Friday, December 26, 2008
The Louisiana State Bar Association will hold a legal-writing seminar in New Orleans on March 20, 2009. It looks like a great program that other state and local bar associations might want to do as well. The seminar includes these sessions:
- Writing 101: Everything You Have Forgotten Since Graduation, by Tina M. Boudreaux, Erin Ann Donelon, and Michael Sackey.
- Creating Contracts: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Lawyer, by Albert J. Derbes IV.
- Counting Each Shot: Techniques for Emphasis and De-emphasis, by Raymond P. Ward.
- Finding and Using Your Main Message for Maximum Persuasive Power, by Michael R. Fontham.
- Writing a Brief a Judge Would Want to Read, by Michael R. Fontham.
- Professionalism in Written Argument: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, by Judges Terri F. Love, Fredericka Homberg Wicker, and Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux.
Hat tip to the (new) legal writer blog.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Legal writing professor Lisa Eichhorn's article, Clarity and the Rules of Civil Procedure: A Lesson from the Style Project, 5 J. ALWD 1 (2008), has made the "Recommended Reading" list published by the Green Bag. According to the Green Bag's press release:
"Our selection process for 'Exemplary Legal Writing of 2008' was, like past years, not your typical invitation to competitive self-promotion by authors and their publishers and friends. We did not solicit (or accept) entries from contestants, charge them entry fees, or hand out blue, red, and white ribbons. Rather, we merely sought to: (a) organize a moderately vigilant watch for good legal writing, conducted by people (our Board of Advisers) who would know it when they saw it and bring it to our attention; (b) coordinate the winnowing of advisers¹ favorites over the course of the selection season, with an eye to harvesting a crop of good legal writing consisting of those works for which there was the most substantial support (our 'Recommended Reading' list); ...."
hat tip: Prof. Linda L. Berger
Voir dire is more than merely the procedure used to select a fair and impartial jury; it also represents the attorney's first chance to communicate with the jury. Click here to read more in an article by Professor David Sorkin of The John Marshall Law School (and then click on "download"). David wrote it some time ago but just recently posted it on SSRN. If you teach trial advocacy, there are some good tips in here for your students. You might also enjoy some of his other articles as well, such as The Proof is in the Proofreading or Sex Ed for Legal Writers.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Blogging is heck. Endless hours in front of the screen, the intense pressure to scoop the competition, sleepless nights, weight gain, declining health. It has sent lesser men (and women) to an early grave. But here at the Legal Writing Prof. Blog we make the sacrifice anyway because we want to bring you, cherished reader, the most up-to-date information and advice about legal writing.
Despite 24/7 vigilance, we occasionally get scooped ourselves - like in this instance by the venerable "the (new) legal writer" blog. But, hey, if anyone is going to beat us to a story, it couldn't be a better person than Raymond Ward. So even though he brought this to you first, it still bears repeating here.
Specifically, there's some great advice for both lawyers and law students tucked into the monthly litigation column written by Professor James W. McElhaney in the January issue of the ABA Journal Magazine. This time, in the context of advising lawyers on effective direct examination during trial, Professor McElhaney tells us that "the secret for both effective writing and speaking [is to] learn to talk like a regular person wherever you are. In the office or at home. In court or out. And write like a regular person for both personal and professional matters unless you have a very good reason for using a precise legal term of art—which is very seldom."
According to Professor McElhaney, lawyers pick up bad communications skills in law school where students sometimes think that sounding like a lawyer means adopting the pretensions of "legalese." As McElhaney says: "Legalese is a poisonous set of . . . habits. It’s the curse of a traditional legal education."
I might add that as of late, Professor McElhaney has been an especially strong advocate for good legal writing. There's even talk among Hollywood insiders of "Golden Pen." Like Clint Eastwood, maybe this will be Professor McElhaney's year. Are you listening Academy voters?
Finally, on behalf of all of us - we wish all of you the happiest of holidays and all the best in the new year.
I am the scholarship dude.
Sure, it's OT. But you're at your computer, so you might as well click on NORAD tracks Santa and see where in the world he is right now. At the time of this typing (about 1:00 p.m. EST), he had recently flown over Mt. Everest, as evidenced by the video provided.
From Ben Opipari comes a list of sources for legal writing professors who want to increase their skill at holding effective student conferences:
- Thomas Flynn & Mary King, Dynamics of the Writing Conference: Social and Cognitive Interaction (NCTE 1999).
- Muriel Harris, Teaching One-to-One: The Writing Conference (NCTE 1986).
- Donald A. McAndrew & Thomas J. Reigstad, Tutoring Writing: A Practical Guide for Conferences (Boynton/Cook, 2001).
- Emily Meyer & Louise Z. Smith, The Practical Tutor (Oxford Univ. Press 1987).
- Beth S. Newman, Teaching Students to Write (2d ed., Oxford Univ. Press 1995).
This last source in particular was singled out for its excellence both for theory and practical tips.
In many instances where lawyers used to pick up the phone or write a brief memo or letter, e-mail has now taken over. And often e-mail written by lawyers is "legal writing." More and more legal writing professors are addressing the basics of effective and appropriate e-mail in legal writing class. Apparently, they are doing so none too soon.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Clarity is an international organization promoting plain legal language. There are more than 1,000 members in 52 countries and jurisdictions. Membership is only US $35 a year if you're living in the United States (with similar fees in local currencies if you live somewhere else). Click here to read more about Clarity. This is a perfect time to join. Every law school should have at least one member of Clarity on its faculty. (Ideally, every member of the writing faculty should be a member of Clarity.) Those who do law firm training programs for new associates should also look into joining. It is a great organization for promoting plain legal language.
Monday, December 22, 2008
You know this blog is being read by the right people when Chris Wren, the man who parented the process-oriented approach to legal research instruction (in use by virtually every legal writing professor today), writes in response to a post to school me on a book he says people interested in effective advocacy should know about. In response to my December 19 post about Jonah Lehrer's forthcoming book on the neuroscience of decision-making, Chris suggested another book which he found to be excellent: "Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions" by Gary Klein.
As Chris told me, "some parts [are] particularly useful for legal writing profs. One chapter, 'The Power to See the Invisible,' goes into detail about how experts see the world differently from the way novices see it - that experts see what's invisible to novices. Another chapter, 'The Power of Stories,' explains the components of a good story (with examples) and how stories work as a way of making sense of events. Another chapter, 'The Power of Metaphors and Analogues,' explains the difference between analogue and metaphor and discusses the use of analogical reasoning to make predictions, generate expectancies, and solve problems."
When Chris Wren speaks, you should listen. I know I do.
I am the scholarship dude.
Geared primarily towards college writing professors, a new book by Professor Robert E. Cummings of Columbus State University in Georgia on how to teach writing to the "Wikipedia generation" will undoubtedly be of interest to some legal writing professors. The book, entitled "Lazy Virtues: Teaching Writing in the Age of Wikipedia," was due out from Vanderbilt University Press on December 15 although according to the publisher's website, pre-orders are still be taken.
According to the publisher, Professor Cummings' book: "explores the challenges confronting teachers of college writing in the increasingly electronic and networked writing environments their students use every day. Rather than praising or condemning that site for its role as an encyclopedia, Cummings instead sees it as a site for online collaboration between writers and a way to garner audience for student writing.
Lazy Virtues offers networked writing assignments to foster development of student writers by exposing them to the demands of professional audiences, asking them to identify and assess their own creative impulses in terms of a project's needs, and removing the writing teacher from the role of sole audience."
The book is also available for pre-order from major online book retailers.
I am the scholarship dude.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Judge and Professor Gerald Lebovits writes a regular column on legal writing in the New York State Bar Association Journal. His two-part essay on punctuation provides a helpful review and lots of helpful tips, all specifically geared to legal writers:
"Do's, Don'ts, and Maybes: Legal Writing Punctuation -- Part I"
New York State Bar Association Journal, Vol. 80, No. 2, p. 64, February 2008
"Do's, Don'ts, and Maybes: Usage Controversies - Part II"
New York State Bar Journal, Vol. 80, p. 64, July/Aug. 2008
update: Apparently Judge Lebovits is a regular reader of this blog; he has kindly sent the link to Part III: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1296126.