Saturday, November 22, 2008
"The Power of Brevity: Adopt Abraham Lincoln's Habits"
JULIE A. OSEID University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)
This short article focuses on the persuasive power of brevity in legal writing, using Abraham Lincoln as a role model. Lincoln's eloquence was grounded in his ability to express much with few words. He learned the power of brevity while practicing law.
The article reviews Lincoln's legal career, and examines Lincoln's use of brevity to persuade in three of his presidential speeches. I explore Lincoln's writing and editing habits. I urge modern lawyers to adopt Lincoln's habits of writing early, visualizing audience, and editing with ruthlessness to increase eloquence and persuasiveness.
"Toward a Deeper Understanding of Professionalism: Learning to Write and Writing to Learn during the First Two Weeks of Law School"
BEN BRATMAN, University of Pittsburgh - School of Law
Law schools are under pressure to instill in their students a sense of professionalism, but what exactly does professionalism mean? And what can professors of legal writing do to lay an educational foundation of professionalism? They are, after all, the teachers who at most schools have the greatest interaction with the impressionable first-year students.
Professionalism is frequently used to mean a variety of behaviors that are important for lawyers to exhibit, but that are also important for those in business - outside the traditional professions - to exhibit. In the context of legal education, professionalism is better understood to mean those characteristics of a profession that distinguish it from a business. The most important distinguishing characteristic of a profession is that its essence and primary imperative are public service. The notion that lawyers, as professionals, must prioritize public service over profits is a romantic one, but an essential one for law students to understand.
As a professor of legal writing, my first of what I hope will become many steps in conveying this sense of professionalism to my first-year students is a writing assignment to be completed during the first two weeks of law school. The assignment asks students to analyze whether a fictional personal injury attorney is running a permitted professional office or a prohibited business office under a zoning ordinance. The students write a short inter-office memo applying a real precedent case in which a court ruled an insurance agent ran a business office. In crafting and using this memo assignment, I have dual goals - ensuring my students learn to write and also write to learn (about professionalism).
"The Citation of Wikipedia in American Judicial Opinions"
LEE F. PEOPLES, Oklahoma City University School of Law
Wikipedia has been cited almost 300 times in American judicial opinions as of September, 2008. Courts cite Wikipedia for a wide range of purposes. Some citations are merely mundane references to everyday facts well known by the general public. In other opinions, Wikipedia is cited as a basis for the court's reasoning or to support a conclusion about an adjudicative fact at issue in the case. In a notable recent case, Badasa v. Mukasey, 2008 WL 3981817 (8th Cir. 2008), The Eighth Circuit remanded a Board of Immigration Appeals decision because it upheld a lower court's finding based on information obtained from Wikipedia.
This article will comprehensively examine citations to Wikipedia in American judicial opinions. The impact of references to Wikipedia in judicial opinions on law of evidence, judicial ethics, the judicial role in the common law adversarial system, the de-legalization of American law, and the future of stare decisis will be explored. Best practices for the citation of Wikis in judicial opinions will be discussed.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Congratulations to the new officer nominees of the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Research, and Reasoning: Martha Pagliari as Chair-Elect and this blog's own Mark Wojcik as Section Secretary.
Martha has been teaching at the DePaul University College of Law for four years and is the Associate Director of DePaul's LARC department. She serves as the Professor Reporter for the Study Committee on Complex Litigation for the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts. That work, coupled with her experience as a partner in a Chicago civil litigation firm and her service on several committees for Illinois and Chicago bar associations, makes Martha well-prepared to assist incoming Chair Rachel
Croskery-Roberts in the business of the Section.
Mark has taught at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago and at other universities internationally since 1992. Before then, he worked as a judicial clerk and practicing attorney. Mark has considerable experience within various AALS Sections, legal writing organizations, and ABA committees. His extensive computer skills and his deep experience as the editor of several newsletters make him well-suited to undertake the Secretary's responsibility of creating the Section's semi-annual newsletter.
The election of officers will take place at the AALS annual meeting during the Section's luncheon on Friday, January 9th at 12:15.
Thanks are due to the hard-working and wise members of the Section's Nominating Committee: Leah Christensen, Greg Johnson, Jim Levy, Sharon Pocock, Judy Rosenbaum, Susan Thrower, and Christine Venter.
According to Typealyzer, a Swedish website that purports to analyze the Myers-Briggs personality type of a blog's author, we collectively add up to INTJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging), or as the site describes us, "Scientists":
The long-range thinking and individualistic type. They are especially good at looking at almost anything and figuring out a way of improving it - often with a highly creative and imaginative touch. They are intellectually curious and daring, but might be pshysically [sic] hesitant to try new things.
The Scientists enjoy theoretical work that allows them to use their strong minds and bold creativity. Since they tend to be so abstract and theoretical in their communication they often have a problem communcating their visions to other people and need to learn patience and use conrete examples. Since they are extremly good at concentrating they often have no trouble working alone.
I tried classifying my boating blog with Typealyzer, too, but the site thought my blog was written in Thai (??!!). Yeah, that's me, the not-so-well-known-language type.
hat tip: Chris Wren & Kevin Drum
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Grammar, punctuation, and style are enjoying a renaissance today, so lawyers have more choices than ever before about guides to help them. That's the word from Jill Hayford at Marquette University School of Law, whose column in the November 2008 issue of the Wisconsin Lawyer Magazine launches a new legal writing series that will appear in the magazine. Click here to read about the article. That link has a further link to the article itself.
Hat tip to Jessica Slavin, who shared this news with us.
Congratulations go out to Professor Amy Langenfeld, at Arizona State University, who received a unanimous faculty vote this week, both for both tenure and for promotion to full Clinical Professor of Law. In addition to Amy, legal writing professors Chad Noreuil, Tamara Herrara, Zig Popko, and Judy Stinson all have clinical tenure there now. Excellent news!
hat tip: Prof. Judy Stinson
The Journal of the Association of Legal Writing Directors (JALWD) is a group that REALLY knows how to plan ahead. They are inviting articles for their Fall 2010 issue on the theme of “Metaphor and Narrative.”
That’s right. We’re not even in 2009, and they’re already planning the issue for 2010.
In addition to articles on the theme, they welcome encourages articles that (1) focus on the substance of legal writing; (2) are grounded in legal doctrine, empirical research, or interdisciplinary theory; and (3) are accessible and helpful to all “do-ers” of legal writing: attorneys, judges, law students, and legal academicians. The deadline for the Fall 2010 issue is September 15, 2009.
Hat tip to Linda L. Berger, Chair of the ALWD Editorial Committee
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia spoke at Texas Tech on Monday, and I had an opportunity to talk with him for a few minutes. When I mentioned our Legal Practice Program, he told me that he had taught legal writing his first two years of teaching at UVa (about 40 years ago). He then went on to recall how labor-intensive it was, between reading the papers and commenting on them in a way that would help the students to improve their writing.
Later, in his remarks to the faculty, he talked about his teaching days and finding a balance between classroom teaching and scholarly writing. He said that the shelf-life of the "Great American Law Review Article" is maybe five years, but that the impact of reaching law students' hearts and minds is much longer lasting.
(Photo courtesy of Prof. Joe Kimble and Scribes)
Monday, November 17, 2008
APPEAL (Academics Promoting the Pedagogy of Effective Advocacy in Law) has been in existence now for just a year and a half. But within that short time, it has achieved remarkable things. They raised close to $20,000 to bring seven African APPEAL members to the Legal Writing Institute Conference in Indianapolis in July 2008. They collected over two tons of law books to send to colleagues in East Africa. They arranged for those books to be transported to Africa by the Boeing Company and Kenya Airways. And they are now planning the next conference for 2009 in Pretoria, South Africa.
Hat tip to Mimi Samuel at Seattle University