Friday, April 3, 2009

Perspectives: Teaching Legal Research and Writing - new issue out now.

Here's the index for Vol. 17, No. 2 (Winter 2009):

"Down with the Death Penalty!" — Using Hot Topics with a Twist to Introduce Persuasive Advocacy and Legal Ethics
by Kimberly D. Phillips


Teaching Tax and Other Tedious Topics
by John A. Bogdanski and Samuel A.Donaldson


Three Vignettes
by Richard K. Neumann Jr.


It's a Small World: Using the Classic Disney Ride to Teach Document Coherence
by Michael J. Higdon 


Teaching to Different Levels of Experience: What I Learned from Working with Experienced Writers from Different Fields

by Ann M. Piccard 


Teachable Moments -

How Do You Update with Code of Federal Regulations Using GPO Access?

by Patrick J. Charles


Brutal Choices in Curricular Design

"The Real World": Creating a Compelling Appellate Brief Assignment Based on a Real-World Case"
by Elizabeth L. Inglehart and Martha Kanter


Writing Tips . . .

What Attorneys Can Learn from Children's Literature, and Other Lessons in Style
by Benjamin R. Opipari 


Legal Research and Writing Resources:  Recent Publications

by Barbara Bintliff


In case you didn't already know, a complete index to all Perspectives issues is available here as well as subscription information.  Perspectives is available free of charge from Westlaw.


I am the scholarship dude.



April 3, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Scholarship alert: "Should We Care If the Case Digest Disappears?: A Retrospective Analysis and the Future of Legal Research Instruction"

Several of us have discussed on the legal writing listserv and elsewhere whether the move away from the indexing method of legal research towards the word retrieval method characterized by online search engines deprives students of a key analytical aspect of legal research.  Sure, online research is much more efficient for many tasks but using the index method helps students identify issues they might not otherwise think of as well as providing a serendipitous approach to research that often produces the best results.

This article by Sabrina Sondhi, the Special Collections Librarian at Columbia Law School, found at 27 Legal Ref. Serv. Q. 263-281 (2008) adds to the discussion.  Here's the abstract:

This article begins with a brief history of the West key number digest system. Next, it reviews some of the prominent literature discussing the shift from case digests to full-text searching (including the sole user study on this topic). Then, this article examines how the paradigm shift is reflected in law library collections and current trends in legal research instruction. Finally, the author presents four lessons gleaned from this discussion that may help shape future legal research instruction and proposes a user study to better inform future discussion.

I am the scholarship dude.


April 3, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"in the case at bar"

As I'm commenting on appellate brief drafts and discouraging students from using terms like "in the case at bar," I thought it would be good to ask what terms attorneys/judges generally do NOT want to see in student/associate writing.  So comment on this message to let me know what other helpful advice I can give them as they move towards their first summer of work . . .



April 3, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Advice about grading exam essays while keeping your sanity intact

This is an interesting article from Inside Higher Ed containing some helpful tips for grading undergraduate exams that apply equally to law school grading.  While some of the advice is self-evident, I really like the author's emphasis on the need for teachers to develop strategies that keep us sane.  So much attention is typically focused on meeting the needs of our students that we, like our students, often forget that teachers have needs too. 

To be most effective and avoid burn-out, we have to make grading a manageable undertaking. The first step is to get real:

Let’s put aside romantic notions that each of us is Mr. Chips, that every essay is a joy to read, and that our only life goal is to toil selflessly so that all students maximize their potential. You could take that approach — for the year or two before you broke down like a knock-off Rolex. It would be better for both you and your students to develop a system to grade essays quickly, efficiently, and effectively. 

With that in mind, you need to strike an appropriate balance between providing guidance to the students without becoming an enabler by doing all the work yourself.  Instead, make them do it.  That means you need to become a grading "minimalist:" 

Develop a grading checklist and either post it to your course Web site or physically hand a copy to each student. Tell them that it is their responsibility to read it and to raise any questions they have regarding it. If you hand hold like Mr. Chips you actually do students a disservice. Maybe a few students don’t know what the word “syntax” means or can’t tell MLA from APA; it’s time they learn.

Finally, keep these things in mind:  Don't write too much, try to include positive comments and "immediate feedback is better than extensive feedback."

You can read the entire article here.

I am the scholarship dude.


April 3, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Richard Neumann to Receive the Burton Award for Outstanding Contributions to Legal Writing Education

Richard Lyn Goering, Judy S., Lisa McElroy Richard Neumann (Hofstra) will be the 2009 recipient of the Burton Award for Outstanding Contributions to Legal Writing Education.  He will receive the award at a banquet in June.  Anne Kringel of the University of Pennsylvania School of Law tells us that Richard was nominated by many people and was chosen from a group of outstanding nominees.  Richard was recognized for his contributions to legal writing teaching, his scholarship, and his well-known contributions to the advancement of our profession. 

Richard is pictured here (at the Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference) with Lynne Goering, Judy Stinson, and Lisa McElroy.

Hat tips to Nancy Schultz, Grace Tonner, and Anne Kringel for the Burton Award, and to Karin Mika for the photo.


April 3, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Photos from the Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference

Judy Stinson Courtesy of Professor Karin Mika (Cleveland Marshall), we have a small selection of photos to share with you from the Rocky Mountain Legal Writing ConferenceThe photos here are in no particular order.  You can click on any of the photos to enlarge them (even if the picture doesn't fully load on your screen, you should still be able to click on the photo and see it.)    

Pictured here first (on the left) is Judy Stinson (Arizona State University) who spoke on The Tao of Legal Writing.  Judy is also the president of the Association of Legal Writing Directors.

Doug Godfrey Douglas Godfrey (Chicago-Kent) (in the picture on the right) presented on The Need to Include Less Formal Memos in the First Year.

Linda Edwards Linda Edwards (William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas) (pictured sitting and showing us her wonderful trademarked smile) was the plenary speaker at the conference, speaking on the subject of "Metaphor, Archetype, and Story in Law's Development."  So . . . how many of the legal writing professors in the background of Linda's photo do YOU recognize? 

Regional legal writing conferences have become a big deal in recent years, and I'm happy about that.  It gives many professors a chance to attend and rejuvinate during a semester.  These conferences all supplement the never-to-be-missed conferences of the Legal Writing Institute (the next one will be June 27-30, 2010 in Marco Island (be SURE to save those dates)


Hat tip to Karin Mika





April 3, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Spring 2009 issue of The Law Teacher is out now

Published by the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning, The Law Teacher is a twice yearly online publication that, according to its mission statement, "provides a forum for ideas for improving teaching and learning in law schools and informs law teachers of the activities of the Institute."

Professors Gerry Hess of Gonzaga and Michael Hunter Schwartz of Washburn share responsibility for bringing the newsletter to your in-boxes every six months.

The Spring 2009 issue is hot off the press and available here.

I am the scholarship dude.



April 2, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

It's official - The NYT says "It's Time to Rethink the Legal Profession"

We've been saying it for months on this blog, now the New York Times adds its imprimatur to the growing number of commentators who recognize that we may be heading towards a “a paradigm-shifting, blood-in-the-suites” change in everything from the tuition law schools charge, to the role they play in preparing students for alternative careers, the salaries grads can expect to earn and the reduced fees clients can expect to pay. 

Obviously, no one yet knows how the dust will eventually settle but as this NYT says in this editorial

The past few decades of prosperity made a lot of lawyers wealthy, but they were not always good for the profession. Law school deans, bar association leaders and firm managers should follow Rahm Emanuel’s advice about never allowing a crisis to go to waste and start planning for what comes next.

You can read the whole editorial here.

Hat tip to the ABA Journal blog.

I am the scholarship dude.


April 2, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The "stoned professor" update

A few days ago, we reported on the pitfalls of videotaping one's class to the extent it winds up on YouTube.  To cement the point, we also blogged about a University of Florida professor who was apparently fired for appearing "stoned" in a class videotape that ended up on the internet. 

The stories were picked up by both the ABA Journal and Above the Law.

Just a few moments ago, I was mentioning the story in my legal writing class and "holy-six-degrees-of-separation-Batman!"  - turns out one of my students actually had the professor in question and was in the classroom seen on YouTube.  According to him, the professor had received a previous warning from the administration and was indeed fired the day after the tape surfaced for allegedly being drunk, rather than stoned, in class.  He also said that the YouTube snippet doesn't begin to convey the full extent of the problem.

But perhaps the biggest revelation is how acutely tuned some of my students are to the subtle differences between the symptoms of being drunk versus being stoned.  Several students concluded from the tape that the professor appeared drunk, not stoned, because the giddiness, the slurring of speech, body language, etc. are more indicative of alcohol consumption than marijuana use which typically manifests itself in more mellow ways, according to them. 

Kudos to my students for demonstrating such keen analytical powers.

I am the scholarship dude.


April 2, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Scholarship alert: "Tapping the Human Adaptive Origins of Storytelling by Requiring Legal Writing Students to Read a Novel in Order to Appreciate How Character, Setting, Plot, Theme and Tone (CSPTT) are as Important as IRAC"

Wow - that's a mouthful, but this one is sure to melt in your brain, not in your hands.  Authored by Professor Bret Rappaport, a partner in private practice who is also an adjunct legal writing professor at DePaul, it's an excellent read which carries the imprimatur of the Honorable Richard Posner who graciously reviewed a draft according to the author's credits.

I know Professor Rappaport from my days at the Journal of the Legal Writing Institute - he's a good guy - so pick up his article when you get a chance and give it a read, eh? You can find it in 25 T.M. Cooley L. Rev. 267 (2008) and on Lexis and Westlaw shortly.

I am the scholarship dude.


April 1, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

If April is the cruelest month, March was no walk in the park either


Especially if you're an attorney.  After the dust settled in the month just passed, you could add another 3,500 attorneys and staff to the funeral pyre.  All told, 7,000 have lost their jobs since January 1 and as we reported yesterday, despite all the cost-cutting to date, law firm managing partners remain pessimistic about the future.  

Folks, let there be no doubt about it - this is the worst market for lawyers anyone can remember and some are predicting the profession is headed for an economic reset that will result in permanent change in the overall demand for lawyers and how much they earn.

To help you better understand what it's like for a recently laid-off law grad who is having to cope with all the bad news, be sure to read a column carried by Above the Law called Notes From the Breadline.  It's really good, if distressing, reading.  

Here are some other miscellaneous signs 'o the times:

A legal job fair in New Jersey that will bring together public interest employers who don't pay and the unemployed or those with deferred start dates who would rather work for free than remain idle.   

A new employment service that aims to be the Craigslist for attorneys by offering a chance to bid on temp work. 

A column in the ABA Journal that asks:  How are You Keeping Yourself and Others from Despairing?

When you find an answer, please let me know.

Hat tips to the ABA Journal blog, Above the Law and the National Law Journal.

I am the scholarship dude.



April 1, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Martindale-Hubbell jumps into the online social networking game


And why not?  Everyone else is doing it including, in addition to the usual suspects, the ABA's Legally Minded as well as a brand new social networking site just for law students called Advanced Advocates.  The launch of M-H Connected is intended to, according to its website (where you'll also find a video explaining the service):

  • Expand your professional network– Connect with the people you know and the people your connections know to expand your network
  • Get "just-in-time", trusted answers– Tap into the community to securely ask questions or discuss a pressing issue of law.
  • Demonstrate thought leadership– Share your knowledge with a global audience on everything related to your practice area or the legal profession.

There's some helpful commentary on the Legal Blog Watch noting the pros and cons of lawyer social networks generally and whether the success online social networking communities have had in other professions, like physicians, can be replicated in the legal profession.

Hat tip to the Legal Blog Watch.

I am the scholarship dude.


April 1, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

green legal writers

Images Of course the first ever green legal writing conference is being held in the Pacific Northwest!  Lewis & Clark Law School and the University of Oregon School of Law have teamed up to bring us a conference with the theme:  Legal Writing in a Green World:  Recycle, Reuse, Rethink.  The conference will start with a reception on Friday, August 28th, and continue with working sessions all day Saturday, August 29th.  Submit proposals to present your new spin on an old teaching idea or your retooled approach to teaching legal writing -- by May 15th, to Rebekah Hanley at  Note that an ALWD-sponsored Scholars' Forum will proceed the conference on August 28th.


April 1, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

workshop for new legal writing profs

Top_logo AALS has announced this year's Workshop for Beginning Legal Writing Teachers, June 20 - 21, in Washington, D.C.  You can attend just this workshop or arrive a couple of days earlier and attend the workshop geared at all new law professors, too.  If you will be teaching legal writing for the first time in the fall, the workshop geared to legal writing professors is invaluable.  If you will also be entering the legal academy as a professor for the first time, particularly if you will be in a tenure-line job, the earlier days will be equally helpful.  Even if you will not be on the job yet in June, most law schools will pay for new professors to attend these workshops, so don't hesitate to ask.


April 1, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

job opening in L.A.

Loyola Law School-Los Angeles is taking applications for one full-time, non-tenure track position as an Associate Clinical Professor for the 2009-10 academic year, to teach the legal writing component of two sections of required first-year Legal Research and Writing and one section of Ethical Lawyering.  Ethical Lawyering, a required upper-division course, teaches legal ethics, client interviewing and counseling in an innovative, integrated format using video and live client simulations.  The initial appointment as an Associate Clinical Professor is for two years and may be renewed for unlimited successive five-year periods. 

            Applicants must have a degree from an ABA/AALS accredited law school, an outstanding academic record along with excellent written and oral skills.  Practice experience in legal writing and drafting and interviewing and counseling clients is required.  Prior law school teaching in legal writing, professional responsibility, or interviewing and counseling is also required. 

Send resumes and names of two references to: Loyola Law School Human Resources, e-mail: jobs@lls.eduApplication deadline is April 17.  Loyola Law School supports the principle of diversity.  We encourage applications from women, ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities and veterans. 

1.  The position advertised:  
    _x_  b.  may lead to successive long-term contracts of five or more years.

2.  The professor hired:
     _x_ a.   will be permitted to vote in faculty meetings.

3.  The school anticipates paying an annual academic year base salary in the range checked:
          _x_ c.   $70,000 to $79,999 

4.  The number of students enrolled in each semester of the courses taught by the legal research & writing professor will be:
   _x_ d.   41 – 45  (in LRW and 32 in Ethical Lawyering

hat tip:  Prof. Arnold Siegel



April 1, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

37,000+ Visits and 50,000+ Page Views

The Legal Writing Prof Blog is HOT!  In March we had more than 37,000 visits and more than 50,000 page views.  Thanks, blog readers!  We appreciate your visits.

Nancy, Sue, Coleen, Mark, and Jim

April 1, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Guess what? Visual learners really do think in pictures

It comes as no news (at least it shouldn't) to any classroom teacher worth their salt that each student has a different learning style.  Some are visual learners, some are kinesthetic learners, some aural, etc.  So, you're now thinking to yourself:  "OK chief, tell me something I don't already know!"

Your wish is my command.  The thing is, until this new study was released, it was all just a hypothesis. University of Pennsylvania researchers have just proven, using magnetic resonance imaging technology, that people who identify themselves as visual learners do indeed convert verbal information into pictures and vice-versa for verbal learners when the teacher uses pictures.

The more strongly an individual identified with the visual cognitive style, the more that individual activated the visual cortex when reading words.

The opposite also appears to be true from the study’s results.

Those participants who considered themselves verbal learners were found under fMRI to have brain activity in a region associated with phonological cognition when faced with a picture, suggesting they have a tendency to convert pictorial information into linguistic representations.

You can read the full story here, via ScienceDaily.

Hat tip to Professor Mary Ray.

I am the scholarship dude.


p.s. Note to self:  Check eBay for "magnetic resonance imaging" machine.

March 31, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Eric Holder is right - we are cowards

At least according to this very thoughtful excerpt from a book by the late Professor Paul Lyons reprinted in Inside Higher Ed.  We had reported earlier that another new book suggests that university faculties, in general, have become more timid in the post 9-11 climate.   

In this brief excerpt, one gets a sense that Professor Lyons was a very earnest man who wanted to understand the "truth," to the extent anyone ever can, and thus shunned political expediency.  As a result, he endured the ire of his colleagues.  However, Professor Lyons lack of concern for "political correctness" seemingly enabled him to engage in a more open, direct and honest discussion about racism, as it exists both in and out of the classroom, than most people usually do. 

A black female undergraduate asked me how I would respond if she believed that I had said something racist in class and she came to complain to me. I told her that I would take her allegation very seriously, consider whether I thought it was valid, and give her my most honest response. She was dissatisfied, indeed offended by my response, as were many on the panel and in the audience. The student asked me why I wouldn’t accept the validity of her allegation. I told her that I thought it would be harmful to her or any other student to allow an automatic acceptance of any allegation, that it risked corrupting her or anyone else in that it would allow for false charges to go unchallenged. I ended by suggesting that true respect included disagreement. I added that if not satisfied, a student always had the remedy of taking the allegation to my superiors.

The room erupted with anger at me, with one white colleague screaming at me that I was patronizing the student. I was disappointed and depressed by this display of what seemed to me to be wrong-headed, racially retrograde, and demagogic. I need to add that I was not angry at the student who raised the issue; she seemed honest and forthcoming, even in disagreement.

Most interesting is that over the next weeks several of my African American students asked me what had happened — there obviously had been a buzz in the hallways. This led to some fruitful conversation about how one determines the existence of racism. I also received several notes from white colleagues expressing admiration for what I had said but confessing that they were too cowardly to do the same. This depressed me even more than the hostile responses. Had we come to this — faculty, even tenured ones, afraid to speak their minds in fear of being charged with racism? Indeed, we had. One junior faculty member told me that he never goes near certain hot-button issues like affirmative action or underclass behavior because of his fear that it might put his job at risk.

As teachers we struggle with students who hold back from authentically discussing issues of prejudice, who go silent or simply echo agreement. It is hard work to achieve honest discussions; all students enter with bruises. One must establish a trusting environment for such discussions to be fruitful. Trust does not exist at the beginning of a class. I tell students that the handshake is an apt metaphor for our relations — I hold your hand, you hold mine — we trust one another but I also prevent you from hitting me in case that is your hidden desire. We trust and mistrust simultaneously. And then we can begin to have an honest dialog.

My own view is that the optimal way to help students respond to moral challenges is to help them understand the contradictory strands of heroism and knavery, the victimized and the victimizing, of many of our peoples. And we as educators need to understand and communicate the contextual nature of human behavior, its range and subtleties, and the contradictory ways that humans respond to moral challenges. As such, we teach humility before the wonder — the heroism, the cowardice, the insensitivity's, the villainies — of our own natures, our own histories.

This might be called the double helix of all peoples, the intertwining of their burdens and their inspirations, their hidden shames and forgotten accomplishments, the recognition of which makes it more likely that they will be able to recognize the same complexity in others.

. . . .

I want that young woman who was offended by my comments at the panel discussion to hang in there, continue challenging me, but I also want more time to try to persuade her that there is respect in disagreement, that she will be best served by being taken seriously.

At a time when compliments get tossed around so easily and frequently that they lose any real meaning, Professor Lyons sounds to me like he was an authentically decent man.  A person who exalted truth and understanding over self-interest.  We need more educators like that.

I am the scholarship dude.



March 31, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

BigLaw managing partners pessimistic about year ahead - tough times not over yet

Buckle up, folks, there's still plenty of turbulence ahead.  According to Citi's private banking law division which has "for more than a quarter-century . . . analyzed the fiscal performance of law firms annually," managing partners at large firms are not optimistic about the future.  The tough times are not yet over according to the Citi quarterly report issued yesterday as noted by BLT.  

Of the roughly 120 managing partners surveyed from mostly Am Law 100 and Am Law 200 firms, 64 percent believe legal business will drop even more over the next six months. The survey says firms should not expect major profit growth over the next year, as profits, if there are any, will likely not exceed 5 percent. The majority of managing partners believe revenue will stay flat or decline.

In addition to clients scaling back their use of law firms, an uptick in expenses has also put pressure on firm profit margins. Over the next year, managing partners say expenses will likely grow by about about 5 to 10 percent with lawyer compensation significantly driving that growth. Managing partners, however, are also now pointing to non-lawyer compensation as a factor hiking up expenses.

Hat tip to and the Blog of Legal Times.

I am the scholarship dude.



March 31, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

And you thought she was just taking notes . . .

Some of our law students are writing across the curriculum. That is, they are writing in all their classes. Problem is, they are writing novels, not briefs, memos, or contracts. The ABA Journal reports that a Wake Forest law student wrote a novel while sitting in class (her law-student husband took notes for the couple), and reportedly she's working on her second.


March 31, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)