Friday, October 23, 2009

Mel Weresh, legal writing superstar!

Prof. Johnathan Edwards at Drake sent news of his colleague's trifecta:

Below is the link to the University’s press release with photos of Mel Weresh with the 2009 Warren E. Burger Writing Competition Prize from the American Inns of Court:  

As soon as Mel returned from DC, she was featured in the National Law Journal: 

And her most recent book written with Lisa Penland on Professionalism in the Real World: Lessons for the Effective Advocate was published a week earlier by NITA.

Congratulations Mel!



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

Friday Fun - Are you a ROM Brain?

This one comes to us from Chris Wren, a legal research god who is almost singlehandedly responsible for the developing the theory and practice of process-oriented legal research instruction we all use today.  But I digress.

This is a fun website called that allows you to subscribe to their "word of the day."  Today's word?  Rom brain which means "Slang for someone who spews forth ideas and opinions but can't seem to accept any input from the outside world."

You know who you are (on second thought, you almost certainly don't).

I am the scholarship dude.


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

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Good handout explaining passive voice and how to avoid it.

This one comes to us from the U. of North Carolina Writing Center.  It's published pursuant to an open source license agreement meaning you are free to use it in your classroom provided you comply with these conditions.

Here's the link.

I am the scholarship dude.


October 22, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Harsh language in brief becomes harsh toke for lawyer who wrote it resulting in jail time

An attorney who harshly criticized a judge and other officials in a Missouri court filing was held in contempt of court and sentenced to 120 days in the hoosegow.  According to the Associated Press:

A Douglas County jury convicted Carl Smith, 62, of Ava, of criminal contempt in August. He was sentenced Sept. 28 to 120 days in jail. He cannot appeal the sentence because the case was prosecuted under common law, as opposed to statutory law.

Smith's attorney has asked the Missouri Supreme Court to intervene, saying that while Smith's arguments may have been better expressed, the punishment is excessive.

"The key thing here is what is the appropriate sanction when an attorney overstates or inartfully drafts an argument," attorney Bruce Galloway said. "My position is that the First Amendment right of free speech would prevent the use of a criminal sanction for an attorney who oversteps in his pleadings."

I hope Mr. Smith at least had the good sense to write the nasty bits using the active voice. 

Hat tip to the online ABA Journal.

I am the scholarship dude.




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

Trends in teaching continue to focus on group work, peer-editing and multiple drafts

Although my own experience is that students don't always like group work or peer-feedback exercises (the former because of the "free-rider" effect and the latter because they haven't yet developed the judgment that enables them to evaluate another's work), their professors, at least, continue to move towards a "student-centered" approach to learning.   That's according to a recent UCLA survey of more than 22,000 college students at 372 schools nationwide.

Here are the results:

  2005 2008
Selected teaching methods
Cooperative learning (small groups of students) 48% 59%
Using real-life problems* n/a 56%
Group projects 33% 36%
Multiple drafts of written work 25% 25%
Student evaluations of one another’s work 16% 24%
Reflective writing/journaling 18% 22%
Electronic quizzes with immediate feedback in class* n/a 7%
Extensive lecturing (not student-centered) 55% 46%
Selected examination methods
Short-answer exams 37% 46%
Term and research papers 35% 44%
Multiple-choice exams 32% 33%
Grading on a curve 19%


* Not asked in the 2005 survey
Note: The figures are based on survey responses of 22,562 faculty members at 372 four-year colleges and universities nationwide. The survey was conducted in the fall and winter of 2007-8 and covered full-time faculty members who spent at least part of their time teaching undergraduates. The figures were statistically adjusted to represent the total population of full-time faculty members at four-year institutions. Percentages are rounded.

Source: "The American College Teacher: National Norms for the 2007-8 HERI Faculty Survey," University of California at Los Angeles Higher Education Research Institute.

You can read the rest in the Chronicle of Higher Ed found here.

I am the scholarship dude.


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

A new tool in the war on student plagiarism

Our good buddy Professor Mitchell Rubinstein over at the Adjunct Law Prof Blog alerted me to this new anti-plagiarism service called that, for a fee, will search the web to determine if your student's paper borrowed too heavily from another source.  (This would seem to make this service better at detecting plagiarism then, say,, which only checks a suspicious paper against other works already entered into its database).  PlagiarismScanner doesn't come cheap; here's the fee structure:

 Personal - 10,000 words, $14.95

October 22, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

New England legal writing consortium

The next regional conference of the New England Consortium of Legal Writing Teachers is set for December 7, 2009.  This conference will be held at the Western New England College Law
School, in Springfield, Massachusetts.  All the registration and program information is available at the WNEC law school web site.  The conference is listed there under "Speakers and Events."  

Among the fun places to visit while you're in Springfield are the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.  

hat tip:  Professor Myra G. Orlen


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

LWI Workshops on December 4 for New Writing Faculty and Adjunct Professors Who Teach Writing

LWI 25 Here's the latest on the workshops that the Legal Writing Institute (LWI) is holding on December 4, 2009 in New York City and Chicago for New Legal Writing Faculty and for Adjunct Professors Who Teach Legal Writing.

You can click here to download the most recent version of the brochure for the program.  Download LWI New Teachers Workshop (Version 2.3)  The program lists the sessions for the day and the speakers for both locations.

Online registration is now open.

Here is the link to register for New York City:  The NYC program will be held at the Manhattan Campus of St. John's University School of Law.

Here is the link to register for Chicago:   The Chicago program will be held at The John Marshall Law School in the Loop.

The registration fee is $100 in advance or $120 at the door.  Partial tuition scholarships are available (see the brochure for details).

This is an exciting new program being offered by the Legal Writing Institute.  We plan to offer these programs in more locations next year (around this same time).  

Mark E. Wojcik, Board Member, Legal Writing Institute

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

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How one effective demand letter helped consumer get big refund from

A website called the Consumerist has republished a demand letter sent by Paul Gowder, who is identified as a "law school grad," to seeking a refund after his $400.00 Kindle broke.  A video used to advertise Kindles apparently makes the claim that the device is durable enough to survive a short drop to the ground.  When Mr. Gowder's Kindle didn't, he called Amazon's customer service to complain and was offered the chance to buy a new device for another $200.00. 

That didn't sit too well with Mr. Gowder who instead fired off this letter asking Amazon to refund his original purchase price or else he would sue under California's implied warranty of merchantability statute as well as seek punitive damages (he also suggested a class-action suit on behalf of others who have had Kindles break).  The result?  Amazon sent him a check for $400.00 and let him keep the damaged Kindle. 

Now that's a demand letter that worked (and might be a good sample to show your students in class).

Hat tip to Mitchell Nathan.

I am the scholarship dude.


October 21, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Laurel Currie Oates Selected for ALWD Award

ALWD_Logo Oates, Laurel The Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) announced that it is awarding the 2009 Marjorie Rombauer Award to Laurel Currie Oates, of Seattle University School of Law.
The award is named for Marjorie Rombauer, one of the founders of the field of Legal Writing.  Marge taught at the University of Washington School of Law for over 30 years, and, as the school's website notes, she was the first non-librarian tenured female faculty member.  Her book, Legal Problem Solving: Analysis, Research and Writing, was first published in 1970.  She was also an author of Legal Writing in a Nutshell.

The recipient of the award, Laurel Currie Oates, has had a profound impact on the teaching of legal writing in the United States and the world.  She was one of the founders of the Legal Writing Institute, and in that role she has hosted thousands of legal writing faculty at numerous LWI summer conferences at the University of Puget Sound and later at Seattle University.  It was at those conferences that the field of legal writing developed its shape and depth.  She is a co-author of The Legal Writing Handbook and numerous other texts that have been used by students around the country.  Laurel was also instrumental in the founding of APPEAL (Academics Promoting the Pedagogy of Effective Advocacy in Law).  APPEAL is dedicated to promoting the exchange of ideas, information, and resources about the teaching of legal writing and effective advocacy among academics in the United States.  Many members of our community have attended and presented at APPEAL conferences, most recently in July of this year in Pretoria, South Africa.

The ALWD award will be presented to Laurel in Macon, Georgia, this November at the Symposium hosted by Mercer Law Review and the LWI Journal.  The symposium is called The Legal Writing Institute: Celebrating 25 Years of Teaching and Scholarship, and it will be held November 5-6, 2009, at Mercer Law School.  If you are interested in attending the Symposium,click here.

This post was adapted from an email message sent by Mary Beth Beazley of The Ohio State University School of Law. 


October 20, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Today is "National Day of Writing"

You read that correctly - The National Council of Teachers of English ("NCTE") has declared October 20, 2009 as "National Day of Writing" in recognition of "the remarkable variety of writing we engage in and [to] help make writers from all walks of life aware of their craft." 

To help celebrate this special day, the NCTE has invited "students, teachers, parents, grandparents, service and industrial workers, managers, business owners, legislators, retirees" - virtually anyone and everyone who would like to participate  - to submit a writing sample to the "National Gallery of Writing."  Go to this page on NCTE's website and follow the instructions for submitting your own piece.  The National Writing Gallery is a "digital archive of samples that exhibit how and why Americans are writing every day" and will be accessible through a free, searchable website. 

I am the scholarship dude.


October 20, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Advice for students - "How to be a great law clerk"

This article appears in the ABA's Summer 2009 Journal of the Section of Litigation which is available to members online here but most likely will be in many law school libraries should non-members be interested in taking a gander.  The article is authored by Justice David J. Richman of the Colorado Court of Appeals and chronicles his own experiences clerking for an appellate judge after graduating from law school more than 34 years ago as well his mid-career decision to become a permanent clerk for a federal district court judge beginning in 2003 (until the judge's death in 2008). 

As you might imagine, Justice Richman emphasizes the importance of clear, concise writing, meticulous research, great organizational skills and an aptitude for managing one's time well.  You might want to grab the article - found in Volume 35 (summer 2009) of the Journal at page 16 - as a good class handout for 1L's or a good handout for upper class students contemplating a judicial clerkship upon graduation.

I am the scholarship dude.


October 18, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Writing advice for profs - get into a regular routine

Much of the writing advice we blog about here is directed towards students.  For a change of pace, here's some advice courtesy of Inside Higher Ed that. although directed at Ph.D candidates struggling to finish their dissertations, applies equally well to busy LRW profs trying to find time to write an article.  It's the first of a four part series and we'll bring the rest as the entries are published.  For now, here's the first bit of advice:

Myth #1: Writing can only occur in large blocks of time. I don’t know how many times I have heard this from students and know I have heard it too many times from new faculty members. From where I stand, there are two problems with waiting until you have a large block of time to write. The first is “How long?” Do you need four hours? Six hours? Ten hours?

. . . . [The problem with waiting around for] large blocks of time to write is that [it's] just another excuse not to write. If you write one hour a day, you have five hours of focused writing time by the end of the week; 20 hours by the end of the month; and 70 over the course of the semester. If you have two hours, that doubles to 140 hours over the course of the semester. As you are working on your dissertation, you have to put in as much productive writing time as you can. Often, you will be writing for an hour in between the courses you are teaching, while you are waiting for experiments to finish, or while your infant daughter is sleeping. Even if you have a lot of free time as a doctoral student or as a post-doc, chances are in an academic job or a professional job, you won’t have that luxury, so now is as good a time as ever to resurrect what may have been down time (checking Facebook??? Twitter???) and to use it productively. Of course check Facebook and Twitter, just after you have completed your writing.

Myth #2: Writing can wait until motivation washes over you.I wish this were not a myth but instead that it was a universal truth. Imagine if we lived in a world where we were motivated to do all those things that are good for us. I need to write for three hours today and I feel inspired and motivated from the very first moment to the 180th minute! Today is my day to do 50 sit-ups after I finish 45 minutes on the treadmill, yahoo! I feel inspired to sort through the piles of papers in my spare room, and by golly, today just happens to be the day that I also planned to clear out the room! Mind you, I try to talk myself into being inspired to do the things I need to do, and sometimes it works. But sometimes, no matter what, doing 50 sit-ups doesn’t inspire or motivate me. Nor does writing for my two hours per day.

I wish I could mix a potion that makes me want to do the things that I haveto do. Fortunately, there is a potion, at least for writing. Unfortunately, it is not as easy as bringing a flask to your lips and taking a long gulp. Motivation in writing comes from prewriting, prewriting, prewriting. Motivation occurs when you have done the necessary planning steps so that when you sit down to write prose, you have had time to subconsciously play around with the ideas and you only have to retrieve and type down the ideas, not to think them up. Motivation occurs when you have a very detailed long outline, filled in with citeable notes, by your desk that guides your writing. The citeable notes are short phrases (written in your own words) that remind you to insert the appropriate references into a particular section.

Even with all the necessary prewriting completed, there will be times when you just don’t feel like writing. As Rick Reis said in the quote I presented above: “Forget about whether you feel motivated or not.” When this happens, you’ll have to lean on pep talks from writing partners and the negative consequences of showing your blank writing graph to your writing group. Plus, you’ll have to have some tools in your toolbox ready for when perfectionism, procrastination, impatience, or depression/dysphoria threatens to disrupt a potentially productive writing session.

You can read the rest here.

I am the scholarship dude.


October 18, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)