Saturday, December 26, 2009

job opening in NYC

St. John's University School of Law has a full-time position available for
an Assistant Professor of Legal Writing, starting in August 2010

St. John's seeks individuals with strong interest and competencies in
teaching legal research and writing.  Candidates should have excellent
academic records (including a J.D. or its equivalent).  Teaching experience,
scholarship, and practice experience as a lawyer would be viewed favorably.

Applicants should submit a cover letter, curriculum vitae, the names of
three references, writing sample and teaching evaluations (if available) to:
Professor Robert A. Ruescher
Coordinator, Legal Writing Program  
St. John's University School of Law
8000 Utopia Parkway
Jamaica, NY 11439

Position type: The position may lead to successive long-term contracts of
five or more years.

Faculty Vote: The person hired will be permitted to vote in faculty meetings.

Salary: The school anticipates paying an annual academic year base salary in
the range of $80,000 to $85000. 
Students Per Semester: The person hired will teach legal writing each
semester to a total number of students in the range of 36 to 45.


December 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 25, 2009

LWI reflections deadline extended

Legal_writing_institute_logo LWI's newsletter, The Second Draft, had extended its deadline for the upcoming spring issue to January 11, 2009.  The theme for the issue is "Celebrating 25 Years of the Legal Writing Institute."  Current and former legal writing professors are encouraged to send submissions reflecting on where legal writing has been as an academic discipline, where it's going, and what's happened along the way.  You can submit articles and news to
hat tip:  Kathy Vinson

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

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Seasons Greetings and Merry Christmas from the Legal Writing Prof Blog

Here are a couple of videos to help put you in the holiday mood - one is traditional (Adrian Erod joined by the Vienna Boys Choir singing "Adeste Fideles") and the other an obscure gem for those who'd rather rock out this Christmas.  Seasons Greeting and enjoy!

Hat tip to Tav Falco and very special Christmas wishes to Doreen.

I am the scholarship dude.


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

Norad tracks Santa

These military techno-geeks can sure tell a good story.  Go to and follow Santa's progress around the world today.  It's a great geography lesson for all ages (he's currently over Hagatna as I type this).  Hope you have the day off tomorrow and enjoy it!


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

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


"Don't use words too big for the subject.  Don't say 'infinitely' when you mean 'very'; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite."

~ C.S. Lewis 

ImagesCAS209XO (spl)

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

To all legal researchers: Be aware of possible discrepancies between Google Scholar and commercial research tools

Thanks to legal research expert, scholar, and all-around good guy Chris Wren for telling me about this potential pitfall he uncovered while recently using Google Scholar, the newest open-source legal research tool to hit the market.  As Chris explained, he recently used Google Scholar to find a case he needed for a brief he's writing for the Wisconsin's A.G.'s office (some find it easier to cut and paste language from cases using Google Scholar than Wexis).   However, when Chris compared the Google Scholar version of the case, State v. Greene, 2008 WI App 100, 313 Wis. 2d 211, 756 NW 2d 411, to the official one, he noticed the footnote numbers were off.

As Chris explained:

The source of the discrepancy quickly became apparent.  In the official version of the case (as in all official versions of Wisconsin cases), the filing of a petition for review in the Wisconsin Supreme Court gets noted in the caption with a footnote placed at the end of the name of the party that filed the petition.  The symbol for this footnote is a dagger, not a number.  Google Scholar, however, designates this footnote with a number (in this instance, the dagger became "1") and renumbers the remaining footnotes accordingly.  Where there's more than one footnote attached to the caption - e.g., Ellsworth v. Schelbrock, 229 Wis. 2d 542, 600 N.W.2d 247 (Ct. App. 1999) - Google Scholar shifts the footnote numbers even more:  in Ellsworth, the caption has two footnotes, so the numbered footnotes shifted by two as well, making footnote 1 in the official version into footnote 3 in the Google Scholar version.

The lesson?  If you're going to cite to legal authorities found through Google Scholar, make sure you check your results against the official (or commercial) version, as applicable, to ensure accuracy.

A bg hat tip to Chris Wren.

I am the scholarship dude.


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

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Is It Ethical to Be a "Super Lawyer"?

A new article explores the ethic questions involved when magazines or advertisements promote some lawyers as "super lawyers."  Click here to read more.


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

More legal jerks in the news - this time from Texas

After blogging a few days ago about a California court that suspended a lawyer for three years because, according to that court, he was a "jerk," comes this story from today's online ABA Journal called "A Judge's Advice to New Lawyers:  Don't be a Jerk."

It's about a Texas judge who is sharing a letter he wrote to his children offering the following advice about entering the practice of law:

  • Don't be a jerk
  • Be proud to be a lawyer
  • Don't tell lawyer jokes
  • Always tell the client the truth.
  • Communicate with the client
  • If the client lies to help make his case, fire him
  • Always tell the court the truth
  • Always be open to learning from others and be willing to learn from your own mistakes
  • Obey the "Golden Rule"
  • Have fun

You can read the rest of the judge's advice to new lawyers here via

Hat tip to the ABA Journal.

I am the scholarship dude.


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

More on the Washington & Lee classroom to courtroom curriculum change

How's that for alliteration?  To follow up on a story we told you about last week concerning the practicum curriculum change at Washington & Lee that the school claims is responsible for a 33% increase in applicants, both the Washington Post and the online ABA Journal Blog have picked up the story and provide us with some more details about the program (the Post story includes a slideshow).

Most members of Washington and Lee's Class of 2010 have abandoned the lecture hall to spend their final year of law school learning how law is practiced -- including the mundanities of dressing for court and the intricacies of taking depositions and writing briefs on deadline.

Students are working court cases from complaint to verdict, matching wits with opposing counsel, currying favor with judges and managing difficult clients, real and simulated.

. . . .

Most law students spend their three years in classrooms, analyzing landmark cases to learn the legal reasoning behind them. The case method, as it is known, was pioneered at Harvard in the 1870s. The last year of law school much resembles the first, and it is widely regarded as the weakest: Third-year students have learned to think like lawyers, and the work has become routine.

The model has been criticized for stressing theory over practice. Law schools mostly leave it to firms to teach new associates how to work with real cases and clients.

"Some people say that we, the legal academy, are not doing a good enough job training lawyers for the lives that they will lead," said Dan Polsby, dean of the law school at George Mason University. "People don't know where the courthouse is. They don't have the street smarts."

. . . .

Faculty members spent six years preparing the new program. Current third-year students had the right to opt out, and 49 did. Henceforth, only the new curriculum will be offered.

The goal of the new lessons is to teach third-year students how law is practiced in the real world, in contrast to the sterile predictability of the classroom. In one of the new courses, students received an e-mail on a Friday night announcing a major change in a document due Monday morning.

"Their initial reaction was to think, 'This is messed up,' " said Bob Danforth, associate dean for academic affairs. "Well, that's exactly why we're doing this."

You can read the rest of the Washington Post's coverage here and the ABA Journal coverage here.

I am the scholarship dude.


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

why can't 1Ls write?


ImagesCAO1GXJD Given the prevalence of "essay mills," as reported recently in the Chronicle of Higher Education, surely at least some U.S. students enter law school with undergrad degrees based in part on written work they paid others to do for them.  Making the problem even more pernicious is the fact many of these hired writers are located overseas now.

hat tip:  RJ Robertson


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

Monday, December 21, 2009

Professionalism alert Part II - California court issues 3 year suspension to prominent lawyer for being a jerk

Related to the story below, figuratively if not literally, a California court has suspended from practice for three years Philip Kay, a very successful and prominent plaintiff's attorney for "outrageous conduct."  In a 48 page opinion, Judge Lucy Armendariz found, among other things, that 

Kay [engaged in] a "pattern of abuse" toward nearly everyone in the courtrooms of San Diego County . . . .

"Respondent was sarcastic to the court," Armendariz wrote. "He repeatedly badgered, berated, screamed, yelled and/or raised his tone at witnesses and the court, despite court warnings, admonitions and orders not to do this."

She also noted that Kay had often tried to get into evidence issues that had been banned by the court, had accused the judges of bias and had told jurors that opposing counsel was lying.

"Instead of stopping and being respectful and professional," Armendariz wrote, "respondent would repeatedly mock the court and tell it that he would not obey the court's orders and warnings."

Kay denied the allegations before and during the State Bar Court trial, saying he was only being a staunch advocate for his clients. He also accused the San Diego judges of having a vendetta against him.

Kay didn't help himself much at this suspension hearing during which the judge said he continued to be rude, arrogant and defiant including refusing to answer her questions or take the stand when requested.  Indeed, Judge Armenderiz said the only reason she didn't disbar Kay is because his conduct never hurt his clients who often won their cases .  

You can read the rest of the story here courtesy of

I am the scholarship dude.


December 21, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Professionalism alert: NY court suspends attorney for living lavish lifestyle and not paying taxes

According to one New York court, even if a lawyer devotes thousands of hours to pro bono work and gives generously to charity, his license to practice can still be pulled if the rest of his financial house is not in order.  The Legal Profession Blog is reporting this case involving a one year suspension for a Kaye Scholer partner who failed to pay his taxes even though by the time of the suspension hearing he'd already reached a settlement with the IRS:

The Hearing Panel conducted a hearing and respondent, represented by counsel, respondent's wife, and several character witnesses, including two of his former law partners testified on his behalf. Witnesses testified that respondent devoted thousands of hours to pro bono activities on behalf of his firm representing death row defendants and, as a Trustee, gave a great deal of time to and made substantial financial contributions to Skidmore College, his alma mater. Respondent also submitted a letter from a psychiatrist stating that respondent suffered from "an Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder", that caused him to attend to his work compulsively, but caused him to be careless about various personal matters, including those relating to health and finances.

. . . . .

In the within matter, while there are some mitigating factors, we find aggravating factors vastly more compelling. Specifically, while at his law firm and receiving a substantial income, respondent purchased a five bedroom house in New Jersey and a four bedroom house in Florida. He also owned a Lincoln Town car, a Nissan Mini Van, a BMW SUV, and paid for his children to attend private school. In addition, respondent lied to his wife by telling her that tax matters had been taken care of and did not notify his partners of the pending criminal investigation before resigning from the firm to take a position as president of two corporate entities engaged in energy operations in the Philippines. According to the Hearing Panel, his failure to inform his law partners was to insure collection of full compensation and early capital account distribution. We agree with the Hearing Panel's finding that the psychiatric claim is not credible.

While respondent's extensive pro bono work on behalf of defendants facing the death penalty and his dedication to his alma mater is commendable, it does not excuse his failure to file returns or pay taxes during this time. Although respondent has paid all the taxes owed to the State, and has worked out a plan with the Internal Revenue Service, the picture that emerges is that respondent, without any justification, and while enjoying a lavish life style, disregarded his tax obligations. Having considered all of the factors set forth above, we find, as we have found in Matter of Goldman decided herewith, that failure to file tax returns and pay taxes for an extended period of time in these circumstances warrants suspension.

Read the rest of the story here.

I am the scholarship dude.


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

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bankruptcy judge orders attorneys to use good legal writing.

Minnesota bankruptcy Judge Robert Kressel has issued a set of mandatory drafting guidelines for all attorneys submitting proposed orders for his signature.   Some of the judge's guidelines reflect what is already commonly considered good practice (i.e. avoiding superfluous words) while other rules seem more idiosyncratic.  Given the bankruptcy court's likely caseload these days, he's entitled. 

Keep in mind that some of the judge's rules on "good" writing might not always apply in the legal writing classroom because we've got a different audience and goals in mind. For instance, Judge Kressel forbids lawyers from paraphrasing statutory language in any proposed orders they submit to him.  I'm guessing that many legal writing profs tell students just the opposite; never quote statutory language when paraphrasing will do the job more simply and concisely.  Our goal is a pedagogical one in that requiring students to explain statutory language in their own words better helps them learn it while the judge is trying to save time and avoid the mistakes that result when lawyers inadvertently misstate the law in their submissions to the court.  The point being that instead of using Judge Kressel's order as example to your students of good writing practice (which for the most part it is) it might better serve as both an example to students about the importance of knowing one's audience as well as showing them that good writing really matters in the real world.  At least that's my take on it.

A big 'ol tip of the hat to the Law Librarian Blog for turning me on this story.

I am the scholarship dude.


December 20, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

legal writing prof on Millionaire!

Lisa-mcElroy-135x165 See your local broadcast TV listings for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire on January 4, 2010.  Legal writing professor Lisa McElroy, who teaches at Drexel, will be a contestant.  The show was taped in the fall, so obviously Lisa already knows how it turned out, but she was sworn to secrecy. 

hat tip:  Kristin Gerdy


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