Saturday, May 17, 2008
Drafting legal correspondence requires attention to the purpose of the communication, its audience, the message, and the medium. Depending upon the circumstances, a letter or memorandum style may be appropriate, but sometimes oral communication may be preferable. The first sentence of a letter or memo should set forth its purpose. Brevity is especially important in correspondence. The final sentence should summarize the key points or identify the requested action. Click here to read the full article by David Sorkin of The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.
Have you visited the website for the Journal of the Legal Writing Institute? Click here for a quick look. You can read articles from past issues, see the current issue, and have a look at what will be in upcoming issues. (Sort of like the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future!) It's a great resource.
Hat tip to Jim Levy
Sue Liemer posted on this last year, but it's worth another visit. If you have doubts on how to convince law students, other lawyers, and faculty colleagues (including, perhaps, members of a tenure committee), you can send them here to see how most people perceive the use of long words.
Hat tip: Professors Diane Murley and Sue Liemer of Southern Illinois University
Friday, May 16, 2008
Among the wonderful things to expect at this summer's Legal Writing Institute Conference is the chance to meet eight law professors from Africa. Their participation was made possible through the generosity of several law schools (including my own), and the further generosity of several individual donors.
The eight professors are:
Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai, Fourah Bay College, Sierra Leone
Elizabeth Jan Alividza, Judicial Studies Institute, Uganda
Araya Kebede Araya, Mekelle University, Ethiopia
Henry Mutai, Moi University, Kenya
Olugbenga Oke-Samuel, Adekunle Ajasin University, Nigeria
Daniel Ronald Ruhweza, Makere University Faculty of Law, Uganda
Tushar Kant Saha, National University of Lesotho, Lesotho
George Mukundi Wachira, South African Institute for Constitutional, Public, Human Rights, and International Law, Kenya
We all look forward to welcoming you to the United States and to the Legal Writing Institute Conference.
If you don't know where those countries are, please spend a few minutes with a map of Africa as a way of honoring our guests. You might plan to bring them a small (very small, easy to cary) gift from your home state or law school. And please look for them in Indianapolis, and make them feel welcome. We are honored to have them attending the conference and enriching us all by their participation.
Hat tip and thanks to Laurel Oates, Mimi Samuel, the members of APPEAL, the donor law schools and individual donors who are making their participation possible, and to each of the attendees from Africa.
I had two chances to visit her down in Carbondale this year, and if any of you are ever in southern Illinois you should also take some time to visit SIU and say hello to the writing faculty there.
Welcome back Sue!
As legal writing professors across the United States finish up the school year, some are cleaning up offices in celebration, others are cleaning offices in procrastination -- before grading that last stack of papers. If you're a legal writing professor looking for a relatively mindless housekeeping task, consider whether you wrote any articles before we had the wonder of SSRN to provide our scholarship free to everyone on the Internet. It likely will only take an hour to "backdate" your SSRN page by adding your older articles, making those oldies publicly available, too.
First you need to have each article in .pdf format. If you haven't saved them all in .pdf format, try a quick Google Scholar advanced search for your titles and you may be surprised how many show up, already in .pdf format. Many publications that several years ago weren't online now are, including some older editions of law journals and Perspectives: Teaching Legal Research and Writing. If your law school subscribes to Hein-on-Line and your article is available there, Google Scholar will link you straight to it, already in .pdf format.
To post to SSRN, you'll also need an abstract for each article. You can just type this into the designated box when you submit each piece, or you can compose abstracts elsewhere and then copy and paste into the designated box.
The nice thing about this end-of-the-school-year housekeeping task is that you can justify the time as disseminating your scholarship and potentially enhancing your career. And in the future when others ask about your older pieces, you can just refer them to your SSRN author's link.
The ABA Journal Weekly E-Newsletter has a story about a man who tried to hide from his wife that he (and 16 of his co-workers) won the lottery. His share of the winnings was $600,000. She wants half of that, and then she wants a divorce. The short story has some facts that would work well in a legal writing memorandum problem, or that might give you some ideas for other fact patterns you might be using in the coming year. Click here to read the story.
Our friends at the Legal Profession Blog posted a link to the newsletter for the Association of American Law Schools Section on Professional Responsibility. It's a newsletter with some news -- it contains summaries of cases and scholarship, ethics rule changes, school announcements, and future symposia.
Hat tip to Alan Childress at the Legal Profession Blog.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
The Pink Ink Caucus of the Legal Writing Institute will be celebrating today's California Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage at the LWI Conference in Indianapolis. If you are interested in joining the Pink Ink Caucus Mailing List, contact Steven K. Homer at the University of New Mexico School of Law. Click here to send an email.
Pink Ink will have information at the LWI conference on how to use today's decision in legal writing memoranda and appellate advocacy problems.
(MEW, very happy about the decision).
Among the many wonderful research resources for researching the law of other nations is a free online guide called Doing Legal Research in Canada. It is offered to us by Ted Tjaden, Director of Knowledge Management at McMillan Binch Mendelsohn LLP in Toronto. Users may browse, download, and print "Doing Legal Research in Canada Guide" for any non-commercial use or for educational use.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Over the summer, I plan to pull together a series of short lessons that will make active use of the ubiquitous laptops in my classroom. I don't want to ban them (although my school's policy would let me make that individual decision), but I want to help students find ways to use them productively. While I haven't conducted the kind of survey that Sherry Colb did, I suspect that even in my small-section legal writing classes, some students are surreptitiously using their laptops unwisely.
To me, productive use means far more than just finding ways to keep them from web-surfing or instant-messaging or shopping online. I also want to find ways to co-opt the classroom "court reporters," those who aggressively seek to type every word that I or one of their classmates says. And more than anything, I want to help them better learn how to use these important technological tools that will be an important part of their law practices one day.
One lesson I have already planned is to teach them more effective ways to use a spellchecker (and also to teach them what a spellchecker will not do). I am drafting a fairly short Discussion section for an office memorandum which will be replete with the kinds of errors that spellcheckers can catch, as well as the kinds of errors that spellcheckers typically do not catch (e.g., references to the trail court).
One rich and inspiring source I plan to utilize is the bibliography prepared by Jill Ramsfield (Hawaii) and K.K. DuVivier (Denver) in their 2006 Legal Writing Institute conference presentation, "Teaching to Eyebrows."
What kinds of activities have you incorporated into your teaching in order to co-opt the laptop?
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
The Legal Writing Prof Blog continues to have a great increase in visits to the website. Our page visits have gone up by more than 1,000 each month.
In January we had 6,067 page visits.
In February we had 7,243 page visits.
In March we had 8,813 page visits.
And last month (April) we had 9,906 page visits.
We thank you for visiting the Legal Writing Prof Blog.
The Editorial Board for the Journal of the Legal Writing Institute is seeking applications for membership on the Editorial Board and applications for those interested in serving as Assistant Editors.
A complete description of the Journal, its mission, editorial policy and guidelines for Board membership is available here.
New members of the Editorial Board will serve a four year term beginning July 2008. Several openings on the Editorial Board are anticipated due to term limits. Editorial Board members are responsible for reviewing and evaluating submitted manuscripts and working with other Board members and Assistant Editors in editing manuscripts selected for publication.
The Journal is also interested in receiving applications for those interested in serving as Assistant Editors. Anyone can apply to be in the pool of Assistant Editors but your appointment will not be complete until you work as part of a team of Assistant Editors who perform the technical edit on an article. At that point, your name will be included in the masthead for that volume and the Editor-in-Chief will send a letter to your Dean acknowledging your service to the Journal. Assistant Editors may work on as many volumes of the Journal as they wish without limitation. The Journal would like to accommodate as many applicants as possible in light of the needs of the Journal and the applicants' qualifications. Set forth below are the relevant Journal Policies regarding application, appointment and service as an Assistant Editor. Prior service as an Assistant Editor counts very favorably towards appointment as an Editorial Board member.
The Editorial Board anticipates announcing the names of successful candidates for Editorial Board and Assistant Editor positions prior to this summer's LWI conference in Indianapolis.
To apply for either, or both, positions, please send an email to James B. Levy with a letter of interest, resume and (for Editorial Board Membership only), an academic writing sample (in lieu of the writing sample, we prefer a link to your scholarship on the SSRN network or citations to your published work). Applications must be received by Monday, May 19, 2008 at 5:00 p.m. EST. Please include in the subject line whether you are applying for Board membership, Assistant Editor, or both.
Excerpts of relevant Editorial Board and Assistant Editor policies are as follows:
Section 2 Selection of Board Members
2.3 Candidates for Editorial Board membership must be current members of LWI. Past service as an assistant editor on the Journal is desirable. Additional experiences that will be considered favorably include, but are not limited to: law review membership during law school; publication of one or more law review articles, books, or shorter works; and service as an editor or reviewer of a scholarly journal.
2.4 Candidates for Editorial Board membership shall be evaluated by the full Editorial Board and recommended for membership by majority vote. If more than one opening must be filled, the Editorial Board shall recommend that each opening be filled by a separate vote. If no candidate receives a majority vote, a run-off vote shall be held between the two candidates with the greatest number of votes.
2.5 A list of successful candidates shall be submitted by the Editorial Board to the LWI Board for its approval. The LWI Board shall promptly approve or reject the candidates. Those candidates approved by the LWI Board shall be invited to join the Editorial Board no later than two weeks before the biennial LWI conference, or by some other deadline agreed upon by the Editorial Board.
Section 3 Selection of Assistant Editors
3.3 Selection of Assistant Editors shall be based on the needs of the Journal and the experience of the applicants. The Editorial Board shall try to accommodate all those interested in working on the Journal.
3.4 Assistant Editors shall work under the general supervision of the Editorial Board. Each Assistant Editor shall be given a copy of the LWI Journal's "Procedures for Assistant Editors" which explains the duties of an Assistant Editor in detail.
3.5 Assistant Editors shall not serve for a defined term of years, but shall be assigned by the Editorial Board to work on specific articles scheduled for publication in the Journal. Their service shall end upon publication of their assigned article(s). Assistant Editors, however, may request additional assignments without limitation.
Section 5 Terms of Service of Editorial Board Members
5.1 Editorial Board Members shall serve staggered four-year terms, with appointments made by the LWI Board at two year intervals to coincide with LWI's biennial conference.
5.2 Editorial Board Members may serve no more than two consecutive four-year terms.
5.3 Editorial Board Members who have served two consecutive terms may reapply for Editorial Board membership, subject to the approval of the LWI Board, four years after the end of their last term.
5.4 No member of the Editorial Board may serve more than four terms.
5.5 If the Editorial Board determines that an editor is not performing satisfactorily, it shall provide that person 30 days written notice concerning the Board's dissatisfaction.
5.6 Following this notice, the Board may recommend to the LWI Board, by two-thirds vote, that the editor in question be removed before expiration of that editor's term.
5.7 The term limits established in this section may be exceeded, subject to the approval of the LWI Board, in the following circumstances:
a. The term of an Editor-in-Chief, Assistant Editor-in-Chief, or Managing Editor may be extended by majority vote of the Editorial Board, if necessary for that editor to see a volume through to publication. The extension shall last only until the volume in question is published, at which time the editor shall step down.
b. The term of an Editorial Board Member serving as of January 2004 may be extended in accordance with Section 6, subject to approval by the LWI Board, to ensure the continued successful operation of the Journal.
c. The Editorial Board may recommend to the LWI Board, by two-thirds vote, that the term of any editor be extended when necessary to ensure the continued success of the Journal.
Hat tip to Jim Levy.
The Legal Profession Blog is reporting that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court accepted a proposed consent disposition and suspended an attorney for 18 months because he had not satisfied his CLE and CLE reporting requirements. He then engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. Read more (and get a link to the decision) at the Legal Profession Blog.
Hat tip to the Legal Profession Blog
Justice Scalia's photo is on the front cover of the ABA Journal, and he's busy being interviewed on NPR. Why? Because he co-wrote a book, along with Bryan Garner, called Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges. The ABA featured excerpts in its lead article. Any legal writing professor who reads those excerpts will yawn. If you get your hands on a copy of the book and skim the advice that's offered on legal writing and oral advocacy, you will yawn again. Most of the book's content is in almost every 1L legal writing textbook printed in the U.S.
This post continues the previews of sessions at this summer's Legal Writing Institute conference. Here are the third round of sessions on Wednesday, July 16, 2008, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
Richard K. Neumann (Professor of Law at Hofstra University School of Law in Hempstead, New York) is one of the nicest people in the entire world. The planet is a better place because he's here. Did you know that he did part of his education in Sweden? It's true. At the conference in Indianapolis he'll be presenting with Amy K. Langfield. Their topic is Developing a Methodology for Comparing Discourse Communities. They will examine why faculty talk as they do at faculty meetings, seeking audience assistance in designing a methodology to measure remarks that invoke hierarchy, shut down discussion, obfuscate issues, or protect turf or at the other end of the spectrum. Using this information, they might do an exhaustive social science discourse analysis, or instead write a satire . . . .
W3B -- Teaching to Different Learning Styles in the LR&W Classroom
This presentation is by Catherine J. Cameron (an Assistant Professor of Legal Skills at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Florida, pictured at the top left of this paragraph), Jeff Minneti (Director of the Academic Success Program at Stetson), and Robin A. Boyle (Professor of Legal Writing; Coordinator of Academic Support Program; and Assistant Director of the Writing Center at St. John's University School of Law in Queens, New York, pictured here on the right). They will discuss data suggesting that law students are diverse in their learning styles and, therefore, may also learn best when professors vary their teaching methods. Their presentation will compare law students at two law schools and provide a model lesson for an engaging legal writing class.
Rachel Croskery-Roberts is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Law in the Legal Practice Program at the University of Michigan School of Law in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her topic will be From Aristotle to Abraham Lincoln to Clarence Darrow and Everything In Between: Bringing Persuasive Techniques Alive in the Classroom by Using and Analyzing Political Speeches, Courtroom Arguments, Supreme Court Briefs, and Historical Reenactments as Teaching Tools.
W3D -- Podcasting in LRR&W: Downloading the Greatest Hits
Kathleen Elliott Vinson (Professor of Legal Writing and Director of Legal Practice Skills Program at Suffolk University Law School in Boston, Massachusetts, pictured here at the left) and Judith B. Tracy (Associate Professor of Legal Reasoning, Research and Writing at Boston College Law School) will discuss the ubiquitous nature of ipods. They'll look for and identify the "greatest hits" to download. They will examine how to use ipods to give written feedback on student performance.
Ursula Weigold (Visiting Clinical Professor of Law in the Lawyering Program at Cornell University Law School) will discuss Teaching the Unwritten Rules of Lawyering. She'll discuss how legal writing professors can teach about the professional expectations that our students will face, including the lawyer's quality of work, attitude, and conduct.
William E. Blais (pictured here standing in a law library) is a Legal Writing Instructor at DePaul University College of Law in Chicago. His presentation is on A Narrative Approach to Teaching Grammar. With him on the program is Edward H. Telfeyan, a Legal Process Instructor at the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California. (On the legal writing listserves Professor Telfeyan is better known as "Grumpy Ed." It is a term of endearment within the legal writing community, and his posts most often show that he isn't really as grumpy as he makes himself out to be. Nonetheless, that nickname has made him one of the legends of legal writing, and you might want to go to his session just to meet him. His photo is on the right, and as you can see, he's not so grumpy after all.) His presentation is on The “Grammar Bee” – Taking the Pain Out of One-Ls’ Grammatical Deficiencies. His presentation "is guaranteed to take to agony out of that part of the LRW prof’s work that is not included in the job description." How can you pass up a deal like that?
Tracy Bach is a professor at Vermont Law School in South Royalton, Vermont. She's also been a visiting professor in France, Rwanda, and Russia. (She speaks French, so if you are still looking for someone to celebrate Bastille Day with on that first Monday of the conference look for her as well.)
Click here to see a description of the Tuesday evening Popcorn Sessions. That page also has links to previews of the other programs on Tuesday and the opening reception on Monday.
Do you need to look at the full LWI Conference Schedule? Click here for the program and links to register for the conference.
Mark E. Wojcik, The John Marshall Law School
Monday, May 12, 2008
To look at LRW status issues from a different angle, see Mitch Nathanson's article on Dismantling the "Other": Understanding the Nature and Malleability of Groups in the Legal Writing Professorate's Quest for Equality, 13 Legal Writing: The Journal of the Legal Writing Institute 79 (2007).
To provoke you to read Mitch's very helpful article, here's a quote from it:
"The traditional method of attack -- based upon rational, conscious thought, that urges members of the greater legal academy to initially recognize and then treat members of the legal writing professorate more fairly -- however noble in effort, is ultimately doomed to failure because of the unconscious reasons and causes underlying how we go about categorizing people. Once members of an in-group sense the presence of an out-group, they will, unconsciously and for reasons they themselves are not aware of, seek to justify their feelings of 'otherness' toward this group and will, without fail, find them. ... [I]t is more effective to convince the greater legal academy that the grouping of 'legal writing professors' does not exist at all, or at least no more than the groupings of 'contracts professors' or 'property law professors." And this change must take place on the subconscious level. It cannot take place anywhere else."
Fortunately, Mitch also offers some suggestions on how to create that change.
- Copyblogger: Five Grammatical Errors That Make You Look Dumb
- MSN Encarta: Five Embarrassing Grammatical Mistakes
- TechRepublic: 10 flagrant grammar mistakes that make you look stupid
- The Fictionarium: Ten Writing Mistakes That Make You Sound Dumb
- Scribbles&Words: Walking Home Last Night, a Banana Fell on My Head
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Since a disproportionate number of legal writing professors are female, it's likely a disproportionate number of legal writing professors are mothers. And every legal writing professor started out with a mother. Hence, there is some connection to the focus of this blog and the video you can view at this link. Enjoy.
Tracy McGaugh is looking for legal writing professors to walk in the 3-Day/60-mile Komen walk in Philadelphia, October 17-19, 2008. Click here to send her an email if you're interested. It's not too late to start training, and there will be custom t-shirts and a fun team name (feel free to comment here with your suggestions for a team name). In keeping with the strong legal writing tradition, individual walkers will also be eligible for cool nicknames.