Saturday, September 27, 2008
This semester I asked my students not to bring laptops to legal writing class. (I do encourage them to bring their laptops when they are having a lesson dedicated specifically to research techniques, which they can identify by the syllabus.) It has been very refreshing to see them. Period. To see their eyes and facial expressions, to see if they are following the conversation or confused, even to see if they need a seventh-inning stretch. The whole classroom atmosphere feels more relaxed. I don't know if they feel any more relaxed than they would otherwise, but I sure feel more relaxed in the classroom than I did last year, because I'm not teaching while having the irritating feeling that I'm competing for their attention with the entire Internet.
A new post by Marc Blitz at Prawfsblog addresses the way legal reasoning is taught in substantive law courses. Blitz recently taught a course in legal reasoning, using Steven J. Burton's Introduction to Law and Legal Reasoning. Burton's preface claimed that in most courses, "[s]tudents are left largely to their own devices to extract worthwhile lessons about legal reasoning from examples and discussions.” Blitz wonders if that's still true and asks law professors the following:
[D]o you pause to ask how a court is analogizing or distinguishing a new set of facts to a prior case, or a hypothetical case that everyone would agree should come out a certain way – and to generalize about what makes for a strong or weak analogical argument? And how do you diagnose what’s going wrong where students run into trouble trying to make a convincing analogical argument (either in class or in exams)? Also, are those of you who teach substantive courses (like constitutional law or torts) familiar with the texts that your school’s Legal Writing or Legal Analysis teachers use to teach legal reasoning, and do you ever remind students of these texts in trying to get them to apply previously-learned lessons on legal reasoning in their substantive courses? Would it make sense to ask students to keep these texts throughout law school, instead of selling them, so that they and their teachers could refer back to them in their subsequent courses (which, whatever specific area of law they are about, will also be at least in part about honing one’s skills in legal reasoning and argumentation)?
The comment window at Prawfsblog is open.
University of Tennessee (and formerly Oklahoma City University) law professor Alex B. Long has a new article out that examines the use of music lyrics in legal writing. In [Insert Song Lyrics Here]: The Uses and Misuses of Popular Music Lyrics In Legal Writing, Long observes that "the most common use of popular music in legal writing is to either establish a title for a piece of scholarship or to 'provide a relevant prefatory quotation' in order to establish a theme," although his article also explores "more creative ways" music references are employed--such as the 7th Circuit's reference to a song by Ludacris in U.S. v. Murphy.
The article is scheduled to be published in volume 64 of the Washington and Lee Law Review. Download it here from SSRN, and have fun guessing what song inspired each of the article's internal headings. Not sure whether I envy the law review's cite-checking staff who had to confirm each of the 275 footnote citations.
hat tip: Christine Corcos, The Law & Humanities Blog
Friday, September 26, 2008
Here's another lesson in what not to do as an attorney courtesy of Youtube. This time, it's a 2L from University of Miami School of Law appearing before Judge Milian of "The People's Court" to defend what appears to be a condominium dispute or perhaps a landlord-tenant matter. No matter, this guy crashes and burns worse than a dirigible at Lakehurst, New Jersey.
Oh, the humanity of it.
I am the scholarship dude.
Mercer University School of Law will sponsor a Law & Rhetoric Workshop, Legal Writing Through a Rhetorical Lens, on Tuesday, January 6, 2009, at the Hilton San Diego, Gaslamp Quarter. The workshop will take place immediately before the start of the AALS Annual Meeting and at a hotel right across the street from the conference hotel.
The workshop is designed to bring together a group of people with common interests in legal rhetoric for a day of conversation that will generate new ideas and strengthen existing connections between rhetorical theory and legal writing scholarship, teaching, and practice. Steven J. Mailloux, Chancellor's Professor of Rhetoric at the University of California-Irvine, will begin the discussion; the other confirmed speakers so far are listed on the attached announcement.
Registration is free, but the workshop will be limited to the first 35 registrants. You may visit the workshop webpage for more details and to register. Mercer gratefully acknowledges support from the Legal Writing Institute for this workshop. To download a brochure describing the workshop, click here: Download mercerlawrhetoricworkshop1.06.09.pdf
hat tip: Linda Berger
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Thanks to our wonderful, Harvard bound law librarian Meg Kribble here at Nova Law School for finding this legal research gem on YouTube. It's a clip from the O.J. Simpson trial during which Marcia Clark is caught by Judge Ito having failed to Shepardize a key statute. After Ms. Clark advises the court that she found no cases interpreting the statute at issue, Judge Ito asks her if she "Shepardized" it. He then points out that his Pepperdine law clerks found some cases which Ms. Clark missed.
A good reminder for both practitioners and students to Shepardize those citations before heading to court!
I am the scholarship dude.
Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center in Fort Lauderdale-Davie, Florida, has one opening for a position in its First-Year Lawyering Skills and Values Program ("LSV"), beginning in July 2009. Appointment is at the rank of Assistant Professor of Law. Professors in the program are eligible for promotion and renewable contracts. After an LSV professor's fourth successful year of teaching LSV, he or she is promoted to Associate Professor of Law and is eligible for five-year renewable contracts. The current starting salary for a professor with little or no experience teaching legal writing/legal skills is in the $75,000 range, with the salary being adjusted based on experience. LSV professors may also receive benefits such as travel and professional development, professional dues, summer writing grants, sabbaticals, and research assistants. LSV professors have essentially the same rights as tenure-line professors. This includes the right to vote on all hiring, tenure, and promotion decisions.
The first-year program integrates legal theory with practice, professionalism, and technology, combining instruction in legal research, writing, and analysis with other lawyering skills, such as interviewing, counseling, and negotiating. The LSV faculty work together to develop the curriculum and materials. The fall semester focuses on teaching objective writing, research, and negotiation using state law, and it introduces the students to objective writing for transactional issues. The winter semester focuses on litigation and persuasive writing; students produce a pre-trial motion and supporting brief using federal law. The course ends with an oral argument and a mediation.
Most LSV professors teach between 25 and 30 students in their LSV course, and most LSV professors also teach a doctrinal course. This course is chosen based on the professor's skills and the school's needs; current doctrinal needs include Property and Intellectual Property.
Candidates should have significant experience in the practice of law as well as a strong academic background. To apply, send a resumé and cover letter to Professor Eloisa C. Rodriguez-Dod, Faculty Appointments Committee Chair, Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center, 3305 College Avenue, Fort Lauderdale-Davie, Florida 33314-7721. Representatives from the law school will attend the AALS recruitment conference in November but will also interview on campus. If you will be attending the AALS recruitment conference, indicate that in your cover letter. Direct questions to Prof. Rodriguez-Dod or Anthony Niedwiecki.
Share your news with others! The AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research is soliciting news items for the fall newsletter. News items may include upcoming conferences as well as recent promotions, publications, awards, etc. If you have news, send it to Donna Williamson by Monday, October 6.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Let's celebrate punctuation! The originator of National Punctuation Day, Jeff Rubin, has a very cool website; it allows you to click on a punctuation mark to learn more about it. It also has suggestions for celebrating the day, as well as photos of incorrectly punctuated signs--fun to use in class as a teaching tool.
(See a related news article too.)
In celebration of the 100,000th visitor to the Legal Writing Prof Blog not long ago, we promised to feature the visitor's legal writing program in this space. Ruth Vance of Valparaiso University School of Law was the lucky winner, and we are pleased to share the following highlights of her school's program, as well as introduce you to her faculty colleagues.
For over ten years, Valparaiso has required its students to take a writing course in each of their three years, for a total ten credit hours of legal writing and research. The first semester of the first-year curriculum concentrates on objective legal analysis through comprehensive case briefs, office memoranda, and an opinion letter. The second semester focuses on persuasive and scholarly writing. In persuasive writing, students produce a trial brief and an appellate brief; they also orally argue their appellate briefs to three-judge panels drawn from a pool of local judges, practicing attorneys, law professors, moot court society members, and student teaching assistants. Scholarly writing is introduced with a case comment assignment.
In addition to learning how to find cases, statutes, and secondary material, students learn to use administrative law materials and looseleaf services and to find and use legislative history. Students are taught how to do print and computer research for each source simultaneously. Students demonstrate their research proficiency through a practical exam and a written final exam in addition to exercises using each source.
During the second year students choose from an array of courses, including advanced legal research, advanced appellate advocacy (civil or criminal), and drafting courses in specific substantive areas of law.
Third-year students participate in a seminar where they do in-depth research on a particular topic, produce a scholarly paper, and present it to the seminar.
Six full-time professors composed of tenured, long-term contract, and visiting faculty teach in the first year program. Permanent faculty in addition to Ruth Vance are Mark Adams, Marcia Gienapp, Clare Neuchterlein, and Susan Stuart.
Valpo Law was on the forefront of granting tenure to professors who teach legal writing; the first such grant was made in 1990. Librarians team teach research. The second-year writing courses are staffed by a mixture of full-time and adjunct faculty. The third-year seminars are led by full-time faculty.
In the first-year program, student teaching assistants conduct weekly supplemental meetings with groups of about six students. Besides providing needed mentoring, the teaching assistants reinforce what is discussed in class, answer student questions, conduct individual conferences, critique student papers, and teach citation. This is in addition to the teaching, conferencing, and critiquing done by the professors. Thus, students benefit from two pairs of eyes looking at their work. All grading is done by the professors.
Repeatedly, students and alumni report that the preparation in legal research, writing, and problem-solving that they received at Valpo Law was the key to successfully launching and sustaining their legal careers.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Rutgers University School of Law and the University of Wyoming College of Law hosted A Dialogue about Persuasion in Legal Writing & Lawyering on Friday, September 19, 2008, at the new law school building in Camden, NJ. Inspired by the advanced legal writing textbook written by Michael R. Smith, the conference featured panels of speakers addressing different aspects of the dynamic trio of Aristotelian rhetoric--logos, pathos, and ethos. Smith, who holds the title of Winston S. Howard Distinguished Professor of Law at Wyoming, kicked things off with a clear and sensible overview of the operation of those three classical processes of persuasion. In his concluding remarks, he urged conference attendees to contribute their ideas and energies to further developing the scholarly discipline of legal writing.
Jason Cohen and Sheila Rodriguez moderated the logos panel, which featured Steve Jamar (Howard), Kathy Stanchi (Temple), and Coleen Barger (University of Arkansas at Little Rock) (cmb on this blog). Coleen explored the question, "What are established legal authorities?" (admittedly also drifting into factual authorities)--particularly as the legal profession is more likely to research and cite them on the Internet. Steve compared the limits of logos as a persuasive tool in two Supreme Court decisions from last term: Boumediene and Heller, which reached consistent results (upholding an individual right against the government) even as the majority and minority sides in each case differed markedly. Kathy's theme was that the boundary between logos and pathos is a thin one, and she offered examples of persuasive strategies that--although appearing to be based in logos--are successful because of their emotional impact.
Ken Chestek moderated the pathos panel, explaining the "DNA of persuasion," or how the double strands of logic and emotion intertwine in a double helix. This panel was made up of Ellie Margolis (Temple), Jim Lupo (Northwestern), and Linda Berger (Mercer). Ellie explained that policy arguments work because of both pathos and logos, in that they are based on the values decisionmakers find persuasive. Jim examined the substantive due process basis of Lawrence v. Texas, taking a closer look at the "sacred precincts" of same-sex couples' relationships. Linda used the story of King Solomon to help us understand how narrative and metaphor can influence a judge's decision, using interesting twists on the possible motivations of the characters in that ancient tale.
Alison Nissen and Meredith Schalick moderated the final panel on ethos, which was comprised of Melissa Weresh (Drake), Victoria Chase (Rutgers-Camden), and Scott Wood (Loyola-Los Angeles). Mel showed us how ethos can be made an integral part of a first-year law student's education in professionalism, using film clips from "A Civil Action" and "Philadelphia" to illustrate important values. Victoria provided many examples from trial clinics to demonstrate how law students must be cognizant of their multiple audiences at trial and how those audiences assess the students' credibility. Scott also used a film clip, this one from "Billy Budd, Sailor" (based on the Melville short story) to demonstrate how trial advocacy exercises based on literary trials such as Budd's can induce students to grapple with the tension between morality and the rule of law.
Many thanks to all who contributed to this outstanding conference, including (in addition to those named above) Sarah Ricks, Ruth Anne Robbins, Carol Wallinger, and Robert Sachs.
The second edition of Kenneth Adams' "A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting" has just been published by the ABA Section on Business Law. It's widely considered the definitive book on the subject. Ken also maintains a blog devoted to the subject for those interested in a more regular diet of his effective drafting morsels.
In addition, DePaul adjunct Legal Writing Professor and Chicago practitioner Bret Rappaport has just published an article in the most recent volume of JALWD entitled "A Shot Across the Bow" about drafting effective demand letters. His article discusses "everything from the psychological aspects of an effective demand to the timing and mode of physically delivering the letter" according to Raymond Ward's blog. Bret's article is available on JALWD's website here.
Hat tip to "the (new) legal writer" blog.
I am the scholarship dude.
For anyone who’s interested, I’ve just launched a blog relating to law school moot court, mock trial, and ADR activities. It’s called “The Bench Brief,” and the address is www.thebenchbrief.com. Go there and you can subscribe to new posts via feed reader or e-mail.
Aside from providing competition results and updates, I hope it will serve as a resource to professors, advisors, and coaches who dabble in advocacy competitions, as well as to students who are venturing into to the wide world of law school advocacy.