Saturday, July 26, 2008

Arthur Miller's views on the teaching of legal research

The Law Librarian Blog has posted two videos of NYU Professor Arthur Miller's recent statements about the declining quality of legal research (and its teaching) that were shown during a "town hall" meeting in Portland sponsored by West. He describes the "disconnect" between practice and academics as greater than he has seen at any point in his life. He also complains about the general downsizing of Civil Procedure courses. He feels that many of the "basic" courses have been "crowded out" by new kinds of courses at the expense of needed "skill set development." Here's the link to the interviews:


July 26, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 25, 2008

LWI Joins Boycott of Manchester Grand Hyatt

AalslogoLegal_writing_institute_logo_2The Legal Writing Institute--one of the largest associations of legal academics with more than 2,100 members--has joined the boycott of the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Diego.  Doug Manchester, owner of that hotel, had donated $125,000 to help put an anti-gay consitutional amendment on the November ballot to remove the right of same-sex couples to marry in California.  Manchester's donation helped put "Proposition 8" on the November 4 ballot. 

The Legal Writing Institute sent a letter on Friday to Carl Monk, Executive Director of the Association of American Law Schools, informing him that the Legal Writing Institute would not be holding the Golden Pen and Blackwell Awards at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego. 

The Golden Pen Award is given by the Legal Writing Institute to recognize those who make significant contributions to advance the cause of better legal writing, such as by promoting the use of clear language in public documents.  The award is normally given to someone who is not an active member of the Writing Institute.  In 2007, the award winners of the Golden Pen included the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, Ronald M. George, who was--coincidentally--the author of the California Supreme Court decision authorizing same-sex marriage.  Click here to see that decision from the California Supreme Court.  (That an earlier Golden Pen recipient was the author of the decision played no part in the LWI vote to boycott the Manchester Grand Hyatt -- indeed, one of the other winners of the Golden Pen Award in 2007 was a dissenting judge in that same same-sex marriage case.)  The program from the 2007 Golden Pen Award is available by clicking here

The Golden Pen Award has been given in conjunction with the Thomas Blackwell Award, which is jointly given by the Legal Writing Institute and the Association of Legal Writing Directors to honor the memory of Thomas Blackwell.

The LWI President wrote to the AALS Executive Director after the LWI Board voted unanimously to remove all LWI-sponsored events from the Manchester Grand Hyatt, one of the two hotels where the AALS had scheduled its conference for the annual meeting in January 2009. 

The LWI letter says that the LWI Board based its decision on LWI’s non-discrimination policy, which was adopted by the LWI Board of Directors in June 2006.  Here is the policy as adopted by LWI: "The Legal Writing Institute is committed to a policy against discrimination and in favor of equal opportunity for all of its members regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.” 

The LWI adopted that nondiscrimination policy in 2006 after a religious law school posted a job announcement that discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation.  The job posting was deeply offensive and caused great controversy within the Legal Writing Institute.  The LWI Board at the time adopted a formal nondiscrimination policy for the organization as a response. Additionally, LGBT members and many of their supporters formed an informal "Pink Ink" Caucus, which recently met again during the LWI Conference in Indianapolis.

Click here to read the LWI Letter to the Executive Director of the AALS.  Download AALS_letter_from_LWI_July_25_2008.pdf

California is the second state (after Massachusetts) to allow same-sex marriage in the United States.  The state had previously had domestic partnerships that purported to offer the same benefits of marriage as those otherwise available under state law, but the California Supreme Court ruled that denying same-sex couples access to "marriage" violated their rights under the California State Constitution.

The AALS Executive Committee will meet next month to decide what response to take.  They are faced with a difficult task, given the large size of the AALS Annual Meeting.  Meetings of such sizes are normally planned out five, six, and seven years in advance.  There are two AALS meeting hotels in San Diego, and conflicting reports about whether Mr. Manchester has an ownership in both of them or whether he sold his interest in the other hotel earlier this year.  Your Google is as good as mine on whether there is a final word on that question.  The options available to the AALS would be to move the meeting (if possible) to another hotel or even another city, a daunting task at this late date.  At a minimum, it is expected that there will be a strong push to minimize any revenue going to the Manchester Grand Hyatt.

The AALS Section on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity has planned a full-day program on sexual orientation and gender identity, including a break-out session on legal writing and appellate advocacy problems involving issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Initial responses of LWI members to the LWI letter have been quite positive, with some members expressing great pride that they are members of an organization that has taken such a strong position.  (Click on "Comments" below to see comments posted here on this blog.)  The LWI has already started searching out other locations for the Golden Pen and Blackwell Awards.  The San Diego AALS meeting will also mark the start of the LWI's 25th anniversary, which will begin in January 2009 and continue through the next LWI conference in 2010 at Marco Island, Florida.

There is no call to boycott the AALS meeting -- only the hotel owned by Manchester.  I have great confidence in the AALS, its professional staff, and its leadership.  I know that they are hard at work to deal with this unfortunate situation.  The LWI and others (including me) have offered their support to the AALS. 

The AALS meeting will be in January 2009, after the November 2008 election.  If the measure fails in November, Mr. Manchester will have wasted his money.  I certainly hope that is the case.

With more than 2,100 members in 38 countries, the Legal Writing Institute is the second largest organization of legal academics, second only to the Association of American Law Schools.  Click here for more information about the Legal Writing Institute.


July 25, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Scribes Will Honor Scalia at the ABA Meeting in New York

The Scribes 2008 Annual Luncheon will honor U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia with a Lifetime-Achievement Award.  Scribes will also present its book award and brief-writing awards.  The event will be held during the ABA Annual Meeting in New York on Saturday, August 9, from noon to 2:00 p.m.  The deadline to RSVP was July 15 (sorry, I just found out about it or else I would have posted it earlier). To see if you can still squeeze in, send an email to


July 25, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

new titles for your late summer reading

J0439090Check out the following recently published articles -- probably one or more of interest to this blog's audience:

  • Gerald Lebovits, Alifya V. Curtin & Lisa Solomon, Ethical Judicial Opinion Writing, 21 Geo. J. Legal Ethics 237 (2008).
  • Richard J. Lazarus, Advocacy Matters before and within the Supreme Court: Transforming the Court by Transforming the Bar, 96 Geo. L.J. 1487 (2008). 
  • Todd C. Peppers, Micheal W. Giles, & Bridget Tainer-Parkins, Inside Judicial Chambers: How Federal District Court Judges Select and Use Their Law Clerks, 71 Alb. L. Rev. 623 (2008).
  • Jason P. Nance & Dylan J. Steinberg, The Law Review Article Selection Process: Results from a National Study, 71 Alb. L. Rev. 565 (2008).
  • Jonathan Uffelman, Student Author, Hamlet Was a Law Student: A "Dramatic" Look at Emotion's Effect on Analogical Reasoning, 96 Geo. L.J. 1725 (2008).


July 25, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


"It's a damn poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word."

~ Andrew Jackson


July 25, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kordesh named interim director at John Marshall

Sonia20and20maureen_2 Maureen Straub Kordesh, who directed writing programs at The John Marshall Law School (Chicago) from 1996 to 2004 and Widener from 1991 to 1996, has been named as John Marshall's Interim Director of Lawyering Skills. Pictured here (in the photo on the left with John Marshall professor Sonia Green and Green's children), she succeeds Molly Lien, who is retiring. Congratulations, Maureen!

The John Marshall Law School will conduct a national search for a tenured or tenure-track faculty member to fill the position of Lawyering Skills Director beginning in the 2009-10 academic year.

hat tip: Mary Nagel



July 25, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

100 "awesome" library videos

J0309369_3Accredited Degrees (a distance-learning blog) has listed 100 links to YouTube videos and tutorials on  various library topics, from using online catalogs to RSS and blogging to discouraging children from bringing cookies into the library (the real, not the virtual, kind). Surely one or more of these will apply to law libraries and their clientele. And if you visit the blog, take a few minutes to check out its other posts concerning technology and education.

hat tip: Law Librarian Blog


July 25, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

identifying the gap

  1. At the AALL conference in Portland, Oregon last week, Thomson West issued a white paper entitled Partnership and Solutions for Preparing Job-Ready Attorneys. This paper is based on a survey of 224 people who are law firm librarians, development directors, attorney supervisors, and newer attorneys. The respondents work at organizations ranging from solo practitioners' offices to large law firms. The paper focuses on what law librarians should be teaching students to prepare them for the practice of law and what law firm attorneys wished they had known before they graduated. There is a quick overview of the survey results at the beginning of the paper.

hat tip: Professor Candle Wester-Mittan, Southern Illinois University


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

"The Virtual Chase" closing shop

For fans of online legal research, one of the venerable (and educational) sites has been librarian Genie Tyburski's The Virtual Chase. Today Tyburski announced that after 12 years, she is shutting down the website so that she can devote her time and energies to serving as Library Manager for her employer, Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, in Philadelphia, PA. She says that she will "take down the site gradually over the next several months," closing it entirely by May 2009 unless she finds a new owner willing to archive it or continue it.


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

job openings at Windsor (Canada) and Roger Williams (Rhode Island)

The University of Windsor, Faculty of Law, has announced that two of the school's three existing Legal Research and Writing positions were converted from limited term contract positions to tenure track positions. The third position is scheduled to be converted in July 2009, and the school is seeking applicants for that tenure-track position.

The successful candidate will teach the first-year Legal Research and Writing course, which is designed to introduce students to the research methods and techniques applicable to law practice and scholarship. In addition, specific attention is paid to the development of legal writing skills. Legal Research and Writing is the foundational course in the law school's Experiential and Clinical Educationprogram. The person hired will be responsible for the development of assignments, the updating of teaching materials, the evaluation of student assignments, and the administration of the first-year moot court program, and will pursue scholarship in the area of legal research and writing pedagogy and contribute to the developing research in this area.

Applicants should have an LL.B. or J.D. degree (but an LL.M. or M.L.I.S. would be an asset); teaching experience, particularly in a Legal Research and Writing Program; practice experience; and evidence of superior legal research and writing abilities.

The base salary is $60,000 to $69,999 (in Canadian dollars, presently almost at par). The person hired will teach approximately 45 to 59 students.

The Faculty has an innovative program of studies and pursues scholarly interests in Access to Justice and Canada/U.S. legal issues. It sponsors a number of clinical projects: Legal Assistance of Windsor, Community Legal Aid, the University of Windsor Mediation Service, Intellectual Property and Innovative Law Project, and Pro Bono Students Canada. The school is also the home of the Centre for Transnational Law and Justice, Intellectual Property Law Institute, and publishes The Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice and the Windsor Review of Legal and Social Issues.

Additional information about the position, including an on-line application, is available here. Interested candidates should send a letter of application which addresses the qualifications identified above and includes a statement of citizenship/immigration status; a current curriculum vitae; samples of course outlines and teaching evaluations and other evidence of teaching effectiveness; statements of teaching and research and interests; a vision statement for developing and enhancing the Faculty’s experiential learning program described on the text pages 23 through 25 of the Faculty of Law Prospectus; samples of scholarly work; university academic transcripts; and three current letters of reference including a least two academic references forwarded by the referees.

Send complete applications by September 30, 2008 to Dean Bruce Elman, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor, 401 Sunset Avenue, Windsor, Ontario, N9B 3P4. Applications may still be received after the deadline date. If you are unable to submit the application by the deadline, please advise the Dean that you intend to submit an application after the deadline date. If you are viewing the advertisement after the deadline date, you should contact the Dean to find out the status of the search and discuss the possibility of submitting an application. The acceptance of a late submission is at the discretion of the appointments committee.

* * * * * * * *

Roger Williams University School of Law, in Bristol, Rhode Island, has announced an immediate opening for a full-time contract position as Legal Methods professor. A full-time Legal Methods professor teaches three sections of Legal Methods, for a total of 40 – 45 students. The law school may consider a part-time arrangement, whereby the successful candidate would teach only two sections of Legal Methods.

The successful candidate will be hired initially for a one-year contract, and after that, will be eligible for up to a three-year contract. Upon the successful completion of a three-year contract, the professor will be eligible for renewable, five-year contracts. Once a five-year contract is secured, the Legal Methods professor may vote at faculty meetings on all matters other than promotion and tenure.

The Legal Methods program at RWU has six professors, who use the same syllabus, same book and, with the principal exception of the “open memorandum”  assignment in the fall, the same or similar materials. The base salary is $50,000 and goes up from there, depending on the successful candidate’s experience.  The law school offers the usual benefits, including health and dental insurance, contributions to a retirement fund, etc. 

Send applications, including resume, by e-mail as soon as possible to Elizabeth Colt, Director of Legal Writing.


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

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

your teaching potential

There is still plenty to report from the LWI conference last week, and we'll keep posting it here as our time allows.

Algero On the last day of the conference, Professor Mary Garvey Algero from Loyola-New Orleans and Professor Robin Wellford Slocum from Chapman University gave a presentation on Beyond Powerpoint and Movie Clips:  How to Reach Your Full Potential as a Teacher.  In the audience, brand new and veteran legal writing professors had many an "ah-ha" moment.

Modeling the inter-active learning techniques that work well in the legal writing classroom, Mary and Robin asked members of the audience to turn to one or two people sitting near them to discuss some key questions about teachers and then volunteer their responses for projection at the front of the room.  They asked each of us to recall a most favorite teacher we'd had as students and what made that person an excellent teacher.  And they also asked to recall a least favorite teacher and why we saw that person that way.  The list of qualities that evolved for both types of teachers had heads shaking.  The key quality that emerged for excellence in teaching was authenticity, being your authentic self.  Note that this exercise in which everyone participated took place successfully with about two hundred people in the room -- proof that active learning can take place even in large enrollment classes.Wellford

The presenters highly recommended a book by Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach (1998).  Robin also shared a key insight about how our students progress in their learning:  from unconscious incompetence, to conscious incompetence (a very uncomfortable stage), to conscious competence, to unconscious competence.


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


J0396652 Writing is no trouble: you just jot down ideas as they occur to you. The jotting is simplicity itself—it is the occurring which is difficult.

~ Stephen Leacock


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

Welcome Jim Levy, Scholarship Dude

As you can see in the column to the left, Jim Levy has officially joined the Legal Writing Prof Blog as a contributing editor. Although it doesn't say so on the left, he'll officially be known here as "the Scholarship Dude," and many (but certainly not all) of his postings will focus on recent scholarship by LRW professors, the LWI Journal, JALWD, and all of our other favorite scholarship venues. You can send him calls for papers and other information about opportunities for scholarship as well.

Welcome, Scholarship Dude Jim Levy!

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

Presenting Multiple Characters in a Statement of Facts

The New Legal Writer Blog has an interesting post on how to present a number of characters in a judicial decision or memorandum. The suggestion spares readers the dreaded parenthetical accompanying each character’s introduction (e.g. “... Coastal Marine Service of Texas, Inc. (“Coastal”)”). It also gave readers one sure and easily accessible place to find who’s who. Click here to read more.

Hat tip to the New Legal Writer Blog


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

Persuasion in Legal Writing and Lawyering

Wyoming meets New Jersey!

Rutgers-Camden and the University of Wyoming College of Law will hold a one-day conference on Friday, September 19, 2008 on the topic of “Persuasion in Legal Writing and Lawyering.”  The conference will be a series of interactive panels where the speakers and participants will discuss topics of logos, pathos and ethos. Conference speakers from the fields of legal writing and clinical education will explore the how we teach persuasion.  Click here for a one-page flyer about the conference.  Download PersuasionConference.pdf

Hat tip to Carol Wallinger


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

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

SEALS Conference

Seals_2 The Southeastern Association of Law Schools (SEALS) is about to have its annual meeting in Palm Beach, Florida, from July 27 to August 2, 2008.  Click here for more information about the conference.  I will be speaking on a panel on the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Click here for more information about the panel.  Many other legal writing professors are expected to attend, and there is a special focus on encouraging new scholars and those who have not previously presented at conferences like this.


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

the 2008 survey results are here!

The 2008 ALWD-LWI Survey Results are now available, just by clicking on the link in this sentence.  Once again, over 90% of ABA accredited law schools responded to the survey, making this data highly reliable.  It includes a wealth of information, such as the salaries and terms of employment of legal writing directors and other legal writing professors, the types of research and writing assignments typically given, the use of writing specialists and teaching assistants, etc., etc.  The results are presented side-by-side with results from the recent previous years, so trends are easy to spot.  Everyone teaching legal writing or hiring legal writing professors should take a look at this survey.


P.S. It is 126 pages long (so you can imagine how much information is in there!)

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

Monday, July 21, 2008

LWI Conference Presentation - Here on the Blog! The Role of LRW in Pro Bono Service

Lwi_logoSchmedemann_deborah_2Professor Prof. Deborah Schmedemann of the William Mitchell College of Law has generously shared her powerpoint presentation from the Legal Writing Institute Conference.

In her presentation she shared the results of empirical research into pro bono service, involving more than 1,000 law students and lawyers.  She discovered that LRW has a central role and potential for priming students for pro bono service. 

Click this link to see the presentation:  Download Schmedemann.ppt

I added her contact information to the first and last slides to enable you to contact her directly with questions or comments about the presentation.

Thanks for sharing the presentation, Deborah!


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

teaching grammar

Everyone who has taught legal writing for a number years knows that, year by year, each incoming class arrives with weaker grammar skills.  At the LWI conference last week, two professors presented ideas for helping students learn or recall the grammar they need to write at a professional level.

Blais Professor William Blais from DePaul University described an innovative approach he uses to help his students overcome their grammar challenges, as he presented A Narrative Approach to Teaching Grammar.  He analogized storytelling elements to sentence elements:

character -- noun/subject (the familiar information)
action -- verb/predicate (passing the reader's attention from the old to the new information)
consequences -- object/predicate (the new information)

Then to tell the story better, the students need to attend to these storytelling-like elements at the sentence structure level.  For example, to use correct subject/verb agreement, a student can think in terms of telling the reader how many characters were acting.  Or, as another example, to use correct verb tenses, a student can think in terms of telling the reader when the action happened and what sort of action it was.  It seems with experience teaching this way, a professor could develop a store of handy analogies students could understand quickly, remember easily, and actually apply in their writing.

Professor Ed Telfeyan, from the University of the Pacific-McGeorge School of Law, spoke about The Telfeyan"Grammar Bee" -- Taking Taking the Pain Out of One-L's Grammatical Deficiencies.  He described a TV-game-show approach, projecting questions in the front of the classroom, with a few wrong and one right answer to choose from.  He takes just a few minutes at the beginning of each class to have the students play a few questions, starting with very easy grammar concepts at the beginning of the semester, then later in the semester bringing up more sophisticated points of grammar, style, and legal writing mechanics.  The students have fun at the beginning of each class and learn the grammar they need.  It seems the key to this approach would be "borrowing" Ed's game show questions, and then tailoring them to the needs of your particular class.


Click here for another blog entry describing this panel.


July 21, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Religious Lawyering and Legal Writing

Tbecker At the LWI conference last week, Professor Ted Becker from the University of Michigan gave a thought-provoking presentation on Religious Lawyering and Legal Writing, or, Do Religious Perspectives Help Teach Students Anything about IRAC?

He first gave the audience a helpful summary of the Religious Lawyering movement and its major schools of thought.  He explained how some lawyers keep any religious practices they may have quite separate from their law practices, while others prefer to integrate the two.  In terms of a legal writing class, this topic might come up when students discuss professionalism, particularly if the legal writing professor includes a direct look at legal ethics in class.

Ted also suggested that in addition to general professionalism concerns, the Religious Lawyering movement informs more specifically how lawyers work with clients.  Through the media, many law students are familiar with the lawyer as godfather, hired gun, or guru.  Ted explained that religious lawyers may tend to work with the client more as a "friend" -- in the Aristotelian sense of the word.  Looked at this way, the attorney-client relationship moves from one of contract to one of covenant.  It becomes a relationship in which trust flows in two directions, the work takes place in the context of a larger moral community, and the rapport will be enduring.  Thus students can be made aware that the model rules of professional conduct are a minimum standard, and they can be encouraged to do more than the minimum required.

Finally, Ted discussed how Religious Lawyering may create issues in particular for students who take jobs after graduation in "Big Law."  Working in large law firms, some religious lawyers face a difficult decision as to whether to stay in or get out.  And legal writing professors may be teaching students who will eventually face this decision.   


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