Friday, January 25, 2008

lessons from practice

A recent post at the (new) legal writer describes the author's experiences in proofreading and finalizing a brief to a federal court of appeals. An experienced appellate advocate, he details the painstaking steps he followed to detect and correct the tiny errors that were lurking in the brief. He found 71. And this is someone who cares enough about careful writing to regularly blog on the topic. Because he cares, he took the time to comb his brief with the precise goal of catching these glitches.

Law students often ask us for models that they can follow. Such models can be more than sample documents; they can be models of thoughtful professionalism. Offer them this example.


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

job opening at Chapman

Chapman University School of Law invites applications for a full-time, non-tenure track position in the Legal Research and Writing program for the 2008-2009 academic year. The initial appointment is for a one-year Instructor rank contract (based on a ten-month term), beginning in August 2008.  After the initial term, the teacher is eligible for reappointment and long-term renewal. The first-year program is a required, two-semester course (3 credits in the fall; 2 credits in the spring), integrating the writing and legal research components.   

Applicants should be admitted to at least one state bar, preferably California. Prior teaching experience is desirable, although not required. Final candidates must submit to a background check. To apply, send a letter of application, resume, writing sample, and names and phone numbers of three references to
Ms. Barbara Babcock, Executive Assistant to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Chapman University School of Law, One University Drive, Orange, CA 92866.


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

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Billable Hours and Legal Writing

An article in this morning's New York Times describes how some law firms are trying to get away from the billable hour and how all law firms are (or at least should be) trying to improve the lives of their associates and partners.  [The article is by Lisa Belkin, Who's Cuddly Now? Law Firms -- Abandoning Billable Hours May Help Slow the Treadmill, N.Y. Times, Jan. 24, 2008, at E1.]

The article states that in the 1960s and 1970s, law firms required between 1,600 and 1,800 billable hours a year (about 34 hours a week).  But today that requirement has risen to 2,000 to 2,200 billable hours a year (about 42 billable hours each week, which would usually take more than 60 hours a week).

Not mentioned in the article is how the increase in billable hours produced a decrease in the amount of time that associates had for honing their legal writing skills.  Partners and other associates -- who in past years may have had time to coach new associates on their writing skills -- no longer have the time to devote to non-billable matters.  Meanwhile, pressure by clients to keep bills in line means that there may be less time devoted to such fundamental matters as editing, revising, and even proofreading in some cases.

I applaud those firms that are looking for ways to help new associates improve their legal writing (and research) skills, and to improve the quality of life for all lawyers and their families. 

(mew) Mark E. Wojcik, The John Marshall Law School-Chicago   

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

Westlaw DOES Have a Sense of Humor!

Westlaw does its part to prevent the abuse of stress toys.  Enjoy.


January 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Golden Pen Award

Eighth Golden Pen Award

Julie M. Spanbauer, Chair, LWI Awards Committee and Professor, The John Marshall Law School, Chicago

The Honorable Ruggero J. Aldisert, Senior Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, was the recipient of the eighth Golden Pen Award, which was conferred by the Legal Writing Institute on January 3, 2008, at the Association of American Law Schools Annual Meeting in New York.  Lisa Aldisert accepted the award on behalf of her father, who was unable to travel to New York due to concerns about his health.

Judge Aldisert was honored for contributions in his capacity as judge, educator, and writer. As an author, Judge Aldisert has promoted the use of clear language in the following popular and influential books addressing legal writing issues:

·         Winning on Appeal: Better Briefs and Oral Argument (NITA 2nd ed. 2003);

·         Logic for Lawyers: A Guide to Clear Legal Thinking (NITA 3rd ed. 1997); and

·         The Judicial Process: Text, Materials and Cases (2nd ed. West 1996).


During a long and distinguished career on the bench, Judge Aldisert has promoted the use of clear language in the many opinions he has written.  For more than 20 years, Judge Aldisert contributed to the education of numerous law students in his capacity as an adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.


For all of these reasons, Judge Aldisert was chosen to receive the eighth Golden Pen Award.

Further information about the Legal Writing Institute and its Golden Pen Award is available at  Information about the memberships (which are free!) is also available on the website.

Background about the Legal Writing Institute

The Legal Writing Institute is a nonprofit corporation founded in 1984 by the University of Puget Sound School of Law – now Seattle University School of Law. The Institute’s purpose is to exchange ideas about legal writing and to provide a forum for research and scholarship about legal writing and legal analysis. The Institute is currently housed at Mercer University School of Law in Macon, Georgia.

The Institute promotes new activities through a newsletter, published twice a year; a scholarly journal, published about once a year; and a national conference that has been held every other year since 1984.

The Institute has close to 2000 members representing all the ABA-accredited law schools in the United States. The Institute also has members from other countries, as well as from English departments, independent research-and-consulting organizations, and the practicing bar. Anyone who is interested in legal writing or the teaching of legal writing may join the Institute.

Hat tip to Julie Spanbauer of The John Marshall Law School-Chicago.  So, who wants to share their pictures of this event?


January 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Researching Foreign Law

Mary Rumsey has updated her Basic Guide to Researching Foreign Law.  She is the Foreign, Comparative & International Law Librarian at the University of Minnesota.  She has a B.A. degree from the University of Wisconsin, a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School, and a master's degree in library and information science from Dominican University.    

Basic Guide to Researching Foreign Law  by Mary Rumsey

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

Legal Research - The Movie

A silent movie about legal research, made last year (apparently by the students using the Stanford Law Library).  Enjoy.


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

remembering Dr. King

Martinlutherking2Our colleagues at the Law Librarian Blog have assembled a thoughtful collection of items commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, including YouTube videos of the historic and inspirational "I Have a Dream" and "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speeches. Read, watch, and think.


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

clear, persuasive writing earns inmate SCOTUS review

Most lawyers—even most appellate lawyers—never get the chance to take a case to the United States Supreme Court. A South Carolina inmate, however, has succeeded, writing a persuasive and cogent petition for writ of certiorari. The Court granted the writ prepared by Keith Burgess and has placed his case on its docket for argument this term.

Burgess’s newly appointed counsel is proud of his client, according to a recent news story:

"He has accomplished what tens of thousands of attorneys across the country have not been able to," said Stanford Law School professor Jeffrey L. Fisher, who now represents Burgess. "I told him he should really be proud of himself."

The case is Burgess v. United States, No. 06-11429. To view the petition for writ of cert, click Download Brief_01-21-08_115934.pdf .


January 21, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)