Wednesday, July 16, 2008
The LWI Conference started off with a humor-filled presentation on the "Divine Secrets of the Ha-Ha Sisterhood"--tips on using humor in the classroom. Sheila Simon of Southern Illinois, Mary Beth Beazley of Ohio State, and Hollee Temple of West Virginia Univ. talked about creating a persona for the classroom (the coach, the rock star, the ogre), taking risks and being willing to look silly, and giving students implicit permission to share in the humor to create a classroom community and defuse tension.
There were sessions, made just for me / Where I learned, pedagogy / I can make, my students smile / 'Cause I know, each learning style! / Summer fun, gets the job done, a-at ah L-W-I . . .
Great fun and what talent!!
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Michael Higdon and Rebecca Scharf of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas gave a standing room only presentation on non-verbal communication in the classroom. It was called "Harnessing the Power of Nonverbal Persuasion: How You Can Make Your Students Better Advocates and Yourself a Better Teacher."
A great, interactive presentation with lots of video clips, including a comparison of the teaching styles of Sidney Portier and Burt Reynolds. Lots of thoughtful information on how to increase our effectiveness as teachers.
The presentation included the best take-away line of the conference -- use non-verbals to communicate, "I'm not the limping gazelle."
(mew and spl)
Suzanne E. Rowe of the University of Oregon School of Law presented on The Science (and Ethics) Behind the Americans with Disabilities Act. She began with the idea that well-intentioned but excessive accommodations in law school might produce graduates whose skills do not measure up. She wrote about this in a new article in the LWI Journal. Her presentation at LWI addressed the legal standards of the ADA, including the ADA Amendments Act of 2008.
Law students have to assert their status as a qualified individual with a disability. They have to submit documentation of their disabilities, prepared by a qualified evaluator. You (as a law school) cannot be asked to make fundamental alterations to the course of study, but you must determine whether a requested accommodation is appropriate.
Professor Rowe described the general characteristics of learning disabilities in the law school context, and explained the difference between students who are disabled and students who are unable to cope with law school. Learning disabilities include reading disorder (dyslexia), the problem distinguishing letters and associated sounds and is not just switching the order of numbers or letters. This counts for 70 to 90% of disabilities (her estimate was that this was involved in 80% of learning disability cases). This may manifest in common language problems in reading aloud, learning new vocabulary, using words in context (semantics), reading comprehension, taking effective notes, meeting deadlines, and learning foreign languages. A discussion of the ethical issues ensued in appropriate ways to discuss learning disabilities with students.
If you're interested in more information on the subject, be sure to read Professor Rowe's article. Here's the citation: Suzanne E. Rowe, Reasonable Accommodations for Unreasonable Requests: The Americans with Disabilities Act in Law School Writing Courses, 12 Legal Writing 1 (2006). Legal Writing is the scholarly journal of the Legal Writing Institute.
In addition to her article on accommodations under the ADA, you may also be interested in her article on the use of research assistants, Effective Research Assistance and Scholarly Production in Legal Writing, published in the Journal of the Association of Legal Writing Directors. It is also available by clicking here.
Seven scholars from Africa are attending the LWI conference. Please seek them out, welcome them to the United States, and ask them about what they are learning here at the LWI conference. You'll double your own learning by engaging them in conversation. You might also find yourself on the receiving end of an invitation to teach in Africa. Their participation was made possible through the generosity of several law schools (including my own), and the further generosity of several individual donors.
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
One of the professors from Kenya is also working in South Africa.
Use the map to find these countries (click on the map of Africa to enlarge it):
- South Africa
Erika Abner and Shelley Kierstead presented results of an extensive survey they conducted of practitioners in Canada on ways to improve the teaching of legal writing. Among the survey results that they shared:
- Remember that legal writing is a reflection of who you are. It's your image. And it's either one of crispness or intellectual sloppiness.
- Consider whether our objective as teachers is to ensure that our students develop into true experts rather than experienced non-experts.
- Emphasize facts and the "full picture"
- Think about imposing greater time restrictions (situated learning)
- Be realistic about performance expectations for students and young associates.
- Consider giving fewer assignments, but more drafts.
- Consider diagnostic tests to identify students with basic grammar problems.
One of the lawyers surveyed said that their office had just finished a document that had gone through 97 drafts. 97 drafts!!! The lawyer thought that younger lawyers would never appreciate how much time is needed to write well.
A great presentation by two of our colleagues from Canada.
We invite all of our readers who are attending the Legal Writing Institute Conference to send us emails with notes from sessions you attend. We will try to post conference highlights here (and not just raves about this morning's presentation by the Ha-Ha Sisterhood) and we welcome your help in capturing the best tips from the conference.
Monday, July 14, 2008
The LWI Board approved the selection by the Board of Editors of the Journal of Legal Writing to name Kristin Gerdy of BYU as the new Editor in Chief. The Board has also approved the election of David Ritchie of Mercer as the new Assistant EIC and Brooke Bowman of Stetson to another term as Managing Editor.
The following persons were also elected to the Board of Editors
- Robin Boyle Laisure, St. John’s University School of Law
- Rachel Croskery-Roberts, University of Michigan School of Law
- Jane Gionfriddo, Boston College School of Law
- Pam Lysaght, Detroit Mercy School of Law
- Ellie Margolis, Temple
- Terry Pollman, UNLV
- Sue Provenzano, Northwestern University
- Susan Thrower, DePaul University College of Law
The Journal Board has also previously elected Mary Lawrence of the University of Oregon School of Law as Senior Editor of the Journal with responsibility for advising the Board on publication and editorial decisions in recognition of her outstanding contribution to legal writing scholarship and her vast experience and knowledge about legal writing.
The new members of the Board join these existing members:
- Mary Garvey Algero, Loyola University School of Law (New Orleans)
- Kirsten Davis, Stetson University
- Judith Fischer, University of Louisville, Louis D. Brandeis School of Law
- Samantha Moppett, Suffolk University School of Law
- Christine Venter, Notre Dame
- Catherine Wasson
Hat tip to Jim Levy.
This is the largest LWI Conference ever, with 617 attendees. Award presentations included the LeClercq Award to Ralph Brill and Molly Lien.
What is surprising to me is how many international visitors are attending the conference. Tonight I met attendees from:
- Costa Rica
There are others here as well (even rumors of a German!). It isn't surprising on one level, because of the importance of this conference and the importance of the field of legal writing. Still, as one with an interest in international legal education, I am pleased to see the growing number of international visitors.
P.S. Thank you, everyone, for your warm wishes of congratulation on my ABA appointment (described in the post below).
Sunday, July 13, 2008
There are a lot of things that law students need to pick up over the course of three years of law school that are not part of the formal curriculum: how to eat at a formal dinner, how to negotiate fair compensation for their first law job, etc. In the Nutshell series, Kathleen Kavanagh and Paula Nailon have written Excellence in the Workplace: Legal and Life Skills in a Nutshell. It covers many practical topics, including the communication skills and emotional intelligence skills needed for any law practice. It could be helpful for a lawyering skills course or a practice mangement course, or as a law school graduation gift or a law office welcome gift to the new class of lawyers who are just getting started. It could also save a lot of junior lawyers and their supervisors a lot of grief.
hat tip: Professor Grace Wigal
CNN recently reported on a judge's decision that a 465 page complaint was too long. The concluding paragraph of the decision was in the form of a limerick:
"Plaintiff has a great deal to say,
But it seems he skipped Rule 8(a).
His complaint is too long,
Which renders it wrong,
Please rewrite and refile today."
So now should we pen limericks to tell students they've gone over the word limit on their papers for legal writing class?
Professor Rachel Croskery-Roberts
Professor Ken Chestek