Saturday, March 14, 2009

twittering lawyers

The notion of brief writing takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to Twitter. Brief -- in the sense of short -- because with Twitter, you write no more than a couple of lines at a time. Think of it as eHaiku, but not as poetic. This video explains Twitter better than I can:

We've begun to see web site collecting legal Twitter feeds. For instance--

What are you doing?


March 14, 2009 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

juror tweets inspire motion for new trial

Tweetybirdblueb Defense lawyers in Arkansas have moved for a new trial after learning that one of the jurors in the case, Johnathan Powell, used Twitter to share his thoughts with followers. The jury hit defendants Russell Wright and Stoam Industries with a $12.6 million verdict.

Powell told a reporter that "[a]ll of the comments he made on his Titter account about the case were sent after the trial," although other messages were posted before or during deliberations. (A news account says that Twitter's time stamp default is Mountain time; Powell was in the Central Time zone, so add an hour.) For example, some tweets refer to his being a member of the voir dire:

  • a "tweet" listed as outgoing at 6:44 a.m. on February 26: "I guess Im early. Two Angry Men just wont do."
  • at 6:57 a.m.: "Im the only one who brought toys: my laptop and a book"
  • at 8:14 a.m.: "I got selected"

At lunch:

  • 10:25 a.m.: "And the verdict is ... Penguin Eds can not make fries"

That afternoon:

  • 2:09 p.m.: "'So, Johnathan, what did you do today?' Oh, nothing really. I just gave away TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS of somebody else's money"
  • 2:43 p.m.: "Oh, and nobody buy Stoam. It's bad mojo, and they'll probably cease to exist, now that their wallet is $12M lighter."

What we can't tell from Johnathan's tweets are what messages he may have been receiving from others outside the jury room. While I don't like the idea of twittering jurors as a general proposition (deliberations should be closed, period), I won't be surprised to learn that the judge in this case denies the motion. (On the other hand, Penguin Ed's, a barbecue joint, may want to seek redress.)

To read Juror Johnathan's messages for yourself, including a series of tweets about all the publicity he's received, visit


March 14, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 13, 2009

A new video game for lawyers called "Objection!" - May count towards CLE credit.

Depending on your age bracket, this is either the coolest ever legal accoutrement or a sure sign that the profession is in steep decline.  It's a new video game called "Objection!" that, according to this review in PC World, is a fun way for anyone and everyone - "professionals, law students, or anyone interested in the law" -  to sharpen their courtroom skills.  The kicker is that you may qualify for CLE credit in several states by claiming that playing this game - which is based on a mock murder trial - counts as "home study." 

I wonder if a court will take into consideration your high score in "Objection!" when it rules on the ineffective assistance of counsel claim brought by your now-sitting-on-death-row former client? 

Hat tip to ABA Journal Blog.

I am the scholarship dude.


March 13, 2009 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Another scholarship alert: The effect of Clinical Education on Law Student Reasoning: an Empirical Study

Professor Stefan Krieger of Hofstra has just published The effect of clinical education on law student reasoning: an empirical study in 35 Wm. Mitchell L. Rev. 359 (2008). 

I am the scholarship dude.


March 13, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New scholarship alert: A Methodology for Mentoring Writing in Law Practice: Using Textual Clues to Provide Effective and Efficient Feedback

The Boston College legal writing posse consisting of Professors Jane Kent Gionfriddo, Dan Barnett and Joan Blum have just published a new article entitled A methodology for mentoring writing in law practice: using textual clues to provide effective and efficient feedback and available at 27 QLR 171 (2009). 

From the introduction:

Becoming a successful legal writer is a process that begins in law school and continues intensively during the beginning years of a lawyer's career. Throughout this process, in both contexts, a writer benefits enormously from feedback on his analysis, and how that analysis is conveyed, from those with more experience. Much has been written about how legal educators should respond to student written work, yet little has addressed the role that supervising attorneys can play in mentoring the writing of less experienced colleagues. This article therefore proposes a methodology to help supervisor-mentors provide, in an efficient manner, effective feedback on junior lawyers' writing.

I am the scholarship dude - workin' overtime to bring you the good stuff.


March 13, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


"Writers, like teeth, are divided into incisors and grinders."

- Walter Bagehot


March 13, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Contract written in human blood held unenforceable by California appeals court

Get this - the AP reports that two friends went to a combination karaoke bar/sushi restaurant when one of them decides he wants to write an agreement promising the other that he'll pay back the $170k he owes.  No pen?  No problem!  The first guy asks the waiter for a pin (maybe he asked for a "pen" but the waiter misunderstood?) - which for some odd reason the waiter happens to have on him - and he then "pricks" his finger so that he can write the contract in his own blood!

Maybe your experience with this kind of thing is different than mine - but whenever I stab myself with a pin, it never even draws enough blood to write my own 3 character first name, much less an entire contract. 

It's the visual that I can't feature.  That was either one heck of a pin-prick (in the same way that the "chainsaw scene" in Scarface was one heck of a paper-cut) or the guy was a hemophiliac.  And out of curiosity, what was the waitstaff thinking while one of their patrons was gettin' medieval on his own self right there in the restaurant?  Nowadays you can't even smoke inside a restaurant but when did it become OK to take a blood oath?

And all that's aside from the fact that promisor went to a lot of trouble, not to mention taking the risk of contracting hepatitis C, when in the end the California appeals court ruled the contract is unenforceable.

Wow - the things people do when they eat too much sushi!

The hat tip on this one goes once again to our good buddy Raymond Ward at the (new) legal writing blog - pay him a visit now and again, eh?

I am the scholarship dude.



March 12, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

This is a great idea - helping student improve their writing skills through Wikipedia

This article from today's Inside Higher Ed. suggests that teachers can make very effective use of Wikipedia to help improve their students' writing by encouraging them to create their own Wiki entries.  It's an idea that seems to embrace many principles of good pedagogy - it's a medium that students already know and are comfortable with, it's relevant and hence interesting to them, and it involves a "real world" experience not some artificial classroom exercise and thus has credibility with students.

Read the full article here.

The scholarship dude likey!


March 12, 2009 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

What's wrong with this picture? IQ's fall while grades rise.

As we reported here on Tuesday, a U.K. study found that attorney IQs have fallen over the last twelve years.  Today, Inside Higher Ed is reporting on a study by Stuart Rojstacze, a retired Duke professor, who says that grade inflation is rising and has launched to track the so-called grade bubble. 

Of course, there are skeptics who argue that concern over grade inflation is, well, inflated:

Clifford Adelman, a senior analyst at the Institute for Higher Education Policy and a leading education researcher, has conducted extensive studies of grades and degrees, using national data sets, and he believes that grade inflation is marginal -- and that the issue receives far too much attention.  'If grade inflation is so rampant, how come at least a third of kids who start in four-year colleges don't graduate?' Adelman asked.  'My point is not that there is no grade inflation, rather that inflation in the judgment of human performance is something that cannot be proved.'

Read the full article here

Hat tip Inside Higher Ed.

I am the scholarship dude.


March 12, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Law school creates innovative "real world" practice experience for all 3L's

Washington & Lee Dean Rod Smolla knows what time it is - time for law schools to get serious about not just training students to think like lawyers, but to train them to actually practice law.  That idea, along with $2 million in seed money from an alumnus, is helping to launch a new program at the school that will become mandatory for all 3L students by 2011.  Here's how the National Law Journal (password protected but registration is free) describes it:

Traditional classroom instruction will be replaced by practice simulations. Students will go through lawyering exercises as if they were representing actual clients. Fictional cases will be created.

[T]he philosophy [will be] much like the one used by medical schools and business schools, which immerse the students into the actual practice of the profession. The third-year students, however, will be allowed 'do overs.' In other words, unlike in the real world, if students write a brief that's not sufficient, or present a weak case, they'll get a chance to do it over again.

Distinguished judges and practitioners from a variety of top law firms will join the permanent faculty to help teach the inaugural class. Among those recruited for the project include Virginia Supreme Court Justice Donald W. Lemons and well-known criminal defense attorney Judy Clarke. Recently, 75 second-year students — more than half of the class — volunteered to be the first group to go through the experimental program.

All third-year students in the program will be required to obtain a Virginia practice certificate. The program will remain voluntary through the 2010-11 academic year before becoming mandatory for all third-year law students in 2011-12.

Hat tip to the National Law Journal.

I am the scholarship dude.


March 12, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Here's a twist on the debate over laptops in the classroom - how about laptops in the courtroom?

While law profs have debated endlessly, or so it seems, whether laptops in the classroom are a good thing or not, today's National Law Journal reports on the nascent debate happening about the use of laptops, Blackberrys and other hand-held electronic devices in the courtroom.  Many judges have so far decided to ban the use of such devices by reporters, observers and, of course, jurors.

The common rationale for such a ban is that it helps prevent distractions in the courtroom as well as helps insulate juries from press interference.  To date, however, the U.S. Judicial  Conference has adopted no formal policy on the use of electronic devices in the courtroom leaving it instead to individual judges to decide how they want to handle the issue.

The NLJ article points out, though, that recently some judges have chosen to drop the ban on such devices on the grounds that more transparency surrounding the judicial process is good.  Further, some judges have decided that it's less disruptive to a trial to allow reporters to use electronic devices inside the courtroom rather than have them constantly running outside to use their hand-held devices. 

Some feel that change is inevitable:

'The use of such technology in the courtroom will become more accepted as a younger generation of judges that is less affected by media attention and more technologically savvy takes their places on the bench,' said Judge Marten, who is 57. Bennett, the Iowa federal judge, is 58.

'We are moving to a time when there is more rather than less access to the courtroom by what judges view as nonintrusive elements of the press or public,' said First Amendment specialist Floyd Abrams, a partner at New York-based Cahill, Gordon & Reindel.

The reason some federal judges fear allowing electronic messaging from their courtrooms is that they believe it will lead to other types of coverage they consider more intrusive, such as TVs in the courtrooms, Abrams said.

'There are a number of judges afraid of the slippery slope,' Abrams said.

The full article is password protected and is available here.  Registration for NLJ online is free.

I am the scholarship dude.


March 12, 2009 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

top ten in SSRN

ToptenredWhat articles on SSRN's Legal Writing eJournal are downloaded the most? 

Readers seem to be most interested in advice for getting published, better brief-writing, better analysis, and oral argument.

Here are the top ten (links to abstracts; all are free downloads from site):

1.       Publishing Advice for Graduate Students
Thom Brooks
Newcastle University - Newcastle Law School
Date Posted: January 18, 2008
Last Revised: January 18, 2008
Working Paper Series

2.       Logic for Law Students: How to Think Like a Lawyer
University of Pittsburgh Law Review, 2007
Ruggero Aldisert , Stephen Clowney and Jeremy Peterson
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit , University of Kentucky - College of Law and U.S. Department of Justice
Date Posted: March 2, 2007
Last Revised: April 3, 2007
Accepted Paper Series

3.       Information for Submitting Articles to Law Reviews & Journals
Allen Rostron and Nancy Levit
University of Missouri at Kansas City - School of Law and University of Missouri at Kansas City (UMKC) - School of Law
Date Posted: October 4, 2007
Last Revised: June 15, 2008
Working Paper Series

4.       Navigating the Law Review Article Selection Process: An Empirical Study of Those With All the Power -- Student Editors
South Carolina Law Review, Vol. 59, p. 465, 2008, TJSL Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1002640, U of St. Thomas Legal Studies Research Paper No. 07-27
Leah M. Christensen and Julie A. Oseid
Thomas Jefferson School of Law and University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)
Date Posted: August 1, 2007
Last Revised: September 28, 2008
Accepted Paper Series

5.       Effective Brief Writing Despite High Volume Practice: Ten Misconceptions that Result in Bad Briefs
University of Toledo Law Review, Vol. 38, p. 1113, Summer 2007
Sarah E. Ricks and Jane L. Istvan
Rutgers School of Law - Camden and City of Philadelphia Law Department
Date Posted: July 11, 2007
Last Revised: July 11, 2007
Accepted Paper Series

6.       Legal Reading and Success in Law School: An Empirical Study
Seattle University Law Review, Vol. 30, No. 3, p. 603, 2007, TJSL Legal Studies Research Paper No. 924650
Leah M. Christensen
Thomas Jefferson School of Law
Date Posted: August 17, 2006
Last Revised: September 28, 2008
Accepted Paper Series

7.       Unlocking the Secrets of Highly Successful Legal Writing Students
Anne M. Enquist
Seattle University School of Law
Date Posted: March 13, 2007
Last Revised: March 13, 2007
Working Paper Series

8.       Stepping Up to the Podium with Confidence: A Primer for Law Students on Preparing and Delivering an Appellate Oral Argument
Stetson Law Review, Vol. 38, No. 1
James D. Dimitri
Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis
Date Posted: February 6, 2008
Last Revised: August 27, 2008
Working Paper Series

9.       Thinking Like a Lawyer: The Heuristics of Case Synthesis
Texas Tech Law Review, Vol. 40, 2007, Boston College Law School Research Paper No. 138
Jane Kent Gionfriddo
Boston College (Law School)
Date Posted: September 7, 2007
Last Revised: January 23, 2008
Accepted Paper Series

10.   Download It While It's Hot: Open Access and Legal Scholarship
Illinois Public Law Research Paper No. 07-03, U Illinois Law & Economics Research Paper No. LE07-11, Lewis & Clark Law Review, Vol. 10, p. 841, 2006
Lawrence B. Solum
University of Illinois College of Law
Date Posted: January 16, 2007
Last Revised: June 5, 2007
Accepted Paper Series


March 12, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

your next LRW class: featuring a 500-1 ratio?

Your_next_lrwclassNo more worries about shrinking law-school enrollments, says the Onion. New federal legislation will mandate that every twenty-five-year-old in America spend one year in law school, "to simultaneously placate their parents, impress their friends with complex-sounding legal jargon, and effectively avoid any real-world responsibilities for another full year."

Hmm. Will they all be enrolled in LRW????

hat tip to Kelly Olson


March 11, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Nova legal writing professor Anthony Niedwiecki elected Commissioner-Mayor.

AnthonyI'm proud to report that Anthony Niedwiecki, a legal writing colleague of mine at Nova, was elected yesterday to a seat on the Oakland Park City Commission in Ft. Lauderdale.  Based on the chain of command, he will become Vice Mayor of Oakland Park next year and Mayor the year following that.  Legal writing profs will one day rule the world.

I am the scholarship dude.


March 11, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Alternative to the LSAT measures students' ability to research, write and problem solve

The New York Times is reporting today that two UC Berkeley Professors teamed up to design an alternative to the traditional LSAT entrance exam which they believe will better measure a student's likelihood of success in practice while avoiding the alleged discriminatory impact of the LSAT on African Americans and Hispanics.

To create the test, the researchers queried thousands of lawyers, judges, law professors, Berkeley alums and even clients to find out "If you were looking for a lawyer for an important matter for yourself, what qualities would you most look for?" 

Among the list of 26 characteristics of an "effective" lawyer generated by the study were things like, not so surprisingly, "like the ability to write, manage stress, listen, research the law and solve problems."

While the LSAC, which helped fund this study, still defends the LSAT as a good predictor of success in law school, some law school deans, like BC's John H. Garvey, say  "it would be good for us and for other schools to have other measures that complement the LSAT and that would help us identify promising candidates.”

Hat tip to the ABA Journal.

I am the scholarship dude.


March 11, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Judge Gertner to Professor Nesson: The Courtroom is not a classroom, bub!

United States District Court Judge Nancy Gertner just schooled Harvard Law Professor Charles Nesson in how to act in federal court telling him in a written decision that litigating in her courtroom is "no clinical exercise."  The written decision, found here, was issued by the Boston court yesterday in Sony v. Tenenbaum in which Professor Nesson, founder of Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, was appointed to represent a pro se defendant accused of illegally downloading music files from the internet.   

According to the Legal Blog Watch:

What got Nesson in trouble . . . was his attempt to compel the deposition of Matthew Oppenheim, a lawyer who helps the RIAA coordinate its file-sharing cases but who is not involved in the Tenenbaum case. Not only did Nesson want to depose Oppenheim, but he also wanted to do it in front of an audience in a Harvard law school classroom and make a recording of it.

A clearly impatient Judge Gertner this week denied Nesson's motion to compel and served him notice that the case was not a classroom exercise. First, she said, Nesson failed to comply with the requirements of the federal rules for issuing a deposition subpoena. Second, she said, because he had not made the initial disclosures required by the federal rules, he was barred from initiating any discovery, including depositions.

Apart from failing those technical requirements, she continued, Nesson had shown continuing difficulty complying with the requirement of the rules that the parties meet and confer in good faith about discovery matters.

Judge Gertner went on to write:

While the Court understands that counsel for the Defendant is a law professor, and that he believes this case serves an important educational function, counsel must also understand that he represents a client in this litigation -- a client whose case may well be undermined by the filing of frivolous motions and the failure to comply with the Rules. Submission of a plainly flawed motion cannot be justified as a clinical exercise. The Court will not hesitate to impose appropriate sanctions, including potentially substantial costs, should the Defendant waste either the Plaintiffs' time and money or scarce judicial resources by filing frivolous motions in the future.

Hat tip to the Legal Blog Watch.

I am the scholarship dude.


March 11, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Watch this - an amazing video about technology's impact on the world

Maybe you've already seen this - but if you haven't, take a gander.  It's a very effective video presentation about the way in which technology has affected our lives and will continue to do so at an exponential rate.

The video was created by a Colorado high school teacher and a University of Minnesota professor.  Enjoy!

Hat tip to Professor Tony Chase.

I am the scholarship dude.


March 11, 2009 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

the "two piles" approach to research and writing

StacksLaw students love to research. No, it's true! They love to research because it's fun to find authority that is relevant to the issues AND because as long as they're researching, they can postpone the more painful task of writing. All that research, however, produces a stack of materials which the writer must eventually assess and determine how--if at all--to use. Here's a simple, but effective, way to do that.

In a recent blog post at The Complete Lawyer, Mercer Professor David Hricik describes his "two piles" approach to assessing the products of legal research. The first cut focuses solely on results (what was the outcome? which position won? which lost?). The second cut examines the cases in each pile for factual analogies and distinctions. In the second sorting, writers pay attention to the facts, separating those with very different or distinguishable facts from those that have similarities.

As Hricik explains, the similar but "bad" cases deserve attention because they represent the "most powerful weapons for my opponent." From the "good case" pile, by selecting and using those "with the most similar or analogous facts and the right result, the more difficult it would be for the other side to distinguish . . . and argue that a different result should be reached."


March 11, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

clearly, a good writing rule to follow . . .

Yesterday we had a local appellate attorney talk to our students, and he offered a quotation from Chief Justice Roberts about how to argue effectively, including the implied writing rule that use of intensifiers is often not persuasive. 

"We get hundreds and hundreds of briefs, and they're all the same," Roberts told a crowd of eager law students and faculty members last week at the Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago. "Somebody says, 'My client clearly deserves to win, the cases clearly do this, the language clearly reads this,' blah, blah blah. And you pick up the other side and, lo and behold, they think they clearly deserve to win."

How about a little recognition that it's a tough job? Roberts asked.

"I mean, if it was an easy case, we wouldn't have it."

From the Washington Post.

Thanks to Lubbock attorney Larry Doss for a great talk!


March 11, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Scalia opines at Pepperdine

Dean Kenneth Starr (formerly Solicitor General) was the host when Justice Antonin Scalia visited Battledoreandshuttlecock_2 Pepperdine Law School earlier this week. This detailed report of their "conversation" comes from the Los Angeles County Bar Association Blog. We will share a few tidbits.

Who, in Justice Scalia's opinion, was the Court's best writer? Justice Jackson, whom Scalia described as his hero. And as for the Justice's own opinions? When asked which he is most proud of, he answered, "Well, I haven't had that many triumphs."

When asked his opinion of the exchanges between Court and counsel at oral argument, the Justice stated that Clarence Thomas would benefit from talking more at argument. As the Justice observed, "the purpose of argument is to probe weaknesses in the lawyers' briefs." Answering questions from the bench is the only way for lawyers to know they not wasting everyone's time. Sometimes at oral argument the justices "use counsel as a shuttlecock" to try to persuade each other.

hat tip: The California Blog of Appeal


March 11, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)