Saturday, October 4, 2008

answers from Chicago

The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) has a delightful online Q & A feature, with editors bravely answering writers' questions about abbreviations, bibliographies, footnotes, quotations, punctuation, and which vs. that, among others. Sometimes they'll send you straight to the rules that govern the question:

Q. Can you direct me to the reference in CMOS that would cover writing 15mph (no space) or 150 mph (with space) and 8mm (no space) or 8 mm (space)? Thank you!

A. That would be CMOS 9.17–18, showing a space between the number and the abbreviation.

Some of their answers are more opinionated:

Q. Microsoft Word says that I need to put an apostrophe in the word students in the following sentence. Why? Where is the possessive? “We will be enrolling new students right up to the day school starts.”

A. Grammar-checking software is still relatively clueless. I think Word decided that right is a noun in your sentence, probably because in its unbending mind “up to the day” looks like a prepositional phrase modifying right. (Perhaps right up is a little too colloquial to compute in Word’s dictionary.) So Word thinks you are enrolling the right of new students (students’ right), up to the day school starts. Luckily, you know what you mean.

Sometimes the editors get a little impatient:

Q.For those who make a hobby of cruising garage sales, are they going “garage sale-ing,” “garage saling,” or “garage saleing?” Or are they not permitted this usage?

A.Oh, my. Is garage saleing anything like parasailing? The mind boggles. As you suspected, this phrase would not survive the red pencil at Chicago. (Why can’t you just go to garage sales?) I can tell you that suffixes like “ing” don’t normally take a hyphen. After that, you’re on your own.

To receive a free monthly e-mail from CMOS with the latest Q & A, go here.


October 4, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Monty Python props

Holyhandgrenades Admit it--it's your guilty pleasure--some of you are Monty Python fans. We know that some legal writing profs wear costume-y things at times (does Darth Vader ring a bell?), so if you are (coco)nuts about Monty Python (especially the Holy Grail characters), check out this site for wonderful props to enhance your classroom teaching--or make things more interesting for the neighborhood kids who trick-or-treat your house.Timtheenchanterhat

Whether it's King Arthur's tunic (wonderful to wear while saying, "A duck!"), or Tim the Enchanter's fashionable horned skullcap, or a bobblehead of one of the Knights of Ni, or a pair of Holy Hand Grenades, you will surely find something you cannot live (or teach) without.


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

podcasting legal skills instruction

Since launching earlier this year on iTunes U, the Suffolk University Law School Legal Practice Skills podcasts have experienced enormous success, with one recording ranking among the top 10 most downloaded law-related iTunes U podcasts worldwide.   In addition, the Weekly Legal Writing podcast series is now listed as "New and Noteworthy" on the ITunes U main page and not even specifically under Social Science (Law). 

Each week, a different Suffolk Law professor records and uploads a 5-to-10-minute podcast corresponding to his or her academic syllabus. In the past few weeks, the Legal Practice Skills’ “Annotated Sample Memo” has ranked as high as iTunes U’s second-most downloaded law-related podcast, beating out hundreds of others.

On December 1, 2008, the Legal Practice Skills Program will host a conference of the Consortium of New England Legal Writing Teachers.  The conference theme is “Teaching Through Technology.”  It will be held at Suffolk Law, where podcasts, among other technological teaching tools, will be demonstrated and discussed.


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

call for proposals for APPEAL's South Africa conference

APPEAL (Academics Promoting the Pedagogy of Effective Advocacy in Law) and theAppeallogo  University of Pretoria Faculty of Law will host the Conference on Promoting the Teaching of Legal Writing in Southern Africa on July 1-4, 2009, in Pretoria, South Africa. The conference will focus on the development of curricula in legal writing for law faculties in Southern Africa, with particular emphasis on teaching large, undergraduate classes of students with a variety of language and educational backgrounds. The conference will feature a small number of plenary sessions, including a few keynote speeches, but will primarily be organized around workshops and small group sessions.   

Interested persons are invited to submit proposals on any of following themes:

  • Establishing goals and objectives for the teaching of legal writing
  • Deciding on a staffing model for teaching legal writing
  • Funding legal writing programs
  • Hiring individuals to teach legal writing
  • Training individuals to teach legal writing
  • Developing teaching materials and other resources
  • Teaching legal writing to large undergraduate classes
  • Teaching legal writing to students with a variety of language backgrounds
  • Teaching legal writing to students with a variety of educational backgrounds
  • Teaching legal writing as part of a clinical program
  • Integrating the teaching of legal writing with the teaching of doctrinal courses
  • Collaborating with other university departments, such as the language arts department, on developing on legal writing programs
  • Teaching legal writing to candidate attorneys, members of the bar, and members of the bench.

Proposals should follow the outline detailed in this flyer:
Download Request_for_Proposals_for_Pretoria_Conference.doc

Send your outline to Seattle University Prof. Mimi Samuel, co-president of APPEAL, no later than November 14, 2008. 


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

pop quiz (the series?)

One of our favorite writing blogs, Set in Style, posted a pop quiz today asking readers to identify the grammatical error(s) in a recent judicial order. See if you can spot the error(s)--without scrolling down to read answers posted by other readers.

The person who was first to post the right answer is winning a prize (the nature of the prize hasn't been revealed  it's a ball cap with "Grammar Queen" logo!). So you're too late to win this time, but if you'd like to see more pop quizzes of this nature, leave a comment to that effect on the blog. You might persuade the blogmaster to make them a regular Friday feature.


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

new flyer available for DC conference on rhetoric

A new flyer has been issued concerning the "How Legal Rhetoric Shapes the Law: The Language of Violence and Torture" conference that American University, Washington College of Law is sponsoring on November 7, 2008.

Registration is free; it includes lunch and a dinner. Even better, the conference features a great line-up of speakers on two panels, plus a keynote address by Peter Brooks, author of "Narrative Transactions--Does the Law Need a Narratology?"

Click here to download the flyer, which provides a wealth of detail about what promises to be a very informative conference: Download RhetoricConferenceFlyer.doc

hat tip: Theresa Godwin Phelps


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

collecting data on legal writing professors' status

Professor Gail Stephenson of the Southern University Law Center has for some period of time collected data on the employment status of legal writing faculty across the nation, and she's presently working on an article concerning ABA Standard 405(c). Such scholarship is enriched by access to the most current information.

What is the employment status of legal writing professors at your school? Single-year contract? Longer contracts (3 years, 5 years, 7 years)? Tenure-track? Some combination of the above?

You can ask Gail for a copy of the data she has collected so far to check whether your school's information is accurate. Or just send her the current information for your school.


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

call for proposals for 2nd Storytelling Conference

Organizers of the Applied Storytelling Conference have announced plans for the second biennial gathering of this group, to be held at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon, on July 22-24, 2009.

The first conference, whose proceedings and papers are chronicled in two recent publications, volume 43 of The Law Teacher (Thomson 2007) and volume 14 of the LWI Journal, took place in London in 2007. The second conference is designed to bring together lawyers, judges, and professors "to explore the role of narrative in legal practice and curricular strategies that will prepare students to use story and narrative as they enter the practice of law."

Interested persons are invited to propose presentations on the role of narrative in the practice of law. The conference flyer contains suggested topics, but also asks applicant to "be creative." The conference will feature 45-60 minute presentations as well as roundtable discussions.

Details are available here: Download applied_storytelling_2_cfp.pdf


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

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Words Matter: What to Call Your Plans for Class

When I first started teaching, I named what I was planning to do “lesson plans.”  When I came back to my document a year later, I thought, “geez, I’m teaching in a university, not a pre-school, and quickly changed the names of all of my documents to “lecture notes.”  While I incorporate a lot of discussion and exercises into my “lecture notes,” I think that the name of the document implicitly raised my fears that I was not providing enough content.  The name of the document itself gave me permission to talk more.  Similarly, my power point “presentations” put pressure on me to present more and engage less.  This phenomenon is ironic since the most successful class I ever taught was the one where my preparation consisted of developing three provocotive questions that would help guide the class discussion – and student participation, learning, and evaluations were incredible. 

Laurie Zimet recently inspired my new mantra, “stop talking to start teaching,” and Linda Cortez previously provided this pearl of wisdom:  “I begin planning each lecture by asking myself what my students are going to do.”  I’m now reconsidering if I shouldn’t rethink what I call my class plans.  “Lesson plans” or “learning objectives and activities” or “action plan” might do.  I’m not sure what I’m going to call them yet, but one thing is certain, I’m not going to call them “lecture notes” or “presentations.”  Words matter.

Guest contributor Hillary Burgess
Assistant Professor of Academic Support
Hofstra Law School

October 2, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

When the writing professor has writer's block

This article from the September 26, 2008 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education may help.  It discusses a new boutique profession devoted to assisting academics struggling with writer's block, not an insignificant problem if your position requires you to publish for promotion or tenure.

I am the scholarship dude.


October 1, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

kudos to Dave Romantz!

Long-time legal writing director and professor at the University of Memphis, David Romantz, has been tapped to be the next Associate Dean of Academic Affairs there.  He begins his new post in the summer of 2009.  Next year that law school is also moving into a new $40 million-plus building in downtown Memphis on the banks of the Mississippi River, in a renovated turn-of-the-last-century federal customs & court house.  Congratulations, Dave!


October 1, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

metaphorically speaking, the bailout is . . .

Cow Columnist Dana Milbank of the Washington Post covered Monday's debate on the House floor concerning the proposed Wall Street bailout. He noticed that some of the members had rather colorful ways of expressing their opinions on the bill. For example, he described Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) as "downright earthy in his imagery" when the Congressman intoned, "Madam Speaker, this is a huge cow patty with a piece of marshmallow stuck in the middle of it. . . . I'm not going to eat that cow patty."

For other vivid (or bizarre) figures of speech, read the whole column.

hat tip: Law Librarian Blog


October 1, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

rehearing denied in Kennedy v. Louisiana

We reported recently about the request for rehearing in Kennedy v. Louisiana, a case in which everyone, including the justices' law clerks, overlooked a recent federal statute that permitted the death penalty in military courts for defendants convicted of child rape.

Today the Court denied the request for rehearing, but in doing so, amended the majority and dissenting opinions to account for that oversight.

For more detailed news on the Court's decision, see the Wall Street Journal Law Blog.


October 1, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

the Future of the Legal Course Book

The Chronicle of Higher Ed has an article today about Seattle U's workshop on the "Future of the Legal Course Book."  Participants met to discuss the preparation and promotion of electronic course materials.  They believe that electronic course materials would promote innovative teaching, consistent with the recent Carnegie report and best practices publications.


October 1, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thanks, Blog Readers

Last month was our best ever in the history of this blog.  We had 7,891 visits and 12,478 page views in September.  On behalf of all the editors, thank you for visiting us.  Please continue to send us guest posts as well -- we're happy to promote your scholarship, conferences, hiring opportunities, and other legal writing events.


October 1, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

SSRN papers on legal writing

One good way to keep up with new scholarship in legal writing is to read this blog, as our "scholarship dude," Jim Levy, brings new publications to your attention. Recent examples are here (new publications on contract drafting and demand letters) and here (latest issues of J. ALWD).

Another good way to keep abreast of new writing in our field is to subscribe to the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) eJournal for legal writing (and of course, for you writers to post your articles there!).

You can view papers in the SSRN Legal Writing eJournal by visiting this link. Or you can have SSRN send the abstracts to your e-mail inbox; to subscribe, go here.


September 30, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A Good Issue for a Legal Writing Problem

When you steal someone's identity, you're guilty of identity theft. The circuits are split, however, on whether you are still guilty of identity theft if the person whose identity you're using is an invented person. You're still guilty of fraud and other such crimes or torts, but I think there is a great issue here for a legal writing problem narrowed on the issue of identity theft. Click here for a link to the Statutory Construction Blog, which discusses the split in a number of posts.


September 30, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 29, 2008

an abundance of good jobs teaching legal writing

Cruising through the blogosphere tonight, I ran across this sad account by someone disappointed by reports relating how teaching fellows in legal writing aren't doing what they really want to do. And then there's the reference in that same post to that depressing article that describes the woeful experience of one legal writing instructor almost nine years ago.

True, there are a few bad jobs out there, and it's also true that at some places, legal writing faculty are not treated with respect. Fortunately, these are the exceptions and not the rule. A number of schools have made huge gains in the last few years--in status, voting rights, salary, class size, office placement, curriculum, and more.

Right now there are a lot of good jobs being advertised in legal writing, and they're available all over the country. Several are tenure-track positions. All of the following postings from this blog are recent, none older than August 1, 2008:

And check out the Employment Listings board at the Legal Writing Institute website.


September 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

plain language . . . success!

The Center for Plain Language, in Washington, D.C., is sponsoring an afternoon symposium on November 7, 2008, at the National Press Club. The symposium is dedicated to plain-language success stories, particularly in their effect on cost savings and other benefits. The symposium will be followed by a reception.

Scheduled speakers and topics include the following:

  • Dr. Susan Kleimann, President, Kleimann Communication, Lending documents: Bottom-line Benefits of Plain Language
  • Josiah Fiske, President, Firehouse Financial, Plain Funny: Using Simple Language and Sophisticated Humor to Change How Employees Think
  • Dr. Arthur Culbert, Senior Advisor, Missouri Foundation for Health, A Vision for a Health-Literate Missouri: Building a Statewide Health Literacy Center
  • Dr. William Smith, Executive Vice President, Academy for Educational Development, Health Literacy and Social Marketing: A Unique Partnership
  • Barb McLaughlin, Vice President, Smart Source Healthcare, Cure Patients and Profits with Clear Communications
  • Irene Itzkorn, Group Director of Simplification, Siegel+Gale, Amazingly Simple Stuff
  • Deborah Bosley, Director, Center for Humanities, Technology, and Science, UNC Charlotte, Unexpected Results: Usability and Redesign in TIAA-CREF's Minimum Distribution Letter to Participants

The Center for Plain Language will also hold a briefing on the current federal legislation requiring certain government documents to be in plain language.

Click here for more information and a registration form. Cost of the symposium alone is $100 to members and $150 to non-members of the Center for Plain Language; for both the symposium and the reception (must be a doozie!), the cost goes up to $200 for members and $250 for non-members. Get the boss to pay.

Hat tip: Joe Kimble


September 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

confronting adverse authority

Bonfire Kathy Stanchi (Temple) has posted her new article, Playing with Fire: The Science of Confronting Adverse Authority in Legal Advocacy, on SSRN. You can download it here:

Here's the abstract:   

For a long time, practitioners and scholars have debated whether volunteering negative information in legal advocacy is strategically advisable. Many advocates consider disclosure of information that is unfavorable to the client's case to be inconsistent with the duty of zealous advocacy, while others consider disclosure to be the surer path to victory. The advocates on both sides of this debate rely largely on legal lore to justify their beliefs about what persuades jurors and judges. Even within this vigorous debate, the growing body of scientific research on the subject of persuasion has not played a pivotal role, and in the few instances when the science is mentioned, the nuances and details of it are glossed over.

Playing with Fire changes the nature of the debate by examining in depth the social science studies about disclosure of negative information in a persuasive situation, including all their nuances and complexities. In particular, Playing with Fire is the first law journal article to look at all the major scientific studies in the contexts of law, advertising and politics that examine how an audience reacts to an advocate's voluntary disclosure of negative information. The article applies the results and underlying theories of these studies to the question of disclosure of adverse information in legal advocacy. The result is a deeper, more nuanced picture of how to deal with adverse information than has previously characterized the debate in the legal context.

Kathy recently discussed some of her findings at the Rutgers-Camden conference on legal persuasion.


September 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)