Saturday, December 5, 2009

William C. Burton Announced as Winner of the 2010 LWI Golden Pen Award

ImagesCA7ZKNB1 LWI 25 Ruth Anne Robbins, President of the Legal Writing Institute (LWI), has announced that the 2010 Golden Pen Award will go to William C. Burton, EsqHere's an excerpt from her announcement:

Mr. Burton is currently a partner at the New York firm, Sagat Burton, LLP. He is a former New York State Assistant Attorney General, former New York State Assistant Special Prosecutor, and a former Director of Government Affairs for Continental Insurance.  He has written the authoritative reference book Burton’s Legal Thesaurus (4th ed., 2006) and, in 2003, co-founded the Holmes Debates, which address major issues facing the nation and the judiciary.

Mr. Burton is receiving the Golden Pen for all of those notable accomplishments, but he was nominated and selected mostly because he has become one of the most listened-to and melodic voices in the world of people who advocates for legal writing excellence. He created the Burton Foundation, a volunteer, not-for-profit, academic organization that concentrates on the relevance and importance of modernized legal writing. His foundation rewards and celebrates legal writing instruction and action. One of the foundation’s many activities is the annual Burton Awards, a national awards program dedicated principally to honoring effective legal writing, including plain-language efforts. The foundation has honored nearly 100 students for their outstanding writing and fifty or more lawyers who have written excellent articles or books. 

The ceremony to present the 2010 Golden Pen Award will take place in June at LWI's biennial conference.  You can read more about the Golden Pen Award here. 

Thanks go out to the members of LWI's Awards Committee:  Susan Thrower, Chair (De Paul); Leah Christensen (Thomas Jefferson); Kirsten Davis (Stetson); Sonia Green (John Marshall-Chicago); Hether MacFarlane (McGeorge); Lou Sirico (Villanova); Christopher Wren (Wisconsin Attorney General’s Office).


December 5, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

conference on teaching transactional law & skills

Emory Emory University School of Law’s Center for Transactional Law and Practice has announced its second biennial conference on the teaching of transactional law and skills, Transactional Education:  What’s Next?  The conference will be held at Emory Law on Friday, June 4, and Saturday, June 5, 2010.

The Steering Committee is accepting proposals immediately, but in no event later than 5:00 p.m., February 1, 2010. They welcome proposals on any subject of interest to current or potential teachers of transactional law and skills.  Click here for more specific information and for a further link to the conference website and proposal submission form.

The Steering Committee consists of Tina L. Stark, Chair (Emory University School of Law), Danny Bogart (Chapman University School of Law), Deborah Burand (University of Michigan Law School), Joan MacLeod Heminway (The University of Tennessee College of Law), Jeffrey Lipshaw (Suffolk University Law School), and Jane Scott (St. John’s University School of Law).

Hat tip: Anne Rector



December 5, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The definitive way to tell the difference between "affect" and "effect"

Man-oh-man - I screw up this one all the time myself.  It's weird because I've noticed that over the past few years I've developed blocks in connection with memory skills that I never used to struggle with.  For instance, phone numbers I dial all the time I still can't commit to memory, nor do I know my car's license plate number even though I've had to write it down a few times over the past three years.  Learning the names of new students, especially, (and remember the names of former students) has become much more difficult over the years.  Several years ago I also noticed that I began mixing up "affect" and "effect" even though I used to use them correctly without giving it a second thought.  It's as if I suddenly and without explanation became self-conscious about using these words correctly and that led me to "unlearn" something which had previously been second nature.  Have I run out of RAM?  Is my memory getting weaker?  Or is this some sort of psych-job I'm pulling on myself? 

Anyhow, this post from our good buddy Raymond Ward over at the (new) legal writing blog offers some great advice for keeping these words straight.   Here's what the good Mr. Ward says:

It’s easy to confuse the words affect and effect. I’ve seen some tipsters suggest using affect when you need a verb and effect when you need a noun. That will work most of the time. But occasionally, affect is a noun and effect is a verb. 

And I'm especially grateful to Mr. Ward for directing me to Roy Peter Clark's post called "8 Tips to Help You Master 'Affect' and 'Effect.'"  Perfect!.

I am the scholarship dude.


December 3, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Student note alert: "Wikipedia Made Law? The Federal Judicial Citation of Wikipedia"

Good for this student!  She's written a note that I think many readers of this blog will be interested in. Here are the details:    Wagner, Amber L.  Comment:  Wikipedia Made Law? The Federal Judicial Citation of Wikipedia 26 J. Marshall J. Computer & Info L. 229 (2008).  From the introduction:

Over three hundred federal judicial opinions have cited Wikipedia as a source. Most opinions cite Wikipedia in footnotes to define terms used in the opinion. Some judges, however, like the BIA in the Badasa case, have used Wikipedia as a source on which to base decisions. Judicial use of Wikipedia as a source of evidence or a basis for making decisions is a serious problem, because the nature of Wikipedia undermines the common law system. Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that contains articles that anyone can create, alter, or revise. Additionally, Wikipedia is not only merely a secondary source, but the articles are subject to change on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. For these and other reasons this comment will explore, federal judicial opinions should not cite Wikipedia. Wikipedia may be a starting point for research, but this comment will discuss many of the reasons why federal judges and members of the federal bar should not cite Wikipedia as a source. Additionally, Wikipedia's reliability is questionable at best, and for this reason alone Wikipedia should not be cited as an authoritative source on any topic.

Continue reading

December 3, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Continuing coverage of the Google legal research debate

LWI conference scholarships

Marcoisland The Legal Writing Institute (LWI) will be awarding grants of up to $1,000 for up to ten LWI members who cannot obtain funding from their home institutions to attend its 14th biennial conference, June 27 - 30, 2010, at the Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort in Marco Island, FL.  The deadline for applying for these grants is March 15, 2010.  Application forms are available from Ken Chestek at  Note that you must be an LWI member to apply for a grant; there is no fee to be a member.

hat tip:  Ken Chestek


December 3, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

ABA lists "Top 100" best legal blogs

It's nice (though not at all surprising) to see our good buddies at Above the Law make the list in the "News" category.  And it's especially nice to see Elie Mystal singled out by the ABA Journal editors for his excellent and timely coverage of the legal marketplace meltdown over the past year.  In particular, ATL has devoted a lot of coverage to the emerging "apprenticeship model" of law firm practice which is, in part, a reaction to the failure of law schools to take skills training more seriously. 

Anyhow, you can read here the full list of the "Top 100" legal blawgs (as the ABA Journal calls them) nominated by the Journal editors.  You then have a chance to vote for your favorite right here (registration with the Journal is required but it's free).

And a big congratulations to our blog-mates at the TaxProf Blog and the Legal Profession Blog for also making the top 100 list (and top 15 within the sub-category of "legal theory" blogs).

I am the scholarship dude.


December 2, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Using ALL CAPS in New Zealand can get you fired, mate!

This story reminds us that in writing, tone matters.  According to the blog "Social Networking and the Law" a female employee at a New Zealand health care company called ProCare was fired after she sent instructions to fellow employees using "all caps," "bold" and colored font (really?).  Apparently her employer thought that the use of those fonts was too confrontational and thus fired her for creating disharmony in the workplace. She sued ('natch) and won a $17k verdict for wrongful termination. 

The lesson, I think, is that although email recipients are much more aware than they used to be about how easily an author's intention can be misinterpreted due to the lack of aural and physical cues that give words meaning in face to face exchanges, the risk of having one's email misinterpreted - with serious consequences - is still very real.  There's probably a very good teachable moment here for legal writing students about the need to think carefully about tone, the reader and how susceptible to different meanings are words on the bare page.  On the other hand, maybe the employee in question really was yelling at her co-workers.

You can read more coverage about this story on the Social Networking blog here, the Yahoo Tech blog here and Legal Blog Watch here.

I am the scholarship dude.


December 2, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

how visual media are changing the law

Neal Feigenson, at Quinnipiac, and Christina Spiesel, at Yale, have written a new book on Law on Display, The Digital Transformation of Legal Persuasion and Judgement. 
At you can take a virtual tour through the various media they discuss in their book.
Here's a summary:
"In this comprehensive survey and analysis of how new visual technologies are transforming both the practice and culture of American law, Neal Feigenson and Christina Spiesel explain how, when, and why legal practice moved from a largely words-only environment to one more dependent on and driven by images, and how rapidly developing technologies have further accelerated this change. They discuss older visual technologies, such as videotape evidence, and then current and future uses of visual and multimedia digital technologies, including trial presentation software and interactive multimedia. They also describe how law itself is going online, in the form of virtual courts, cyberjuries, and more, and explore the implications of law’s movement to computer screens. Throughout Law on Display, the authors illustrate their analysis with examples from a wide range of actual trials."
Those readers of this blog who were teaching legal writing some 20 years ago may recall that Neal started out as a legal writing director, so he's lived through this transformation with a writing professor's eye for its impact. 

December 2, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

5 million words typed in 50 years - Cormac McCarthy's Olivetti goes on the auction block

OK, so this is not about legal writing but it's close enough to merit a mention.  And, it's pretty doggone interesting to boot.  The New York Times is running a story today called "No Country for Old Typewriters" describing how best-selling and critically acclaimed author Cormac McCarthy has written at least "a dozen novels, several screenplays, two plays, two short stories, countless drafts, letters and more" on an Olivetti typewriter he bought in 1963 for $50.00.  Mr. McCarthy estimates that's about 5 million words in nearly 50 years and "it's never been serviced or cleaned other than blowing out the dust with a service station hose."   Forget "Ford-tough;" try "Olivetti-tough."

When the Olivetti finally gave-up the ghost recently, Mr. McCarthy picked up another, slightly used one for about $11.00.  The old one is going to be auctioned this Friday by Christie's which has placed a pre-sale estimate on it of $15,000 to $20,000.  (I bet it goes for way more than that).

You can read the full story here.

I am the scholarship dude (as well as someone who really wants to see "The Road").


December 1, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

a lawyer's "secrets" of persuasion

Images If you went to law school and had a decent course in advocacy along the way, you likely know the "secrets" in a recent article posted on the ABA's website.  But it never hurts to jog the memory cells and be reminded, and perhaps you will find new food for thought in Persuasion Secrets: Tips on Crafting Effective Arguments.


December 1, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Call for Papers - Canadian Association of Law Teachers (CALT)

Images Here's the official call for papers for Transformation: Law of (Re)Discovery, the CALT conference to be held in Victoria, British Columbia, from June 21 to 22, 2010:

As a system in a continual process of transformation, law presents, opportunities for both new and familiar moments of (re)discovery. How do we prepare for our legal future? What lessons exist in our past? How do we or should we incorporate different legal traditions into Western legal teaching? How do indigenous laws shape and inform law school curriculum? What does discovery entail? What developments will shape our future in different areas of law? How do we prepare our students fro their future practice of law? How do we prepare for law schools of the future? In June 2010, the Canadian Association of law Teachers (CALT) will meet in Victoria B.C. to address these critical issues. We plan to host an environmentally responsible conference at the beautiful University of Victoria Faculty of law. We hope you can join us.

CALT invites proposals for papers which fit into the general theme of “Transformation: Law of (Re)Discovery”. These papers may relate to our popular Teaching and Learning stream – or may be placed within a more traditional interrogation of various substantive legal areas. Papers will be selected based on their scholarly quality and also on their ability to generate interesting discussion in plenary sessions or break-out groups.

Proposals may be in English or French. Please keep your proposal to a maximum of 250 words. If you are sending your proposal by email, please use the SUBJECT: “CALT Proposal.”
We ask that all submission be received by January 31, 2010. Submissions after that date will be considered only if space remains available. Please send your submission to:

Mark Carter
CALT President
15 Campus Drive
Saskatoon, SK S7V 5A6

hat tip:  Penny Andrews

December 1, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

more scholarship of interest

Thanks again to LWI and LSN, here are more new articles, abstracts written by the authors, and links to the full articles:

"'Sending Down' Sabbatical: Lawyering in the Legal Services Trenches Has Benefits for Professor and Practitioner Alike" 
Journal of Legal Education, 2010
Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper No 09-25
SUZANNE M. RABE, University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law
STEPHEN ROSENBAUM, University of California, Berkeley - School of Law, Disability Rights California
This article proposes that clinical professors, and legal writing professors in particular, consider practicing law - in real-life, non-clinical settings - during some significant portion of their sabbaticals from teaching. This proposal would (1) improve the learning experience for students in clinics, writing classes, and skills classes, (2) offer a vital public service to the under-represented, and (3) improve the overall administration of justice. At little cost, this proposal would foster a richer engagement by clinicians and legal writing professors with the world of legal practice. This idea could also infuse increased life and meaning into our law school classes. The Carnegie Foundation’s study of legal education and the Best Practices Project of the Clinical Legal Education Association – along with their recommendations of a greater emphasis on clinics and trial or practice simulations – have generated much discussion within the academy. By challenging readers to consider alternative sabbatical engagements that would later enrich the classroom experience with a practitioner’s focus, our article addresses many of the concerns expressed by the Carnegie Foundation and by the Best Practices Project.

"‘You Don’t Have to Speak German to Work on the German Law Journal’: Reflections on Being a Student Editor While Being a Law Student"
CLPE Research Paper No. 42/2009
By taking a backstage look at our experiences as student editors on the German Law Journal, we reflect on what being a student editor can add to a legal education. In order to rebut criticisms of student participation on law journals, we first argue that being a student editor provides students with invaluable skills and experiences that cannot be replicated it the classroom. Working on a journal not only allows students to refine their editing and research skills, but compels students to connect the technical knowledge learned in class with an understanding of the complexities and legacy of law as a project and a discipline. Secondly, we canvas the different forms of journal organization and student participation on law journals in different countries and argue that critics of student participation have ignored this wide spectrum. We conclude that just as the German Law Journal benefits from the involvement of English speaking student editors, new to European and international law, legal publications are far richer and more insightful the more they involve of fresh minds.

"Judgment Writing in Kenya and the Common-Law World" 
Kenya Law Review, March 2010
GERALD LEBOVITS, St. John's University - School of Law, Columbia University - Law School
This working paper, forthcoming in March 2010 in the Kenya Law Review, discusses judgment writing in Kenya and common-law jurisdictions other than the United States. This paper is based on a lecture the author presented to their Lordships of the High Court and the Court of Appeals of Kenya in August 2009 in Nairobi, Kenya.


November 29, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)