Friday, July 24, 2009
Those of us attending the Applied Legal Storytelling conference were sworn to secrecy until it could be announced on the legal writing listserves first, but now that's done, we can announce here the recipient of the 2010 Blackwell Award: Steve Johansen, our conference host here at Lewis & Clark. The award, presented in memory of Tom Blackwell, is the most prestigious award given in legal writing to one of our own. Steve was a friend of Tom's and rendered almost speechless by the announcement. (spl)
Thursday, July 23, 2009
The Senate Judiciary Committee should have been at LWI's Applied Storytelling Conference today. In the opening plenary session, Ruth Anne Robbins and Steve Johansen presented This Is Your Brain on Stories. They first gave us a working definition of the word "story" (as opposed to "narrative"), then gave an overview of the relevant science on how human brains function, and finally suggested some implications. We learned that for a human being to make a decision, the brain must employ both logic and emotion. It is physically impossible to make a decision if the two areas of the brain most responsible for each function are not working well and communicating with each other. Stories activate both the memory and sensory functions of the brain, including emotions. Human brains naturally take in information and form it into stories; if there are gaps in a story, our brains use past experience to fill in those gaps. In other words, all humans with healthy brains base decisions, in part, on past experience. (It works the same for U.S. Senators and for U.S. Supreme Court nominees.) With more story telling, law students also could have better comprehension and retention of the material they're learning, and also sharpen their analytical, writing, and oratory skills. (spl)
The Attorney General of Oregon, John Kroger, opened the Applied Legal Storytelling conference in Portland last night, telling a few stories from his book, Convictions. He used to work as a federal prosecutor, and if you have ever stood in a courtroom, have ever taught or mentored people who will one day stand in a courtroom, or just enjoy amazing stories that happen to be true, you might want to find some time during lunch hour to get to the library or bookstore and find this book. John doesn't just tell the stories of the cases, he tells the stories of the ethical decisions he faced during his cases, essentially the story of an attorney maturing within his profession. I could go on and on about his excellent presentation, but then I'd miss the shuttle bus from beautiful downtown Portland to the Lewis & Clark law school for today's conference presentations. (spl)
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Or maybe not, according to a recent study by an educational psychologist who found that "how academics dress for a lecture doesn't affect how students perceive them —at least in the long run."
Yasmine L. Konheim-Kalkstein, who holds a doctorate in educational psychology, grouped four sections of an introductory psychology course she taught last fall into two "casual" classes and two "formal" classes, each of which were held at different times and on different days.
The data showed that Ms. Konheim-Kalkstein's clothing made a small difference in perceptions of her on the first day of class, with those students in the "formal" classes finding her more qualified and approachable than did those in the informal classes. But four weeks into the semester, wearing less-formal clothes had about the same effect on student perceptions as wearing formal clothes.
You can read the rest of this story from the Chronicle of Higher Education here.
I know that (several) others have studied whether the way in which professors dress affects student perceptions but I can't remember whether this new study in consistent with the other research. Since I'm headed out the door to the UNLV rec center, I'm not inclined to find out at the moment. If you know, please post in the comment section below.
I am the scholarship dude.
That's a rather stunning statistic (although if you work for the guy in the post below, it's not hard to understand). The online ABA Journal is reporting today that research by a company called Catalyst produced the report which is being picked up by the Chicago Sun-Times. Here's an excerpt:
A study has found that more than 75 percent of female minority attorneys at U.S. law firms will leave their jobs within five years due to continuing barriers to advancement. The finding is by the women's research group Catalyst, which notes the barriers bring with them big costs
The report looked at the workplace experiences of minority women, compared with those of men of color and white women and men. Challenges unique to women of color include limited growth opportunities and a greater sense of "outsider status," racial and gender stereotyping and more feelings of sexism in the workplace compared with white women; lack of access to high-profile client assignments and important client engagements, and missed opportunities for candid feedback, the report said.
I am the scholarship dude.
These days, newly minted law grads looking for a job are more nervous and anxious than a horny toad stuck on a Texas freeway with its hopper busted. It can be downright scary.
That's because the pendulum has swung to the right big time and employers now hold all the cards. You may not agree with it - or perhaps you do - but this post (circa 2006) from the blog What About Clients reflects - in rather brusque terms - what many (if not most) employers may think today:
Work-life balance is still a dumb-ass issue.
1. Practicing law is difficult and demanding--even for brilliant, diligent, ambitious and accomplished people. We've said this before. No big deal.
2. If you wanted just a job, you got into the wrong line of work.
3. Someone has done you a disservice if you believe employers exist to serve you--and to make you happy. We exist for customers and clients. We will train you--and work very hard to do that.
4. But "work-life" balance is "your" problem--not our firm's or mine. Each one of us creates our quality of life as we learn to be lawyers, develop standards, hold hard to those standards every day, and attend to the main event: clients.
5. If you are a job-hunting student or young lawyer expecting our firm to support a regime of work-life harmony, please try another shop. That is always your problem. We are happy and well-rounded people who work our asses off. However, people twice as smart and as hardworking as you paid huge dues to be able to call himself or herself a "lawyer". Please go away.
Color us Midwestern. It's privilege to work. It's a privilege to practice law.
Hat tip to Above the Law.
I am the scholarship dude.
We have a saying around the offices of ye olde Legal Writing Prof Blog: When legal writing profs talk, people listen. Accordingly, in response to the growing consensus that we're in the midst of not just a temporary market downturn, but a fundamental, structural change in the business of lawyering, the ABA Journal has launched LegalRebels.com to profile innovative practitioners who are keeping ahead of the sea-change overtaking the profession. This will undoubtedly be a good source for skills teachers to keep abreast of how lawyers actual practice during this era of rapid change and innovation.
I am the scholarship dude.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
The Chronicle of Higher Ed is reporting that University of Iowa law professor Lea VanderVelde has chosen to use a wiki as her employment law text rather than a more traditional textbook:
When Ms. VanderVelde was preparing to teach a class on employment law last semester, she was trying to think of a new way to teach the complex differences among states’ laws. She decided to divide the states up and give a few to each student to research extensively, and to post their work on a wiki site, using Wikipedia software.
To ensure quality work, Ms. VanderVelde monitored and approved all posts. Students’ grades were based on how much time they had spent on the site working and on the quality of their work. The class created its own search engine in Westlaw to find important law decisions and information that they should include in their work.
Professor VanderVelde concedes that her approach would not work in other classes. "In a property-law class she teaches, she still uses a textbook that she wrote." But she is very happy with the way it worked in this particular class.
Read the full story here.
I am the scholarship dude.
Let's file this one under "Friday Fun - a few days early." This may be the world's smallest law office - in Okeechobee, Florida at the corner of 3rd and Park, to be exact. Sent to me by a colleague, Professor Eloise Rodriguez-Dod. I am the scholarship dude.
Tomorrow evening starts another summertime conference, Applied Legal Storytelling Chapter Two: Once Upon a Legal Story. Chapter One took place in 2007, at City Law School in London, and was so successful, the host organization, the Legal Writing Institute, has organized this opportunity to continue the conversation. Chapter Two takes place at the Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon. If you wonder just how much could possibly be said about legal storytelling, click here to see the intriguing titles of the dozens of sessions to be presented.
Continuing the Celebration of the Legal Writing Institute Silver Anniversary: A Video Discussion with Christopher Rideout, Laurel Oates, Anne Enquist, Lori Lamb, and Ralph Brill
The first "official" Legal Writing Institute conference was held at the University of Puget Sound in 1984. The Institute was officially incorporated the year after that, and the Seattle area remained the home of the Legal Writing Institute for 20 years.
Before the creation of the Legal Writing Institute, the only real opportunity for Legal Writing professors to discuss and share ideas was through annual programs and workshops sponsored by the Association of American Law Schools. In the video that we are sharing with you today, Christopher Rideout, Laurel Oates, Anne Enquist, Lori Lamb and Ralph Brill share memories about the days before the creation of the Legal Writing Institute.
We hope you enjoy the video.
Hat tip to Karin Mika
Monday, July 20, 2009
Scholarship alert: "'Sending Down' Sabbatical: Lawyering in the Legal Services Trenches Has Benefits for Professor and Practitioner Alike"
Professors Suzanne Rabe of Arizona and Stephen Rosenbaum of Berkeley have just authored the above article available on SSRN here. This work-in-progress has been generating some very positive buzz according to our insider Professor Mary Beth Beazley. From the abstract:
This article proposes that clinical professors, and legal writing professors in particular, consider practicing law - in real-life, non-clinical settings - during some significant portion of their sabbaticals from teaching. This proposal would (1) improve the learning experience for students in clinics, writing classes, and skills classes, (2) offer a vital public service to the under-represented, and (3) improve the overall administration of justice. At little cost, this proposal would foster a richer engagement by clinicians and legal writing professors with the world of legal practice. This idea could also infuse increased life and meaning into our law school classes. The Carnegie Foundation’s study of legal education and the Best Practices Project of the Clinical Legal Education Association – along with their recommendations of a greater emphasis on clinics and trial or practice simulations – have generated much discussion within the academy. By challenging readers to consider alternative sabbatical engagements that would later enrich the classroom experience with a practitioner’s focus, our article addresses many of the concerns expressed by the Carnegie Foundation and by the Best Practices Project
I am the scholarship dude.
One of SoMo's deans seems to think so according to this story from The Chronicle of Higher Ed:
College leaders usually brag about their tech-filled "smart" classrooms, but a dean at Southern Methodist University is proudly removing computers from lecture halls. José A. Bowen, dean of the Meadows School of the Arts, has challenged his colleagues to "teach naked" — by which he means, sans machines.
More than anything else, Mr. Bowen wants to discourage professors from using PowerPoint, because they often lean on the slide-display program as a crutch rather than using it as a creative tool. Class time should be reserved for discussion, he contends, especially now that students can download lectures online and find libraries of information on the Web. When students reflect on their college years later in life, they're going to remember challenging debates and talks with their professors. Lively interactions are what teaching is all about, he says, but those give-and-takes are discouraged by preset collections of slides.
Read more here. What do you think? Is Dean Bowen closed-minded and hopelessly rooted in the past or is he instead one of the more open-minded and innovative cats to come down the pike in a while? Leave your comments below. I am the scholarship dude.
Right, Mary Beth Beazley (Ohio State) and Nancy Soonpaa (Texas Tech) enjoying a fine dinner inside at the World War I Museum.
Above, Mary Barnard Ray (Wisconsin) and Judy Rosenbaum (Northwestern) also pose at the memorial.
Not surprising for a group as adept at metaphor as legal writing professors, the ALWD conference has left in its wake some new jargon for our field:
The first term that seemed to catch on like wildfire was "Jack," used to mean a senior law school faculty member who is well-loved and very influential at his school, but who doesn't understand legal writing teaching and opposes all efforts to improve it. (The name in air quotes was male at first usage; that's what struck a chord and stuck, so don't blame the messenger.)
The second new term whose usage was picked up and spread quickly was quail. Legal writing professors are familiar with the phrase "walking like a duck" and all it entails throughout an academic career in a newly rising field. Many in the newest generation of legal writing directors seem to prefer to strive to be a quail, not a duck, succeeding as a different type of bird.
While at the ALWD conference this weekend, I got a copy of the Guide to Foreign and International Legal Citations (Aspen 2009). If you are a U.S. lawyer or legal scholar who often needs to cite to non-U.S. cases and statutes, this guide is a breath of fresh air. It includes common citation formats for 45 countries, and each country's chapter begins with a brief explanation of the country's legal system and major sources of law. Each chapter also has a brief bibliography, so you can find more in-depth reading on each country's legal system elsewhere if you need to. This is so much easier to use than the Bluebook's section on other countries' citations. There is also coverage, both explanations of sources and citation examples, for the law of international organizations, international tribunals, and regional tribunals.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
In addition to experiential learning, the other hot topic heard throughout the ALWD conference was outcome assessments. The new interest in outcome assessments is driven in part by the ABA's broad review of all its standards and the philosophies behind them. There were several opportunities for new legal writing directors to learn about the ABA standards at the conference, as well as a lunch-time plenary yesterday updating everyone in attendance on the latest developments.
Lyn Goering presented The Evolving ABA Accreditation Standards, showing us how lucky her students are to be learning statutory and regulatory analysis from a teacher who can make clear something so convoluted. Brad Clary, Pam Lysaght, Suzanne Rowe, and Craig Smith presented the lunch-time ABA Updates, explaining the ABA's new direction looking at outcomes assessment. Three very helpful break-out sessions followed, with Catherine Wasson explaining the ABA Site Inspection Process, Heather Macfarlane exploring the Relationship between ABA Standards and LRW Status, and another long-time colleague -- whom my travel-weary brain is momentarily lapsing on the identity of -- leading a broad discussion in the Open Session Exploring Topics Raised during ABA Updates Plenary. This latter group brainstormed what national outcome assessments might look like in the U.S. legal academy, how one might measure outcomes in legal education, and indeed what we even mean by outcomes.