Saturday, May 10, 2008

LWI Conference Preview - Wednesday Session 2

This post continues the preview of sessions that will be held at the Legal Writing Institute summer conference in Indianapolis.  The sessions here will be held on Wednesday, July 16, 2008, from 10:30 to 11:15 a.m.Stanchi_kathryn

W2A -- Kathryn M. Stanchi (Associate Professor at Temple University James E. Beasley School of Law in Philadelphia). Kathy will present on Playing With Fire: The Science of Confronting Negative Information in Persuasive Legal Writing.  She'll summarize the social science research on the effectiveness of disclosing adverse information in a persuasive message.  She'll then analyze how the results of that research can shed light on strategies for handling adverse information in persuasive legal writing.


W2B -- Thomson_david Effective Methods for Teaching Legal Writing Online
David I.C. Thomson, newly appointed director of the Legal Writing Program at the University of Denver College of Law, will explore how to teach legal writing online. He'll describe how to adjust generally accepted LRW pedagogy and deliver it in an online environment. Part of his presentation will also demonstrate and explain the myriad technologies that are currently available to deliver online content. He will also present results of his empirical research into the effectiveness of these methods.


W2C -- Clearly, Using Intensifiers Is Very Bad
Lance N. Long is a Visiting Legal Research and Writing Professor at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon.  I couldn't download his photo but you can look at it here.  (He previously taught legal writing at Brigham Young University and at Stetson). 
Click here for an abstract of an article by Professor Long and William F. Christensen on the subject of this presentation.  It examines whether there is any correlation between success on appeal and the overuse of intensifiers in appelllate briefs.  If I understand this correctly, his research shows that the more you use intensifiers, the more likely you are to have a negative outcome on appeal.


Lou_sirico_2 Louis Sirico and some others (not sure who, but let one of use know and we'll add the names in) will present on Teaching How Legal Writing Fits Into Law Practice.  Lou is the current chair of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research.  He's also a professor at Villanova University School of Law in Villanova, Pennsylvania.  He and the other presenters will discuss how to better connect legal writing with the practice of law by coordinating lawyering skills exercises in other classes.  They will illustrate this connection with a drafting exercises connected to a doctrinal course (Property) and a skills course (Mediation).


Kimble_joe Fajans_elizabeth Joseph Kimble (a professor at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan) will briskly cover 10-20 techniques for better drafting, drawn from the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  The techniques will be useful for all forms of drafting and anyone who teaches it.  (They will likely be helpful in other forms of legal writing as well).  Joe's presentation is called Techniques for Better Legal Drafting: Lessons from the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  That will be followed by Dr. Elizabeth Fajans (Associate Professor of Legal Writing at Brooklyn Law School), who will speak on Lessons Learned from Administrative Law Writing.  She'll describe an administrative law practicum that she co-taught last year, designed to give students hands-on experience with drafting legislation and regulations.  Students in the practicum drafted the legislation and regulations while students in the administrative law class acted as sponsors of the bils and commentators on the regulations.


Panikowski_kris Kris B. Panikowski (pictured at left) and Nicola Kean (sorry, couldn't find a photo) are Lawyering Skills Instructors at the University of San Diego School of Law.  Thier topic will be Politics and Persuasion: Lessons in Logic and Argument from Political Communication.  They'll focus on bringing the theories behind and application of political communication techniques into the legal writing classroom.  They hope to increase their students' understandings of legal lines of argumentation, audience, fact development and separation, logic sequences, and organization.  They will examine lines of argumentation, word choice, logic, intended audience, and political theories driving paid television and print political communication.  I suspect they'll have a lot of material from the elections this year.


Becker_ted Ted Becker (Clinical Assistant Professor at The University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a school that previously hosted the LWI Summer Conference) will present on Religious Lawyering and Legal Writing or Do Religious Perspectives Help Teach Students Anything About IRAC?  He'll discuss whether religious perspectives might broaden students' exposure to several topics often covered in LRW classes, including legal ethics, interacting with clients, and reconciling personal values with professional obligations.


OK, those are the choices for the second Wednesday session at the Legal Writing Institute Conference.  Here's a link to the first Wednesday session in case you missed that preview.

My understanding is that 600 or so people will be attending the LWI Conference in Indianapolis.  You're really missing out if you are not going to be there. 

Mark E. Wojcik, The John Marshall Law School - Chicago

May 10, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

what oughta be added to the curriculum

Over at the Faculty Lounge, Laura Appleman has posted a list of "truly useful" courses that law schools really need to add to bring today's curriculum up to date. Some of her suggested courses that seem particularly relevant to the legal writing portion of the curriculum are these:

  • Cutting and Pasting Legal Lingo

  • 4 A.M. Word Processing and the Law
  • Cutting and Pasting II: Plural to SingularLaptops_2

I have a couple to add to the list:

  • Laptop-Learning Liability
  • Why Potential Employers Care Whether You Can Write Well (see here, here, and here)


      May 10, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

      bad writing made worse by "electronic gizmo" distractions

      Texting An upcoming issue of the National Law Journal (May 12, 2008) reports the unsurprising news that lawyers still do not write well. Jennifer Murphy Romig (Emory), Bryan Garner, Craig Jeffrey, and Douglas Winter were interviewed for the article, and all three point to difficulties today's lawyers have in dealing with electronic distractions--particularly the interruptions occasioned by text messages and incoming e-mail--as they write. Garner is concerned about a loss of concentration. Romig says that while many things about current technology are helpful to writers, the interruptions prevent writers from achieving "flow." Practicing attorney Jeffrey, however, says he's unable to exercise the necessary "restraint" from quickly responding to clients and co-workers' messages. Law firm writing "coach" Winter says his job is to teach junior lawyers "how not to write," adding that "[m]ost of us would be far better writers if we'd never gone to law school."


      May 10, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

      Friday, May 9, 2008

      self-edit certification

      Temm_wanda ~~~from Wanda Temm, UMKC School of Law

      Like many of us, I have just emerged from another round of critiquing briefs.  I find one of the most frustrating things in critquing papers is finding basic mistakes or just typos that the drafter should have caught with a basic proofread.   With over-reliance on spell-check and grammar-check, proofreading skills are not where they should be in many of our students.
      Frustrated that our pleas to "please proofread more carefully" go unnoticed, my colleagues and I seek to instill ownership of proofreading by requiring our students to complete a self-edit certification.  Our aim is to break proofreading down into concrete steps for our students.  The certification was originally designed by my colleagues, Professors Nancy Levit and Allen Rostron, for use with law review notes and comments.  I am now incorporating this self-edit certification into the first year legal writing program and would like your help.  The draft certification is now available on SSRN at  Please take a look at let us know how we can improve this work in progress.


      May 9, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

      the sporting way to pick a law school

      Baseball_gavelTake me out to the law library? (Buy me some peanuts and Crackerjack.) The popular blawg "tabloid," Above the Law, notes that CBS Sports (yes, you read that correctly) is giving advice on how to choose a law school.


      image from

      May 9, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

      Thursday, May 8, 2008

      secret lives of storm troopers: grading distraction #8

      Stormtroopers Some of you are fans of Star Wars; some of you are fans of Star Trek. (Some of you don't know the difference, but Ken Chestek, John Mollenkamp, and Jan Levine will help you make up for it at the LWI Conference in July.) Shatner showed up in the last grading distraction, so it's only fair to give equal time to the Star Wars gang.

      A photographer--and collector of Star Wars toy storm troopers--has assembled an amusing collection of photographs, showing what the storm troopers must be doing in their free time these days.

      Silly? Of course. This is a grading distraction.


      May 8, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

      DC Judge Who Sued Dry Cleaner Now Suing to Get His Job Back

      The Legal Profession Blog (among others) has an update on the D.C. judge who sued the dry cleaner for $67.3 million for a pair of lost pants.  He's now suing to get his job back, claiming a million in damages. The Legal Profession Blog highlights a comment that the judge valued his pants more than his job.  Click here for more.  Judge, you should not get your job back -- you are an embarrassment to everyone in the legal profession.

      Hat tip to the Legal Profession Blog.


      May 8, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

      Global Legal Skills Conference IV - Georgetown University Law Center

      Mark_e_wojcik The Global Legal Skills Conference is an international conference that focuses on international legal education and teaching legal writing to lawyers and law students who speak English as a second language. Over the past three conferences the Global Legal Skills Conference has grown in its scope and in its importance to the community of educators who are interested in international skills education, including legal writing, legal research, advocacy, translations, international legal exchanges, and related fields.  I started this conference several years ago, recognizing that in our community there are now lots of people who are directly involved in teaching lawyers and law students who speak English as a second language.  I was amazed, however, at just how many of you there are!

      The first two Global Legal Skills Conferences were held in Chicago at The John Marshall Law School. They were both tremendously successful and attracted attendees from around the world -- experts (like Craig Hoffman) who have been working in this field for years, and persons who were looking to enter the field (including persons who had taught ESL before going to law school, never thinking that they would later be teaching ESL to lawyers).  I planned to hold the conference every two years, but this thing took off on its own (helped by the vision and energy of two law deans at a school in Mexico), and now we're doing it every year (and in some future years, maybe even more than that in different parts of the world).

      Logo_globalpath The third Global Legal Skills Conference was held earlier this year in Monterrey, Mexico, at the Facultad Libre de Derecho de Monterrey. The conference was so successful that some attendees doubted that they could ever attend another conference without thinking back to how wonderful this one was.  Click here for photos from that conference.

      Hoffman_craig The fourth Global Legal Skills Conference will be held next June in Washington DC at the Georgetown University Law Center. Craig Hoffman, a Professor of U.S. Legal Discourse at Georgetown, has now told me that the tentative dates are Friday, June 5 and Saturday, June 6, 2009. I imagine that as we get closer to those dates you might also see some "pre-conference" events scheduled on Thursday, June 4, 2009 as well -- maybe even a full day program.  My advice?  Plan to come to DC on Wednesday or Thursday, and don't plan to leave until Sunday.  Block out June 3-7 on your calendars!   

      Glsiii_cramer There is no more information to share right now about GLS-IV, other than to encourage you to save those dates for another amazing conference. Craig Hoffman, Peter Cramer (pictured here on the left behind the German flag, speaking at the conference in Monterrey), and the rest of the Georgetown team will do a great job, and of course many of the attendees and organizers from the first three conferences will be on board again (including, of course, me).

      I'm looking forward to it already.

      Mark E. Wojcik, The John Marshall Law School - Chicago

      May 8, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

      Wednesday, May 7, 2008

      Scalia, Garner don't / do not always agree

      In a recent post to the LRWProf listserv concerning the new book on persuasion by co-authors Bryan Garner and Justice Antonin Scalia, Appalachian Law School Prof. Michael Loudenslager notes their different points of view about Garner's recommended practice of putting citations into footnotes. Turns out that there are other things about which they disagree . . . .

      In a C-Span "Q & A" interview with Brian Lamb just a few days ago, Justice Scalia responded to a question about the degree of formality lawyers should use in addressing the Court. Scalia remarked,

      "That’s one of the issues that my co-author and I go at in the book. He recommends, for example, that in the briefs to the court, you use contractions. Don’t, isn’t, aren’t, and so forth, whereas I think that’s a mistake. It is a formal setting. There is a formal English as opposed to an informal English. You wouldn’t expect the Gettysburg Address to have said, you know, we can’t dedicate, we can’t consecrate, we can’t hollow this ground. I mean, you know, we cannot dedicate, we cannot – the formality of not using contractions. I think that’s proper in a court. I don’t expect the language in the court, neither at oral argument nor in the briefs, to be as familiar as the language at the local bar. I mean, it’s a different setting."

      Scalia_bobblehead As for why the justice is speaking so much in public these days? "I’ve sort of come to the conclusion that the old common law tradition of judges not making public spectacles of themselves and hiding in the grass has just broken down. It’s no use, I’m going to be a public spectacle whether I come out of the closet or not, beyond T-shirts and bobblehead dolls and what-not. "


      May 7, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

      essay competition to award scholarships to female students working in public interest summer jobs

      Ms_jd_networkingIf you have female students working in public interest jobs this summer, let them know that Ms. JD is awarding two $500 scholarships to female law students entering their second or third year at an accredited U.S. law school and working the summer of 2008 at least 35 hours per week for a minimum of 8 weeks at a government agency or nonprofit organization. Unpaid judicial externs also qualify.

      To apply, students must write an essay. This year's essay topic asks applicants to discuss myths about being a law student. Did the student experience any pleasant surprises upon starting the study of law? Did she learn any law school "lessons" the hard way? Applications are due no later than June 1. Recipients will be notified no later than June 15.

      For more information or to apply, click here.


      May 7, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

      More on the passing of Professor Roy Mersky . . .

      A news release from the University of Texas . . .

      In Memoriam: Professor Roy M. Mersky, 1925–2008

      AUSTIN, Texas — Professor Roy M. Mersky, the Harry M. Reasoner Regents Chair in Law and longtime director of the Tarlton Law Library and Jamail Center for Legal Research at The University of Texas School of Law, died Tuesday, May 6, in Austin after a brief illness. Mersky, a decorated World War II veteran and civil rights advocate, was 82.

      Under Mersky's more than 40 years of stewardship, Tarlton's collections and services expanded and the library became recognized as one of the most distinguished law libraries in the nation.

      Mersky_not_on_horse_3 "Throughout his career, Roy Mersky was fiercely determined to better serve the UT Law faculty, the UT Law students and the UT Law community at large more than any other law library served its constituents," said Law School Dean Larry Sager.

      "He was fiercely determined to staff the nation's law schools with skilled law librarians schooled by their service at UT. And he was fiercely determined to enlarge the idea of a fine library to include lectures, conferences and exhibitions of erudite bibliography and history. He was, in sum, fiercely determined to make the UT Law Library, his library, the most distinguished law library in the world. He succeeded. His passing is the passing of a titan."

      University of Texas at Austin President William Powers Jr., former dean of the School of Law, said, "Roy Mersky was a giant figure at our Law School and in legal education for almost half a century. He built one of the finest law libraries in the world, and helped other law schools and institutions around the world build their own. He was a scholar and teacher. He was a tenacious defender of civil rights and religious freedom. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge when he was 17. He left an enormous mark on this world, and made it a far better place. But even more than that, he was a decent man and a dear friend. I will sorely miss him. We all will."

      Mark G. Yudof, former University of Texas system chancellor and president-designate of the University of California who was the University of Texas Law School dean from 1984 to 1994, said, "For almost 50 years Roy Mersky has been the nation's leading law librarian, and those who have been trained and mentored by him have become head law librarians at premier law schools in America and around the world. His brilliant leadership at the Tarlton Law Library has contributed immeasurably to the growing stature of the UT Law School. Roy will have a successor but he can never be replaced. Our hearts and prayers go out to Roy's family and innumerable friends."

      Mersky's career was distinguished by his initiatives and innovation in library services, his advocacy and mentoring of law librarians, his engagement in issues that affect information policy, and his leadership and participation in professional associations.

      Mersky came to Texas and the university in 1965 when he was hired as professor of law and director of the Tarlton Law Library by then University School of Law Dean Page Keeton. Mersky's example and initiatives were widely emulated. His energy and passion for the law and the academic enterprise, and his belief in the role of the library as a leader in that enterprise, inspired his staff and set a standard for libraries around the country.

      He will also be remembered as a great mentor, a wise counsel and a wonderful friend. The large number of current and past law library directors who were trained by Mersky is staggering. Those directors consistently attribute much of their success to his tutelage and his support that continued long after staff had left Tarlton for other pursuits. Mersky reveled in his role as a mentor and was always a strong advocate for law librarians.

      His service to the academy and the judiciary was similarly distinguished. Faculty and judges around the country, including members of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Texas Supreme Court, knew that Mersky could, and always did, support their scholarship and teaching. He enjoyed friendships with U.S. Supreme Court Justices Tom Clark, Harry Blackmun and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, among many other distinguished jurists and scholars.

      The University of Texas at Austin benefitted from Mersky's service as a teacher, administrator and scholar. He taught in the School of Law and the School of Information, and was on numerous committees within the University.

      Mersky_book_1_2 He was an author of, and contributor to, scores of books and articles, and was acknowledged in many more texts written by others. As a nationally recognized expert in legal research, the history of the U.S. Supreme Court, law and language, law in popular culture and rare law books, Mersky was a frequent speaker in the United States and abroad. While on sabbatical from the university, he was the interim director of the Jewish National and University Library of Hebrew University.

      Mersky was a champion of civil rights. He participated in civil rights marches in Selma and Montgomery, Alabama in the 1960s, and was the president of the Texas Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

      His service in World War II, which included fighting with the 87th Infantry Division in General Patton's Army at the Battle of the Bulge, was recognized when Mersky was awarded the Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, numerous campaign ribbons and the combat infantry badge.

      Mersky was a member of numerous associations and honorary societies, including the Texas Philosophical Society, the American Law Institute and the American Society for International Law. Among the many honors he received were the American Association of Law Libraries' 2005 Marian Gould Gallagher Distinguished Service Award, the American Association of Law Libraries' Presidential Certificate of Merit, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Library and the Information Studies Alumni Association's Centennial Celebration Alumnus of the Year Award. Mersky was also involved in the American, Texas and Wisconsin Bar Associations.

      Mersky was born on Sept. 1, 1925 in New York City, where he attended public school in the Bronx. He received three degrees from the University of Wisconsin, his bachelor of science in 1948, his law degree in 1952 and his master of applied library science degree in 1953.

      Click here for more photos of Roy Mersky from the University of Texas.

      May 7, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

      Roy Mersky (1925-2008)

      Mersky_roy_color_3 Very sad news today.  Professor Roy M. Mersky -- one of the giants in the field of legal research -- died at the age of 82.  He was the Harry M. Reasoner Regents Chair in Law and Director of Research at the Jamail Center for Legal Research, Tarlton Law Library, University of Texas. 

      Roy Mersky was born in New York in 1925.  He entered the army after finishing high school.  After World War II he attended the University of Wisconsin, where he obtained his bachelor's degree, his law degree, and a master's in library science.

      He worked in Wisconsin for many years, followed by brief stints at Yale Law School, the Washington State Law Library, and the University of Colorado at Boulder.  He has worked at the University of Texas since 1965.  During leaves of absence from his home base in Texas, he worked at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Mersky_book_1 New York Law School, Queen Mary and Westfield College in London, England, and the Australian National University Faculty of Law.

      He was active in many bar associations, including the American Bar Association SecMersky_book_2 tion of Individual Rights and Responsbilities, the National Bar Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Native American Bar Association, and the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists.  He was also an active member of other professional groups, including the Texas Library Association, the American Library Association, the American Association of Law Libraries, and the Special Library Association.  Professor Mersky was a board member and past president of the Texas Humanities Alliance, and a board member of the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society.  He was a board member of the Texas Book Festival. He served on the Austin Council for Foreign Affairs' Board of Mersky_book_3_3 Directors, and was elected to membership to the Philosophical Society of Texas in 2006.

      Professor Mersky was a prolific author, particularly in the areas of legal research, language and law, and the history of the U.S. Supreme Court and its justices. He is co-author of Fundamentals of Legal Research, a book that many of us used ourselves when we were first learning legal research.   

      Mersky_roy_4  He was recognized as a pioneer in law librarianship. Under his leadership the Jamail Center for Legal Research became one of the most important legal research institutes in the United States. He was known for his innovative approaches to library management and services and his strong commitment to improving library resources, services, and facilities.   

      His resume appears here with additional information for those who are interested in reading more about him and remembering all of his accomplishments and contributions.  He was also the proud father of three daughters, and a great human spirit.

      With great respect for a life of accomplishment, service, dedication, and vision, we take a moment to honor your memory, Roy Mersky. 

      Here is a link to the Law Librarian Blog's notice about Professor Mersky.

      Here is a link to Brian Leiter's entry on Professor Mersky.


      May 7, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

      Tuesday, May 6, 2008

      glamourous grammar?

      Glamourgirl_2 Roy Peter Clark (journalist and author of Writing Tools) is starting a new online book called The Glamour of Grammar, to be presented in semi-weekly installments in his blog/column at Poynteronline.

      It's not another Eats Shoots & Leaves (in fact, he refers to Lynne Truss as a "British grammazon"; I don't know what that is, but it does not sound flattering). He does, however, admit to an admiration for Grammar Girl, the blog/podcast by Mignon Fogarty.

      The goal seems to be to help students develop a better appreciation for the practical benefits of understanding and using English grammar, by understanding it in context. I like that approach, and I'm looking forward to seeing what he does with it. Here's a snippet from the first chapter:

      English is your language. It does not belong just to book authors, poets, copy editors or grammar teachers. It belongs to you.

      . . . .

      So consider yourself a member of one of the largest "discourse communities" or language associations in the world: speakers, readers and writers of English. There are some people who would lead you to think that you are unworthy of membership in this English language tribe. I think of them as language bullies. They may think of their tyranny as benevolent, concerned as it is with proper grammar, usage, spelling, punctuation and other elements of language. They see a sign misspelled or mispunctuated in a store window and declare that the apocalypse is upon us. Their standards are so unnaturally high that they have the opposite of their intended effect: They persuade us that, when it comes to language usage, we suck. (On your behalf, I've used that last verb intransitively.)

      I'm writing this book so you can feel included, rather than excluded, from what scholar Frank Smith once called the "literacy club." It will help you live inside your language so that one day you will feel your language living inside of you. I can't really describe for you what living a life of language feels like, but I'll try to show you, instead. It requires some technical terms, but not as many as you think. It means occasional field trips to such language meadows as grammar, syntax, usage, spelling, punctuation, lexicography, history, semantics, rhetoric, literature, diction, etymology, poetics, language geography and foreign languages.

      . . . .

      Many old timers, dreaming of a Golden Age of learning that never existed, wonder: "Why don't we teach grammar any more? But we do, in school after school, classroom after classroom. A better question might be: "If we teach grammar, why don't people learn grammar?" The answer, I would argue, is simple: Because we teach grammar, syntax, punctuation, spelling -- all the elements of language -- out of context, outside of making meaning as a reader, a writer or a speaker. By doing so, we make grammar forgettable.

      Clark is asking readers for feedback, for corrections to mistakes they may find in the work, and for suggestions for topics to cover.


      May 6, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

      David Kelley's fantasy argument: grading distraction #7

      Perhaps you've read or heard about the ABC television show Boston Legal's recent foray into the United States Supreme Court. Arguing a case with many similarities to this term's Kennedy v. Louisiana (argued April 16, 2008), character Allen Shore (played by James Spader) takes on the justices with his characteristic chutzpah. Will Justice Thomas speak? (I won't say; watch and find out.) Note the look-alike actors playing the justices, plus the other realistic details (e.g., the quills on counsel tables).


      May 6, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

      Monday, May 5, 2008

      grandchildren: grading distraction #6

      Img_2414 I found a new grading distraction last week, which involved travelling to Illinois to babysit my not-quite-two-year-old granddaughter while her baby brother made his debut. I now feel I am an expert on Dora the Explorer ("Backpack, backpack!" "Delicioso!" "We did it! We did it!") Parents with small children, I salute you for your extraordinary patience.

      It turned out to be more of a distraction than I had anticipated, and it's why you haven't seen many posts from me lately. (But it was also more fun than the distractions I usually succumb to.)


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