Saturday, September 6, 2008
For those of you who coach international moot court or who teach international and foreign legal research, here's a new Guide to the Liberian Legal System and Legal Research by Hanatu Kabbah. It describes the legal structure of government in Liberia and includes some useful links to research sources. (The Global Lex website has guides to the court systems and legal research sources for other countries as well.) Hat tip to Mirela Roznovschi at Global Lex!
Have we written about you? Your publications? Your presentations at a conference? Your promotions at school? Your hair? Well, hopefully not the last one -- and hopefully many of the first categories. You can search the Legal Writing Prof Blog and thousands of legal writing posts over the past three years. In the right-hand column (just below where you can subscribe to the Legal Writing Prof Blog) you can enter your name in the "Search this Blog" box. Hopefully we said nice things about you (and your hair).
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Friday, September 5, 2008
Are your students in a muddle over the Socratic Method? To help them understand the underpinnings of that teaching style, try using a teaching script penned by Professor Hillary Burgess (Hofstra) to accompany a film clip from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (20th Century Fox 1975) that we featured here a few weeks ago.
The peasants have found a woman they suspect to be a witch, and they turn to (Professor) Bedevere for help: "May we burn her?" Burgess's script stops the clip at various points so that the professor can comment on the scene. For example:
(Stop the clip at 00:45.) The professor starts asking questions. First, the questions seem pretty easy. "How do you know she’s a witch?'" Like most new law students, you want to immediately jump from the issue, or question, to the answer: "She looks like one."
(Stop at 1:47.) Then, your professor gives you what you think will be the key. "There are ways of telling whether she is a witch." In other words, there’s a rule out there and all you have to do is apply the rule in this case. So, you want to know the rule, "Tell us!"
(Stop at 1:54.) But, does the professor tell you what the rule is? No, because in practice, no one is going to tell you what the rule is, you have to find it for yourself as a practicing attorney. So, the professor begins to guide you through the process of uncovering the rule so you’ll know what to do when you become a lawyer.
(Stop at 2:01.) Your professor starts asking questions that seem totally unrelated to what you are studying. "What do you burn apart from witches?" Where’s he going with this question? You don’t know, but you just dig deep and answer the question. "More witches...wood."
(Stop at 2:06.) Now the questions start getting really hard, "why do witches burn?" and not only did you not think to ask the questions when you did your reading, you never would have come up with these totally bizarre answers.
The clip is short, about three and a half minutes. The clever script makes many excellent points analogizing the antics of the Pythons to the classroom experience. To download and read the whole script (a WordPerfect document), click here: Download Burgess-MontyPythonExplanation.wpd (And should you decide to use it, please send a thank you to Professor Burgess.)
The Text and Academic Authors Association's 2009 conference is scheduled for June 25-27, 2009, in San Antonio, Texas. This year's conference offers concurrent tracks for textbook authors and academic authors, as well as sessions appealing to both. Other features of the conference are moderated Roundtable Discussions, mentoring sessions, and networking opportunities. This conference is directed to veteran and first-time textbook and academic authors as well as those considering authoring a textbook or who need help publishing their first scholarly article or book; textbook and academic publishers; attorneys specializing in publishing; literary agents representing textbook authors; editors; and anyone else interested in textbook and/or academic authoring and publishing.
The association seeks proposals for 30-minute and 60-minute sessions, including topics related to textbook or academic publishing, including subjects such as the following: the future of textbooks; preparing the next edition; marketing by authors; new and emerging technology for authors; online publishing; the business of authoring; e-books; the writing process; writing a crossover book; working with co-authors; open access; insights from scholarly book or journal editors; orientation to the book publishing/journal publishing industry; creating an edited book; time management; and developing collaborative relationships with other writers.
The deadline for proposals is November 15, 2008. Presenters who plan to stay for the entire conference must pay full conference registration. Presenters are responsible for providing copies of their handout materials. You can download, complete and mail the Presentation Proposal Form to Kim Pawlak, TAA, S2874 Spruce St., Fountain City, WI 54629. Alternatively, you can complete the form online at https://www.taaonline.net/form/2009conf_proposals.html. Questions? Contact Kim Pawlak, TAA's Associate Executive Director, (608) 687-3106.
hat tip: Benjamin Opipari
Viewed by many as the "Godfather of Legal Writing," our friend and colleague Ralph Brill has been honored by the creation of an endowed chair in his honor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago-Kent College of Law. (Back in February 2006, we broke the news of the initial plans to create and fund the chair.) Here's a link to the full press release, which provides more details on Ralph's career and his contribtions to legal writing and legal education. Congratulations, Ralph!
Ralph notes that there are no restrictions on the kind of law taught by the occupant of the chair, so it is possible that a Legal Writing teacher could be chosen for the position--and, says Ralph, "I truly hope so."
Thursday, September 4, 2008
The ABA Journal asks on its blog today "If you were the Legal Ed Czar, what would you do" to change the way law schools prepare students for the practice of law. I assume most readers of this blog would urge law schools to devote far more resources to teaching students how to write well. Add your comments, or read those left by others, here.
I am the scholarship dude.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
My students take a diagnostic test during Orientation that helps us identify their weaknesses in grammar and punctuation. Today I used the e-mail option of a popular course utility (which shall remain nameless) to send them my comments on the class's overall performance. Imagine my surprise when the e-mail authoring software turned apostrophes and quotation marks in my original sentences into this gibberish:
Finally, if you were one of the students who confused â?oitsâ? and â?oitâ?Ts,â? I urge you to make a special effort this year to tackle that problem. When you wish to refer to something that â?obelongs to it,â? use â?oits.â? It may help for you to resolve to never use the word â?oitâ?Tsâ? (the contraction for â?oit isâ?) in your legal writing. Formal legal writing does not use contractions, so guess what? If you cannot substitute â?oit isâ? for the â?oitâ?Tsâ? you wrote in your memo, you used the wrong word.
So even though one shouldn't write â?oitâ?Tsâ?, it is perfectly okay to mutter it under your breath!
(Did you guess that my advice dealt with "it's" and "its"?)
If you're looking for some statutes that might get your students' attention while discussing statutory construction, check out the Dumb Laws website. It inclues many anachronistic or plain old peculiar statutes that allegedly are still good law somewhere in the U.S. Some have citations, some you might need to research further to verify. Better yet, have your teaching assistant research them.
hat tip: Professor Tonya Kowalski, Washburn University
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
The Legal Writing Prof Blog is an excellent resource not only to let fellow academics know about developments within the discipline of legal writing, but it's an even better outreach tool to let the practicing bar know about the work legal writing professors are doing to advance the study and practice of effective written and oral communication skills. There's a lot of expertise within our field that would be of great benefit to practitioners and it's the aim of the scholarship dude (i.e. me) to let them know about it.
In that spirit, if you have written a significant, scholarly article relating to legal writing and you would like to let blog subscribers know about it, please send me a copy. To prevent clogging up my in-box with large attachments while I'm on the road, I prefer to receive, in this order: 1. An SSRN or other link that allows me to access your article online; 2. a hardcopy sent to my snail-mail address at Nova Southeastern University Law School (the full address is available in my web profile link in the left margin); and 3. if all else fails, an email attachment in Microsoft Word.
I can't promise that I'll be able to read everything you send, but I'll do my best.
I am the scholarship dude.
Here's a new paper from Professor Ann Lousin on whether Illinois should hold a constitutional convention. The great state of Illinois will vote on a referendum this November as to whether the state should call a new constitutional convention. It might make a good writing project for some of your students this semester. Click here to download the paper.
Here are titles of and links to some recently published articles of interest, whether because they concern legal writing, address legal reasoning, or were written by legal writing profs. Links are to Lexis [L] and Westlaw [W] versions (if you're already signed in, you'll go straight to the article; otherwise, log in and let the service pull up the article for you). Citations provided for those who prefer to locate and read their articles the old-fashioned way.
- K.K. DuVivier, Fast-Food Government and Physician-Assisted Death: The Role of Direct Democracy in Federalism, 86 Or. L. Rev. 895 (2007). [L][W]
- Danny Priel, Book Review (Reviewing Lloyd L. Weinreb, Legal Reason: The Use of Analogy in Legal Argument), 57 J. Legal Educ. 579 (2007). [L][W]
- Amy E. Sloan, If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em: A Pragmatic Approach to Nonprecedential Opinions in the Federal Appellate Courts, 86 Neb. L. Rev. 895 (2008). [L][W]
- Lloyd L. Weinreb, Legal Reason Redux, 57 J. Legal Educ. 600 (2007). [L][W] (responding to Priel's review)
If it's the time of the semester when you're talking to your students about plagiarism, you might want to direct them to an interesting website--http://www.famousplagiarists.com. There's even a "Plagiary's Hall of Shame" page.
While you may disagree with who's on it, the greater point is that allegations of (and proven) plagiarism can attach to a person and persist for the rest of a career.
Current VP nominee Joseph Biden is even used as an example on "The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing" page on plagiarism. (This is a great online companion site to Michael Harvey's book of the same name.)
Monday, September 1, 2008
Cleveland's The Plain Dealer recently reported about a contractual interpretation case: "A piece of downtown land isn't worth its weight in gold -- but it is worth 1,693.28 ounces, the amount set in a gold-based lease signed 96 years ago. That's what a three-judge panel in Cincinnati indicated Wednesday . . . ." The court's opinion is available by clicking here.
Hat tip: Michael F. Cosgrove, Assistant Director of Law, City of Cleveland Department of Law
Here's a reminder from Linda Berger: The deadline (Download jalwdcallforarticles2009_2.pdf) is approaching for Fall 2009 issue of J. ALWD: Best Practices in Persuasion. The deadline is September 15, 2008, but if you anticipate having a submission ready within a week of that date, please contact Linda Berger. The Fall 2008 issue of J. ALWD is in the mail; it should be available on the website (http://www.alwd.org/jalwd.html) and via Westlaw within the week.
"Training Field Supervisors to Be Efficient and Effective Critics of Student Writing"
Professor Scott Fruehwald of Hofstra Law School has been especially prolific lately including this article recently published in the Oklahoma City University Law Review. While not strictly pertaining to legal writing, because he is a legal writing professor, the Scholarship Dude wants to let our readership know about Professor Fruehwald's latest work. Here's a synopsis:
"Behavioral biology is the next frontier for legal thought. In the next few years, behavioral biology will become as important for the analysis of legal rules as economics has been for the last several decades. To ignore the insights of behavioral biology in legal analysis is to create a legal system based on crucially incomplete information. Yet, legal scholars, following social scientists, have generally disregarded human behavior in legal analysis, instead analyzing law as a social construct. This blank slate view of the mind, however, has been thoroughly debunked. As Professor E.O. Wilson has declared, "The blank-slate model could be tested empirically. It lost."
Professor Fruehwald's article presents concepts of behavioral biology that are relevant to the law, then uses behavioral biology to analyze constitutional cases. Drawing on science, literature, philosophy, art and law, Professor Fruehwald's article introduces concepts of behavioral biology. It then discusses behavioral biology and the Constitution in general. Finally, it examines three areas of constitutional law in detail - takings, establishing parentage, and due process limitations on punitive damages." Behavioral Biology and Constitutional Analysis, 32 Oklahoma City L. Rev. 375 (2007).
I am the Scholarship Dude.