Saturday, June 21, 2008

fond of the semicolon? read this article!

Slate has a fun and informative article on the semicolon.

hat tip:  Eileen Kavanagh, Professor, Thomas M. Cooley Law School


June 21, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Clarity - An International Association Promoting Plain Legal Language

Clarity_3 One of those legal writing organizations that you should really join but probably haven't yet joined is Clarity.

Clarity is an international organization promoting plain legal language.  There are 1,019 members in 52 countries and jurisdictions (depending on how you count the Isle of Man, but there is only one member there).

Kimble_joe Professor Joseph Kimble is the USA representative for Clarity.  Click here to send him a message.  Other country representatives are found in Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China, Finland, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lesotho, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Philippines, Portugal, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Zimbabwe.  If you live or work in one of those countries, send a note to Joe and he'll pass it along to your country representative.  You can also visit their website by clicking here.

You get a great magazine when you join -- I have been enjoying it for many years now.  Each issue expands my understanding of how we as teachers in the U.S. are connected to a global community of educators, practitioners, and jurists who are interested in the same goal of clear communication.  I'm just looking at issue number 58, which has articles such as "What Makes a Document Readable?"  I believe that the magazine started 1n 1983, so it should be celbrating its 25th anniversary right about now.

I urge you to join.  Really, I do.  It's $35 a year if you're living in the United States, which covers the cost of printing and mailing the magazine.  But join for more than a magazine.  There are 205 members of Clarity in the United States (more members than in Australia or South Africa, but fewer than in England).  That number should increase, and Clarity should hold more functions and meetings in the United States.  We'll all benefit.

Mexico As for upcoming events, Clarity will hold its third international conference in Mexico City from November 20-23, 2008.  It will be co-hosted by Clarity and the Mexican Government Underministry of Public Administration, which is responsible for Mexico's plain-language project.


June 21, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Call for Papers - AALS Section on Education Law

AalslogoAnother call for papers for possible presentation in San Diego at the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools.  The AALS Education Law Section invites you to submit an abstract of your paper by September 1, 2008.  Send your abstract to Robert Garda at Loyola University of New Orleans College of Law.

Click here for the call for papers for the AALS Section on International Law.  The International Law Section will also be participating in the call for posters.

Click here for the section newsletter and call for papers for the AALS Section on International Human Rights Law.


June 21, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Call for Papers - AALS Section on International Human Rights

Aalslogo_2The Association of American Law Schools Section on International Human Rights has just published an impressive issue of its newsletter.  It includes a call for papers for possible presentation at the 2009 AALS Annual Meeting in San DiegoDownload ihrl_section_newsletter.pdf

Hat tip to Robert Blitt, Chair of the AALS Section on International Human Rights


June 20, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

labyrinthian prolixities

Labyrinth As we've noted earlier, West's Headnote of the Day provides subscribers with something to think about--or chuckle over. Today's headnote is attributed to Thomson v. Olson, 866 F. Supp. 1267 (D.N.D. 1994):

Dismissal is appropriate where complaint is labyrinthian prolixity of unrelated and vituperative charges that defies comprehension and amended complaint fails to cure prolixity and incomprehensibility.

The headnote is based on a quotation in the opinion, which itself comes from another case, Prezzi v. Schelter, 469 F.2d 691, 692 (2d Cir.1972) (per curiam). Too bad it's per curiam, as we consequently cannot pinpoint and laud the judicial author who penned that marvelous bit of sarcasm. (The culprit would have been one of the three judges serving on the panel, sadly all now deceased: the Honorables Walter Roe Mansfield, James L. Oakes, and William Homer Timbers. If anyone knows for sure who wrote it, let us know.)

To subscribe to Headnote of the Day (it's free), click here.


June 20, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

computers: distraction or teaching tool?

I'm  not sure how far one can extend the implications of this story, but this NYTimes article suggests that giving kids computers may be "more of a distraction than a learning opportunity."

hat tip:  Jim Levy, Nova Southeastern


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

The moot court and trial advocacy boards at the Louisiana State University Law Center have compiled  a list of every moot court, trial advocacy, and ADR competition that an American law school can enter. They now have 85 separate competitions listed.  If you know about a competition that is not on this list, they will gladly update it with your information.

hat tip: Professor Todd Bruno, LSU


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

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

teaching legal writing in the law firm

If you are a practitioner who reads this blog and have been curious about a career as a legal writing professor, you might be interested in Ben Opipari's experiences, first in academia, and then teaching legal writing in a law firm.  Ben describes his experiences in an article in the latest issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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

ABA International Law News - Publication Opportunities

Aba_intlaw_2Here's a publication opportunity for legal writing professors who are interested in international law.

The International Law News is the quarterly newsletter published by the ABA Section of International Law.  I have been the editor-in-chief of it for several years now, but I am about to finish that extended term.  (I have since been made the publications officer of the International Law Section, so I will still be involved indirectly.) 

The International Law News is a section memIntl_law_news bership benefit that is sent in print form to the thousands of section members who are lawyers in the United States or in other countries.  It is sent electronically to law student members, who now get section memberships for free (and who probably prefer the electronic version anyway).

Articles do not have footnotes.  They are shorter, often 2000 words or less.  There are also casenotes and city guides. 

Because of its wide circulation, it offers interesting publication opportunities for law professors and law students.  Authors do not have to be based in the United States, and indeed a large portion of the section's membership is based in other countries.

The issue about to be published will be on China.  After that is a special issue on the anniversary of the Section of International Law (75 years as a section, and 130 years as an ABA entity).

But after those issues are publication (and targeted advertising) possibilities.  The theme of the Winter 2009 issue will be Human Rights.  The deadline for submission of articles for that issue is September 9, 2008.

IndiaThe theme of the Spring 2009 issue will be India.  The deadline for submission of articles for that issue is December 11, 2008.

Potential authors can request a copy of the author guidelines and submit manuscripts to the managing editor by clicking here.


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

Scribes, The American Society of Legal Writers

Legal writing as a distinct academic discipline is only a couple of decades old, but the oldest legal writing organization in the U.S. dates back to 1953.  Scribes, The American Society of Legal Writers, promotes better writing throughout the legal community, including law schools.

Scribes encourages good legal writing with an annual book award, a law-review award, and a brief-writing award.  It also publishes The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, which frequently accepts articles by legal writing professors and its other members.  And it publishes an informative newsletter, The Scrivener.

Any attorney is eligible to join Scribes.  You can join as a regular member if you've published two articles, ever served as a journal editor, published a book on a legal topic, or published two judicial decisions.  Otherwise, you can join as an associate member. Many professors are able to cover the annual dues with their professional development accounts or by simply asking their schools for assistance.

Scribes is an organization in which practitioners, judges, deans, and law professors come together with the common goal of improving legal writing.  Its website announces:

"Advocating lucidity, concision, and felicitous expression, Scribes seeks to spread the growing scorn for legal writing that is turgid, obscure, and needlessly dull."

If that sounds good to you, check out for more information.

Institutional membership is also available for your law school.


June 18, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

LWI Conference Preview - Thursday Session 4

Lwi_2 OK gang.  Here is the last session to preview for the Legal Writing Institute Summer Conference in Indianapolis

The fourth session on Thursday, July 17, 2008 comes just after the Hoosier Cookout Lunch on Thursday.  The session will run from 1:30 to 2:15 p.m.  After that, an ice cream social.  How great is that going to be?  A cookout, more legal writing presentations, AND ice cream!

Bowman_mary Dickson_janet Mary N. Bowman and Janet K.G. Dickson are Instructors of Legal Writing at Seattle University School of Law.  Their presentation is Communicating with the Millennials: Teaching and Preparing the Next Generation of Lawyers.  For the last few years, our law school classrooms have been filled largely with Generation X students . . . but we are now seeing the first wave of the next generation: the Millennial students.  Building upon Tracy McGaugh's work on Generation X and other generational research, their presentation will explore the transition to teaching the Millennials, to help participants understand the forces that have shaped this new generation of students.  The presentation will then focus on how we will teach Millennials the material we are covering now, and why we will need to focus more on teaching professionalism to prepare our students to enter the legal profession.



Ruth_anne_robbins Ruth Anne Robbins (President-Elect of the Legal Writing Institute, and a Clinical Professor at Rutgers School of Law in Camden, New Jersey) and Alison E. Julien (Associate Professor of Legal Writing at Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Julien_alison) will present Why and How to Incorporate Visuals: Poster Presentations, Handouts, and Beyond. Using visual images for teaching or for scholarship facilitates learning.  The relatively new (in law) medium of poster presentations highlights visuals in scholarship.  LWI members will have a chance to see this exciting new type of presentation at this year’s biennial conference. You can do it too!  And yes, you should.  Gosh darn, I cannot think of a single reason why you wouldn't want to.  It is more fun than you would imagine a presentation could be. Moreover, we all use visuals in our teaching – whether it is with handouts or PowerPoint or drawings on the board.  The presenters will discuss how we can maximize their impact, and assure us that great visuals are attainable even if you aren’t a skilled artist. (Just ask the presenters, who can’t even draw a stick figure very well.) During this presentation, they will (1) Analyze the role of poster presentations and their place on the spectrum of legal scholarship by looking through the lens of marketing and graphic design principles; (2) Provide ideas about how to incorporate visual images (beyond outlines and charts) in your documents/posters and where to find those images; and (3) Address copyright concerns that may arise from using copyrighted images found on the Web or elsewhere.  Should be a good time.



Anderson_linda Linda S. Anderson (Assistant Professor of Legal Skills at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Florida) will make a presentation called Designing (or Re-Designing) Your Course to Improve Learning and Teaching -- Integrated Instructional Design Tools.  Engaging in thoughtful course design is essential to highly effective teaching, yet we devote little time doing this or learning how to do this. Linda will demonstrate how to use a series of materials (provided to participants) to guide course design decisions to create a dynamic and integrated course that allows us to teach well and our students to maximize their learning.



Massey_michael Michael G. Massey (Assistant Professor of the Lawyering Process at the University of Denver) will present a program on how to include practitioner-mentors in the classroom component of a legal research and writing program.  The title of his presentation is Mentoring in the Classroom: A Legal Writing Trifecta.

Brendel_jenniferThat will be followed by Jennifer M. Brendel (Clinical Professor and Director of the Academic Support Programs at Loyola University School of Law in Chicago) and Alice S. Perlin (Clinical Professor and Director of the Legal Writing Program and Instructional Services at the Loyola University School of Law in Chicago), whose presentation is called Selecting, Training, and Supervising Student Tutors.  This session will focus on using student tutors in the legal writing classroom in a way that Perlin_alice_s will benefit the students, the tutor, and the professor.  They will share strategies and practical suggestions to select, supervise, and evaluate student tutors.  They will also discuss the challenges involved in using student tutors and ways to address those issues. Our presentation will draw on our experiences in supervising an adjunct-taught program with 30 legal writing tutors each year. Our discussion will be relevant to professors/programs considering using a student tutor for the first time, as well as those looking for ways to enhance an existing tutor program.



Hartung_stephanie George_shailini Stephanie Roberts Hartung and Shailini Jandial George are both Associate Professors of Legal Writing at Suffolk University Law School in Boston Massachusetts. 
Their presentation will focus on methods of teaching students to incorporate analogical reasoning into their writing, in part by demonstrating that this type of reasoning is already used in everyday discourse.  They will also discuss ways of developing a more solid and sophisticated analysis using analogical reasoning once it is employed in legal writing.



Todd_adam_2 And last but not least is Adam Todd (Associate Professor at the University of Baltimore), whose presentation is called Aestheticism and Legal Writing. His presentation explores the aesthetics of legal writing and what are their implications for the teaching of legal writing. The presentation would serve as a primer about aestheticism and aesthetic theory and examines the “beauty” found in legal writing.  And what a beautiful way indeed to end a conference.

The LWI Conference Closing Celebration starts at 2:30 p.m. Thursday and will probably continue for several days, although not necessarily at the conference venue.  (As the bartenders say, "You don't have to go home but you can't stay here!")

See you all there!

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


For descriptions ofthe opening plenary on Tuesday morning, July 15, click here.

Appeal_4 For information about the law professors who will be visiting from Africa, click here.

For descriptions of session 2 on Tuesday, click here.

For information on the Tuesday Diversity Lunch, click here.

For information on the Tuesday Pink Ink Lunch, click here.

For information on the Tuesday Moot Court Roundtable, click here.

For descriptions of session 3 on Tuesday, click here.

For descriptions of session 4 on Tuesday, click here.

For information on the Tuesday evening dinners for new legal writing professors, click here.

Popcorn_1 For descriptions of the not-to-be missed (because that's when I'm presenting) Tuesday evening Popcorn sessions, click here.

For descriptions of session 1 on Wednesday, click here.

For descriptions of session 2 on Wednesday, click here.

For descriptions of session 3 on Wednesday, click here.

For information about the Wednesday afternoon LWI Membership meeting, click here.

For descriptions of session 4 on Wednesday, click here.

For descriptions of session 5 on Wednesday, click here.

For information on the Wednesday evening museum gala, click here.

For descriptions of session 1 on Thursday, click here.

For descriptions of session 2 on Thursday, click here.

For descriptions of session 3 on Thursday, click here.

For even more information about the conference--including other activities, committee member names, a printable program, and registration information (in case you still are deciding whether to come to Indianapolis), click here

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

P.S. For information on the 25th Anniversary of the Legal Writing Institute, click here.

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

submit your article on teaching with technology

"Teaching Through Technology" is the theme of the upcoming Spring 2008 issue of The Legal Writing Institute newsletter, The Second Draft. How do you use technology to teach legal research and writing?

The current editors of The Second Draft are Kathleen Vinson, Julie Baker, Samantha Moppett, and Stephanie Hartung, all of Suffolk University.

If you are interested in writing for this issue, please follow the published submission guidelines prior to submitting your article; limit your article to approximately 650 words. E-mail your article to the editors no later than the October 6, 2008 deadline.


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

Upcoming conference on persuasion

Smith2dedRutgers School of Law-Camden and the University of Wyoming College of Law just announced that they are co-sponsoring a one-day conference based on the influential scholarship of Wyoming Prof. Michael Smith. The one-day conference, to be held on Friday, September 19, 2008, at Rutgers-Camden, is titled "Persuasion in Legal Writing and Lawyering."

Conference organizers recognize that persuasion is increasingly being taught in detail in upper-level writing and skills courses, such as a popular course at Rutgers which utilizes Smith's Advanced Legal Writing textbook (now available in its second edition). The conference is designed around a series of interactive panels where the speakers and participants will discuss topics of logos, pathos and ethos (blog co-editor Coleen Barger is on the Logos panel). Other speakers and moderators include Michael Smith (keynote address), Steve Jamar, Kathy Stanchi, Linda Berger, Ken Chestek, Steve Johansen, James Lupo, Ellie Margolis, Victoria Chase, Mel Weresh, and Scott Wood.

A flyer with more information about the conference is available here: Download Persuasion_Conference_advertising_flyer.pdf.

Alternatively, click the first link at the top of the Rutgers-Camden legal writing department website,

The deadline for registration is August 15, 2008.To register, or for hotel information, contact Marjorie Hemmings (telephone 856-225-6383). Space is limited.


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

what judges really think about lawyers' writing

Kristenkonradtiscionegeorgetown Georgetown legal writing prof Kristen Robbins-Tiscione has posted her 2002 article, titled The Inside Scoop: What Federal Judges Really Think about the Way Lawyers Write, and originally published in Volume 8 of Legal Writing: the Journal of the Legal Writing Institute, on SSRN, where it is getting renewed attention. The abstract lays out some troubling statistics, which likely have not improved in the six years since Robbins-Tiscione completed her analysis:

A recent survey indicates that what troubles federal judges most is not what lawyers say but what they fail to say when writing briefs. Although lawyers do a good job articulating legal issues and citing controlling, relevant legal authority, they are not doing enough with the law itself. Only fifty-six percent of the judges surveyed said that lawyers "always" or "usually" make their client's best arguments. Fifty-eight percent of the judges rated the quality of the legal analysis as just "good," as opposed to "excellent" or "very good." The problem seems to be that briefs lack rigorous analysis, and the bulk of the work is left to busy judges. Many judges also indicated that lawyers often make redundant or weak arguments that detract from the good ones. What judges really want is shorter, harder hitting briefs.

Prof. Robbins-Tiscione has been busy since writing this article. Her scholarship/bio web page at Georgetown reveals that she has two more works about to be published: Rhetoric for Legal Writers (St. Paul, Minn.: Thomson/West forthcoming) and From Snail Mail to E-Mail: The Traditional Legal Memorandum in the Twenty-First Century, J. Legal Educ. (forthcoming 2008).

hat tip on the SSRN posting to our colleagues at the Law Librarian Blog


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

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

laptops limiting productivity?

A recent post on Tools for Thought makes the intriguing observation that drafting on a laptop (or any computer hooked up to the Internet) might in fact be less effective for some writers because it allows them to interrupt the writing process (and the thinking that goes along with it)--and therefore limits their productivity. Andre, the author, notes that when he drafts in longhand, he must forego looking things up as they occur to him (as well as forego other distractions such as e-mail). He writes,

Looking things up midstream is the ultimate crutch activity. Before the age of persistent connection, I wrote hundreds of thousands of words without it ever occurring to me that I couldn’t continue without slotting in a missing piece of information.

I usually restructured the writing to do without the information, which was often gratuitous anyway, especially if it didn’t come to mind before I started writing. Otherwise I would simply make a note to look it up after I finished my draft, adding it retroactively. A draft that’s structurally coherent can withstand a few holes in the edifice that need to be filled in afterward. I realized that I had lost my ability to act on incomplete information.

Writing without a computer, in contrast, allows him to manage what he calls "batched output." As Andre sees it, "I believe that to maximize output we need to simultaneously minimize input."


June 17, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

American Bar Foundation resources

If the only thing you know about the American Bar Foundation is its annual letter asking for donations, you may be missing some very interesting resources.  The ABF website includes the results of surveys and other research that may be relevant to both practictioners and legal academics. Click on the link just above and scroll down to topics like Social Justice, Law and Globalization, Legal History, Criminal Justice, and Legal Profession.  You may be surprised at what the ABF researchers have found.


June 17, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

200 Law Schools Now Approved by the ABA

Aba_2Last week the American Bar Association granted provisional accreditation to two law schools in North Carolina, making them numbers 199 and 200 in the list of accredited or provisionally accredited law schools in the United States.  The newest law schools are Charlotte College of Law and Elon University in Greensboro.

Click here for the ABA press release with links to information about the law school approval process.   

Read more here in an article that says that there are too many law schools.

Hat tip to David Austin


June 17, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Using a Cell Phone to Buy Drugs - Circuits Are Split

A guy uses his own cell phone to purchase drugs.  Does he commit a separate statutory violation by using his own phone? 

The Statutory Construction Blog tells us that circuits are split on the application of 21 USC 843(b) to a fact pattern like this, which means it might make a good moot court or memorandum problem.  That statute prohibits knowingly or intentionally using a "communication facility" in committing or facilitating certain felonies, including drug distribution.  The post at the Statutory Construction Blog includes a link to the Fourth Circuit decision identifying the split.


Hat tip to the Statutory Construction Blog

June 17, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

LWI Conference

Legal_writing_institute_logo_6 What a great conference!  A big thank you again to everyone who made this possible -- the people listed below, the law school, and the book publishers and vendors.  Get ready for the next LWI conference in Marco Island, Florida!

Thanks to each of the following wonderful persons (PLEASE let us know if we missed any names!!!)

Site Committee

Deb McGregor, Chair
Joel Schumm
Cynthia Adams
Ken Chestek
Jim Dimitri
Allison Martin
Joan Ruhtenberg

Program Committee

Ruth Ann Robbins, Co-Chair
Mel Weresh, Co-Chair
Dan Barnett
Rachel Croskery-Roberts
Anne Enquist
Michael Hidgon
Hollee Temple

Poster Mentoring Committee

Lisa Penland, Co-Chair
Jim Levy, Co-Chair
Kirsten Dauphinais
Gail Stephenson
Patty Legge

Fair Committee

Kirsten Dauphinais, Chair
Kendra Fershee
Gail Stephenson
Bonny Tavares

Critiquing Workshop Organizer

Joan Malmud


June 17, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

LWI - Membership Meeting

Lwi The Legal Writing Institute will have a Membership Meeting on Wednesday, July 16, 2008, at 1:00 pm in the Moot Court Room (Room 100) at Indiana University School of Law in Indianapolis.  The meeting will be videocast if there aren’t enough seats in the Moot Court Room.

Important people will be thanked (for their work on the conference, and for other contributions to LWI), important announcements will be made, and other business will be handled as it may arise.  LWI is a great organization, and this open membership meeting presents one of those rare opportunities where you can see who's who and what's what.  Not everyone attending the conference attends this meeting, but many do.

There will be some survey results, information about developments in the website, and other cool stuff.  (OK, cool stuff if you are a legal writing professor -- probably not so cool to your teenage children.)

There will be also some news about plans for the 25th Anniversary of the Legal Writing Institute, and an invitation to help out with planning that massive celebration.

You'll also have an opportunity to raise your own ideas too.


June 17, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)