Friday, November 20, 2009

How to get students to read

The problem with law students may not be that they don't read (it's pretty hard to avoid it in law school although many still try), but reading comprehension.  Thus, this article from Inside Higher Ed discussing techniques for getting students to read may have only limited appeal to this audience.  But as I (almost) always say, nothing-ventured-nothing-gained.

Among the suggestions:

There are scads of other ways to encourage reading. Discussion leaders can give quizzes, assign student presenters for each reading, or hand out advance questions in the form of a single sheet with blank spaces for really short responses. You can design tasks no more demanding than generating a list, applying one equation, or explaining a solitary concept. I’ve asked students to read material until they understand several identified ideas and can explain how they apply to examples that do not come from the reading. It really doesn’t matter what you devise so as that you do apply a stick to go with the reading carrot.

I'm sure some of you are thinking “But what if students don’t know how to read critically? Isn’t all of this wasted on them?” Perhaps; and perhaps this is a way to separate learners from the halt and lame. Two quick thoughts — first, we should stop moaning about what students don’t know and teach them where they are. Thinking, reading, and writing critically should be a basic component of 100-level classes. Second, the right to an education isn’t the same as a guarantee of success. More on such matters in a future article. For now, let’s think like Edward Bellamy and remove non-reading as an option.

You can read the rest here.

I am the scholarship dude.


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

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Google Scholar enters the open access legal research game

Both the Law Librarian and the Adjunct Law Prof  blogs have been following the big story this week that cases and statutes are now searchable through Google Scholar.  From the Official Google Blog:

Currently, Google Scholar allows you to search and read opinions for US state appellate and supreme court cases since 1950, US federal district, appellate, tax and bankruptcy courts since 1923 and US Supreme Court cases since 1791 (please check back periodically for updates to coverage information). In addition, it includes citations for cases cited by indexed opinions or journal articles which allows you to find influential cases (usually older or international) which are not yet online or publicly available. Legal opinions in Google Scholar are provided for informational purposes only and should not be relied on as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed lawyer. Google does not warrant that the information is complete or accurate." 

There's plenty of good commentary about the pros and cons on the Law Librarian blog here, here and here as well as the Adjunct Law Prof blog.  Further, Brian Leiter points out on his blog that law review articles are also now searchable on Google Scholar.

The story fits hand-in-glove with the debate we've been reporting on all week regarding the ability of open access legal research tools to compete effectively with the commercial folks.  If you don't know what I'm referring to, please scroll down the page.

I am the scholarship dude.


November 19, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Student who filed suit over his legal writing grade loses

Brother Mitch Rubinstein over at the Adjunct Law Prof blog sent me this link to a story he's been following about a New York Law School student who sued his school because he believed his legal writing course should be graded pass/fail since that's how they do it at Yale.  He was upset because he had gotten a "C" for his legal writing course.

Here's the skinny from Professor Rubinstein:

Keefe v. New York Law School, ___Misc. 3d___(N.Y. Co. Nov. 17, 2009), is an interesting case. A transfer student to New York Law School from Hofstra Law School was unhappy with being placed in Legal Writing II. As I understand it,his argument was that New York Law School breached an implied contract because it did not provide him with "the right program for every student" as indicated on the law school's web site. Out of the blue he argued that legal writing should be graded pass/fail because that is the way it is done at Yale Law School. The court did not have any trouble dismissing the case and finding that no implied contract existed. As the court stated

"As a general rule, judicial review of grading disputes would inappropriately involve the courts in the very core of academic and educational decision making. Moreover, to so involve the courts in assessing the propriety of particular grades would promote litigation by countless unsuccessful students and thus undermine the credibility of the academic determinations of educational institutions. We conclude, therefore, that, in the absence of demonstrated bad faith, arbitrariness, capriciousness, irrationality or a constitutional or statutory violation, a student's challenge to a particular grade or other academic determination relating to a genuine substantive evaluation of the student's academic capabilities is beyond the scope of judicial review.

Plaintiff is requesting this Court to intrude upon an area to which New York Courts have strongly refused to intervene. Here, Plaintiff has shown no evidence of "bad faith, arbitrariness, capriciousness, irrationality or a constitutional or statutory violation." id.NYLS clearly communicated through the student handbook that NYLS utilizes a letter grading system under which all of its students are evaluated. This Court declines to interfere with this quintessential function of an educational institution."

Good luck passing the character and fitness test after this stunt. 

You can read the rest of the story, including Brother R's personal observations about the case and the student involved, at his blog right here.

I am the scholarship dude.


November 19, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

job opening at Texas Tech

Texas Tech University School of Law seeks applicants for an opening in its nationally ranked Legal Practice Program for the 2010-11 school year.  The successful applicant will join a program that comprises four other full-time LP Professors, an adjunct professor, a writing specialist, and the tenured director.


The Legal Practice Program offers a six-credit, two-semester course (Legal Practice I and II) that integrates research, writing, client interviewing and counseling, oral advocacy, and an extensive ADR component. While program faculty generally work from common texts, syllabus, and core assignments, each full-time LP Professor is responsible for drafting his/her own fact patterns and some related exercises. In addition, each LP Professor is assigned one student tutor per section to help with providing additional workshops, grading of research exercises, etc. LP Professors may also have the opportunity to teach other courses for additional compensation. They enjoy the same access to travel and research assistant funding as do all faculty members.


The Program seeks applicants with a J.D., prior teaching and/or practice experience, demonstrated writing ability, strong academic credentials, the ability to work well within a coordinated program structure, and an interest in being involved in regional and national legal writing activities. Texas Tech is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all in every aspect of its operations and encourages applications from all qualified persons.


Texas Tech University, with 30,000 students, is located in Lubbock, Texas, a city of 205,000 located in the high plains of West Texas. The law school has almost 700 students and 34 full-time faculty members. Lubbock enjoys a low cost of living with very affordable housing and offers easy access to other parts of the country via four major airlines that offer daily flights.


For more information about this position, please contact Professor Nancy Soonpaa, LP Program Director, at or 806/742-3990, ext. 357. To apply for the position, please send application materials to Professor Jorge Ramirez, Chair of the Personnel Committee.


To apply for this position, please send a cover letter, a resume, the names and contact information for 3 references, and a writing sample. Our mailing address is 1802 Hartford Avenue, MS 0004, Lubbock, TX, 79409. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis and will be accepted until the position is filled.


1. The position advertised:

__ a. is a tenure-track appointment.

__ b. may lead to successive long-term contracts of five or more years.

X c. may lead to successive presumptively renewable contracts that can be terminated only for cause.

__ d. has an upper-limit on the number of years a teacher may be appointed.

__ e. is part of a fellowship program for one or two years.

__ f. is a part-time appointment, or a year-to-year adjunct appointment.

Additional information about job security or terms of employment, any applicable

term limits, and whether the position complies with ABA Standard 405(c): complies with ABA Standard 405(c).


2. The professor hired:

X_ a. will be permitted to vote in faculty meetings.

__ b. will not be permitted to vote in faculty meetings.

Additional information about the extent of the professor’s voting rights: can vote on all matters except tenure-track hiring, promotion, and tenure.


3. The school anticipates paying an annual academic year base salary in the range checked below. (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.)

__a. $90,000 or more (depending on qualifications)

__ b. $80,000 to $89,999 (depending on qualifications)

__ c. $70,000 to $79,999

__ d. $60,000 to $69,999

_X_ e. $50,000 to $59,999 (high $50’s, on the cusp of $60's DOE)

__ f. $40,000 to $49,999

__ g. $30,000 to $39,999

__ h. this is a part-time appointment

paying less than $30,000

__ i. this is an adjunct appointment

paying less than $10,000

Additional information about base salary or other compensation:


4. The number of students enrolled in each semester of the courses taught by the legal research

& writing professor will be:

__ a. 30 or fewer

__ b. 31 - 35

_X_ c. 36 – 40

__ d. 41 - 45

__ e. 46 - 50

__ f. 51 - 55

__ g. 56 - 60

__ h. more than 60

Additional information about teaching load, including required or permitted teaching outside of the legal research and writing program: Depending on curricular needs, LP Professors may be able to teach during the school year or summer for additional compensation.

November 19, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

recent scholarship

Thanks to LWI's cooperation with LSN, a division of SSRN, we have these reports on recent legal writing related scholarship, with each author's abstract:

"Thorough Academic Legal Research Will Improve Your Papers" 
Student Lawyer, Vol. 38, No. 2, pp. 8-9, October 2009
SHAWN G. NEVERS, Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School
When writing their first academic papers for law school, law students will quickly discover that academic legal research is a bit different than the legal research needed for a motion or a brief. Written for Student Lawyer Magazine, this column discusses some of the helpful tools and techniques used in academic legal research. Topics discussed include the use of law librarians, finding a topic, the literature review, interdisciplinary research, and fifty-state surveys.

"How to Critique & Grade Contract Drafting Assignments" 
The Tennessee Journal of Business Law, Vol. 297, 2009
ROBIN BOYLE, St. John's University School of Law
This article represents the transcribed proceedings of Professor Robin Boyle’s speech given in May 2008, for the Center for Transactional Law and Practice at Emory University School of Law, at a conference entitled “Teaching Drafting and Transactional Skills - the Basics and Beyond.” Prof. Boyle’s presentation at the conference described course content for her upper-level seminar on contract drafting. She also suggests ways to critique students’ contracts submitted for coursework.

"Strategies to Increase the Availability of Skills Education in China" 
Pacific McGeorge Global Business & Development Law Journal, Vol. 22, p. 45, 2009
BRIAN K. LANDSBERG, University of the Pacific (UOP) - McGeorge School of Law
For those who wish to promote experiential legal education, strategies for doing so can be roughly divided into internal and external strategies: those within the academy and those in the broader world. Examination of these strategies reveals that Chinese legal educators have the opportunity to learn from both the successes and the mistakes in other countries and to adapt experiential education to the Chinese system. Change may come incrementally, but we must be aware that a watered down version of experiential education would ultimately be counter-productive.

"The Citation of Blogs in Judicial Opinions"
LEE F. PEOPLES, Oklahoma City University School of Law
This article reports the results of an exhaustive study examining the citation of blogs in judicial opinions. The article begins with an exploration of opinions citing blogs for their discussion of substantive legal issues. The unique status enjoyed by several boutique blogs is examined including the importance of Douglas Berman’s Sentencing Law and Policy blog in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Blakely and Booker decisions. The citation of blogs for factual information is discussed and the impact of these citations on litigants’ constitutional and procedural rights, the law of evidence, judicial ethics, and the judicial role in the common law adversarial system are explored.

Serious questions about the preservation of blogs cited in judicial opinions have yet to be answered. The way that blogs are cited in judicial opinions varies widely. Some judges do not provide enough information to accurately retrieve the blog post viewed by the court. Blog entries frequently change after they are posted. Some blog entries and entire blogs disappear without warning. There is currently no uniform approach to archiving or preserving blogs. Detailed statistics on the completeness and accuracy of citations to blogs in judicial opinions are provided. A set of best practices detailing when and how blogs should be cited is proposed. The Judicial Conference’s recently released Guidelines on Citing To, Capturing, and Maintaining Internet Resources in Judicial Opinions are discussed and critiqued. Solutions explored at the Future of Today’s Legal Scholarship Symposium held at the Georgetown Law Center in July of 2009 are evaluated. The article concludes with a discussion of the impact of blogs on the future of the law.


November 19, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

West makes textbook on persuasion available for Kindle

This one comes to us from our good buddy Mitch Rubinstein of the Adjunct Law Prof Blog (which was recently named one of the 10 best blogs for legal news written "by and for law profs"). West is making 29 legal textbooks available in Kindle compatible format including Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges by Justice Antonin Scalia and Bryan Garner.  Amazon has also just dropped the price of a Kindle from to $259 from $299.  Jump on it!

I am the scholarship dude.


November 19, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research

Aalslogo Here is a link to the Fall 2009 Newsletter of the Association of American Law Schools' Section of Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research.  Download AALS Legal Writing Newsletter Fall 2009 FINAL


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

The words (and phrases) we love to hate

In this recent column by Professor Stanley Fish in the NYT, the author catalogs several contemporary  expressions that give us fits like "Your call is important to us" (yeah, right) or "Please listen carefully as our menu options have changed" (as if I ever memorized them to begin with).

You can read plenty of other wince-worthy examples right here but the best part is scrolling through the comments left by readers who describe their own hysterical (and exasperating) favorites.


Hat tip to Doreen McKee.

I am the scholarship dude.


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

Professionalism alert: Tell your students that when it comes to their resumes, don't "gild the lily."

The National Law Journal reports that given how desperate some job seekers have become in this market, employers are seeing much more resume fraud.  Here are some of the more egregious examples cited by the NLJ:

• Claiming to be a member of the Kennedy family — or a former professional baseball player — or a member of Mensa.

• Inventing a school that did not exist.

• Claiming to be the CEO of a company where the person was actually an hourly employee.

• Submitting a résumé with someone else's photo attached.

According to a couple of surveys mentioned in the article, lying on one's resume is a fairly common practice depending on how one defines "misrepresentation:"

A recent study by EmployeeScreenIQ, a Cleveland-based background screening company, found that roughly 50% of the résumés that it looks at have some kind of inconsistency. The Society for Human Resource Management puts the number even higher. It says 70% of all job applications provide information that is not fully accurate.

You can read the rest of the article here.

I am the scholarship dude.


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

a rule is like . . .

In a recent class, a student was confused about the difference between the rule and the rule explanation/proof, and a classmate offered this explanation:


The rule is like describing the forest, and the rule explanation is like describing the trees.


I thought that analogy worked pretty well!  Do you have other good analogies that you use in teaching?



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

Scholarship alert: "Enhancing Law School Success: A Study of Goal Orientations, Academic Achievement and the Declining Self-Efficacy of our Law Students"

Christensen, Leah Not legal writing per se, but authored by legal writing prof Leah M. Christensen and found at 33 Law & Psychol. Rev 57 (2009).  From the introduction:

I have long been interested in how the most successful law students learn. For the top law students, do they innately possess superior skills or can we teach law students the skills and strategies that will contribute to their success? What motivates law students to learn? During the last two decades, psychologists have been using achievement goal theory as a framework with which to examine the relationship between achievement goals and student success. Achievement goal theory examines the goals that students pursue in an academic setting.  The current psychological research suggests that there is a correlation between achievement goal motivation (i.e., why a student wants to learn) and a student's overall success.  Dr. Carol Dweck, an expert in achievement goal theory, describes the differences in goal orientations as follows:

Individuals may strive for high grades for quite different reasons. They may seek high grades in order to prove that they are intelligent or as an index of learning or mastery of the material. In this approach, these two aims - seeking to prove one's competence versus seeking to improve one's competence - represent two qualitatively different classes of goals (performance goals vs. learning goals, respectively) and, as such, would be expected to have different patterns of behavior-cognition-affect attending their pursuit.

I am the scholarship dude.


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

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Yet more on the future of commercial legal research databases versus open access

This time it's the Law Librarian Blog founder and our good buddy Joe Hodnicki weighing in on the Bob Berring video.  Joe thinks that competitive forces will inevitably challenge Wexis' market share and that some of the competition will come from the open access sector:

In It's Time for Law.Gov, I suggested that legal information professionals "imagine a world where choosing to use LexisNexis and Westlaw is based primarily on their online secondary legal resources, interfaces and research tools after the duopolist market structure in the legal publishing industry has been smashed because authenticated primary legal information is available from multiple sources." This will be a world where "competition" is not defined as West vs. LexisNexis. Competition in the marketplace for legal information will be analogous to the situation the Big Three auto makers faced in the late 1970s-early 1980s when US consumers began buying Japanese (and later Korean) cars and trucks in mass instead of buying over-priced poorly engineered and assembled gas guzzlers from Detroit. 

This will be a world of consumer options defined by value-added services far beyond late 19th-early 20th century editorial contributions like headnotes and key numbers, and the shoehorning of publication formats like the legal treatise into WEXIS databases that were neither designed nor intended to accomodate them. The primary reason to buy WEXIS products will likely be the quality of the secondary legal products they offer, whether they will offer them in usable digital formats, and something legal information professionals really haven't seen in a very long time, market-based competitive pricing. The need to be innovative will be forced upon WEXIS by the marketplace because WEXIS will have lost its stranglehold on primary legal materials.

Competition may very well be defined as involving West and LexisNexis and BNA and Wolters Kluwer and probably something like "Google US Law" plus start-up companies taking advantage of the return of the "Invisible Hand." This market will eventually settle on redesigned products and services, modern, that is to say, more sophisticated methods of distribution, plus licensing options and pricing that is more beneficial to all members of the legal information community, namely, end users and those institutional providers (read law libraries) and legal publishers who are agile enough to accept the challenge.

Those of us who have been in this profession long enough to remember the advent of online legal research services can recall the early negative reaction to them and that reaction's lack of foresight. Too bad we didn't put some in a time capsule 30-plus years ago. Perhaps someone will put the Berring video in a time capsule with a note that reads, "Open in 2040." Considering the pace of change, perhaps it should read "Open in 2020."

You can read the rest of Joe's well-informed predictions here.

I am the scholarship dude.


November 17, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The 2009 "word of the year"

The envelop please . . . and the winner is:  "unfriend!"  That's according to the publisher of the New Oxford American Dictionary.  "Unfriend" is a verb meaning "to remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook. As in, 'I decided to unfriend my roommate on Facebook after we had a fight.'"

Runners up for "word of the year" include:

Intexticated:  distracted because texting on a cellphone while driving a vehicle.

Sexting:  the sending of sexually explicit texts and pictures by cellphone.

Funemployed: taking advantage of one’s newly unemployed status to have fun or pursue other interests.

Netbook:  a small, very portable laptop computer with limited memory.

Tramp stamp:  a tattoo on the lower back, usually on a woman.

See the rest of the also-rans for 2009 right here.

Hat tip to Chronicle of Higher Ed.

I am the scholarship dude.


November 17, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

For typography nerds, life can be hell

Today's NYT has a fun article entitled Mistakes in Typography Grate the Purists about spotting font faux pas all over town (and elsewhere).  For example, did you know that the font on the ship pressure gauges in the movie Titanic is Helvetica which wasn't created until 45 years after the ship sank.  Seems like someone in the prop department has some serious 'splainin' to do.

And for those who are really anal-retentive when it comes to lettering, don't even think about watching Mad Men:

It is rare to find a review of the show that does not rave about the accuracy of its early 1960s styling, yet the “Mad Men” team is woefully sloppy when it comes to typography. Mark Simonson, a graphic designer in St. Paul, Minnesota, blogs about typographic misdemeanors on his Web site,, and he once catalogued the flaws in “Mad Men.” The 1992 typeface, Lucida Handwriting, appears in an ad in the opening titles. Gill Sans, a British typeface designed in 1930 but rarely used in the United States until the 1970s, is used for office signage. A lipstick ad features one wholly appropriate 1958 font, Amazone, but two incongruous ones, 1978’s Balmoral and 1980’s Fenice. He noted lots of other clunkers too, but admits that he has spotted fewer new errors in the most recent episodes of “Mad Men.”

You can read the rest of the NYT article here.

Hat tip to Doreen McKee.

I am the scholarship dude.


November 17, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

You get what you pay for.

Academics can argue about whether free or fee-based legal data bases are better, but when the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center surveyed practicing attorneys, here's what they found:

Images  "You Get What You Pay For: 
Overall, respondents are significantly more satisfied with the characteristics of fee-based online legal research resources than they are with those of free online legal research resources.  Forty-five percent of respondents report that they are 'not very satisfied' with the ability to search multiple databases simultaneously in free online resources. More than two-thirds (69%) of respondents report being 'very satisfied' with depth of coverage, 63% with the availability of advanced search options of fee-based online resources, and 59% with the ability to search multiple databases simultaneously."

More on that study is available here.


hat tip:  Hollee Temple



November 17, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 16, 2009

A resource to help educate law students about cost-effective alternatives to Wexis

In this post from the Law Librarian Blog, Law Prof Blog founder Joe Hodnicki notes that law students can get hooked pretty easily on the free use of Westlaw and Lexis only to discover in their first jobs that the client won't pay for it.  To the rescue comes Cleveland State's law librarian extraordinaire Susan Altmeyer with this series of PowerPoint slides (follow the link) designed to give students a crash course on cost-effective alternatives to Wexis.

If you use Susan's work, please send her an acknowledgment and thank you.

I am the scholarship dude.


November 16, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

More thoughts on the Bob Berring "open access" versus pay-to-play legal research debate

Here are some more thoughts from DePaul's Mark Giangrande via the Law Librarian Blog regarding yesterday's post here regarding the Bob Berring video:

Bob Berring’s statement about Lexis and Westlaw being a better alternative to legal research than volunteer Internet sites is pretty accurate.  Both databases offer depth of resources, organization, precise search language and tools that simply can’t be matched by the Internet in its current form.  I also agree with Berring that the work performed by volunteer sites is admirable.  Nonetheless, they do not come close to the rich research experience available to Lexis and Westlaw subscribers.  If nothing else, West (and Westlaw) has a 100+ year start on gathering and organizing Anglo-American law and providing the metadata to make that law accessible.  Lexis started in 1975 but it was then and is now well capitalized to compete with West at the same level and with comparable editorial standards.  Who else is out there who can match these efforts (read through to the bottom for the answer to this question)?

You can read the rest of Mark's thoughts here.

I am the scholarship dude.


November 16, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Chicago judge takes lawyers to task for submitting brief "dripping with sarcasm"

Both Above the Law and the National Law Journal recently reported on an incident in which Illinois Judge Diane Cannon castigated two Sidley Austin lawyers for submitting a brief in connection with a motion to quash a subpoena that the judge characterized as "reprehensible" and "dripping with sarcasm."

A pdf of the offending brief can be found here.

Most others who've read it find it pretty harmless stuff.  Indeed, in a reader's poll conducted by ATL (scroll down), 89.1% of those surveyed thought the Sidley brief was "within the bounds of zealous advocacy."  So, did the judge overreact?

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

I am the scholarship dude.


November 16, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

kudos, Kristin!

Gerdy_kristin2  For four years now we've been using this blog to get the word out about the many accomplishments of legal writing professors.  Well today we have the pleasure of announcing that Kristin Gerdy, legal research and writing professor at Brigham Young University, has been accepted into the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  We have it on good authority that the audition system there is harder to ace than American Idol.  Congratulations, Kristin!

hat tip:  Ruth Anne Robbins


November 16, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Fall Newsletter of the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research

Aalslogo The Association of American Law Schools Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research has just published its Fall 2009 Newsletter. Click here to download a copy of the new Fall 2009 Newsletter.  It is 18 pages long, filled with what is probably the largest collection ever of recent news of section members.  The newsletter also has the "Legal Writing Dance Card" for anyone attending the AALS Annual Meeting in New Orleans this January.

And if you missed the Spring 2009 issue (or just want to see it again), click here to download a copy of the Spring 2009 Newsletter.


November 16, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)