Saturday, March 28, 2009

jargon vs. gibberish


14SCARZINJLCAR9TSU1CAI4U0GNCAFR7CYCCAQCXWNECAZL7R2ZCATVZWLACAXWJWZFCAFMZELLCAPOM8PMCA26IE7ECAHLMAAKCA20Z2U0CAWN6HQCCACGL328CAOP942FCAOTY4K5CAZ366MXCALL79WO In yesterday's post on the Marquette University Law School faculty blog, Professor Jessica Slavin unpacks for us the difference between jargon and gibberish, as she explores The Concise Gibberish of the Law.  As with many things in this life, the difference does seem to depend on your view point.  

(spl)

March 28, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Follow up to new book on the mechanics of decision-making

Back in December, we reported on a then forthcoming book on the neuroscience of decision-making which should be of interest to any law school professor who teaches persuasion.  Last Sunday's New York Times book review contained a very favorable review of that book, How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer, which can be read in full here

Here's an interesting excerpt:

For this reader, though, the most provocative sections of “How We Decide” involve sociopolitical issues more than personal ones. A recurring theme is how certain innate bugs in our decision-­making apparatus led to our current financial crisis. We may be heavily “loss averse,” but only in the short run: a long list of experiments have shown that completely distinct parts of the brain are activated if the potential loss lies in the mid- or long-term future, making us more susceptible to the siren song of the LCD TV or McMansion. So many of the financial schemes that led us astray over the past decade exploit precisely these defects in our decision-making tools. “Paying with plastic fundamentally changes the way we spend money, altering the calculus of our financial decisions,” Lehrer writes. “When you buy something with cash, the purchase involves an actual loss — your wallet is literally lighter. Credit cards, however, make the transaction abstract.” Proust may have been a neuroscientist, but so were the subprime mortgage lenders. These are scientific insights that should be instructive to us as individuals, of course, but they also have great import to us as a society, as we think about the new forms of regulation that are going to have to be invented in the coming years to prevent another crisis.

Although the NYT didn't hat tip us for hipping them to the book, we're a very magnanimous bunch here at the 'ol Legal Writing Prof blog so we'll let it slide . . . this time.

I am the scholarship dude.

(jbl)

March 28, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Don't try this at work! At home? Maybe.

Apropos to our blog entry a few days ago about the downside of taping one's class, this YouTube video pretty much cements the point.  After this tape surfaced on the Internet, this University of Florida business professor was promptly fired for being "stoned" during class. 

If this is how future business leaders are being educated, it goes a long way to explaining how we got into our current financial mess, to say nothing of giving the term "higher education" a whole new meaning.


Update - April 3, 2009.  Read more about this story here.

(jbl)

March 28, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

UR RSS feeds

 

T97CAO4OW11CA7OOPUNCA2KUWRQCAT33N6HCAZO9A1HCAOV4NZLCAHJ0AT1CAP0W892CAPEB9H7CALMUHNNCAY3O5H1CAHD2XYFCAYQQCMGCAOOJL64CA5B1B2ACAPXRR8XCA08GCDFCARHFL0TCAK30RB7So how well are you using RSS feeds?  If you're not sure, you likely will appreciate Professor Diane Murley's article on The Power of RSS Feeds.    And if you don't even know what an RSS feed is, her article is a good place to start learning about what you've been missing.

(spl)

March 28, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Lou Sirico Explains How Muddied Writing Can Cause Problems

Lou SiricoLouis J Sirico, Jr., a professor of law and director of the legal writing program at Villanova University School of Law (and while we're at it, he was also the Immediate Past Chair of the AALS Section on Legal Writing Reasoning and Research), has an article in the online newsletter of the Young Lawyers Division of the Pennsylvania Bar Association.  The article is called "Muddied Writing Can Cause You Problems," and you can click here to read it.

(mew)

 

March 28, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Guide to low-cost and free online legal research tools

This one comes to us from our good buddies at the Law Librarian Blog.  Georgetown has compiled an excellent and seemingly comprehensive list of free (or low-cost) online legal research tools and databases.  Given that the economy nowadays has every cost-conscious lawyer and law school administrator fumbling to remember their safe-word, this is a very welcome addition.

I am the scholarship dude.

(jbl)

March 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Scholarship alert: "Training Independent Learners: Student Self-Editing Checklist for Law School Papers, Notes and Comments"



Temmw

UMKC is on fire these days (see below).  This article was authored by three of their faculty, Professors Wanda Temm, Allen Rostron and Nancy Levit.  It is available from SSRN here.

From the abstract:

Too often, professors offer exemplar edits of student papers providing a single edit or identifying one or two instances of a problem. The expectation is that the students will respond to the general principle and use it themselves in editing the remainder of their own pieces. Independent learning theory suggests that students learn best if they learn the tools of self-assessment.

Editing checklists abound. Grammar dos and don'ts are not difficult to obtain; indeed, virtually every legal writing text has some variation. Students who take the time to review these lists find them quite helpful. Independent learners only need access to the information. Not all students, however, are independent learners. Many need more than a nudge to use information that is provided to them. Requiring self-editing certification enables the student to develop editing skills by focusing on discrete tasks rather than the often overwhelming instruction to proofread carefully. Although this same information is available in a myriad of sources, the certification directs the student to manageable tasks.

The following is a checklist for students to use in editing their own papers. It lists many of the most basic principles of good, clear writing and many of the most common flaws in students' papers. It requires the student to certify, by signing and noting the date and time, that the student has checked the paper for each of the points listed.

I am the scholarship dude.

(jbl)

March 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Scholarship alert: "Legal Storytelling: The Theory and the Practice - Reflective Writing Across the Curriculum"

Levit

The above article is by Professor Nancy Levit of U. Missouri at Kansas City.  It's available on SSRN here.

From the abstract:

This article concentrates on the theory of narrative or storytelling and addresses the reasons it is vital to encourage in law schools in non-clinical or primarily doctrinal courses. Section I traces the advent of storytelling in legal theory and practice: while lawyers have long recognized that part of their job is to tell their clients' stories, the legal academy was, for many years, resistant to narrative methodologies. Section II examines the current applications of Writing Across the Curriculum in law schools. Most exploratory writing tasks in law school come in clinical courses, although a few adventurous professors are adding reflective and narrative assignments in doctrinal classes. This section explores the value of narrative writing in encouraging students to sharpen their legal analysis and to reflect on their ethical responsibilities. Section III considers three interrelated advantages of teaching students to encode legal information in story form. First, emerging evidence from neuroscience indicates that people remember stories much better than they recall snippets of fact. Second, narratives pay attention to humans - and this emphasis on identity, voice, perspectives, and lived experiences offers more accurate representations of human conditions than legal doctrines can capture. Third, narrative writing is a particular type of advocacy that appears in legal briefs and opinions. Use of storytelling as a persuasive technique may encourage courts and academics to probe more deeply for criteria of narrative truths. Finally, Section IV concludes by urging attention to the stories told in legal practice and at law firms.

I am the scholarship dude.

(jbl)

March 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Beware the pitfalls of videotaping your classes

Several law professors now tape their classes and make those videos available to students on school websites or through iTunes.  However, this article from the Chronicle of Higher Education points out that when you tape a class, you expose to the world any faux pas, classroom foibles, or may even violate student confidentiality should an after-class private discussion about a grade get caught on tape.  At the very least, it might make life a lot more uncomfortable for you if an off-hand comment about your dean or a joke taken out of context winds up on YouTube.

You can read the full article here.

Update - April 3, 2009 - read more about this story here.

I am the scholarship dude.

(jbl)

March 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Blogger questions Koppen's ranking of moot court programs.

Sherwin_r

Professor Robert Sherwin, the Director of Advocacy at Texas Tech University School of Law, has a blog called The Bench Brief in which he offers some critical commentary about Brian Koppen's ranking of moot court programs found at lawschooladvocacy.com which we had previously reported on here.

Hat tip to Professor Jim Dimitri. 

I am the scholarship dude.  (jbl)

March 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Law firm websites that work - it's all about effective communication

There's an interesting article in the April issue of the ABA Journal called Law Firm Websites that Work that gathers opinions from several experts about what makes a law firm's website effective.   The experts opine on the following categories:

  • Law firm branding;
  • Solo firms;
  • Innovation;
  • Virtuality;
  • All business; and
  • Youth appeal.

What does this have to do with legal writing, you ask?  A lot - because website design, like good writing, is all about knowing your audience in order to communicate effectively with it.

Hat tip to Nari Roye.

I am the scholarship dude.

(jbl)

March 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Strunk & White's Elements of Style celebrates 50th B-day

Strunk

It's considered a classic, perhaps the classic usage and grammar guide and next week it turns 50.  Where have the years gone?  To celebrate, the publisher has issued a special leather-bound, gold-embossed edition.

Why has this little guide that came from such humble beginnings been so influential? 

Strunk and White's success is the result of an "emphasis on plain style being preferable to more ornate kind of writing. Simple rather than complex. Native rather than foreign. Active rather than passive. Verbal rather than nominal," said Dennis Baron, a professor of English and linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and author of "Declining Grammar and Other Essays on the English Vocabulary" and "Guide to Home Language Repair.

Elaine Engst, director of Cornell's division of rare and manuscript collections, further explains:  "the book also was inexpensive and accessible and has stayed true to Strunk's original focus on brevity and clarity." 

So next week, please remember to raise a glass to Lord Strunk and his faithful liege E.B. White.  We owe them much.

Hat tip to Professor Mary Ray.

I am the scholarship dude.

(jbl)

March 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Breaking news - LSAC reports a last minute surge in law school apps

We had previously reported here that as of late February, the Law School Admissions Council ("LSAC") released data showing that although the number of law school applications was up, the number of applicants remained flat.  That meant that the same number of people were merely applying to more law schools presumably hoping this might be a good year to "trade-up" as schools feel more economic pressure to fill seats.

Today, the LSAC released a password protected report on its website stating that as of 03/20/09, the data "for the fall 2009 term . . .  indicates ABA applicants are up 3.0% and applications up 5.5% from 2008."

Given the well publicized news about the state of the legal marketplace as well as thoughtful essays like this one that encourage potential applicants to think long and hard before going to law school, this new data will likely come as a surprise to many.

I am the scholarship dude.

(jbl)

 

 

 

March 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

clearly, obviously

 CPYCAR9Y7EJCAD6317PCARZY9L4CA5YVDWXCAMLFPMRCA58HI1BCATHMUCNCADI9UDACA3QCQL8CASZERB1CALAWDFQCAMK388VCAUW60R4CA30N2DLCAFNVP3UCAYK17U3CA0S5OFLCANXT1W0CA26219M I tell my students to remember the words of Jean Luc Picard on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.  Instead of saying "clearly, ..." or "obviously, ...," just "make it so." 

Now after years of steering my students away from such locutions, here come Lance Long and Bill Christensen to make us question, Clearly Using Intensifiers Is Very Bad -- Or Is It?

Their abstract explains:   

"Although scholars have generally found that overusing intensifiers (words such as clearly, obviously, and very) negatively affects the persuasiveness or credibility of a legal argument, no one has studied actual appellate briefs to determine whether there is a relationship between intensifier use and the outcome of an appeal. This article describes two empirical studies of appellate briefs, which show that the frequent use of intensifiers in appellate briefs (particularly by an appellant) is usually associated with a statistically significant increase in adverse outcomes for an offending party. But - and this was an unexpected result - if an appellate opinion uses a high rate of intensifiers, an appellant's brief written for that appeal that also uses a high rate of intensifiers is associated with a statistically significant increase in favorable outcomes. Additionally, when a dissenting opinion is written, judges use significantly more intensifiers in both the majority and dissenting opinions. In other words, as things become less clear, judges tend to use clearly, and obviously more often.

"These results could be interpreted several ways. It could be that overusing intensifiers actually renders a brief suspect and subject to increased skepticism by appellate court judges. Alternatively, it could be that the overuse of intensifiers is accompanied by violations of other writing conventions that further affect the credibility of the brief. Or, it could simply be that appellants or appellees with difficult arguments (arguments that they believe they are likely to lose) tend to lapse into an intensifier-rich mode of writing in an attempt to bolster the perceived weaknesses of an argument. All of these factors may combine to produce the result. Of course, since no causal relationship is shown, it could be a yet unidentified factor. At the very least, the studies suggest the need for further research and a fruitful source of data for performing such research."

(spl)

March 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

reading and writing opinions -- a working paper

Third Circuit Senior Judge Ruggero Aldisert and two of his clerks, Meehan Rasch and Matthew P. Bartlett, have posted their new working paper, Opinion Writing and Opinion Readers, on SSRN. From the abstract:

The authors-a federal appellate judge and his law clerks-bring unique perspectives to bear on the topic of opinion writing and opinion readers. The contents of this Article were inspired in large part by the work done by the authors in editing and preparing the second edition of Judge Aldisert's classic book Opinion Writing, which for many years was distributed to all federal trial and appellate judges, and to all state appellate judges, when they took the bench. A broader audience of professional opinion writers and students of the judicial process now has access to Opinion Writing, 2d Edition, an updated, comprehensive guide intended to be of wide practical use to members of the judiciary, judicial staff attorneys and law clerks, state and federal administrative judges, hearing officers, commissioners and private arbitrators, law librarians, scholars and students. This Article draws from and complements topics addressed in Opinion Writing, 2d Edition, while specifically highlighting the relationship between opinion writing and opinion readers.

In Part I, we survey some of the considerations facing opinion writers as they decide whether to write an opinion at all, examine the decision-making process engaged in by courts prior to writing an opinion, and summarize the various types of written "opinions" that may be produced, such as per curiams, judgment orders, precedential and non-precedential opinions. In Part II, we identify primary and secondary "readership markets" for judicial opinions and discuss how the purpose of writing opinions is affected by the intended audience. In Part III, we dissect the ideal structure of an opinion, offer basic mechanics of draftsmanship and address some of the criticisms of judicial opinions lodged by readers. In Part IV, we briefly touch on opinion writing style and editing. In conclusion, we reaffirm the need for wider understanding of the judicial process and for increased clarity of communication between opinion writers and readers. To this end, we hope this Article will serve as a useful resource for all opinion readers and writers, including scholars, practitioners and judges, students and aspiring law clerks.

(cmb)

March 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Adjuncts fight back!

Scarfaceinthefall


Little 'ol Weber State University in Ogden, Utah didn't know who they were messin' with when, for budgetary reasons, they decided to cut adjunct pay by 7% while leaving full time faculty pay unscathed. 

Like Tony Montana said:  "When you f*** with [adjuncts], you're F***ing with the best! "  Weber State's decision provoked letters from faculty all over the country (and even Japan) protesting the administrative decision to make the most vulnerable members of the faculty bear the brunt of the school's budgetary problems.

Legal writing professors everywhere tip their collective hats to those who wrote letters and were willing to stand by our adjunct brothers and sisters.

Read the full story here.

Hat tip to Inside Higher Ed. 

I am the scholarship dude.

(jbl)

March 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The cost-benefit analysis of attending law school in the new legal marketplace

Given housing prices these days, the cost of attending grad school may now be the single biggest expenditure people make.  With private (and some public) law school degrees weighing in at $100k to $150k a pop, and a legal marketplace that may be undergoing fundamental change, the decision to attend law school is not one that should be made lightly or without a very careful consideration of the financial pros and cons.  Gone may be the days when students could ride out a recession in law school confident in the notion that the cost of a degree would pay for itself upon graduation.

Here's a thoughtful essay from the Veritas Prep Blog that addresses the new economic reality of obtaining a law degree:  

[S]tudents should be more cognizant of the financial aspects of their law school choices. With an uncertain job market at the other end of the pipeline, it is no longer a cavalier thing to take out $150,000 in debt to obtain an elite law degree. In 2004, I would have been crazy to go to Duke for $70,000 rather than Chicago for $150,000. Now, in 2008?  I'd probably be crazy to do the opposite. Schools are leveraging each other right now too, so it is a good time to pay attention to trends (this year Michigan appears to be the big spender) and also to barter with the schools.

All of this signifies a sea change in the selection/enrollment process. Until now, I would have told a student to pick among the top 14 law schools in this order:

1) fit
2) rank/prestige
3) cost.

Now, under these market conditions, I would change the order to:

1) cost
2) fit
3) rank/prestige.

In my humble opinion, it is far better to go to Cornell and have $50,000 in debt than go to NYU and carry $120,000 in student loans, when it might not matter much with regard to job prospects. Either the deals are going to start happening by the time you graduate (in which case you can get a great job from either school), or they're not (in which case you might be trouble coming from either school). This is now a major consideration. Put another way: students have to consider law school a little more like undergrad with regard to their cost versus return on investment (ROI) analysis.

You can read the full essay here and the Wall Street Journal article it references here.

Hat tip Legal Watch Blog.

I am the scholarship dude.

(jbl)

March 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Mercer Law Review has again reserved a spot in one of its upcoming issues for an article on a legal writing subject. The newly appointed law review editors are on a fairly tight schedule; they want to complete article selection and sign a publication agreement by May 1.

If you wish to submit your article on a legal writing topic, please send the article as soon as possible via e-mail to the articles editor, Val Leppert, or via snailmail to the following address:

Articles Editor
Mercer Law Review
Walter F. George School of Law
Mercer University
Macon, Georgia 31207

hat tip:  Prof. Linda L. Berger

(spl)

March 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

What makes a great lawyer?

The answer, according to an informal survey of Philadelphia lawyers, includes being an excellent listener, relentless dedication to enhancing one's knowledge and skill-set, being extremely detail oriented, possessing a great intuition, and having a tremendous passion for the law.  It goes without saying that excellent research and writing skills are also the sine qua non of excellent lawyering.

You can read the whole article here.

I am the scholarship dude.

(jbl)

March 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Scholarship alert: "Promoting In-Depth Analysis: A Three-Part Approach to Teaching Analogical Reasoning to Novice Legal Writers"

  Shartung  Sgeorge

Professors Stephanie Roberts Hartung and Shailini Jandial George of Suffolk University School of law have just published Promoting In-Depth Analysis: A Three-Part Approach to Teaching Analogical Reasoning to Novice Legal Writers

From the abstract on SSRN:

Analogical reasoning is ubiquitous in every day discourse and in legal analysis. Law students are generally expected to incorporate this type of analysis into their writing in the context of essay exams and legal memoranda for their writing courses. Yet students often receive minimal guidance as to how to effectively create legal analogies and frequently struggle with this process. This article suggests a three-part approach to promoting effective use of reasoning by analogy in student writing. First, the article discusses in-class exercises that use non-legal examples to help demystify analogical reasoning and enable students to recognize that they already reason by analogy in their every day conversations. Second, the article suggests introducing students to a four-step construct for developing logical and legally relevant analogies in order to make the process of analogical reasoning more tangible. Finally, the article discusses methods of providing detailed and constructive feedback to students that will allow them to improve their use of analogical reasoning in their essay exam answers, legal memoranda, and in their employment.

I am the scholarship dude.

(jbl)

.

March 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)