Saturday, September 12, 2009
It's raining, but we don't care. We are listening to plenary speaker Prof. Mary Beth Beazley (Ohio State) sharing what she learned from her self-labeled "classic mistakes" in her quarter century of teaching legal writing. [Photo l-r: Kirsten Davis, Mary Beth Beazley, Carolyn Broering-Jacobs]
1. You are not your students; your students are not you.
Teaching with empathy: Your students are going to irritate you; their writing is going to make you mad sometimes. Step back from the situation and assess your options before you take action. Allow yourself some flexibility in dealing with situations like late papers, sloppy rewrites. Their frame of reference is not your frame of reference, and they aren't doing these things in order to get to you. Send an e-mail to find out what's going on ("I didn't get your paper. Are you okay?") and then decide how you want to handle it.
2. Scholarship in a room of my own.
Make time for your scholarship. Find a place where you can research and write in uninterrupted blocks of time. Immerse yourself in the existing literature on your topic, and cite the sources that you found. Citation gives a "hat tip" to those who have pioneered the topic, and when your article is published, makes it easier to find by researchers. Put the "phrases that pay" (a Beazley-ism) into your article's title.
3. Learn to say "no."
We want to say "yes" to every invitation, but we need to establish our personal criteria that these invitations must satisfy in order to merit our participation. What will this opportunity allow you to accomplish? What will you learn from it?
And when you do work something up, use it more than once. For example, are you giving a talk? Write it up into an essay afterward.
4. Be mindful of your job status.
Beazley's own job path (tutor to teaching assistant to "staff" instructor to tenure track to tenured) has given her a good perspective on the things that matter to our job status and job satisfaction. The big items to be concerned about are the number of credit hours your course earns, the number of students you teach, the form of job security you possess, your salary.
Sometimes you have to change schools to improve your situation. Sometimes you can accomplish needed changes where you are. Find your allies and advocates on the faculty.
Friday, September 11, 2009
The University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law invites applications for the position of Assistant Director of Legal Writing, to begin either January 2010 or summer 2010. The Assistant Director will teach in and assist in the administration of the Legal Analysis, Research, and Writing program. The position will also carry the title of Assistant Clinical Professor of Law (continuing status eligible). The position carries full benefit eligibility, including health and retirement.
At the University of Arizona, first-year students take a graded course entitled "Legal Analysis, Writing, and Research." This course is largely taught by adjunct professors. The course provides a comprehensive foundation in legal analysis, writing, and research skills. The adjunct professors are each assisted by one second-year teaching assistant. The syllabus and some assignments are prepared by the Director and the Assistant Director of Legal Writing. There are 12-15 students per class section.
In the fall semester, a three-unit graded course entitled "Persuasive Communication" is offered to upper-class students. This class is also largely taught by adjunct professors. The Persuasive Communication course includes a full moot court experience, plus comprehensive instruction in appellate advocacy and persuasive techniques. There are 10-15 students per class section.
The Assistant Director may teach either in the first-year curriculum or the upper-class Persuasive Communication curriculum. The law school anticipates that the course load will vary, but it is not expected to exceed more than two sections per semester. The total number of students per semester is, therefore, likely to range from 15-30.
The successful candidate will assist the Director of Legal Writing in (1) providing teaching materials and support for the adjunct professors who teach in the program, (2) designing activities and exercises for active classroom learning, (3) creating legal writing problems and exams, (4) planning meetings and training for the adjunct professors, (5) selecting and supervising the student writing fellows, (6) working with the librarians who teach in the program, and (7) directing the program in the Director's absence.
Persons qualified for the position must have a J.D., at least 3 years of legal experience, superior academic credentials, excellent writing skills, a record of teaching excellence, strong administrative and interpersonal skills, and a willingness to work closely with the Director to plan and administer the legal writing program.
To apply, submit a letter of interest, a resume, a short writing sample, a law school transcript, and three letters of reference to the hiring committee chair, Professor Andy Silverman, by e-mail or by hard copy to Prof. Andy Silverman, The University of Arizona, James E. Rogers College of Law, P.O. Box 210176, Tucson, AZ 85721-0176
Alternatively, applicants may apply using the University of Arizona On-Line Career Tracking System. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. The committee will begin reviewing applications on October 5, 2009. For further information about the position or about our legal writing program, e-mail or phone the Director of Legal Writing, Professor Suzanne Rabe, (520) 626-2426. The University of Arizona conducts pre-employment screening for all positions, which includes verification of academic credentials, licenses, certifications, and work history.
ALWD/LWI required disclosures: The position advertised is a "continuing status" tenure-track appointment. This status is commonly referred to as "clinical tenure track." The professor hired will be permitted to vote in faculty meetings on all matters except the promotion and tenure of tenure-track and tenured faculty. The school anticipates paying an annual academic year base salary in the $70,000-$99,999 range. The number of students enrolled in each semester of the courses taught by the legal research & writing professor will be 30 or fewer. Although the number of students may vary from semester to semester, the assistant director will generally teach between 15 and 30 students per semester.
The William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, invites applications for the position of Legal Writing Professor, to begin August 1, 2010. Responsibilities include teaching in a three semester program that enjoys strong faculty support, carries nine credit hours and is fully graded. The program’s website supplies more information about the program.
Applicants must have a J.D., evidence of a strong academic record, and experience that demonstrates a potential for excellence in teaching legal research and writing. Salary will be competitive and commensurate with experience.
The School of Law is now building on its record of success during its first decade as the public law school of Nevada. It has a diverse faculty of new and experienced legal educators drawn from top institutions, and it seeks colleagues who share its enthusiasm for legal education and scholarship. The School of Law has 495 students enrolled (379 full-time, 116 part-time) and 40 full-time faculty, and enjoys state-of-the-art facilities at the center of the UNLV campus. Click here for more information on the Boyd School of Law.
UNLV is a premier metropolitan research university with 28,000 students and more than 1000 full-time faculty. UNLV is Nevada’s largest comprehensive doctoral degree granting institution. It provides traditional and professional academic programs for a diverse student body and encourages innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to teaching, learning, and scholarship. Las Vegas is a diverse and entrepreneurial city that boasts unparalleled access to world-class restaurants and entertainment, all within a short drive to some of the nation’s beautiful outdoor attractions.
To apply, submit a letter of interest, a detailed resume listing qualifications and experience, and the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of at least three professional references who may be contacted, a law school transcript, and a short writing sample to Professor Jay Mootz, Appointments Committee Chair, William S. Boyd School of Law, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 4505 Maryland Parkway, Box 451003, Las Vegas, Nevada 89154-1003.
ALWD/LWI required disclosures: The position advertised may lead to successive long-term contracts of five or more years. The professor hired will be permitted to vote in faculty meetings. Voting is allowed on every issue except hiring and promotion of tenured or tenure-track professors. The school anticipates paying an annual academic year base salary in the $70,000-$89,900 range. (A base salary does not include stipends for coaching moot court teams, teaching other courses, or teaching in summer school; nor does a base salary include conference travel or other professional development funds.) Salary is dependent on experience. Also, salary can be supplemented with summer teaching (legal writing and podium courses) or summer research grants.
The number of students enrolled in each semester of the courses taught by the legal research & writing professor will be 31-40. Most often the ratio is 1/33-36. Faculty of the legal writing program teach two classes each semester. First-year sections usually consist of 15-20 students. Upper division legal writing classes are capped at 15. The opportunity to teach podium classes during the regular school year is available, usually about once every five or six semesters, but is part of the basic two-course teaching package and is not a salary supplement.
Elon University School of Law seeks one or more professors with a commitment to legal writing teaching to join its tenure-track faculty. Successful applicants will teach two courses per semester, one of which will be the first-year Legal Writing course. Other teaching may include upper-level writing and drafting courses, other skills courses, and traditional doctrinal courses, depending on the school’s needs and the candidate’s interest and experience. Areas of current need might include criminal law & procedure, land use, real estate transactions, environmental law, consumer law, legislation, and advanced writing and drafting, as well as the core first-year courses.
Applicants must have a J.D. from an accredited law school, a strong academic record, excellent legal research and writing skills, and at least three years experience in a clerkship or law practice. The ideal candidate will have recent experience teaching legal writing and the ability to work collaboratively to shape a rigorous multi-year writing curriculum that is consistent with Elon’s unique mission.
Elon University is a top-ranked liberal arts university that has built a national reputation for its commitment to student engagement and experiential learning. The law school shares the university’s commitment to engaged learning, professionalism, and civic leadership. The law school is home to the Center for Engaged Learning in Law, and its innovative programs include executive coaching, leadership training, and a preceptor program that matches first-year students with local practitioners. Elon University School of Law opened in 2006 and is provisionally accredited by the ABA. For more information, visit the law school website and the university website.
To apply, send a cover letter, resume (including names and contact information for at least three references) and a short writing sample or sample teaching materials to Professor Catherine J. Wasson, Elon University School of Law, 201 North Greene Street, Greensboro, N.C. 27401.
ALWD/LWI required disclosures: The position advertised is a tenure-track appointment. The professor hired will be permitted to vote in faculty meetings. The school anticipates paying an annual academic year base salary in the $80,000-$109,900 range, dependent on experience. (A base salary does not include stipends for coaching moot court teams, teaching other courses, or teaching in summer school; nor does a base salary include conference travel or other professional development funds.) The number of students enrolled in each semester of the courses taught by the legal research & writing professor depends on the teaching load. If the teaching load is all LRW (at any level), the student load will be c. 36 students. If the teaching load is half LRW and half other, the LRW student load will not exceed 20 students.
In the final session, we enjoyed a variety of presentations on programs and curricula.
Cheryl Beckett of Gonzaga discussed how an increase in status for LP profs leads to an increase in workload (e.g., committee assignments) and then an increase in burnout. Signs of burnout include grumpy behavior, absence from the office, decreased comments on student papers, and squabbling with colleagues. She suggested options such as leave time, additional adjuncts, and modifying the system used to evaluate papers (e.g., peer critiques, live grading) to ease the burden. Several participants questioned her about how well live grading works and whether it actually saves time. Steve Johansen of Lewis & Clark talked about his approach, which includes not reading the paper at all until the conference and then reading it as a "real" reader would.
Cristina Lockwood of University of Detroit Mercy talked about Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) programs and how a variety of learning theories support that approach to developing writing skills and ultimately mastery.
Finally, Lance Long of Stetson talked about the use of intensifiers in briefs and judicial opinions. He noted that everyone likes to think it bolsters an argument, and he said that according to his analysis, all judicial writers use them more in dissent situations. Using Supreme Court cases (looking at briefs and opinions), he applied a readability analysis and intensifier analysis and found that neither correlated with success on appeal.
What a great conference!! Thank you to everyone from Oregon and Lewis & Clark who contributed to its success.
Saturday afternoon continued with a session on the theme of "transitions."
Connie Krontz of Seattle University talked about helping students transition from fact-based to principle-based analogies. Using the example of a misconduct case, she demonstrated how students could be helped to articulate the principles behind the determination of whether conduct is flagrant and ill-intentioned.
Grace Hum of the University of San Francisco discussed moving students from case briefs to case synthesis. She emphasized the usefulness of the concepts of inherited and processed rules (thanks to Linda Edwards) and used helpful visuals as we developed a synthesized rule about the potential liability related to leaving vehicles unattended with keys in the ignition (is a used car in a lot similar to or different from a bulldozer left at a construction site?).
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Joe is now doing a series of articles about those changes. These articles include examples that might make for great drafting exercises. Here are the first two articles:
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
I'd previously blogged here about a story that the USMC (as well as some NFL teams) were banning the use of social media among soldiers (and players, respectively) because, among other reasons, of the security risks such forms of communication present. I also speculated that law firms might not be far behind in enacting similar policies due to the sensitive nature of their employees' work. Apparently more people read this blog than I thought because now comes this story from the Legal Blog Watch reporting that several law firms are doing just that.
That's the premise of this essay entitled "Feeling Fake in the Classroom" from the Chronicle of Higher Ed in which an undergraduate English instructor admits that the ability to recognize "bad" student writing from "good" doesn't always mean one can explain how to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse.
Here's my biggest problem with teaching composition: I have no idea where good sentences come from. Most of the time, strings of words just appear in my noggin. When I'm stuck for a word, phrase, or clause, I wait awhile, and what I need floats up from my subconscious. I don't know what's happening while I wait for words. Somewhere, scads of neurons are working hard, but I can't see that work going on. The genesis of sentences remains a perfect mystery to me.
I don't have a writing process, unless we count Mark Twain's advice: "The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction." I've done a lot of composing while driving and some while pushing a lawn mower. Sure, I sometimes make crude outlines, sentence fragments slapped on a page lest I forget them. In class, I call that brainstorming and make a big deal out of it. But the real storm happens in a place I cannot see; all I can do is record the results.
I work a little more consciously when I fix the stuff I write, but only a little. I recognize that flaws exist before I can name them. Most of the time, solutions and fixes come from the same mysterious place that produced the original sentences.
Clunky sentence, I think. What are the criteria by which I determine clunkiness? Beats me. I just know it when I see it.
Swap the clauses around, I think. Put the subordinate clause first. Where did that solution come from? Dunno.
"Corpulent" doesn't work, I think. So which word rings true? The neurons kick words around, and I recognize "pudgy" as the right one when it floats up out of the mysterious place.
Sound familiar? If you want more reassurance that you're not alone, you can read the rest of the essay here.
After lunch, I started the afternoon session with a session that showcased several techniques and websites that offer fun, non-law-related ways to teach legal writing concepts. I used museum art postcards as the basis of an analysis exercise and shared several ideas for using music lyrics to teach grammar, punctuation, and usage, as well as persuasive fact writing (http://www.amiright.com/ is a great website for errors in lyrics, as well as examples of mis-heard lyrics).
Next, Tenielle Fordyce-Ruff of Oregon talked about 21st-century students and teaching them research. She pointed out that they're good at breadth of research thanks to Google et al., but not so good at either depth or any kind of linear process. The discussion that followed includes the suggestion to require research logs to help students to develop a better research process.
William Chin of Lewis and Clark talked about the inferences that people draw about those who speak with an accent and how a teacher can address any biases and different treatment that might occur when working with students who speak with an accent. He mentioned using objective criteria for grading oral presentations and making an effort to call on all students equally, not avoiding those who are more challenging to understand.
Bruce Ching of Valparaiso talked about using vocal qualities to enhance oral presentations. He talked about pitch, tone, and pace, and then he involved the group in an entertaining exercise using emphasis on different words in the same passage to alter its perceived meaning.
Here's a reminder that you can find past issues of the Section Newsletter for the Association of American Law Schools Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research by visiting the section's webpage on the AALS website. Click here for a direct link to that page, You can always access that page by going to the main page for the AALS (ww.aals.org) and then clicking on "Services" and then "Sections." You will find all of the AALS Sections listed there.
At the top of the page for the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research, there are links to section newsletters from 2006, 2007, and 2008, as well as our most recent issue from Spring 2009. You can also click here to read the most recent AALS Section Newsletter.
I've started working on the Fall 2009 issue of the Section Newsletter and would welcome your announcements, articles, and other contributions. You can email them to me at legalwritingprof [at] gmail.com.
Mark E. Wojcik, Secretary, AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Academic writing is often among the most impenetrable prose ever inked. Now comes to the rescue this column from the Chronicle of Higher Ed offering advice on how to prune that prose to a fare-thee-well:
Academics are not embarrassed by writing that's impenetrable. We're taught to feel like doctors castigated for poor penmanship. Producing turgid prose is part of how we define ourselves as professionals.
. . . .
The contempt that academics have toward [reader-friendly] writing is, in essence, contempt for the ordinary reading public. We assume they're unable to grasp the subtlety of our thought. We think that writing for a broad audience requires "dumbing down" our arguments. But that's wrong. Popular audiences are tougher critics than fellow academics are. You have to be saying something of import or interest; otherwise, people will just ignore you and read something else, or play video games, or watch television.
. . . .
Academic writing derives its authority from certain conventions, some of them bordering on arrogance. When you're a young professor, it can make you feel powerful to sound as if you know so much. And you can get away with that kind of writing because your audience—other academics—will read your work even if it's impenetrable. But eventually, it can get lonely to have so few people to talk to. What you want to say might actually be of interest to an audience wider than those in your specialty.
. . . .
But pruning your ideas and simplifying your language don't have to eliminate the subtlety and significance of your thought. In "Scholars and Sound Bites," Gerald Graff, a professor of English and education, says that we shouldn't "exaggerate the distance between the academic and the popular, especially if doing so excuses bad academic habits of communication." He warns: "Don't kid yourself. If you could not explain it to your parents or your most mediocre student, the chances are you don't understand it yourself."
You can read the full column here.
I am the scholarship dude.
Here is a listing of blogs started after March 2009 and bloggers who started posting on existing blogs after March 2009.
Finally, here are some statistics about the blog census, including a list of which schools have the most blogs (and bloggers).
Hat tip to Colin Miller
In yesterday's Opinion section of the NYT, several leading educators were asked to offer advice to college freshmen who are beginning classes around the country this week. Professor Stanley Fish, who we'd just previously blogged about, has this to say about the critical need for students to learn the craft of writing:
I would advise students to take a composition course even if they have tested out of it. I have taught many students whose SAT scores exempted them from the writing requirement, but a disheartening number of them couldn’t write and an equal number had never been asked to. They managed to get through high-school without learning how to write a clean English sentence, and if you can’t do that you can’t do anything.
I give this advice with some trepidation because too many writing courses today teach everything but the craft of writing and are instead the vehicles of the instructor’s social and political obsessions. In the face of what I consider a dereliction of pedagogical duty, I can say only, “Buyer beware.” If your writing instructor isn’t teaching writing, get out of that class and find someone who is.
If nothing else, the man is not bashful about expressing his opinions.
I am the scholarship dude.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Sunday, September 6, 2009
The final session before lunch focused on New Takes on Tried and True Teaching Ideas.
Mark DeForrest of Gonzaga discussed using Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham City Jail to teach persuasive writing techniques. He described the letter as akin to a reply brief and emphasized how King considered the multiple audiences to whom he was writing and used authorities from their religious belief systems to build his own arguments.
Kim Holst of Hamline talked about using fairy tales to establish a common language and references throughout a course and to use them to teach persuasive techniques. She discussed writing the facts both objectively and persuasively and using the story to develop different theories of the case as well as identifying some of the fairy tales that work best (click on the picture for a larger image, which should allow you to read the slide on which they're listed).
Heidi Holland and Kevin Shelley of Gonzaga discussed using colored highlighters to identify the various parts of a legal analysis and using a hamburger analogy to help students better understand organization and reader expectations ("where's the beef?").
Greg Johnson of Vermont wrapped up the hour by talking about Mary Lawrence's curriculum and pedagogy from over 20 years ago and its timeliness today. He talked about her realization, woven into her materials, that writing includes and requires analysis and an entire cognitive process.
The Legal Writing Institute is a nonprofit corporation whose purpose is to exchange ideas about legal writing and to provide a forum for research and scholarship about legal writing and legal analysis. The Institute is currently housed at Mercer University School of Law in Macon, Georgia.
The Institute promotes new activities through a newsletter, published twice a year; a scholarly journal, published about once a year; and a national conference that has been held every other year since 1984. It has also sponsored several international conferences on legal writing. It annually offers a writer's workshop for developing scholars in the field.
The Institute has close to 2000 members representing all the ABA-accredited law schools in the United States. The Institute also has members from other countries, as well as from English departments, independent research-and-consulting organizations, and the practicing bar. Anyone who is interested in legal writing or the teaching of legal writing may join the Institute.
Membership is free. To join, click on the membership link on LWI's website at http://www.lwionline.org/