explored. Best practices for the citation of Wikis in judicial opinions will be discussed.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Congratulations to the new officer nominees of the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Research, and Reasoning: Martha Pagliari as Chair-Elect and this blog's own Mark Wojcik as Section Secretary.
Martha has been teaching at the DePaul University College of Law for four years and is the Associate Director of DePaul's LARC department. She serves as the Professor Reporter for the Study Committee on Complex Litigation for the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts. That work, coupled with her experience as a partner in a Chicago civil litigation firm and her service on several committees for Illinois and Chicago bar associations, makes Martha well-prepared to assist incoming Chair Rachel
Croskery-Roberts in the business of the Section.
Mark has taught at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago and at other universities internationally since 1992. Before then, he worked as a judicial clerk and practicing attorney. Mark has considerable experience within various AALS Sections, legal writing organizations, and ABA committees. His extensive computer skills and his deep experience as the editor of several newsletters make him well-suited to undertake the Secretary's responsibility of creating the Section's semi-annual newsletter.
The election of officers will take place at the AALS annual meeting during the Section's luncheon on Friday, January 9th at 12:15.
Thanks are due to the hard-working and wise members of the Section's Nominating Committee: Leah Christensen, Greg Johnson, Jim Levy, Sharon Pocock, Judy Rosenbaum, Susan Thrower, and Christine Venter.
According to Typealyzer, a Swedish website that purports to analyze the Myers-Briggs personality type of a blog's author, we collectively add up to INTJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging), or as the site describes us, "Scientists":
The long-range thinking and individualistic type. They are especially good at looking at almost anything and figuring out a way of improving it - often with a highly creative and imaginative touch. They are intellectually curious and daring, but might be pshysically [sic] hesitant to try new things.
The Scientists enjoy theoretical work that allows them to use their strong minds and bold creativity. Since they tend to be so abstract and theoretical in their communication they often have a problem communcating their visions to other people and need to learn patience and use conrete examples. Since they are extremly good at concentrating they often have no trouble working alone.
I tried classifying my boating blog with Typealyzer, too, but the site thought my blog was written in Thai (??!!). Yeah, that's me, the not-so-well-known-language type.
hat tip: Chris Wren & Kevin Drum
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Grammar, punctuation, and style are enjoying a renaissance today, so lawyers have more choices than ever before about guides to help them. That's the word from Jill Hayford at Marquette University School of Law, whose column in the November 2008 issue of the Wisconsin Lawyer Magazine launches a new legal writing series that will appear in the magazine. Click here to read about the article. That link has a further link to the article itself.
Hat tip to Jessica Slavin, who shared this news with us.