Saturday, January 5, 2008


"All words are pegs to hang ideas on."

~ Henry Ward Beecher


January 5, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 4, 2008

Green Bag picks exemplary writers of 2007

Green Bag 2d has just announced the 2008 winners of exemplary writing in 2007 (if that makes sense). Honorees--chosen from a lengthy and distinguished list of nominees--include six judges and justices, for their opinions (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Daniel L. Harris, Richard A. Posner, Antonin Scalia, Laurence H. Silberman, and David H. Souter); five book authors (Jack L. Goldsmith, Jan Crawford Greenburg, Stuart Taylor, Jr. & KC Johnson, G. Edward White); four authors of short articles (Walter Dellinger, Dennis Jacobs, Kermit Roosevelt, Cass R. Sunstein); three authors of long articles (Luther T. Munford, Jeffrey Rosen, John Fabian Witt); and three authors of miscellany (Lisa Heinzerling (and others lumped together as "et al."), Roger W. Hughes, James R. Muirhead).


January 4, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 3, 2008

no fancy fonts

FunfontsRecently proposed amendments to the court rules in Virginia would limit appellate attorneys to using one of three fonts (in 14-point size): Courier, Arial, or Verdana. Nothing else!

In its revision of Rule 33.1, the United States Supreme Court, in contrast, tells attorneys to use fonts in the "Century Family" (Century Expanded, New Century Schoolbook, or Century Schoolbook) (but in 12-point size). Nothing else!

Not everyone is so demanding. Iowa courts will let attorneys use a font as small as ten points in size. Iowa R. App. P. 6.10. Minnesota accepts monospaced fonts, provided they do not produce more than 10 1/2 characters per inch, or proportional fonts, as long as they are set in 13-point size or larger. (Thirteen point?)

I thought I had found the perfect set of "court rules" from the "Evergreen Supreme Court" at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington: "No fancy fonts are allowed." Unfortunately, it then goes on to mandate use of 12-point Times Roman or Times New Roman.


January 3, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

media portrayals of legal argument

Law_and_order_logo On last night's 18th season premiere of Law and Order, the new character, prosecutor "Michael Cutter" (played by Linus Roache), interrupted opposing counsel's argument, despite the judge telling him to wait his turn. And then the judge did nothing. (And I'm not even going to touch the prosecutor's decision to tell the police to proceed with a search after the judge turned down his request for a warrant.)

It concerns me to see these portrayals of uncivil and unprofessional argument in the media. The blog "May It Please the Court" even has a name for this phenomenon, labeling it the "Boston Legal Syndrome." (On that television show, however, the lawyers are occasionally sent to jail for contempt of court. But not always. Take, for example, a recent statement Shore made in court: "I move to remove you on the grounds of horrible judging. There's a pattern of it, actually.")

I enjoy watching these shows, I admit, in part because they address current issues, and in the case of Boston Legal, because it's funny. But I am afraid that if I played a clip in class from one of today's tv-lawyer shows, my students might fail to appreciate that I am showing them what not to do.


January 3, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

teaching methods newsletter

The current newsletter for the AALS Section on Teaching Methods is now available on-line.  If you'd like to be on the e-mailing list for this newsletter, just contact the Section Chair, Professor Lou Sirico, at Villanova University.



January 3, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

protests against Judge Kent

A few times every year, someone on one of the legal writing listservs makes reference to an opinion by federal district judge Samuel Kent. He has some doozies, many of them collected at The Smoking Gun, like this one and this one. Kent made the news himself in 2007, as he was disciplined by the Fifth Circuit for sexual harrassment. According to a story in today's Houston Chronicle, family members of the court employee who complained about the judge conducted a protest--calling for the judge's impeachment--outside the courthouse as the judge returned to the bench. As one family member reportedly put it, "Why should Congress investigate steroids and baseball and not investigate this when they have a constitutional duty?"


January 2, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

ban those bad words!

(as read in the St. Paul Pioneer Press this afternoon, on my way to AALS . . .)

Lake Superior State University issues annually a "List of Words Banished From the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness."  This year's list includes "surge," "sweet," "'blank' is the new 'blank,'" "random," and "decimate."  The article notes that a member of the committee that evaluates submissions "once received a letter from an Arizona Supreme Court justice who said he posted that year's list on a bulletin board and prohibited all attorneys from using those words."

What a sweet idea!  Doing so would decimate some briefs . . .


January 1, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

corporate law's resistance to narrative reasoning?

Does corporate law seem to be particularly sterile  and devoid of human interest? Maybe so. In No Imagination: The Marginal Role of Narrative in Corporate Law, 55 Buff. L. Rev 537, 541 (2007), Michigan State Prof. Mae Kuykendall considers that question: "The discourse generated by the corporation is imperturbable and thus immune to the intervention of other discourses that attract human interest. Yet it Bdtableis a product of human activity and human genius, is powerful and functional, and gives clear direction to certain aspects of life. It is ours. These observations support a conclusion that reforms aimed at the production of a large narrative about the corporation or of specific narratives are fruitless. Corporate law is abstract, because its subject is not readily reducible to human stories."

Perhaps that is why appellate briefs--and judicial opinions--dealing with issues of corporation law are often so dull.


January 1, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

innovation with clinic-lw collaboration

Looking for innovative ideas for your law school curriculum? A new article by Sarah O'Rourke Schrup examines ways to build collaboration between legal clinics and legal writing programs. The title is The Clinical Divide: Overcoming Barriers to Collaboration between Clinics and Legal Writing Programs, and it's published at 14 Clinical L. Rev. 301 (2007).


January 1, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 31, 2007

Ironquill and other lawyer-poets

Quill As 2007 comes to a close, let's note one of the more unusual pieces of legal writing produced and published this year. For example, see Brian Moline & M.H. Hoeflich, Some Kansas Lawyer-Poets, 55 U. Kan. L. Rev. 971 (2007), who examine the writings of 19th-century lawyers like Charles Calhoun Dail and Eugene Ware (nicknamed "Ironquill"). The article reproduces one of Dail's poems, titled "To the Kanass [sic] Digest":
Steal not this book, for on it I rely
To prove a lie the truth, and truth a lie;
To prove that black is white, or white is black,
And what I say to-day, to-morrow take it back.
To prove the court an ass, the judge a fool,
The jury blockhead boys at school,
The law a thing we learn by rote,
And Justice never enters court.
To prove that right is wrong, and wrong is right,
And justify my client in a fight;
To read this book to save a rogue,
Then read again to d---- a lord.
To twist the law to suit the case,
To prove some law-point out of place;
And yet be plain, polite and civil,
Yet more sarcastic then the devil.
Yet in this book the court has spoken,
And its plain rules must not broken;
Or we, who think their rulings funny,
Will lose our case and client's money.

December 31, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

the welcoming committee

Professor Lisa Mazzie Hatlen from Marquette University Law School would like to remind any legal writing professionals who will be attending the AALS annual meeting for the first time this week to look for the Welcoming Committee, of the Section on Legal Writing, Research, and Reasoning.  On Thursday around noon, the Committee will have a table set up next to the registration table for the LWRR section luncheon.  You can e-mail Professor Hatlen before you go, at, and Committee members will be looking out for you.  Committee members will have pink stickers on their name badges.  Veteran legal writing people can identify newbies, to extend a welcome, by the blue stickers on their name badges. 

Welcoming Committee members include: 

Rachel Croskery-Roberts, University of Michigan;
Ellie Margolis, Temple University;
Mark Osbeck, University of Michigan;
Ed Telfeyan, University of the Pacific (McGeorge School of Law); and
Lisa Mazzie Hatlen, Marquette University.


December 31, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

your AALS dance card

For those who will be attending the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools in New York City next week, here are the major legal writing events that will take place: Section on Legal Writing, Research, & Reasoning program:
Writing Across the Curriculum,
Professional Communication and the Writing that Supports It

Friday, January 4
8:30 - 10:15 a.m.
Mercury Ballroom, Third Floor, Hilton New York

Section on Legal Writing, Research, & Resoning co-sponsored program with the
Section on Women in Legal Education and the
Section on Clinical Legal Education:
Rise of the Pink Collars: Women in the Legal Academy
Sunday, January 6
9:00 - 10:45 a.m.
Regent Parlor, Second Floor, Hilton New York

Section on Legal Writing, Research, & Reasoning luncheon:
Thursday, January 3
12:15 - 1:30 p.m.
Sutton Center, Second Floor, Hilton New York

Section on Legal Writing, Research & Reasoning business meeting:
during the Section’s luncheon

co-sponsored award reception
Legal Writing Institute and the
Association of Legal Writing Directors:
Thursday, January 3
6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Empire Ballroom East, Second Floor, Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers

hat tip: Professor Lou Sirico, Villanova University


December 31, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

law school innovations blog

Another recently launched blog that may be of interest to readers of this blog is Law School Innovation.  This new blog seems to address big picture innovations, which could dovetail nicely with the many smaller scale innovations that many legal writing professors frequently bring to their academic institutions.
hat tip:  Professor Scott Fruehwald, Hofstra Law School

December 30, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Living Legal Scholarship

Maksymilian Del Mar, a research student at the University of Edinburgh, has written an essay entitled Living Legal Scholarship that almost anyone who has ever undertaken a serious legal scholarship project might find re-affirming. It would be good to print out and keep handy to read during those times when you are many months (perhaps years) into a scholarship project and find yourself doubting the entire enterprise. 

Here is Professor Del Mar's abstract:

"This paper offers a personal reflection on the value of legal scholarship. It is set in the context of the contemporary literature on the state of contemporary legal scholarship. The paper argues that the state of contemporary legal scholarship is too often evaluated on the exclusive basis of the style and content of legal scholarly works. The challenge that this paper seeks to meet is to provide a broader and richer platform upon which legal scholarship can and should be evaluated. That challenge is met by offering a brief account of the five responsibilities of legal scholarship (reading, writing, teaching, collegiality, and engagement). These five responsibilities are designed to provide a framework for imagining the institutional life of a legal scholar. The paper argues that it is that full life, rather than merely the scholarly output, that should necessarily be included in any assessment of the state of contemporary legal scholarship."


December 30, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)