Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ross Essay Contest

The American Bar Assocation wants to know: "Why do you believe the legal profession is the greatest profession in the world?"

The ABA is accepting answers--in 600 words or less--from ABA members (which would include most law professors who are ABA members through their schools).  There's $5000 to win.  The deadline is March 3, 2008.  Here are some of the rules:


1. Eligible. You are eligible to enter the Ross Essay Contest if you are an ABA member in good standing.

2. Not Eligible. The following ABA members are ineligible to enter the Ross Essay Contest: ABA staff members, relatives of ABA Journal staff members, members of the ABA Journal Board of Editors and their relatives, freelancers who have been paid by the ABA Journal for any work since Jan. 1, 2007.

3. Prize. The winner of this contest will receive a prize of $5,000. The Ross Essay Contest requires that there be one winner. Joint submissions are not permitted.

4. Submissions. All entries must be submitted electronically to the ABA Journal using the form and instructions available at from Dec. 3, 2007, to March 3, 2008. Entries will not be accepted by any other means. Each entry must be submitted as a Microsoft Word document or a plain text document and include the entrant’s name, address, e-mail address and ABA member ID number.

5. Entry Deadline. The deadline for receipt of entries is March 3, 2008. Entries received after that date will not be accepted.

6. Publication. The winning entry in the Ross Essay Contest will be published in the ABA Journal. Other entries may be considered for publication on The decision whether to publish any entry is made by the editor and publisher. For purposes of publication, the ABA Journal may edit entries (the edited version will not be used for judging). By submitting an entry in this contest, each entrant gives the ABA all rights, including express permission to edit and publish the entry in all media without limitation and without any other notice.

7. Topic. Each entry must address the following topic: Why do you believe the legal profession is the greatest profession in the world?

8. Length. Each entry must be 600 words or fewer. Entries that exceed 600 words will not be considered. The word count will encompass only the actual text of the essay. Entries should not contain footnotes.

9. No Multiple Entries. Each eligible ABA member may submit only one entry to this contest.

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

February 23, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

the impotence of proofreading

Here's a great YouTube video that may get your sutdents to profread there trail breifs more closelely.
(It's another Taylor Mali great, for you fans out there.)


February 23, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (1)

the standard-of-review continuum

Longitude "[A]ppeals in the federal court system are usually arrayed along a degree-of-deference continuum, stretching from plenary review at one pole to highly deferential modes of review . . . at the opposite pole.” In re Extradition of Howard, 996 F.2d 1320, 1327 (1st Cir. 1993). In the ordinary case, this paradigm requires the court of appeals to scrutinize the trial court's answers to purely legal questions de novo and to assess the trial court's answers to straight factual questions for clear error. See id.

There is, however, a middle ground which consists of the trial court's answers to mixed questions of law and fact-and that middle ground is not amenable to a single standard-of-review rubric. Rather, the applicable standard of review varies depending upon the nature of the mixed question; the more fact-dominated it is, the more likely that deferential, clear-error review will obtain, and the more law-dominated it is, the more likely that non-deferential, de novo review will obtain.

Sierra Fria Corp. v. Donald J. Evans, P.C., 127 F.3d 175, 181 (1st Cir. 1997).


February 23, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 22, 2008

position at University of Iowa

The University of Iowa College of Law seeks candidates to join its Legal Analysis, Writing, and Research Program faculty.  Faculty in the program teach a course in legal analysis and writing to first-year students in small sections, and law librarians teach the research component of the course.  Faculty members work closely together to ensure parity of student experiences; within the program guidelines, faculty members design their own curriculum, choose their own class materials, and create their own writing assignments.  The position is full-time during the nine-month academic year. 

The College of Law is highly ranked and located in Iowa City, an affordable university town known for its vibrant academic culture and in particular for its active literary community. Salary is at least $60,000 and will be commensurate with experience.  Candidates must have a J.D., a strong academic record, and an enthusiasm for teaching, for legal reasoning, and for the written word.  Experience practicing law is strongly preferred, as is successful teaching experience.  The school is interested in all promising candidates, and wishes to enhance the diversity of its academic community by including among its candidates persons of all races, cultural backgrounds, genders, creeds, and ages, as well as members of other groups that traditionally have been underrepresented in the legal profession. 

Candidates should send resumes, references, samples of written work and a law school transcript to: Faculty Appointments Committee, College of Law, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52245-1113. Preference will be given to applications received by March 14, 2008.  The University of Iowa is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.  Women and minorities are encouraged to apply.


February 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

oral argument: say it like you mean it!

Here's how NOT to speak with conviction:

hat tip:  Suzanne Rowe, University of Oregon School of Law


February 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

getting a handle on abuse of discretion

I haven't found any catchy imagery for describing the abuse-of-discretion standard of review. The difficulty in articulating that standard is demonstrated in this oft-cited (88 times, according to Westlaw) definition from James v. Jacobson, 6 F.3d 233, 239 (4th Cir. 1993) (citations omitted):

Handles [Its] most obvious manifestation is in a failure or refusal, either express or implicit, actually to exercise discretion, deciding instead as if by general rule, or even arbitrarily, as if neither by rule nor discretion. Another way, crucial [in the case at bar], is by failure, in attempting to exercise discretion, adequately to take into account judicially recognized factors constraining its exercise. Finally, discretion may be abused by an exercise that is flawed by erroneous factual or legal premises.

Got that?


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

job opening at Widener

Widener University School of Law seeks applicants for a one-year renewable contract position as
Legal Methods Professor beginning in Fall 2008. The Legal Methods program is a three-semester, seven-credit sequence of courses. The first-year course covers basic legal analysis and written and oral communication. The upper-level course gives students a variety of options, including appellate advocacy, contract drafting, legislative drafting, or subject matter specialties such as personal injury and domestic violence. Professors may be asked to teach in both the regular division and in the evening division.

After the first four years, professors may apply to be placed on a two-year renewable contract of employment. Legal Methods Professors serve on committees and vote on on all matters except hiring, promotion, and retention. Legal Methods Professors may also teach additional courses, either in the summer or during the regular academic year. Applicants must have a minimum of three years of practice experience, and a demonstrable commitment to legal skills teaching. Prior teaching experience is strongly preferred.

Send a cover letter, a resume, a writing sample, and contact information for three references by March 15, 2008, to Professor Juliet M. Moringiello, Chair, Faculty Appointments Committee, Widener University School of Law, 3800 Vartan Way, P.O. Box 69382, Harrisburg, PA 17106-9382.


February 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

a particularly smelly standard of review

Challenging an issue of fact on appeal? In Parts & Electric Motors, Inc. v. Sterling Electric, Inc., the Seventh Circuit describes the "clearly erroneous" standard of review:

Dead_fish To be clearly erroneous, a decision must strike us as more than just maybe or probably wrong; it must, as some member of this court recently stated during oral argument, strike us as wrong with the force of a five-week-old, unrefrigerated, dead fish.

866 F.2d 228, 232 (7th Cir. 1988).


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

tall men & the mixed question of law and fact

In preparing for this semester's lesson on standards of review, I'm using the explanation written by federal circuit judge Thomas Ambro for reviewing mixed questions of law and fact. He wrote: 

A question of fact can be answered solely by determining the facts of a case (without any need to know the law relevant to the case). A question of law can be answered solely by determining what relevant law means (without any need to determine the facts of a case). A mixed question of fact and law can only be answered by both determining the facts of a case and determining what the relevant law means.

Old_tall_2 For example, imagine that a man is appealing his conviction under a law that states "it is a crime to be tall." What kind of question is: "Was the trial court correct to find the man 'tall'?" Can we answer it solely by determining the facts of the case? No, because even if we know the fact that the man is five feet ten inches, we do not know if he is "tall" in the sense that Congress intended the word "tall" to mean. Can we answer it solely by determining what the relevant law means without knowing the man's height? No, because even if we know that the statute defines "tall" as "six feet or taller," we do not know how tall the man is. Thus, we have a mixed question of fact and law. Once we know the facts of the case (that the man is five feet ten inches tall), and what the relevant law means (it is a crime to be six feet tall or taller), we can answer "no" to the question "Was the trial court correct to find the man 'tall'?"

Interfaith Community Org. v. Honeywell Intl., Inc., 399 F.3d 248, 269-70 (3d Cir. 2005) (Ambro, J., concurring).


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

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

New Book on Statutory Construction Default Rules

The Statutory Construction Blog announced publication of a new book on Statutory Construction, called "Statutory Default Rules: How to Interpret Unclear Legislation." The book is by Einer Elhauge and will be published later this month by Harvard University Press.

Hat tip to David Hricik at the Statutory Construction Blog.

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

February 20, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Semicolons Spotted in the NYC Subway

The New York Times has a great article on the proper use of a semicolon on a sign in the New York City subway. You'll want to share a copy of that article with your students.

One of my favorite sentences from the article is one that notes that "the rules of grammar are routinely violated on both sides of the law."

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

February 20, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

American Justice School of Law - Kentucky

The American Justice School of Law, a for-profit law school in Paducah, Kentucky, was reportedly sold last week, according an article by Charles Huckabee in the Chronicle of Higher Education and another article in The Courier-Journal, a Louisville Kentucky newspaper.

The sale is apparently to settle a lawsuit brought last November by 30 students who are angry that the law school failed to tell them that the school was not going to accredited the ABA until it was too late for them to transfer to other schools. The students reportedly sought $120 million in damages and an accounting of the law school's finances. As an editorial in the Courier-Journal notes, the ABA did not give reasons for denying accreditation (or at least the law school did not share any of those reasons with the students).

The website for the American Justice School of Law includes this disclaimer:

"At American Justice School of Law, the Dean is fully informed as to the Standards and Rules of Procedure for the Approval of Law Schools by the American Bar Association. The Administration and the Dean are determined to devote all necessary resources and in other respects to take all necessary steps to present a program of legal education that will qualify for approval by the American Bar Association. The Law School makes no representation to any applicant that it will be approved by the American Bar Association prior to the graduation of any matriculating student. State Licensing by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education should not be confused with accreditation which is granted by the ABA. Absent of ABA Approval, a graduate may not sit for any bar examination."

Private, for-profit educational institutions will continue to present interesting issues for law school administrators and faculty. Do any of our readers here have further insights on what happened at the American Justice School of Law?

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

February 20, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Congratulations Drexel

Drexel University College of Law has been provisionally accredited by the American Bar Association.  There are now 198 law schools that have been accredited or provisionsally accredited by the ABA.  Approximately 170 of those schools are also members of the Association of American Law Schools.  Congratulations to Drexel and its legal writing program.

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

February 19, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

online Bluebook

from Tax Prof Blog

Harvard Publishes Online Bluebook

The Harvard Law Review has launched an online version of The Bluebook:  A Uniform System of Citation.  From the press release:

The citation guide for American law, The Bluebook is a tool of the daily practice of law, and it is used by everyone involved in legal practice, including paralegals and attorneys, professors, and students. ...
The Bluebook Online will enable faster and easier access to citation material for everyone no matter where they are located or what citation questions they may have.The new online format responds to longstanding requests for a fully-featured electronic edition of The Bluebook that is easier to search, use, and teach. It allows practitioners and students with jurisdiction-specific or publication-specific citation rules to integrate those rules with those of the bluebook, and it makes an essential tool of legal writing fully accessible to the visually impaired. The online version is also designed to address a wide array of foreign, international, and administrative material much more fully than is possible in a portable printed reference text.

The cost is $25 for a 1-year subscription ($40 for two years and $55 for three years).

Hat tip: John Edwards, Associate Dean for Information Resources and Technology and Professor of Law,
Drake University Law School


February 19, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 18, 2008

if I had two billion dollars . . . on lawyers, law firms, and priorities

Law firm breaks the two-billion-dollar mark in revenues . .  comments from the blog Law 21.  Apparently serving clients is secondary to money-making and "being a player" . . . see the quote from the linked ABAJournal article.


February 18, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

director position at Cleveland-Marshall

Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Cleveland State University seeks applicants for the full-time position of Director of Legal Writing. The person hired is eligible for an initial five-year appointment of annually renewable eleven-month contracts. The Director reports directly to the dean; members of the legal writing faculty are active in faculty governance, including committee service, and are voting members of the law faculty for all issues not concerning tenure, promotion, or the hiring of tenure-track faculty. The Director's responsibilities include the development, coordination, and implementation of the program in legal writing and research education at Cleveland-Marshall. The director has primary
responsibility for the first-year Legal Writing Program, as well as additional upper-level legal writing courses offered currently or in the future. The Director will teach one first-year section (15-20 students).

Applicants must have a J.D. from an ABA-accredited law school, a minimum of three years experience teaching Legal Writing, and a serious commitment to students. Successful experience in leading colleagues in an academic setting is strongly preferred. Salary will be competitive and based on the
successful applicant's experience and qualifications.

The school's Legal Writing Director search committee will begin reviewing applications as they are received, and the position will remain open until filled. Applicants who submit materials on or before March 15, 2008, will be assured of receiving full consideration. Send a letter of interest and
resume (including the names and contact information of at least three (3) references, one of whom should be from a colleague outside the home institution) to Professor Heidi Gorovitz Robertson, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Cleveland State University, 2121 Euclid Avenue, LB 138,
Cleveland, OH 44115. E-mail applications are also accepted; send them to Ms. Holli Goodman .


February 18, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Conference on Language Learning and Assessment

The University of Illinois-Chicago, the University of Chicago, and Northwestern University are hosting a conference on "Reconciling Language Learning and Assessment" on April 25-26, 2008. The conference will not focus on legal writing, but many of us are teaching students who speak English as a second language, and it is always nice to find another conference to help us improve our teaching. Conference proposals are being accepted until February 22. Read more about the conference.

Mark E. Wojcik, The John Marshall Law School - Chicago
(Hat tip: Prof. Juli Campagna)

February 18, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

International Conference on the Future of Legal Education

Georgia State University is hosting an International Conference on the Future of Legal Education. Get details here. The conference will be February 20-23. Here's a link to the program.

Mark E. Wojcik, The John Marshall Law School-Chicago
(Hat tip: Gene Koo of the Law School Innovation Blog)

February 18, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Jessup Super Regional Results - Midwest

Many legal writing professors coach moot court teams. One of those competitions is the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition, which involves more than 500 law schools in 80 countries. This year, the U.S. rounds of the Jessup Competition shifted from regional competitions (with 16 teams) to "Super Regionals" (with 24 teams). The Midwest regionals were held this past weekend. I was a judge on the final round between Washington University in St. Louis and DePaul University College of Law. Washington University took the regional prize, but both teams now advance to the international finals in Washington, D.C. this April, which are held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the American Society of International Law.

A big thank you to all of the moot court students and faculty from John Marshall (especially the legal writing faculty) who helped out this past weekend during the competition. Congratulations to all of the visiting teams and their coaches (and most especially their coaches who teach legal writing). I hope you all had a good time in Chicago.

The consensus seems to be that "Super Regionals" do work, and that next year's Jessup Midwest Regionals will again be held in Chicago. (If you're at a Chicago-area law school and want to volunteer now to host the competition next year, please contact the International Law Students Association directly and let them know.)

Mark Wojcik, The John Marshall Law School

February 18, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference

Need information on the Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference? Click here. The conference will be held March 21 and 22 at the University of Utah. Here's a link to the conference program.

Mark E. Wojcik, The John Marshall Law School

February 18, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)