Friday, September 25, 2009

driven to writing poems

Like many of us, legal writing professsor John Murphy is in the middle of grading 1L memos.  Unlike the rest of us, he was inspired to write a poem:

Ode to the Author of Memo No. 36.

Your memo is dull and pointless.

My pencil is dull and pointless, too.

I can sharpen my pencil;

But what can I do about you?



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

Comment alert: "Bringing life to legal writing: how to use literary journalism in capital litigation"

The above comment by UMKC law student Kate Paulman appears in 77 UMKC L. Rev. 1147 (2009).  From the abstract:

Elements and Guidelines of Literary Journalism What will make Literary Journalism an easy style for capital litigators to employ is its basic set of elements and guidelines. ... Readers do expect writers to be true to something-true to memory, true to remembered speaking styles (if not exact words), true to what I'll call the encyclopedia of self, true, most of all, to great-grandma, and thus true to writer and reader alike. ... Roorbach was not suggesting that Literary Journalism must have some sort of James Joyce-styled epiphany at the final sentence, instead he was calling for authors to work to make their readers come to a greater understanding of an important principle without forcing that principle on their readers. ... Hill created this surprise - and change of heart for the jurors - by turning Jeremy into a character, creating scenes and becoming the narrator of his client's story. ... And just as in Literary Journalism and other forms of nonfiction, lawyers are not at liberty to invent facts to make their stories more interesting - they must live with the facts at hand, a disadvantage compared to traditional storytellers. ... Opening and Closing Arguments Just as capital litigators can employ Literary Journalism techniques during the penalty and brief writing phases, so too can they use the techniques during opening and closing statements of the criminal trial.

Well played, Ms. Paulman.

I am the scholarship dude.


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

Update on legal research developments

If you're not already subscribing to the Law Librarian Blog as part of your daily feed, you should be.  Each day usually brings at least one story highly relevant to legal writing profs.  Here are a few posts from the last week or so that you may find helpful.

1.  The results of a survey on the law librarian listserv compiling information on how schools handle the teaching of legal research.

2.  West's "Word and Phrases" goes online with an expanded database (contrary to JH's experience, I've found this tool to be extremely helpful in certain, limited instances).

3.  A fascinating video showing how West creates headnotes and key numbers in real time.

4.  New social networking sites for law students.

5.  Fastcase teams with Oregon bar to provide subscription online legal research services- if the trend continues, will law schools have to teach Fastcase in addition to Wexis?

6.  Putting Westlaw and LexisNexis case law digesting systems to the relevancy test.

7.  The latest in librarian haute couture.

Now that you're done reading, go get your research on.

I am the scholarship dude.


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

Remember to mind your P's, Q's and . . . staples


After the story earlier this week about a federal district court judge in Florida who dismissed the plaintiff's filing because it was so "riddled with unprofessional grammatical and typographical errors that nearly render the entire Motion incomprehensible," this next story doesn't seem so aberrant.  The New York Law Journal is reporting (subscription only) that a New York state judge dismissed the plaintiff's complaint because it was stapled in such a negligent manner that it caused physical injury to all who handled it.

"[T]he poor stapling of the papers was so negligent as to inflict, and did inflict repeatedly, physical injury to the court personnel handling them," Supreme Court Justice Charles J. Markey wrote in Jones v. Fuentes, 29865/2008. "Such negligence on the part of counsel shows a lack of consideration."

Long Island plaintiff's attorney Jeffrey Hirsch told the NYLJ that in the more than 5,000 cases he has handled, the court has never before criticized his stapling skills.  However, a spokesperson for the judge said that the staple in question was dangerous enough to draw blood, twice.   Must have been a helluva staple.

Hat tip to

I am the scholarship dude.


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

Global Legal Skills Conference

Thursday, September 24, 2009

one reason why writing professors should write

At some U.S. law schools, legal writing professors receive no support to pursue scholarship, neither time nor compensation nor encouragement.  Of course it makes little sense to hire a professional to teach writing and then make it almost impossible for them to write.  I once wrote an article about this nonsense:  The Quest for Scholarship:  The Legal Writing Professor's Paradox, 80 Oregon Law Review 1007 (2002). 

This week I was reminded of one reason why it's important for legal writing professors to write, when my students handed in a paper at the beginning of a class session.  I was facing a writing deadline myself this week, so I had total cred when I told them that I was as tired as they were and knew how they felt.  Now I have just clicked "send" and someone else will soon be reading what I have been toiling away at.  Again, I share my students' mixture of relief for having the work done and anticipation about the feedback I'll receive.  I don't know what they did after class, but I know what I'm going to do: sleep.


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

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Scholarship alert part II: "The Forgotten Sovereigns"


Professor Tonya Kowalski of Washburn has just had the above article accepted for publication in Volume 36 of the Florida State Law Review.  At present, it's available here on SSRN.  We thought you might be interested because her topic is also the subject of a panel presentation at next summer's LWI conference on Marco Island.  From the abstract:

Our federal system includes 562 federally-recognized American Indian nations, most of whom have their own sovereign lands, governments, and court systems, and who interact every day with the state and federal systems. Yet most legal thought overlooks our sovereign Native American nations and legal heritage. Although much of American law and policy intersects Tribal jurisdictions, such issues generally appear in the law school curriculum only in specialized, upper-level courses. This Article argues that the three-sovereign system should provide the fundamental framework for the United States legal system across the legal curriculum, and provides several concrete examples for how to do so. It also argues that many law courses should touch upon how their disciplines impact Tribal jurisdictions and their citizens.

By changing our fundamental orientation toward the role of Tribal sovereigns in the U.S. system, we will advance the academy’s goals of scholarship, teaching, and service. First, we will accurately represent the true structure and diversity of our tripartite federal system. Second, we can improve learning by using direct and comparative Tribal perspectives for fundamental legal principles and methods. Third, we can further the social justice mission by raising awareness of Tribal sovereignty among future advocates and lawmakers.

I am the scholarship dude.


September 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Scholarship alert: "Judging by the Numbers: An Empirical Study of the Power of Story"


A new article by Professor Ken Chestek is available on SSRN here.  From the abstract:

The recent debate about whether 'empathy' is a desirable trait in Supreme Court Justices begs a more fundamental question: are appellate court judges in fact persuaded by appeals to pathos? This article attempts to answer that question by reporting the results of an empirical study the author conducted that investigates whether narrative reasoning, or 'stories,' are persuasive to appellate judges. It is the first rigorous study to ever confront this issue directly. The article first describes how the author wrote four test briefs, two on each side of a hypothetical lawsuit. One brief on each side was written as a 'pure logic' brief, while the other brief on each side made the same logical argument but also included a great deal more context and interesting, but legally irrelevant, background details to tell a more complete story. Groups of appellate judges, law clerks, appellate court staff attorneys, practicing lawyers and law professors were then asked to read two briefs on a randomly-assigned side of the case (either Petitioner or Respondent), and then report which of the two briefs was more persuasive.

The key findings of the study were that appellate judges, along with most other groups, indeed found the 'story' briefs more persuasive. The exception was the law clerk group, which found the logic and the story briefs equally persuasive. The author then speculates as to why the clerks reacted differently, and considers the implications of this finding on law school curricula.

I am the scholarship dude.


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

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Follow-up to the "Spell-Checker's Poem"

Thanks to Professor Mary Beth Beazley for alerting us to this website which identifies the author of the "Spell-Checker's Poem" posted yesterday, below, explains the back-story and provides the unabridged version.

For your reading pleasure, here's the poem in full:

Candidate for a Pullet Surprise
by Mark Eckman and Jerrold H. Zar

I have a spelling checker,
It came with my PC.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your sure reel glad two no.
Its vary polished in it's weigh.
My checker tolled me sew.

A checker is a bless sing,
It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
It helps me right awl stiles two reed,
And aides me when eye rime.

Each frays come posed up on my screen
Eye trussed too bee a joule.
The checker pours o'er every word
To cheque sum spelling rule.

Bee fore a veiling checker's
Hour spelling mite decline,
And if we're lacks oar have a laps,
We wood bee maid too wine.

Butt now bee cause my spelling
Is checked with such grate flare,
Their are know fault's with in my cite,
Of nun eye am a wear.

Now spelling does knot phase me,
It does knot bring a tier.
My pay purrs awl due glad den
With wrapped word's fare as hear.

To rite with care is quite a feet
Of witch won should bee proud,
And wee mussed dew the best wee can,
Sew flaw's are knot aloud.

Sow ewe can sea why aye dew prays
Such soft wear four pea seas,
And why eye brake in two averse
Buy righting want too pleas.

I am the scholarship dude.


September 22, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fascinating new book on history of writing implements and technology's impact on how we write today

I bet you didn't know that pencils, like computers, where originally invented for purposes other than writing.  Did you also know that almost every new writing technology - from the first printing press to typewriters - was initially met with skepticism and fear?  If, like me, you knew neither, then you may want to get Professor Dennis Baron's fascinating new book called  A Better Pencil: Readers, Writers, and the Digital Revolution (Oxford U. Press).  In it, Professor Baron traces the history of "writing implements, communication technologies, and explores the digital revolution's impact on how we write, how we learn, and how we connect with one another."

Here's an excerpt from the publisher's abstract:

A Better Pencilputs our complex, still-evolving hate-love relationship with computers and the internet into perspective, describing how the digital revolution influences our reading and writing practices, and how the latest technologies differ from what came before. The book explores our use of computers as writing tools in light of the history of communication technology, a history of how we love, fear, and actually use our writing technologies--not just computers, but also typewriters, pencils, and clay tablets. Dennis Baron shows that virtually all writing implements--and even writing itself--were greeted at first with anxiety and outrage: the printing press disrupted the "almost spiritual connection" between the writer and the page; the typewriter was "impersonal and noisy" and would "destroy the art of handwriting." Both pencils and computers were created for tasks that had nothing to do with writing. Pencils, crafted by woodworkers for marking up their boards, were quickly repurposed by writers and artists. The computer crunched numbers, not words, until writers saw it as the next writing machine. Baron also explores the new genres that the computer has launched: email, the instant message, the web page, the blog, social-networking pages like MySpace and Facebook, and communally-generated texts like Wikipedia and the Urban Dictionary, not to mention YouTube.

The Chronicle of Higher Ed is also this week featuring an interview with Professor Baron that you can read in full here.  In the meantime, here's a little taste:

Q:  You are deeply skeptical of claims that new communication technologies such as e-mail and text-messaging will do any lasting damage to the English language. Have you noticed any change -- for better or worse -- in your students' communicative styles and abilities as a result of such technologies?

A:  Are students using the acronyms and emoticons we associate with txting in their academic work? No. In fact, they’re not even using them in their texts and IMs. By the time they get to college, most students -- certainly the English majors -- have put away such childish things, and many of them had already abandoned such signs of middle-school immaturity in high school. It’s kid stuff, plain and simple, and they’re mightily embarrassed when their parents send them texts beginning “wassup?” and signed “luv u.”

More to the point, though, writers learn to adapt their style to the demands of their audience and the conventions of the genre in which they’re writing. Some do it more successfully, or more quickly, but just as we speak differently to different audiences, we write differently too.

I am the scholarship dude.


September 21, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ode to spell-check - the spell-checker's poem

Some of you may enjoy this (of course, others may not):

Spell Checker Poem

I have a spelling checker,
It came with my pea see;
It plainly marks four my revue
Mistakes I cannot sea.
I've run this poem threw it,
I'm sure your please too no,
It's letter perfect in its weight,
My checker tolled me sew.

-Author Unknown-

Hat tip to Rob Hudson.

I am the scholarship dude.



September 21, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)