October 10, 2009
Using Pending U.S. Supreme Court Cases as a First Year Writing Assignment
Juli Campagna and Mary Nagel (both of The John Marshall Law School in Chicago) presented at the Central Region Legal Writing Conference on how they use pending U.S. Supreme Court cases as a writing assignment for first-year students. Many professors would shy away from such an assignment, but their students rise to the challenge of predicting how the U.S. Supreme Court will rule in the pending case.
Richard Neumann at the Central Region Legal Writing Conference
Richard Neumann (Hofstra) presented on "The Six Things You Can Do in a Contract." As an exercise, he walked through the Facebook agreement that users agree to when they sign up for Facebook. You can easily imagine that our law students would be fascinated by having a close look at the actual text of the document they agreed to accept when they clicked on a box (without ever reading those terms).
Here's Richard's picture (from his Facebook page!).
More International Experiences from the Central Region Legal Writing Conference
Ann Sinsheimer and Teresa Brostoff (University of Pittsburgh School of Law) presented at the Central Region Legal Writing Conference on their international teaching experiences, including experiences in Bahrain, Ethiopia, Iceland, Oman, Ukraine, and the United Arab Emirates.
Mimi Samuel, Laurel Oates, and Promoting the Rule of Law in Afghanistan
Mimi Samuel and Laurel Oates (Seattle University School of Law) went to Afghanistan in January 2009 for the Afghanistan Rule of Law Project organized by USAID. Mimi shared their experiences today at the Central Region Legal Writing Conference, explaining the program that they facilitated in Kabul.
Professor Samuel also shared resources for teaching and consulting abroad, including information about the Fulbright Scholar Program for Faculty and Professionals, the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ROLI, previously known as CEELI), the Civic Education Project, the Central Eurasia Project of the Open Society Institute, the International Commission of Jurists, the International Law Institute in Washington, D.C., the Association of American Law Schools Section on International Legal Exchange, the International Bar Association, the American Bar Association Section of International Law, and the International Association of Law Schools.
Mark E. Wojcik and Sue Liemer, blogging live from the Central Region Legal Writing Conference
Central Region Legal Writing Conference
The 10th Annual Central Region Legal Writing Conference started last night at the Marquette University School of Law in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There are more than 100 people here, and the conference is going quite well.
In the morning session, Professor Alison Julien opened the conference and also noted the continuing celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Legal Writing Institute.
October 9, 2009
Villanova creates innovative 1L curriculum that focuses on practice skills
That's according to the National Jurist blog which notes that the first year will include a transactional practicum component:
Villanova University School of Law has launched an innovative new first year curriculum featuring a modular design and a new practicum experience. Students will take the five traditional first year courses (Civil Procedure, Contracts, Criminal Law, Property and Torts) but in a new, intensive one-semester design.
The one-semester modular courses allow students and professors to focus more intensively on fewer subjects at one time. Students will have fewer exams. Every first year student will participate in a five-credit, small-section transactional practicum in either Contracts or Property. This redesign, the first phase of a major curriculum initiative, responds to current research into law curricula, major studies of legal education including the Carnegie Report and the CLEA Best Practices Report, and the changing face of the profession.
According to Acting Dean Doris DelTosto Brogan, “An in-depth analysis of our own aspirations, culture and mission, as well as the changing face of the profession, informed us as we engaged in this exciting innovation.”
I am the scholarship dude.
UNC Law School holds virtual mock trial in Second Life
Above the Law reported earlier this week that the University of North Carolina School of Law conducted a mock trial exercise in the virtual environment known as Second Life. The UNC website reports that:
'Just like a regular mock trial, they will put witnesses on in front of a jury, follow rules of evidence, conduct examinations and present opening and closing arguments to jury,' says assistant professor Richard Myers, who coordinates mock court programs at the school and will serve as a judge for the Second Life mock trial. 'The difference is that it will all be done in a computer-based simulated environment.'
Is this a high tech gimmick or does it instead have tangible advantages over a reality based trial exercise in terms of student learning? One UNC student had this to say to ATL:
You have got to be kidding me. Here’s an idea: do one in real life! Everyone will be sitting at a computer at the same time anyway - why not just have them all sit in the same room, say the UNC mock court room that was built specifically for this purpose, and actually do it in person? I’m not planning on being a litigator, but from all those episodes of Boston Legal I’ve watched I’m pretty sure that speaking is a pretty significant part of the litigation process.
What good could possibly come from this? Learning how to type out pre-prepared questions without being distracted by the naked half raccoon man that inevitably will show up and streak across the courtroom?
I am the scholarship dude.
October 8, 2009
job opening at University of Arkansas at Little Rock
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock, William H. Bowen School of Law seeks applicants for a full-time Professor to teach in our Reasoning, Writing, and Advocacy program. The position is available beginning the Fall 2010 term.
The professor will teach two sections of first-year Reasoning, Writing, and Advocacy. The professor will have an office and access to all faculty support services and other services on campus. Funds for conference travel and professional development are also available.
Salary will be between $83,000 and $106,000, depending on experience; compensation may include benefits and assistance with relocation expenses. Minimum qualifications are a J.D. from an accredited law school and strong writing and interpersonal skills. Preferred qualifications are outstanding academic credentials, prior teaching experience, and law review or moot court service.
For three of the last four years, the Bowen Law School’s legal writing program has been ranked in the top 20 by U.S. News & World Report. The program consists of six hours of credit for courses in legal research and legal writing, spread across two semesters in the first year. Four faculty members and one adjunct teach writing in the first year, joined by the library director, who teaches legal research, assisted by several of the librarians.
Little Rock is the capital city and largest metropolitan area in Arkansas, boasting extremely affordable housing, many cultural attractions, and close proximity to extensive wilderness and recreational areas. The Bowen School of Law is located in recently revitalized downtown Little Rock, less than two miles from the state capitol, the federal, state, and county courthouses, the largest law firms in the state, and the Clinton Presidential Library. Housed in a spacious 150,000 square foot building that was completely renovated in 1992, the law school is situated on the east side of historic MacArthur Park, a large urban park containing the Arkansas Arts Center and the MacArthur Museum of Military History, within the historic Quapaw Quarter.
Applicants should send an email, attaching a current curriculum vitae, together with a cover letter indicating teaching and scholarly interests and at least three references to Professor Michael T. Flannery, Chair, Faculty Appointments Committee, UALR William H. Bowen Law School, 1201 McMath Ave., Little Rock, Arkansas 72202-5142. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis until the position is filled. The University of Arkansas at Little Rock, an Equal Opportunity Employer, affirms the values and goals of diversity and strongly encourages the applications of all candidates, including women and candidates from historically under-represented groups.
Required ALWD/LWI 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 $83,000-$106,000 range, commensurate with 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 will be 31 - 35. Professors in the legal writing program typically teach one additional upper-level elective per year (fall or spring semester at professor's option), which may be a writing or other skills course or a doctrinal course.
October 7, 2009
LWI One-Day Workshops for Adjunct Faculty and New Legal Writing Professors
The Legal Writing Institute will hold one-day workshops for adjunct faculty and new legal writing professors. The workshops will be held on Friday, December 4, 2009 in Chicago (at The John Marshall Law School) and in New York City (at the Manhattan Campus of St. John's University School of Law).
Click here for a copy of the program brochure, which contains the full program, names of presenters, and a registration form. Download LWI New Teachers Workshop (Version 2.1) It will be possible to register online, but not quite yet. In the meantime, you can print out the registration form on page 4.
How to draft more effective motions for summary judgment
Thanks to our good buddy Raymond Ward at the (new) legal writer blog for this one. Please pay him a visit now and again, eh?
In my early years practicing law, I knew lawyers who would file motions for summary judgment not with the idea of winning the motion, but with the goal of “educating the judge” about the entire case. I doubt that the judges who had to decide these motions appreciated the educational opportunity, as they were usually made to read lots of stuff having nothing to do with the task at hand: deciding whether to render summary judgment. Not surprisingly, these motions were usually denied.
If you’d rather write your summary-judgment motions with the goal of having them granted, then you’ll benefit from reading Michael Reitzell’s article, Focus on the Material Facts for a Successful Motion for Summary Judgment. Michael gives good advice not only on how to focus your motion on the facts that matter, but also on how to respond to an opposition loaded with irrelevant factual assertions. The article is written from a defendant’s perspective, but its advice applies just as well to a plaintiff’s summary-judgment motion.
I am the scholarship dude.
October 6, 2009
Want to be a good writer? Please don't waste my time.
That's the message from Kenneth W. Davis, former professor and English department chair at Indiana University, and author of the blog "Managing Your Writing."
Recently, one of the strongest champions of good writing has been best-selling marketing guru Harry Beckwith. In his book Selling the Invisible he wrote that vague empty pieces of writing "tell your prospects one thing: They say you are willing to waste that person's time. No message can hurt you more."
This week, after you draft each piece of writing, ask yourself, "In what ways am I wasting my readers' time?" Use your answer to help you revise.
I am the scholarship dude.
Bloomberg Law to compete with Westlaw/Lexis for your legal research dollars
Above the Law announced that Bloomberg Law is getting into the commercial legal research game with a kick-off event in NYC at the end of the month. According to ATL,
It is way too early to tell if Bloomberg Law will truly offer an innovation in case law research. But we already know the company has put a metric ton of money into the product. And we know that they’ve been hiring former attorneys for at least two years.
The implication is that LRW profs eventually may need to teach students this search engine in addition to Wexis should Bloomberg have some success in the marketplace.
I am the scholarship dude.
New Titles (and New Editions) in the State Legal Research Guide Series
Here's a reminder that the Legal Research Series published by Carolina Academic Press recently added several new titles and new editions. Mary Garvey Algero (Loyola-New Orleans) is the author of Louisiana Legal Research, Spencer Simons (Houston) is the author of Texas Legal Research, and Jessica Hynes (Quinnipiac) is the author of Connecticut Legal Research. New editions have been published for Illinois Legal Research by Mark E. Wojcik (The John Marshall Law School--Chicago) and for Washington Legal Research by Julie Heintz-Cho (formerly at Seattle University), Tom Cobb (Washington), and Mary Hotchkiss (Washington). The series editor is Suzanne Rowe (Oregon). Because of its expansive coverage (and often much lower cost), a number of professors have adopted the state legal research guide as the primary legal research text for their legal research and writing courses. Other professors use the book as a supplement or suggested additional text, and still others may consider one of these books for an advanced legal research class. Contact the publisher directly to request a review copy for your classes.
Legal researchers go ga-ga over revamped Fed Reg database
The Washington Post is reporting that today marks the launch of a revamped government database that will allow legal researchers to locate materials in the Federal Register a lot easier. As the Post reports:
Lawyers, lobbyists, librarians and concerned citizens, rejoice: As of Monday, it is much easier to access the Federal Register.
The de facto daily newspaper of the executive branch publishes approximately 80,000 pages of documents each year, including presidential disaster declarations, Medicare reimbursement rates, and thousands of agency rulings on policies ranging from banking to fishing to food. It's a must-read for anyone with business before the federal government or concerned about inside-the-Beltway decisions, including academics, good-government advocates and Register junkies (yes, they do exist).
Starting Monday, issues dating back to 2000 will be available at Data.gov in a form known in the Web world as XML, which allows users to transport data from a Web site and store it, reorganize it or customize it elsewhere. Officials suggested that the move puts readers, rather than the government, in charge of deciding how to access the Register's reams of information
I am the scholarship dude.
Yet another employer predicts major changes in how new grads are trained and hired
As if there's any doubt that the legal marketplace is undergoing fundamental change, yet another BigLaw hiring partner is endorsing an "apprenticeship" model that requires new grads to get some practical experience before they are ready for prime-time. As the online ABA Journal Blog reports:
Hiring partner John Snellings [of Nixon Peabody] told the Boston Business Journal that his firm is considering an apprenticeship program. The old recruitment system “is antiquated,” he told the publication. “It just does not make economic sense. It does not make good business sense.”
Nixon Peabody has already cut starting salaries for new associates from $160,000 to $145,000 and reduced the number of offers for full-time jobs made to summer associates. Last year the firm offered jobs to 95 percent of summer associates; this year the offer rate was about 60 percent, the Business Journal says.
Other law firms are also cutting or eliminating their summer associate programs, the story says. One of them is Sullivan & Worcester, which hired only nine students for its summer program this year, and is holding off on making any offers.
Randi Friedman, assistant dean at Northeastern University law school, said she thinks smaller associate programs and lower offer rates are just the tip of the iceberg. “My gut says that there are bigger changes coming,” she told the publication. “It’s going to be the beginning of a new era. I already have seen a change in the law students. They see the world can change in an instant.”
In Snellings’ interview with the Boston Business Journal, he referred to an environment in which cash-crunched clients are objecting to high billing rates for new associates working on their matters. “If a young lawyer can’t work on a matter because their rates are too high—how do we get them the training they need?” Snellings asked.
One of the ideas at Nixon Peabody, Snellings said, is to create a “center of excellence” where first-year associates would train until they can graduate to a larger market.
I am the scholarship dude.
October 5, 2009
Casemaker and Fastcase
We had an earlier post (back in August) telling you about Casemaker and Fastcase, two electronic research services that are now offered by many state and local bar associations as a free membership benefit. There was an error in the link in that post, and--goodness gracious--something has happened to our ability to fix that link. Because I can't do that (sorry), I'm reposting the story here with (now hopefully) the correct links. And in any event, we posted that way back in August, when everyone was on vacation. It's time to bring this back! (Thank you to Doyle R. Shea for pointing out the linking error in our previous story.)
Mark E. Wojcik
State bar associations have learned about an important membership benefit -- free legal research! There are two main research services that state bar associations offer to their members -- Fastcase and Casemaker. Together, these services provide FREE legal research as a membership benefit to perhaps half a million lawyers and law students. Many law firms have cancelled their Lexis and Westlaw accounts or substantially reduced their use because they now have access to these free services. But many legal writing and research professors seem to be unfamiliar with these services.
Bar associations offer free research because it is a tremendous membership benefit, and lawyers will keep their memberships in voluntary bar associations because of this access to free legal research.
Here is a list of states that offer FASTCASE as a free membership benefit through their state bar associations.
New Jersey (June 2009)
South Dakota (June 2009)
Oregon (Fall 2009)
And in addition to those state bar associations, these other bar assocations and law libraries also offer Fastcase:
National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys
San Fernando Valley Bar Association
Los Angeles County Law Library (July 2009)
Cleveland Metropolitan Bar
Cincinnati Law Library
Social Law Library
Is this a complete substitute for Lexis and Westlaw? No, not yet any way. But Fastcase offers free tutorials and training programs on how to use it effectively. Click here for more information. For the list of current Fastcase subscribers, a hat tip to Michael Al-Megdad, the Fastcase Customer Outreach Director. You can reach him by phone in Washington DC at 1-866-773-2782 or by email at malmegdad [at] fastcase.com.
Your students can often get free access as well by joining the state bar association. Many state bar student memberships are free or very low cost indeed.
For information on Casemaker (the other legal research service offered by state bar associations), click here. Here is a list of the 28 state bar associations that offer Casemaker as a membership benefit: Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
One might be tempted to compare the two systems based on the number of bar associations that offer a particular product as a membership beneift, but you really should look at the size of those state bar associations as well as the number of bar associations.
Professors who teach legal research owe it to themselves to learn more about both Fastcase and Casemaker. We should know what tools our students will encounter in practice. This will also be the subject of a presentation (by me) at the LWI Conference at Marco Island.
Nominations Sought for LWI Monograph on Articles for New Writing Teachers
We shared with you previously the news that the Legal Writing Institute published (electronically) the first volume of a new Monograph Series. That first volume dealt with critiquing student work. You can read our post on the subject by clicking here -- we include a list of the articles included in the series.
The Editor-in-Chief of the LWI Monograph Series is Professor Jane Kent Gionfriddo of Boston College Law School. Other members of the committee are Susan DeJarnatt (Temple), Steve Johansen (Lewis & Clark), Alison Julien (Marquette), and Kathy Vinson (Suffolk). The committee invites nominations for the second volume in the series, which will be styled as “The New Teacher’s Deskbook.” The volume will include a range of articles that would be helpful to a legal writing professor within the first several years of teaching analysis, research, and presentational skills to first-year law students.
To nominate articles for the “New Teacher’s” volume, please email your recommendations to LWI Monograph Board Chair Jane Kent Gionfriddo at email@example.com. You should include the name and citation of the article or articles and a short description about why you believe this article is valuable for new teachers.
We should also remind you that the LWI will hold workshops for adjunct professors and new teachers of legal writing on December 4, 2009. One workshop will be held in New York City at the Manhattan Campus of St. John's University School of Law. The other workshop will be held in Chicago at The John Marshall Law School.
First Monday in October
Happy First Monday in October, the traditional start of the new term for the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Sonia Sotomayor has joined the bench, replacing Justice Souter who served on the Court for 19 years. Other blogs (but not us) are speculating that this "First Monday" may be Justice Stevens' last.
One of my writing colleagues at The John Marshall Law School assigns a U.S. Supreme Court case to her first semester students as a writing exercise. The students read the briefs filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, listen to the recorded arguments, and draft a decision before the Supreme Court issues its decision. (The students are VERY happy when they correctly predict the outcome of the case.) It seems to me to be a difficult assignment for a first semester student, but my colleague assures me that the students rise to the challenge and do a very good job at it. So with that assurance, we pass along that teaching tip to you and wish you again a Happy First Monday in October.
Latest Issue of "The Second Draft" Now Available (Newsletter of the Legal Writing Institute)
October 4, 2009
Friends of Legal Writing Luncheon in New Orleans
Friends of Legal Writing Luncheon
On January 7, 2010
In New Orleans
R.S.V.P. by November 15, 2009!
An ad hoc group called the “Friends of Legal Writing” are organizing a special legal writing luncheon in New Orleans on Thursday, January 7, 2010, from noon to 1:30 p.m. You are invited to enjoy an authentic Cajun meal in a beautiful dining room that overlooks the city of New Orleans. This event is being held during the AALS annual meeting, but it is not an AALS event. It is a gathering of professors who teach legal writing, reasoning, and research—as well as their supporters. The luncheon will be held in New Orleans at the Plimsoll Club in the Galvez Room, located in the World Trade Center just next door to the AALS Conference Hotel. This will be a gathering to celebrate the continued growth of our discipline with friends, family, and colleagues.
Because this is not an AALS event, you must register and pay separately to attend. You must register and pay for the luncheon by November 15th in order to attend. Seating is limited, so don’t delay in responding.
The cost of the luncheon is $45. You may send a check to Rachel Croskery-Roberts at the University of Michigan Law School, 625 South State Street, 414 Hutchins Hall, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 48109-1215. Alternatively, you can make a credit card payment on PayPal by clicking here.
When you respond, please choose one of the following three entrées: (1) Chicken Lafitte (Crawfish-stuffed boneless chicken breast with brandy cream sauce); (2) Pecan-crusted Tilapia; or (3) Vegetable-stuffed eggplant with tomato basil sauce.
The PayPal site allows you to print a receipt immediately. You can also include your menu choice in the box that says “Instructions to Seller.” Please contact Rachel Croskery-Roberts at rcrosker [at] umich.edu if you have any questions about the event (or if you can’t decide between the Chicken Lafitte and the Pecan-Crusted Tilapia).
Joe Kimble, who was just announced as the winner of the AALS Section Award from the Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research, will make brief remarks at the Friends of Legal Writing Luncheon (which is just before the section's afternoon program). The award will be formally presented at the start of the section's expanded joint program (from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m.) with the Section on Teaching Methods.
P.S. This lunchtime program is a good event to bring spouses, significant others, and even insignificant others. Just r.s.v.p. by November 15th.