Saturday, May 24, 2008

Central States Law Schools Association conference

Bldg If you are working on a scholarship project this summer and think it will be ready for some feedback from other scholars this fall, consider attending the Central States Law Schools Association (CSLSA) conference.  The conference is for legal scholars in all areas of expertise.  It takes place October 24 - 25, 2008, at Southern Illinois University School of Law in Carbondale, Illinois.  There is no conference fee for anyone who attends.  If you are presenting your work and your school is a CSLSA member, CSLSA will pay for one night's lodging for you, too.  You do not have to work at a member school though to present your work -- you'll just have to pay your own lodging (at rates that are low compared to lodging in major metropolitan areas).

If you would like to be a presenter, you need to submit an abstract of your topic, no more than 500 words, to Professor Cindy Buys at and to  The deadline is August 15, 2008. 

In case you're wondering, Carbondale is a 2 hour drive from St. Louis, and a 4 hour drive from Indianapolis, Louisville, and Nashville.  It's also easy to get to by train from Chicago, Champagne-Urbana, Memphis, and New Orleans -- and any other stop on the City of New Orleans train made famous in song.  Carbondale is also on the edge of the Shawnee National Forest, and if there's enough interest, Professor Sue Liemer, one of this blog's authors (and Carbondale resident), will gladly lead a hike, either before or after the conference.



May 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

using index cards to construct a Table of Authorities

Nancy's post about using index cards to create an outline spurs me to offer another classic use of index cards, creating a brief's Table of Authorities. For readers unfamiliar with this instrument of torture, a Table of Authorities is an index to every source cited in a brief and its location, even when the source appears multiple times. (Yes, I know that word-processing software can generate a table, and I have seen more than my share of good and abominable examples. I offer this simple method as a low-tech alternative.) I'll share below the instructions I give to my students.

  1. For each authority cited in the brief, prepare one 3 x 5 or 4 x 6 index card. Do not put more than one authority per card, or you risk overlooking one of the authorities when it comes time to create the table. This is already a tedious task; no reason to make it even more stressful!
  2. Using your citation manual, look up the applicable rules and write that authority’s full citation on an index card (omit footnote numbers and pinpoint page numbers, even though you may have provided that information in the body of the brief). If your appellate court rules require parallel citation, be sure to get all the necessary information for both the official and unofficial reporters.
  3. For every primary authority, go on line and use a citator (e.g., Shepard’s, KeyCite) to (a) ensure that the authority is still good law, and (b), for cases, to obtain any relevant and required subsequent history (if you're not sure what that is, read all of Rule 12.8 in ALWD or Rule 10.7 in Bluebook). Add subsequent history--if any--to the full citation of the case.
  4. For every secondary authority, be sure that you have all the citation information required by ALWD Rules 22 and 23 (e.g., full name of author, edition number, publisher, date), or if you use Bluebook, Rules 15 and 16.
  5. For authorities that are non-traditional (e.g., websites or blogs) or less common (e.g., treaties), use your citation manual's index to locate the specific rules and examples for citing that type of authority.
  6. When your brief is completely finished, save it. I recommend printing out a hard copy. The key is that the brief must be finished. If you construct the table and then go back and do any editing, no matter how minor, it's possible that the pagination will shift, and you will risk throwing all your page references off.
  7. Using the printed pages of your hard copy (which you have now set in the word-processing version of concrete), go from the beginning to the end of the brief, writing the page number for every full citation and short form citation on the corresponding authority’s index card.
  8. When you have written down all the page numbers, group your cards by category according to the custom or court rules that govern in your jurisdiction. For example, in Arkansas, court rules mandate that we group by (a) cases, (b) statutes/rules, (c) books and treatises, and (d) everything else.
  9. Put the cards in alphabetical or numerical order (depending on the nature of the authority) within each category.
    For alpha-numeric authorities (e.g., statutes that use both numbers and words), arrange first by word, then by number (Ark. Code Ann. § #-#-### before ## U.S.C. § ####).
    For secondary authorities, remember to alphabetize by author's last name (e.g., James Brown before Gordon Sumner). You should end up with a stack of cards in the same order that the authorities will appear in the final table.
  10. Type the information on the cards into your table, following the format prescribed or customarily used for appellate briefs in your jurisdiction.


May 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

AALL Photo Contest Winners - A Day in the Life of a Law Librarian

The Law Librarian Blog reported that the American Association of Law Librarians (AALL) has announced the winners of its photo contest.  Click here for a link to that story and then click on the link to the AALL website to see the winners of the photo competition.  These photos are GREAT -- my favorite is the second place winner in the humor category, which is a photo of a librarian reading the Federal Reporter to a young boy as a story.  Have a look and pick your own favorite.


May 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 23, 2008

ah, the vagaries of proofreading

Start your long Memorial Day weekend off on a lighter note, still related to legal writing, by checking out the YouTube offering on The Impotence of Proofreading.

hat tip:  Professor Ann Nowak


May 23, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

U.S. Supreme Court Rulings

Gp2003_08 Linda Greenhouse, who was awarded a Golden Pen Award from the Legal Writing Institute in 2003, writes today in the New York Times about a surprising development at the U.S. Supreme Court.  She notes that the U.S. Supreme Court justices do not appear to be as divided as it was last year.  Are the justices being more narrow in their decisions?  Are they responding to Congressional criticism and hearings on their decisions from last term?  Are they acting differently in an election year?  It's an interesting article, and worth a read.


May 23, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Legal Writing as a Disciplinary Sanction

Our friends at the Legal Profession Blog have found an order from a federal district court judge who ordered an attorney to write an article on civility for the Oklahoma Bar Journal.  It is an example of legal writing as a disciplinary sanction.  Read more here. 

Hat tip to the Legal Profession Blog


May 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Foreign and International Legal Citations

In 2006, the New York Journal of International Law and Politics announced the publication of the first edition of its Guide to Foreign and International Legal Citation.  Sue Liemer posted about it on this legal writing prof blog.

I am wondering whether the N.Y.U. Guide has taken off in any way.  Are you or your students using it as a substitute for the Bluebook when citing foreign or international sources? 


May 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

U.S. News and World Report Rankings - Should They Have a Competitor?

Some posts on the Law School Innovation Blog lament the effect of U.S. News and World Report law school rankings.  One post notes that the rankings discourage innovation in legal education

One post suggests that there should be a competing ranking, noting that in the United Kingdom, both the Times and the Guardian rank universities.  He suggests that another national magazine take up the lucrative opportunity to create its own rankings, and that a new ranking system might place more weight on law school innovation.  Click on the links above to read more.

Hat tip to Mark Osler at the Law School Innovation Blog.


May 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Foreign Legal Research

Here's a link to a comprehensive list of foreign law sources.  It was compiled by Lyonette Louis-Jacques at the University of Chicago Law School.

Hat tip to Danice Kern.


May 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

shifting WAC into reverse

Thrower Professor Susan Thrower at DePaul University has published an article with much food for thought, in volume 13 of The Journal of the Legal Writing Institute. Entitled Teaching Legal Writing through Subject-Matter Specialities: A Reconception of Writing across the Curriculum, the article explains how to export doctrinal studies into legal writing class – as opposed to importing writing instruction to doctrinal class. To quote Professor Thrower:

"This Article explores the methods of, and reasons for, teaching legal writing specialized sections. It first explains DePaul’s writing program and the way that DePaul’s specialized writing sections fit into that program. It then explores the theoretical basis for specialized instruction, explaining the learning theories that inform and support it. It details the multiple justifications for specialized instruction, both theoretical and practical, and concludes with an exploration of practical benefits and burdens for professors who may wish to adopt the model at their law school."


May 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Legal Writing Institute

We've been writing a lot about the Legal Writing Institute, but we recognize that not everyone who reads this blog may be familiar with what it actually is.

The Legal Writing Institute is a nonprofit corporation whose purpose is to exchange ideas about legal writing and to provide a forum for research and scholarship about legal writing and legal analysis. The Institute is currently housed at Mercer University School of Law in Macon, Georgia.

The Institute promotes new activities through a newsletter, published twice a year; a scholarly journal, published about once a year; and a major national conference that has been held every other year since 1984. It has also sponsored several international conferences on legal writing. It annually offers a writer's workshop for developing scholars in the field.

The Institute has close to 2000 members representing all the ABA-accredited law schools in the United States. The Institute also has members from other countries, as well as from English departments, independent research-and-consulting organizations, and the practicing bar. Anyone who is interested in legal writing or the teaching of legal writing may join the Institute.

Membership is free. Get more information by clicking here

May 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Counsel wins for his client, then takes a personal hit.

From an opinion issued today by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals:

Although we resolve this issue in the County's favor, we take issue with its brief. We understand corporation counsel's obvious frustration over repeated litigation with Bettendorf, particularly in light of the fact situation in this case. But corporation counsel's brief contains a collection of attacks against Bettendorf's attorney that are nothing more than unfounded, mean-spirited slurs. Given corporation counsel's grievances against Bettendorf's attorney, such hyperbole is, at the very least, ironic.

Contending that appellant's recitation of the facts is misleading is not an uncommon accusation from respondents. However, corporation counsel goes beyond noting this perceived misrepresentation and complains that opposing counsel's "desire to serve his self-interest is excessive. With apparent hubris, he mocks and insults this court and the appellate system with this approach and this appeal." Corporation counsel then comments: "Creating facts creates a false reality. Bettendorf['s attorney] needs a false reality to maintain this appeal."

To refute counsel's contention that this court exceeded its authority on review, corporation counsel notes that Bettendorf's attorney "goes beyond what I could conceive anyone doing. He doesn't push the envelope, he totally shreds it." Corporation counsel also asserts counsel's "rant is factually baseless. . . . The rest of his argument in this regard is the same ranting."

Corporation counsel then cites Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, to less-than-persuasive effect, and summarizes this appeal as having a "farcical theme."

"A lawyer should demonstrate respect for the legal system and for those who serve it, including judges, other lawyers and public officials."

(Emphasis added.) Preamble, SCR ch. 20 (2005-06). "The advocate's function is to present evidence and argument so that the cause may be decided according to law. . . . An advocate can present the cause, protect the record for subsequent review and preserve professional integrity by patient firmness no less effectively than by belligerence or theatrics." Comment, SCR 20:3.5 (2005-06). Given corporation counsel's unwarranted belligerence, it is the determination of this panel that a copy of this opinion shall be furnished to the Office of Lawyer Regulation for review and further investigation, as that office may deem appropriate.

Bettendorf v. St. Croix County, No. 2007AP2329, slip op. ¶¶ 14-17 (Wis. Ct.App. May 20, 2008) (footnotes omitted) (recommended for publication). The court also commends opposing counsel for his restraint: "We thus appreciate Bettendorf's attorney's professionalism and restraint, demonstrated by his refusal to turn his reply brief into a similar set of attacks." Id. ¶ 17 n.3.

hat tip:  Chris Wren


May 20, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 19, 2008

negative vs. positive teaching

An interesting anecdote from the world of legal writing continuing education classes shows the importance of setting up your class for a positive experience.

hat tip: Prof. Lou Sirico, Villanova University


May 19, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

How do you teach statutes?

If you can describe in 650 words or less how you teach statutory analysis, consider submitting your written description to The Second Draft, the newsletter of the Legal Writing Institute.  The Fall 2008 edition will feature essays on Techniques for Teaching Statutory Interpretation and Analysis.  You can e-mail your essay to Professor Kathy Vinson at Suffolk University Law School,  Keep in mind that the deadline -- June 2, 2008 -- is fast approaching.



May 19, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Research and Writing Courses for International Students

In light of the wide range of visitors to the website from around the world, I'm sharing a link to a short article on designing research and writing courses for international students.Mark_e_wojcik_photo

U.S. law schools continue to admit an ever-increasing number of students from other countries, including students whose first language is not English. This short article from Perspectives describes the brutal choices that writing directors must sometimes make when serving these these international students. The article considers five essential points when designing writing and research programs for international students: (1) assess the needs of international students; (2) set reasonable goals; (3) find appropriate course materials; (4) evaluate the course and have students evaluate it as well; and (5) document the need to support additional resources for international students.  Click here to read the full article.


May 18, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A World of Visitors

World_map_286% of our readers are in the United States, but we also have readers from around the world.  Thank you to our readers in the countries listed below, and the other countries that we might not know about.  We're happy to have you on board.  We hope that you continue to the information here to be useful.

Here's the list of jurisdictions where we have readers.  (If yours isn't listed, just post a comment here and we'll add you!)










Saudi Arabia


United Kingdom

United States of America


May 18, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)