Thursday, August 7, 2008

Technology, Learning, and What Students Know

Here's a GUEST BLOG POST from Hillary Burgess.  Enjoy!  If you want to submit a guest post, just click here. 


Yesterday, I was telling my husband a story, during the course of which, I said, “Didn’t you get the memo?”  My four year old pipes up, “Mommie, what’s a memo?”  I am accustomed to linking new ideas to ones she is familiar with, then explaining the differences.  So, I said, “Well, sweety, a memo is similar to an email: one person writes something to another person.  Just like email, sometimes one person can write to more than one person.  Usually, though, the person prints the memo out on paper instead of transmitting it via the Internet.”

As I was giving this response, I was monitoring myself: “Am I explaining an unfamiliar term with other unfamiliar terms?  Lets see, will she understand the concept of printing on paper or should I analogize that to drawing with crayons?”  I was (correctly) certain that she knew what email was and understood the concept of the Internet.  I was worried that she wouldn’t understand printing and paper.

I was even more amused when I remembered a similar conversation I had with a friend the first week of college: “What’s email?” I asked.  “It’s just like sending a letter, only completely on the computer, and you don’t have to use punctuation, capital letters, or complete sentences,” was my friend’s response.  Not understanding the concept, I asked, “You type your letters to friends?”

I thought about how this juxtaposition of experiences could inform my teaching.  Students entering law school today probably don’t remember a time when they didn’t have a computer in their household.  They probably never had a pen pal.  Since they were old enough to “research,” the Internet has always been available to them.  And for their college and perhaps some of their high school years, the Internet has been available on their communicators, er, I mean cell phones.

Thus, as I try to link the new knowledge and skills that I am attempting to teach them, I really have to re-frame my links to what they know.  I can’t think back to when I was a student and what I knew, because they didn’t learn a lot of the knowledge and skills I had back then.

Instead, students today have a whole different set of knowledge and skills that they started learning so early, the understanding is inherent in their ways of being.  Their knowledge and skills are things I (initially) struggled to learn.  And so my links to, “what they know” actually have to be “what they know” and not what I knew when I was in their position.

Surely, we will engage in a cultural struggle as what I assumed they would know is not accurate and what they do know is not familiar enough to me in some cases that I know to make the links.  However, in the process, I certainly hope that I don’t give them the idea that they are somehow less educated, capable, or ready than I was when I was in their position because they don’t know what I knew then.  Instead, I hope that my interactions with my students communicates a respect for their different set of knowledge and skills.   In the process, I want to demonstrate a similar respect for my students that I try to demonstrate for all other cultures.

Hillary Burgess
Assistant Professor of Academic Support
Hofstra Law School

August 7, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

laws regarding children's names

OK, I'm sure that this topic--appropriate names for children and state (in this situation, New Zealand) interests in blocking parents' choices--could be worked into a simple fact pattern on state laws regarding name changes.  But mostly, I'm just reacting to the contents of this article and sharing it with you, my audience.

(It was "Sex Fruit" that got me.  Really.  Although "Keenan Got Lucy" was a close second.)

August 7, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"variant" spellings and tolerance levels

This Chronicle of Higher Education article reports that at least one professor has given up the fight on some "variant" spellings.

Personally, I'd argue that "thier" for "their" is something beyond variant.


August 7, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

a clip for your first class

From the TV series, How I Met Your Mother--

Studying law . . .
Making a responsible choice for my future (on Friday night . . .)
Being a lawyer had better be awesome!


August 7, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


J0284013Reading furnishes the mind only with materials for knowledge;
it is thinking that makes what we read ours.
~ John Locke


August 7, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

100,000+ Visits to the Legal Writing Prof Blog!

A short time ago the Legal Writing Prof Blog had its 100,000th visitor.  Congratulations to the Blog founders who had the vision to create a forum that would be visited so frequently.  Thanks for taking Jim and me on as additional editors.  Thank you to all of our readers and contributors.


100k I echo Mark's thanks. Visitor number 100,000 is someone using a Valparaiso University ISP who accessed the blog at 12:57:17 p.m. today. Tell us who you are (you can use the comment feature below, or e-mail one of the editors), and we will feature you and your legal writing program here on the blog!



August 6, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

HeinOnline adds Facebook page

Heinonline Are you a fan of HeinOnline? If so, you'll want to sign up on its new Facebook page. Among its features are links to Hein's YouTube research videos, such as "Printing Multiple PDF's at a Time," and even a link to Hein's Flickr photostream (showing, among other things, Mr. H's penchant for costumes. Who knew?).

And if you didn't already know about its blog, check it out, too. Each week, Hein posts a "tip of the week." This week's tip shows how to use Hein's Supreme Court Library to research a specific topic.


August 6, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

new edition of Adams's Manual of Style for Contract Drafting

Adams2d The ABA has published a "redesigned" second edition of Ken Adams's A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting. The book is reportedly now 200 pages longer and covers new topics. It also now includes an appendix with three versions of a contract—the “before” version, an annotated “before” version (showing its flaws), and an “after” version, redrafted in accordance with Adams's recommendations.

The ABA's promotional materials state that "the focus of Adams’s book remains not what provisions to include in a given contract, but how to express those provisions in prose that is free of the problems that often afflict contract language."

Adams is presenting at the annual ABA meeting this week, according to his blog, and will also participate in a "meet the author" session.


August 6, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

assessing student evals

An article by Arthur Best (Denver) in volume 38 of the Southwestern University Law Review (the working paper is downloadable from SSRN) looks at the educational research surrounding the validity of student evaluations of their professors and adds Best's own analysis of evaluation forms in use around the country.

Test_taking In Student Evaluations of Law Teaching Work Well: Strong Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, Strongly Disagree, Best argues that such information is useful--and current practices appropriate--in two primary contexts: professors' assignments to courses and students' course selection. But in collecting data useful for professors' self-improvement, such evaluations can probably be improved in "timing and style." And as for promotion and tenure decisions, Best concludes that the data should only be used to identify "outliers," primarily because of the influence of bias and because small numerical differences between professors do not provide reliable bases for such important decisions.

Examining forms used at thirty-eight law schools, Best notes their tendency to assess learning as if students are merely passive receptors of knowledge disseminated by their professors, using what he refers to as "professor-centric" questions. He suggests that schools revisit the phrasing of their questions, changing the focus from what the professor did to the students' assessment of their own participation in their learning.

hat tip: Law Librarian Blog


August 6, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

St. John's to host December LRW conference

Dcp01520 St. John's University School of Law is hosting a one-day conference in Manhattan on Friday, December 5, 2008, titled "Practice Meets Pedagogy."  The conference topic is the changing world of law practice and how it affects the teaching of legal research and writing.  What do legal employers expect of today's law graduates, and are we preparing our students to meet those expectations?  Panelists will represent the full spectrum of legal employers:  judges, law clerks, law firm partners, public interest lawyers, legal career specialists and law librarians. Legal writing professors Jan Levine (Duquesne), Tracy McGaugh (Touro), Tina Stark (Emory) and Kathleen Vinson (Suffolk) will also make presentations on how to bridge the gap (or, more optimistically, build the continuum) between law school and law practice. 

The registration deadline is November 14, and you can register online. Conference organizers advise that hotels in New York book up early for the holiday season, but that there is a good budget option among the hotels listed on the conference webpage. For more information, contact Profs. Jane Scott or Patricia Montana.


August 5, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Legal Writing Professors Take Leading Role in Protesting AALS Meeting at the Manchester Grand Hyatt

Aalslogo What to do about Doug?

Doug Manchester, the homophobic owner of the Manchester Grand Hyatt hotel in San Diego, donated $125,000 to help get the measure on the ballot that would repeal the rights of same-sex couples across the country to marry in the state of California.  That's fine, it's his money, and he can do what he wants with it.  But law professors who value equality and non-discrimination and human rights and freedom don't have to give him a single penny in support of his homophobic agenda.

The Association of American Law Schools is scheduled to hold its huge annual conference this January at the Manchester Grand Hyatt.  Several groups have protested to the AALS, including the Legal Writing Institute and SALT (the Society of American Law Teachers), and several AALS sections, including the AALS Section on Legal Writing Reasoning and Research, the AALS Section on Teaching Methods,  and of course the AALS Section on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Issues (SOGII).

The AALS staff was already on top of the situation before any of those letters of protest arrived in its mailbox.  They've been looking to see what options it has -- another hotel in the city?  another city entirely?  We understand that the decision on what to do will be made by the AALS executive committee, and that hopefully an announcement of some kind will be made soon.  Hopefully they will make the right decision to oppose discrimination and reject giving any money to Papa Doug Manchester.

This isn't a first amendment issue (AALS and the other groups are not government entities).  And it isn't as if the groups are protesting a donation to a political candidate.  It would be the same as supporting a constitutional amendment to repeal Loving v. Virginia (or the California Supreme Court decision that preceded it).  The groups contacting the AALS are right to do so, and AALS would be within its rights by moving the meeting away from the Manchester Grand Hyatt. 

Click here to read a story about all of this in the National Law Journal.

The AALS Section on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Issues has planned a full-day program on sexual orientation issues across the curriculum (including legal writing).

Lwi_logo Click here for our earlier posting on the letter that the Legal Writing Institute sent to the Association of American Law Schools.

Here's a link to a blog posting about this from Nan Hunter (Hunter for Justice).   


August 5, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 4, 2008

125 More Photos from the LWI Summer Conference!

Lwi_logo Here is a link to 125 wonderful photos from this summer's Legal Writing Institute Conference.  The photos were taken by David AustinClick on this link, which will bring you to the opening page.  Then click on the picture of INDIANA and enjoy!  YOU DO NOT NEED TO LOG IN, just click on the picture of INDIANA


August 4, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

more reasons to be careful about Facebook postings

Welcome_3I recently joined Facebook, mainly to be a "fan" of the Legal Writing Institute, but also because I am trying to evolve into a 21st century prof, Boomer that I am. I particularly like my co-blogger Mark Wojcik's warning to students in his Facebook profile, advising them that potential employers can check their Facebook entries and therefore to be careful about what's being posted there. (For a story about one unlucky Facebooker (Facebookie? Facebookist?), read this.)

Now comes another reason to be careful, this one from The Shark, a CAL LAW blog aimed at law students. It seems that California prosecutors have recently used Facebook profiles during the sentencing phase of drunk driving cases. Maybe that will get your students' attention, if Mark's warning does not.


August 4, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Call for Papers - Annals of Health Law

The Annals of Health Law Editorial Board is seeking submissions for the Winter 2009 issue.  Annals of Health Law is the Health Policy and Law Review of Loyola University Chicago School of Law.  The editors are seeking articles relating to health law topics of interest.  Past articles have focused on corporate, regulatory, bioethical, and pharmaceutical issues, as well as patient rights and advocacy.  To submit an article to Annals, please email the article and a curriculum vitae to  Articles will be reviewed on a rolling basis, and we will be accepting articles until August 25, 2008.


The Editorial Board is also seeking submissions for the Summer 2009 Colloquium issue.  The theme of the Colloquium will be:  "Do patents inhibit or promote health care access and innovation?”  The Colloquium will identify and explore the key issues connecting patents, innovation and health care access, both in the domestic and global arenas.  Please submit any articles on this topic to


For further information on article submission, contact Ann Weilbaecher, Editor-in-Chief, at 312.915.6304 or

August 4, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

new titles in LRW and legal ed topics

Carolina Academic Press has announced the following titles, all forthcoming in 2008, and which our readership may find to be of interest. Click the links to read the publisher's blurbs about each book:

A Lawyer Writes: A Practical Guide to Legal Analysis
by Christine Coughlin, Joan Malmud, Sandy Patrick

Expert Learning for Law Students
Second Edition
by Michael Hunter Schwartz

California Legal Research
by Hether C. Macfarlane, Suzanne E. Rowe 

Kansas Legal Research
by Joseph A. Custer, Christopher L. Steadham

Mastering Legal Analysis and Communication
by David Ritchie

Mastering Statutory Interpretation
by Linda Jellum

hat tip: Law Librarian Blog


August 4, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Who Will Be Our 100,000th Visitor?

Sometime this week we will reach a landmark -- 100,000 visits to the Legal Writing Prof Blog.  We won't know who that visitor will be, but if it is YOU please let us know.


August 3, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Explaining Rules of Law: Add an E to Your IRAC

Wojcik_markHere's an article that I wrote in the ABA Student Lawyer Magazine.  It shows law students how they can "explain" rules of law in memoranda, briefs, and law school examinations.  Click here to download the article.  The article is called "Add an E to Your IRAC."

If you would like to introduce students to SSRN as a research tool, you can also share this link with them (for example, in a handout or in your syllabus).  Students learn how to search for articles on LexisNexis and Westlaw, but I think we could also do them a great service by teaching them how to search for articles on SSRN.


August 3, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)