September 13, 2008
legal memos in this century
The March 2008 issue of the Journal of Legal Education just landed in my mail box this week. It includes a thought-provoking article by Professor Kristen Konrad Robbins-Tiscione of Georgetown, entitled From Snail Mail to E-Mail: The Traditional Legal Memorandum in the Twenty-First Century. Professor Robbins-Tiscione reports the results of a survey on the use of legal memoranda in law practice, answered by 140 practitioners who are Georgetown alums. Given the predominance of legal memos in 1L legal writing courses, the article is well worth a look for every legal writing professor.
Top Ten Law Songs
Think of a song about the law. Click here to see if your choice is on the Top Ten List of Law Songs. Hat tip to our friends at the Law Librarian Blog.
September 12, 2008
Excuse me, may I borrow that?
Appellate lawyers have been known to hope out loud that the courts they seek to persuade will like their arguments so much that they'll lift their words and use them in the courts' opinions. Now comes evidence that in fact, one court has done exactly that--but we suspect, sans attribution.
Vanderbilt Poli Sci prof Pamela Corley has used using plagiarism-detection software to determine how much of the parties' briefs gets lifted and used in opinions of the United States Supreme Court, according to a recent post in The Conglomerate blog. Corley's research, soon to be published as "The Supreme Court and Opinion Content: The Influence of Parties' Briefs," in Political Research Quarterly, found fairly low levels overall--about 10% for opinions issued between 2002 and 2004. Some justices' percentages were significantly higher. The Conglomerate identifies Justice O'Connor and Chief Justice Rehnquist as the opinion writers most likely to borrow from briefs. The provenance of the briefs made a difference, too. Briefs coming from the Department of Justice or DC law firms were favored, as were those from "ideologically compatible" sources.
Guess it all depends on who you are. One of the blog comments (anonymous, or I'd give attribution) offered this quotation from a 7th Circuit case:
"The judge wrote an opinion which consists largely of paragraphs cut out of the defendants' brief and pasted into the opinion without even the courtesy of retyping. We have criticized this judge's practice of copying portions of the winning party's brief into his opinions before. See Walton v. United Consumers Club, Inc., 786 F.2d 303 (7th Cir.1986); Andre v. Bendix Corp., 774 F.2d 786, 800-01 (7th Cir.1985). We shall not repeat these criticisms. We trust the practice will now cease." Lynk v. LaPorte Superior Court No. 2, 789 F.2d 554, 558 (7th Cir. 1986).
job openings at Cornell
Cornell Law School seeks candidates for full-time, permanent contract faculty positions (currently held by visitors) in its Lawyering Program, commencing in the 2009-10 academic year. The Lawyering course is a year-long, four-credit course that introduces first-year students to lawyering skills, with primary emphasis on legal writing, analysis, and research. Lawyering faculty teach the writing, analysis, and simulations components of the course; law librarians teach the research component of the course.
Although Lawyering faculty collaborate to ensure a uniform core curriculum, individual faculty have substantial academic freedom. Faculty create their own syllabi, create assignments in substantive areas of their choice, and have discretion whether to teach certain lawyering skills, such as interviewing or negotiating a settlement. Lawyering faculty teach one class of Lawyering; classes commonly consist of approximately 33 students. Additionally, after two years, Lawyering faculty usually teach a one-semester, upper-level course, such as a 16-student seminar.
Positions in The Lawyering Program are non-tenure-track but are eligible for long-term renewal. Entry-level candidates start with a three-year contract and after six years are eligible for renewable, five-year contracts. The Dean may provide summer grants to Lawyering faculty to work on individual and collective projects. Benefits are competitive. Base salaries range from the $60,000s to the $70,000s.
Applicants must have a J.D., excellent academic credentials, a strong writing background, and substantial legal-practice experience (a minimum of three years preferred). Applicants should mail (hard copies only) a cover letter, resume, law-school transcript, the names of three references, and a writing sample to Joel Atlas, Director, The Lawyering Program, Cornell Law School, Myron Taylor Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853. The closing date for applications is October 13, 2008. The law school intends to interview candidates at the AALS recruitment conference in Washington, D.C., in early November.
blogs, legal research, and the Court
The Wall Street Journal blog reports that the United States Supreme Court may revisit its June 2008 decision overturning Louisiana's death penalty for convicted child rapists. One of the arguments relied upon by the five-vote majority in Kennedy v. Louisiana was that neither the federal government nor most states permit capital punishment in such cases. Shortly after the opinion was handed down, however, a Marine Corps colonel who blogs on military justice noted that a 2006 amendment to the Uniform Code of Military Justice in fact expressly permits such punishment. Apparently, none of those involved with researching, briefing, or deciding the case had uncovered that law.
According to WSJ and Scotusblog, the Court has ordered attorneys for Kennedy, the State of Louisiana, and the Justice Department to file briefs by September 17 addressing the relevance of that military statute and the need for a rehearing. Kennedy and Louisiana are permitted up to 4,500 words in their briefs, and the Justice Department has been given a limit of 2,500 words. Under Supreme Court Rule 33.1(g), the normal word-limit on a petition for rehearing is 3,000 words, but the Court may increase that limit "for good cause." (In contrast, note that a brief on the merits is normally entitled to 15,000 words.) Anyone want to take a guess on how many times the rehearing briefs will be revised, edited, and proofread?
supplements for legal research courses
An article recently posted on SSRN by Shawn G. Nevers (Brigham Young) provides a wealth of information--and potential teaching materials--for those who count legal research among their teaching responsibilities. Click here to access SSRN and download Legal Research Readings for Students: A Selective Annotated Bibliography. From the abstract:
Supplemental readings that are informative, interesting, and brief can do wonders in a legal research course. I use them to emphasize important points, facilitate interesting discussion, and provide a "real world" view of legal research. Students enjoy the change of pace and are generally engaged by the articles -- something I can't say about textbooks. This paper is a selective annotated bibliography of articles that could be used as supplemental readings in introductory and advanced legal research courses. The fourteen articles listed cover the importance of legal research, the research process, electronic legal research, and researching primary sources. As part of each annotation I have included my "two cents" about when and why these articles might be used in a legal research course.
Hat tip: Law Librarian Blog
job opening at Vermont
Vermont Law School has announced an opening in its Legal Writing Department for a contract position. The initial appointment will be for two years, followed by a second two-year contract and then renewable five-year contracts. Professors in the Legal Writing Department have full votng rights at faculty meetings on all issues except tenure. Base salary will be from $60,000 to the low $70,000s, depending on experience. Professors have a travel and research budget, serve on faculty committees, and may teach courses outside the Department, depending on their interests and the curricular needs of the school.
The Legal Writing Department at VLS has a innovative pedagogy which combines doctrine and writing in a rigorous, three-semester program. In the first-year course, each professor develops a curriculum based on a doctrinal subject matter of her/his choosing. The Department follows common requirements regarding length and number of assignments, but otherwise professors are encouraged to play to their strengths and interests in developing their courses. The writing program culminates with Appellate Advocacy, a three-credit course students take in the fall of their second year. Each professor selects a different case pending before the United States Supreme Court. Students brief and argue the case in a moot court setting. Professors teach approximately 40-45 students each semester.
Candidates must have a JD from an ABA-accredited law school and must possess a proven record of post-JD legal writing experience. Teaching experience, especially at the law school level, is desirable. To apply, send a cover letter, resume, writing sample, and law school transcript to: Coordinator, Legal Writing Hiring Committee, Vermont Law School, P.O. Box 96, South Royalton, VT 05068. Candidates may apply online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
kudos to Kristin Gerdy
hat tip: Jane Wise
Scribes - The American Society of Legal Writers
Scribes was founded in 1953 to promote an interest in writing about the law, a feeling of fraternity among those who do, and above all, "a clear, succinct, and forceful style in legal writing." You can join Scribes as an individual member if you satisfy one of the following writing requirements:
- you have written a book on a legal subject
- you have published two articles on legal subjects
- you have served as an editor of a legal publication, or
- you have published two or more opinions as a judge
You can join Scribes as an associate member if you don't yet meet the criteria for full membership. You can also urge your law school to join as an institutional member.
Scribes publishes the Scribes Journal of Legal Writing and a quarterly newsletter called The Scrivener. It sponsors three annual awards (the book award, the law review award, and the brief-writing award) and holds a really cool annual lunch that I've now been to a couple of times. (The pictures here are from the lunch -- click on any of them to enlarge them for better viewing)
September 11, 2008
Practice Meets Pedagogy conference scheduled for December
Registration is now open for the "Practice Meets Pedagogy" conference hosted by St. John's University School of Law on Friday, December 5, 2008. Conference topics address the changing world of law practice: 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, plus legal writing experts Jan Levine, Tracy McGaugh, Tina Stark and Kathleen Vinson, who will discuss how to bridge the gap and build the continuum between law school and law practice.
You can register online, using the conference webpage, but need to do so by November 14. Conference organizers caution participants to book hotels early. The registration webpage features a good budget option among the hotels listed there. If you need more information, contact Prof. Jane Scott, email@example.com, or Prof. Patricia Grande Montana (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Hat tip: Robin Boyle
kudos to Steve Homer
Legal writing professor Steve Homer has received the Friedman Faculty Award from the University of New Mexico School of Law. This award recognizes excellence in teaching and is a school-wide award. Well done, Steve!
hat tip: Professor Barbara Blumenfeld
September 10, 2008
Milani Award Judges
Writing competitions could not take place without the help of judges. These usually don't get paid much (hah!) to do this -- they step in out of sense of contribution, support, and respect for the competition.
The judges of the Milani Award Competition were Mary Beth Beazley (Ohio State University), Diane Dimond (Duke University), Ian Gallacher (Syracuse University), Kristin Gerdy (Brigham Young University), Pam Lysaght (University Detroit Mercy), Allison Martin (Indiana University), John Mollenkamp (Cornell University), Shannon Moritz (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Terry Phelps (American University Washington College of Law), Terrill Pollman (UNLV), Suzanne Rabe (University of Arizona), Anne Rector (Emory University), Judy Stinson (Arizona State University), and Christine Venter (Notre Dame).
Hat tip to Suzianne D. Painter-Thorne, Assistant Professor of Law at Mercer University School of Law
job opening at Pacific McGeorge
Pacific McGeorge School of Law anticipates an opening for a full-time Legal Process Instructor under a 10-month contract from August 1, 2009, to May 31, 2010. The person filling this position may teach two day-division sections or one section in the day division and one section in the evening division. Each section has approximately 20 students. This is a non-tenure track position with multi-year renewable contracts after the second year, based on performance.
Legal Process is a practical skills development course covering: legal analysis in the application of case and statutory law, legal research in print and electronic media, the forms of documents frequently prepared by lawyers, and correspondence. Persuasive writing to a trial or appellate court is not included in Legal Process because McGeorge students take Appellate and International Advocacy in their second year. This course is currently taught by other faculty, but the school is looking into combining the two programs at some point in the future. If this combination takes place, all Legal Process faculty will teach in both Legal Process and Appellate and International Advocacy.
All faculty in the program work from common texts and core assignments, but within that common structure there is significant latitude. There are also occasional opportunities to teach other courses for additional compensation and to teach in the summer school program. Full-time Legal Process faculty attend all faculty meetings and vote on all issues except for hiring, promotion, and tenure. In addition, all Legal Process faculty are eligible to serve and vote on faculty committees. The base salary will range from $40,000-49,999.
Applicants should possess an excellent law school record, strong written and oral skills, and at least three years of practice experience; previous teaching experience is highly desirable but not necessary. To apply for this position, send a cover letter, resume, writing sample, and references by November 1, 2008, to Hether Macfarlane, Director of Legal Process, Pacific McGeorge School of Law, 3200 Fifth Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95817.
new LWI Moot Court Committee creates listserv
The Legal Writing Institute has created a new committee for you, the Committee on Moot Court Competitions. The committee's charge is to gather and disseminate information about moot court programs and competitions and to facilitate communication about moot court among members of the Legal Writing Institute. To start the dialogue, committee organizers have created a new Moot Court Listserv. (This listserv is separate from the regular LRWPROF listserv to which LWI members subscribe.)
If you would like to be added to the new listserv, please email Jim Dimitri with your contact information. The listserv should be up and running shortly.
Milani Award winners
Professor Suzianne Painter-Thorne of Mercer University School of Law has announced the winners of the Milani Award:
"The Adam A. Milani Disability Law Writing Competition is a national disability law writing competition sponsored by the Mercer University School of Law and the ABA Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law. The competition honors the work of the late Professor Adam Milani, a passionate advocate for disability rights, an accomplished legal scholar, and a beloved faculty member at the Law School. Adam was a long-time legal writing professor and a dear friend and colleague to all of us in the legal writing community."
"This year three winners were selected from nearly ninety entries.
"The first place winner is Abigail Blodgett, from the University of Oregon School of Law. Congratulations to Ms. Blodgett and her writing professor Rebekah Hanley.
"In second place is Paul Lawler, from Florida State College of Law. Congratulations to Mr. Lawler and his legal writing professor, Patricia Matthews.
"The third place winner is Hana Nielsen-Kneisler, of UC Berkeley School of Law. Congratulations to Ms. Nielson-Kneisler and her legal writing professor, Lucinda Sikes."
Congratulations to these fine new legal writers and to their legal writing professors, who surely must be proud -- and deservedly so!
"Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever."
While you may be familiar with the Bulwer-Lytton contest for perfectly awful writing, you may not know (I didn't) about the Washington Post's invitations for reader submissions of awful analogies in 1995 and 1999. According to this post at The (new) legal writer, a collection of these amusing/disgusting comparisons has been making the e-mail rounds, purporting to have been taken from actual high school essays.
The sunset displayed rich, spectacular hues like a .jpeg file at 10 percent cyan, 10 percent magenta, 60 percent yellow and 10 percent black. (also submitted by Jennifer Hart)
The painting was very Escher-like, as if Escher had painted an exact copy of an Escher painting. (submitted by Joseph Romm, Washington)
The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work. (Malcolm Fleschner, Arlington)
Her eyes were like two brown circles with big black dots in the center. (Russell Beland, Springfield)
Bob was as perplexed as a hacker who means to access T:flw.quid 55328.com\aaakk/ch@ung but gets T:\flw.quid \aaakk/ch@ung by mistake. (Ken Krattenmaker, Landover Hills)
More Great Quotes About Legal Writing
"[I]t is not unconstitutional to be interesting." Ruggero J. Aldisert, Winning on Appeal Better Briefs and Oral Argument 163 (2d ed. 2003)
Hat tip to Evelyn C. Tombers
September 9, 2008
Volumes 4 & 5 of J. ALWD out now.
The Fall 2008 issue of J. ALWD is now available on the Journal's website and the print issue should arrive in mailboxes this week. At present, the Journal reaches over 3,500 subscribers including law professors, deans, libraries, lawyers, and judges. The print issue contains two volumes: Fall 2008's Legal Writing Beyond Memos & Briefs and Fall 2007's When Worlds Collide: Legal Writing & Clinical Programs. The double issue marks the start of broader electronic publication as well as annual print publication of the Journal. It's chock-a-block full of useful, practice oriented articles on everything from writing more effective demand letters, to drafting better contracts, to tips on improving the quality of judicial opinions. Grab it now!
I am the scholarship dude. (jbl)
Use of free online research tools outpaces fee services for first time.
According to the September 2008 issue of the ABA Journal Magazine, for the first time more lawyers are using free online research tools than commercial services. Other than that, the article, entitled "Web 2.0 Still a No-Go: Lawyers slow to adopt cutting edge technology," suggests that attorneys have generally been slower than other professionals in adopting cutting edge technologies into their practices. The article, with helpful charts showing the percentage of lawyers using various technologies, is available here.
I am the scholarship dude.
Linda Edwards in my Mailbox
I've seen many promotional pieces of literature over the years, but one of the nicest ones I can remember just arrived today. It is a postcard announcing that Linda Edwards of Mercer will be visiting at UNLV. You'll all likely get a copy of it too (unless I'm on some really special mailing list). It is a nice, simple piece. It has a great picture of Linda (she has an even bigger smile in the postcard). And we already all knew that she was going to UNLV for the year. But really, whoever designed this postcard for UNLV did a great job. And UNLV made a great decision in borrowing Linda for a year!