Saturday, August 1, 2009

Scribes Presents a Special Award to the Legal Writing Institute to Celebrate the LWI Silver Anniversary

Scribes Award in Chicago 023A Scribes, The American Society of Legal Writers, held its Annual Luncheon today in Chicago during the ABA Annual Meeting.

The 2009 Brief Writing Award went to Bridget Burke, Stephanie Holcombe, and Justin Jenson of the South Texas College of Law.  South Texas College of Law has won three times over the past 15 years that Scribes has given this brief writing award, which is quite an impressive accomplishment. 

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Michael B. Hyman presented the 2009 Scribes Book Award, which went to "The Challenge: Hamdan v. Rumsfeld and the Fight Over Presidential Power" by Jonathan Mahler.

Joseph Kimble presented the Legal Writing Institute with a special award to recognize the LWI's 25th Anniversary.  LWI Board Members (pictured here from left to right) Mark E. Wojcik, Kenneth D. Chestek, and Judy Rosenbaum accepted the scroll on behalf of the LWI.  Mark Wojcik made brief remarks on behalf of the LWI Board, and founding LWI Board Member Ralph Brill then spoke on the history of legal writing education.

A video was played during which Bryan Garner presented the 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who spoke about the importance of good legal writing and writing tips that she shares with her law clerks.  (The 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award went to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.)

Hat tip to Joe Kimble.  Photo courtesy of Robert Galloway of the South Texas College of Law.   (mew)

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

ABA Panelists Say It is Nearly Impossible to Find Accurate Law Text Online

ABA Lynda Edwards, a reporter (not Linda Edwards the legal writing professor) covering the annual meeting of the American Bar Association, wrote that panelists at one session yesterday declared that it is almost impossible to find accurate texts of some laws.  Although the federal and state governments post many laws online, there is no national or international body to verify that those postings are accurate or updated with amendments. 

The ABA panelists discussed a survey done in 2007 by the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) that discovered that eight states and the District of Columbia refer lawyers and judges to official sources so different that versions conflict. Additionally, states that post laws online only had no consistent way of maintaining older versions of an amended law or showing errors had been corrected.  

The ABA meeting continues through Tuesday in Chicago.  Today Scribes holds a luncheon at which it will recognize the 25th anniversary of the Legal Writing Institute.   (mew)

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

Friday, July 31, 2009

Scholarship alert: "Professional skills and values in legal education: the GPS model"

This one comes to us from Professors Gerald Hess of Gonzaga and Stephen Gerst from Phoenix School of Law.  It can be found at 43 Val. U. L. Rev. 513 (2009).  From the introduction:

An old story about life: A grandparent was teaching a grandchild about our inner lives. “A struggle is going on inside of me, you, and everyone else. It is a fight between two wolves. One wolf is anger, envy, regret, greed, guilt, lies, resentment, and superiority. The other wolf is joy, humility, love, kindness, generosity, truth, and compassion.” “But which wolf will win?” asked the grandchild. Answered the grandparent, “The one you feed.”

Continue reading

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

New edition of Bryan Garner's Modern American Usage out now!

Hup two and grab this while it's still fresh and warm from the oven.  Here's the link to the publisher and here's another link to Joe Hodnicki's short review on the Law Librarian Blog.

Hat tip to Joe.  I am the scholarship dude.  (jbl)

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

A review of two new entries in the competition to serve your online legal research needs

I must confess, i hadn't heard of these two service before reading this article.  I'm assuming they are both commercial (i.e. pay to play) services but the article doesn't make that 100% clear.

I'm talking about Casemaker and Fastcase.  If, like me, you're also unfamiliar with these services, this review from should prove helpful.

Enjoy!   I am the scholarship dude.   (jbl)

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

Typos cost money - a lot of it

Here's a list of recent examples of typos in legal documents that not only put the lawyers involved in hot water, but may also cost the client a lot of money.

1.  Incorrect date in real estate document could cost developers millions and NYC law firm might be on the hook according to this New York Times article.
2.  The case of the misplaced comma that may cost a client $1 million (since it's Canadian dollars, perhaps the offending law firm can convince the client it's not such a big deal after all).
3.  "Pubic" rather than "public," may cost county $40k - ouch!
4.  Second and Third Circuits make the same doggone mistake!
5.  Student newspaper editor screws up to the tune of 20,000 copies.
6.  The biggest blunder so far?  The $57 million typo.

Thanks to Above the Law and me.  I am the scholarship dude.  (jbl)

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

In legal writing - groupings is where it's at.

According to this editorial from the New Jersey Law Journal:

Legal writing is all about groupings -- sets and subsets, and categories. These are the building blocks of logic. Accurate sets and subsets (accurate categories) increase the efficiency with which information is delivered, and the process of shaping sets and subsets forces a writer to confirm that the message is on point. Regrettably, the kind of precise grouping that typically takes place late in the editing process (e.g., rearranging items in sentences and short paragraphs) is sometimes skipped in the rush to get product out the door.

Read the rest here.  I am the scholarship dude - back in action!   (jbl)

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

ALWD conference photo gallery


Click on the images above to see legal writing professors at the ALWD conference, held in mid-July at UMKC School of Law.

hat tip:  Karen Mika        (spl)

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

conference on interviewing and counseling

UCLA School of Law and Brigham Young University Law School have announced that their second conference on the pedagogoy of interviewing and counseling will take place on October 16 & 17, 2009, at UCLA.  If you are interested in participating as a panelist or group leader, contact Susan Gillig, Assistant Dean for Clinical Education,, or Summer Rose, Conference Administrator,  As conference information becomes available, it will be posted at  (spl)

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

Thursday, July 30, 2009

make courtroom nerves work for you


Janet Metzger is an actress and adjunct law professor who teaches lawyers how to use theater techniques to improve their oral communications.  She presented some easy techniques at the applied legal storytelling conference, and has posted one of those on her blog.   (spl)

July 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

images of applied legal storytelling


The Legal Writing Institute's banner greeted conference participants.

    Lwi & alwd presidents  

LWI Prez Ruth Anne Robbins & ALWD Prez, Mary Beth Beazley.


Six LWI presidents toasted us. (pictured: Ruth Anne Robbins, Chris Rideout, Mary Beth Beazley, Ken Chestek, Steve Johansen)


Chris Rideout presents Aristotle Meets Sherlock Holmes:  Truth, Probability, and Narrative Coherence.

Session Ken & rachel 

Engaged conference audiences. 


July 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Brody Those of you who have been teaching legal writing for some time likely know Professor Susan Brody, who was an LRW pioneer at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.  At last week's applied legal storytelling conference, she gave a presentation about using storytelling, particularly film clips, to give voice to those not heard in the official legal record.  She uses this technique to provide context and fuller back stories for her students in her course on feminist legal theory.  In the conference's opening plenary we had been challenged to write a meaningful 6 word story during our time at the conference.  While taking notes as Susan Brody spoke, I found myself circling 6 words she said that pretty much summed up the conference, on many levels: 
"We are ambassadors of social change."  (spl)

July 29, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

volume 6 of J. ALWD is here!

This news comes from Editor Linda Berger:

The Fall 2009 issue of J. ALWD (Vol. 6) is now available on the J. ALWD websiteThe  issue focuses on "best practices" in persuasion and includes general articles as well.  The print version will be distributed by mail to about 3,500 lawyers, judges, academics, law school deans, and law school libraries, and is scheduled to arrive around Labor Day.

    Got Issues? An Empirical Study about Framing Them
    Judith D. Fischer

    The Power of Brevity: Adopt Abraham Lincoln’s Habits
    Julie A. Oseid

    The Poetry of Persuasion:  Early Literary Theory and Its Advice to Legal Writers
    Stephen E. Smith

    Persuasion: An Annotated Bibliography
    Kathryn Stanchi

    The Narrative Construction of Legal Reality
    Richard K. Sherwin

    Characterization and Legal Discourse
    Laura E. Little

General Articles
    Legal Writing and Disciplinary Knowledge-Building:  A Comparative Study
    Douglas M. Coulson

    “The Play of Those Who Have Not Yet Heard of Games”:  Creativity, Compliance, and the “Good Enough” Law Teacher
    Mary R. Falk                            

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

Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities: Call for papers and participation

13th Annual ASLCH Conference
March 19-20, 2010
Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island

The Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities is an organization of scholars engaged in interdisciplinary, humanistic legal scholarship. It will be accepting proposals for panels, roundtables, papers, and volunteers for chairs and discussants from July 15th until October 15th 2009.  To submit proposals, go to the online submission site.  Additional information about accommodations and other conference matters will be posted as they become available.  If you have questions, contact Linda Meyer (Linda.Meyer @ 


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

Do you have a 1L story to share?

The UMKC Law Review devotes part of one issue each year to a collection of “Law Stories” – short tales about various aspects of the legal world.   For the next edition, the theme will be One-L Revisited.  An introduction by Scott Turow, author of the classic account of the One-L experience, will lead off this collection of true stories about being a new law student.


The review invites current law students and recent graduates (2006 or later) to submit stories.  Winning submission(s) will be published in the Spring 2010 issue of the UMKC Law Review, and the first place winner will receive a $500 prize.


·                     Non-fiction stories about the first year experience

·                     1,000 - 5,000 words, including footnotes

·                     Footnotes are discouraged—we are looking for stories, not conventional law review articles or notes

·                     Open to current law student s and recently graduated law students (2006 or after)

·                     Send to with “Law Stories Submission” in subject line

·                     MS Word or PDF formats only

·                     Submission deadline October 23, 2009


hat tip:  Wanda Temm & Nancy Levit  (spl)

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

YouTube features AALS video, "The Case for Legal Writing"

The second of two videos created by the Media Committee of the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning and Research, titled "The Case for Legal Writing," focuses on the importance of legal writing to law practice. The other video, "Benefits of Learning Legal Writing," was featured here on July 27, 2009.

Watch the videos, and then send your comments and suggestions concerning distribution of the videos, or content of the videos, to the committee chair, Professor Melissa Weresh (Drake). Other members of the committee are Professors Danton Berube (Detroit Mercy), Kirsten Dauphinais (North Dakota), Pamela Keller (Kansas), Jonathan Marcantel (Charleston), Gabe Teninbaum (Suffolk), and Kathleen Vinson (Suffolk).


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

Monday, July 27, 2009

AALS video, "Benefits of Learning Legal Writing," premieres on YouTube

The Media Committee of the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning and Research has recently released two videos demonstrating the importance of legal research and writing instruction in legal education. The first appears below. The committee plans to make the videos available to law school admissions and undergraduate career counseling personnel. Prior to that distribution, the committee requests feedback from the legal writing community. If you have suggestions or recommendations regarding the content of the videos, or with respect to their distribution, send them to the committee chair, Professor Melissa Weresh of Drake University.


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

Sunday, July 26, 2009

English legal storytelling

McpeakeAlthough the excellent applied Legal Storytelling conference has ended, there is still much to report, as time allows.  Robert McPeake, from The City Law School in London, presented a paper he is working on with Marcus Soanes, asking Why Isn't the English Legal Profession Interested in Storytelling?  Their main thrust is searching for mechanisms that will help lawyers in England and Wales become more reflective about their work, so they will seek ways to continually improve in their work as advocates.  From the perspective of a U.S. law professor, a particularly interesting aspect of McPeake's presentation was his background explanation of the current system of training and licensing soliciters and barristers in England.  Advocacy before their courts is mostly oral advocacy.  Only recently have written "skeleton reports" been allowed, and as one judge reminded English advocates, "NOT AMERICAN STYLE BRIEFS"  (emphasis original).  Their assessment for licensing reflects this oral tradition, and a system to assess all candidates in skills like negotiating, client interviewing, and oral argument is already in use.  Perhaps this system could provide a useful model for the ABA, as it seeks to implement outcome measures in U.S. legal education, instead of the current ABA standards that measure inputs.  (spl)

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