Saturday, February 21, 2009

Proposed enhancements to Wikipedia might convince more courts of its reliability

I can't give you a link to this one because the story comes from a subscription only service, the February 4th edition of BNA's Electronic Commerce & Law Report (although you can find another news report here).  But if there was a link, it would tell you that Wikipedia's founder recently urged the "Wikimedia Foundation" to a adopt a "flagged revision" system that would require all entries posted by anonymous contributors to receive approval from so-called "reliable" users or special Wikipedia "administrators."

BNA goes on to point out that although 100's of courts have cited to Wikipedia, there are still several that refuse to do so because of the anonymous nature of the entries and resulting lack of verification as to their accuracy.  We reported on one of those decisions here where a Texas appellate court refused to take judicial notice of a Wikipedia entry for just those reasons.  Wikipedia hopes that by implementing this new verification system, the majority of courts will eventually embrace Wikipedia as they do with more traditional secondary sources.

I am the scholarship dude.


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

Goodbye to (print) law reviews?

J0404435 Are law reviews in print among the next victims of the nation's worsening economy? Are they still relevant in light of the ever-increasing use of electronic databases for legal research? Will creating an open-access standard bring legal scholarship out of the academy's dusty shelves and into the mainstream of public awareness?

These questions, and others, have led a number of law library directors recently (Feb. 11, 2009) to issue the "Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship," set out below:

Objective: The undersigned believe that it will benefit legal education and improve the dissemination of legal scholarly information if law schools commit to making the legal scholarship they publish available in stable, open, digital formats in place of print. To accomplish this end, law schools should commit to making agreed-upon stable, open, digital formats, rather than print, the preferable formats for legal scholarship. If stable, open, digital formats are available, law schools should stop publishing law journals in print and law libraries should stop acquiring print law journals. We believe that, in addition to their other benefits, these changes are particularly timely in light of the financial challenges currently facing many law schools.

Rationale: Researchers –- whether students, faculty, or practitioners -– now access legal information of all sorts through digital formats much more frequently than in printed formats.  Print copies of law journals and other forms of legal scholarship are slower to arrive than the online digital versions and lack the flexibility needed by 21st century scholars.  Yet, most law libraries perceive a continuing need also to acquire legal scholarship in print formats for citation and archiving. (Some libraries are canceling print editions if commercial digital versions are available; others continue to acquire print copies but throw them away after a period of time.) 

It is increasingly uneconomical to keep two systems afloat simultaneously.  The presumption of need for redundant printed journals adds costs to library budgets, takes up physical space in libraries pressed for space, and has a deleterious effect on the environment; if articles are uniformly available in stable digital formats, they can still be printed on demand.  Some libraries may still choose to subscribe to certain journals in multiple formats if they are available. In general, however, we believe that, if law schools are willing to commit to stable and open digital storage for the journals they publish, there are no longer good reasons for individual libraries to rely on paper copies as the archival format.  Agreed-upon stable, open, digital formats will ensure that legal scholarship will be preserved in the long-term.

In a time of extreme pressures on law school budgets, moving to all electronic publication of law journals will also eliminate the substantial costs borne by law schools for printing and mailing print editions of their school’s journals, and the costs borne by their libraries to purchase, process and preserve print versions.

Additionally, and potentially most importantly, a move toward digital files as the preferred format for legal scholarship will increase access to legal information and knowledge not only to those inside the legal academy and in practice, but to scholars in other disciplines and to international audiences, many of whom do not now have access either to print journals or to commercial databases. 

Call to Action: We therefore urge every U.S. law school to commit to ending print publication of its journals and to making definitive versions of journals and other scholarship produced at the school immediately available upon publication in stable, open, digital formats, rather than in print.

We also urge every law school to commit to keeping a repository of the scholarship published at the school in a stable, open, digital format. Some law schools may choose to use a shared regional online repository or to offer their own repositories as places for other law schools to archive the scholarship published at their school. 

Repositories should rely upon open standards for the archiving of works, as well as on redundant formats, such as PDF copies.  We also urge law schools and law libraries to agree to and use a standard set of metadata to catalog each article to ensure easy online public indexing of legal scholarship. 

As a measure of redundancy, we also urge faculty members to reserve  their copyrights to ensure that they too can make their own scholarship available in stable, open, digital formats.  All law journals should rely upon the AALS model publishing agreement as a default and should respect author requests to retain copyrights in their scholarship.

Signatories include Richard A. Danner & Wayne Miller, Duke Law School; Taylor Fitchett, University of Virginia; Margaret A. Fry & Pablo Molina, Georgetown University Law Center; Paul M. George, University of Pennsylvania School of Law; Claire M. Germain, Cornell Law School; S. Blair Kauffman, Yale Law School; J. Paul Lomio, Stanford Law School; Harry S. (Terry) Martin III & Michael Harvey, University of Texas Law School; Kent McKeever, Columbia Law School; Jim McMasters & Lois Remeikis, Northwestern University School of Law; John G. Palfrey, Harvard Law School; Radu Popa, New York University Law School; Judith M. Wright, University of Chicago Law School; Patricia I. Donnelly, UC Berkeley School of Law; Glen-Peter Ahlers, Barry University School of Law; Kenneth J. Hirsh, University of Cincinnati Law School; and Robert J. Nissenbaum, Fordham University School of Law.

To learn more about the background of the Durham Statement, or to add your own endorsement, go here.

(cmb, with a nod to Fred Rodell)

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

job opening at Penn

The University of Pennsylvania Law School invites applications for the position of Legal Writing Lecturer, beginning in August 2009. The Legal Writing Lecturer will assist the Director and Assistant Director of Legal Writing in teaching the first-year Legal Writing course; selecting, training, and supervising student instructors; coordinating legal research training with the librarians; and teaching upper-level writing courses. The Legal Writing Lecturer will also take a lead role in teaching the Law School’s legal writing course for international LL.M. students.

Teaching responsibilities of the Lecturer include the first-year Legal Writing course in partnership with the Director and Assistant Director, including teaching large lectures to one-third of the first-year class; developing course materials and teacher training materials; training and supervising the upper-level student instructors for the course; and coordinating legal research training with the law librarians and representatives of CALR services. The Lecturer will also teach a writing course to the LL.M. students, which is an optional course taught on a similar model to the J.D. course, with heavy use of student instructors. The Lecturer will be asked to develop expertise in the special needs of international students of legal writing. The Lecturer may teach upper-level courses emphasizing lawyering skill development, as approved by the Director and the Associate Dean.

The applicant must have a Juris Doctor degree and superior writing, research, and analysis skills.  Legal practice experience is required.  Prior law school teaching experience in legal writing is strongly preferred. Experience mentoring beginning teachers and lawyers is desirable.

The Lecturer will receive a one-year contract and the title of Lecturer in Law. The contract is renewable for up to three years. The salary range is $60,000 to $69,999, plus the standard research and travel allowance given to faculty. The Lecturer will participate in faculty committees and will attend faculty meetings as a non-voting member.

Applications will be considered on a rolling basis but must be submitted by March 27, 2009.  Send a cover letter, résumé, writing sample, and contact information for at least two references to Eric Dillalogue, Administrative Assistant for Legal Skills Programs. Address questions to Anne Kringel, Legal Writing Director.


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

Friday, February 20, 2009

Do you know the difference between "in accordance with" and "according to?"

This guy does - legal drafting scholar, consultant, and adjunct professor Ken Adams.

Garner's American Usage Dictionary says that according to means (1) “depending on”; (2) “as explained or reported by (a person)”; or (3) “in accordance with.” It’s used relatively often in contracts to convey the last of these meanings, as in “Any dispute must be resolved by arbitration according to the procedures stated in this section 12.10.” According to occurs in 240 contracts filed on the SEC’s EDGAR system in the past week.

By contrast, in accordance with doesn’t have alternative meanings. That’s why I use in accordance with instead of according to—readers have an easier time of it if they don’t have to select among alternative meanings, even if they can do so in a fraction of a second.  For what it's worth, most practitioners would appear to agree with me; in accordance with occurs in 990 contracts filed on the SEC's EDGAR system in this past week.

I am the scholarship dude - workin' overtime to bring you the good stuff.


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

New scholarship alert: "The Lawyer's Moral Obligation to Write Well."

Thanks to the (new) legal writer blog for tipping me off to this new article by Professor Jack Sammons of Mercer School of Law.


From the abstract available on SSRN: 

"In this short article, and drawing upon George Steiner's famous article about the death of the German language, I argue that it is only when the language of the law is "living speech," in James Boyd White's terminology, that the law can perform well its moral purpose. This is, in part, because of the unique form of judgment that the law is."

Download the whole enchilada here.

I am the scholarship dude.


February 20, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

New organization forming to advocate for adjuncts

On Sunday, a new organization, tentatively called the "National Coalition for Adjunct Faculty" will form to serve as a national advocacy group for "those off the tenure track." 

Read about it here and here.

I am the scholarship dude.  Surfin' the web so you don't have to.


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

Law students may need to brace for "economic re-set"

Things are worse than you thought, much worse, according to this American Lawyer article suggesting that the legal marketplace may be undergoing a fundamental change that will leave many newly minted lawyers with far fewer job options at much reduced salaries.

According to author Aric Press, AM's editorial director, the big firm market for law students is in crisis:   

If present trends continue in the big firm market, we are heading toward--you pick the cliché--a paradigm-shifting, blood-in-the-suites, terror-on-the-campus hiring and retention crisis. The "economic reset" that General Electric's Jeffrey Immelt has tagged seems likely to force changes in the way firms recruit, pay,  and/or retain their lawyers. The market for labor has changed and, for now at least, there's no normal to which it can return.

If you've been reading blogs by law firm associates in recent months, you know there's a lot of anxiety out there about whether a career in law is any longer a viable option for some.  You know things are tough when laid-off attorneys can't even find jobs as paralegals.

So this weekend, keep things in perspective as you face that pile of papers needing to be graded.

I am the scholarship dude - appreciatin' life's simple pleasures.


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

USNWR considers adding "ethics" to law school rankings.

As reported in the USNWR blog, as well as by the ABA Journal here, the magazine responsible for publishing the highly controversial list of law school rankings is preliminarily considering whether to also include a measure of how well schools teach professional ethics.

According to Bob Morse, the director of data research for USNWR, a chief consideration is whether it's even possible "to measure and compare either quantitatively or qualitatively how professionalism and ethics are being taught at U.S. law schools."  Assuming this comes to pass, I expect schools will direct more resources towards improving their professional ethics training, possibly requiring professionalism training in first year legal writing courses.

Of course, that's a lot of "ifs," but we're living in uncertain times to begin with.

Hat tip to the ABA Journal blog.

I am the scholarship dude.


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

Call for Proposals--AALS Academic Support--the 21st Century Law Prof

The Workshop Program Committee of the AALS Section on Academic Support has issued a Call for Proposals for the 2010 AALS Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, scheduled for January 6-10, 2010. The theme of the 2010 AALS workshop is “Transforming Learning in the Classroom: the 21st Century Law Professor.”

The AALS Section on Academic Support will showcase how professors are transforming the learning environment of their classrooms through innovative and creative methods. Many of these methods  have their roots in traditional academic support tenets of varying lesson plans to reach different learning styles, providing feedback throughout the semester, assessing students in creative ways, engaging students both in and out of the classroom, and encouraging students to take responsibility for their own learning. The committee requests proposals that demonstrate modern classroom and teaching techniques including but not limited to: active learning activities, teaching assessment procedures, exam drafting, skills development in doctrinal courses, and innovative lesson plans. Show what’s new and different in legal education in the 21st century! 

The Program Committee will give preference to presentations designed to engage the workshop audience, so proposals should contain a detailed explanation of both the substance of the presentation and the interactive methods to be employed. In addition, the committee would like to highlight talent across a spectrum of law schools and will look for variety in presentations and presenters. If you do not have a proposal to submit, but are interested in participating in a presentation, contact Emily Randon, as assistance with the overall workshop is always welcome.

Based on participant numbers for the last several years, the Program Committee anticipates over 100 people in attendance. To assist the presenters in the interactive piece, program committee members and other volunteers will be on hand to act as facilitators with audience members.

Proposals must include the following information:

  1. A title for your presentation
  2. A brief description of the objectives or outcomes of your presentation.
  3. A brief description of how your presentation will support your stated objectives or outcomes.
  4. The amount of time allocated for your presentation and for the interactive exercise.  No single presenter should exceed 45 minutes in total time allowed.  Presentations as short as 15 minutes will be acceptable.
  5. A detailed description of how the presentation will be interactive.
  6. Whether you plan to distribute handouts, use PowerPoint, or employ other technology.
  7. A list of the conferences at which you have presented within the last three years, such as AALS, national or regional ASP or writing conferences, or other academic conferences.  (The committee is interested in this information because we wish to select and showcase seasoned, as well as fresh, talent.)
  8. Your school affiliation, title, courses taught, and contact information (include email address and telephone number).
  9. Any articles or books that you have published describing the lesson you will be demonstrating.

Send proposals via e-mail by Monday, March 9, 2009, to Prof. Emily Randon, University of California, Davis School of Law. If you have questions, feel free to contact Prof. Randon directly at 530-752-3434. If you know of colleagues who are true innovators in techniques that achieve the objectives of the academic support community, please encourage them to submit proposals.

The ASP Section Program Committee members are Emily Randon, Chair; Robin Boyle Laisure; Hillary Burgess; Barbara McFarland; Kathy Garcia; and ASP Section Chair, Pavel Wonsowicz.


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

Thursday, February 19, 2009

two openings at Texas Wesleyan

Texas Wesleyan University School of Law is now accepting applications for two positions in the Legal Analysis, Research, and Writing program for the academic year 2009-2010. The School of Law offers a three-semester program for legal analysis, research, and writing. Legal Writing Professors are hired on 9-month annually renewable contracts (non-voting). There is no cap on the number of renewals. The salary range is $80,000-$89,999, plus fringe benefits. Legal Writing Professors are responsible for teaching a maximum of 50 first-year students in the LARW program. They may be required to teach at least one evening class.

Applicants must have a degree from an accredited law school and a strong academic record. A serious commitment to the field of teaching legal research and writing is essential. Applicants should have excellent written and oral communication skills, and they should have strong interpersonal skills. Previous practice or clerkship experience is desirable.

To apply for a position, submit a cover letter, a resume, two references, and a writing sample by March 31, 2009, to Associate Dean Vickie Rainwater, Texas Wesleyan University School of Law, 1515 Commerce Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76102.


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

opening(s) for visitor at Elon

Elon University School of Law seeks one or more visiting professors for the 2009-2010 academic year.  Visiting professors will teach two courses per semester, one of which will be the first-year Legal Writing course.  Other teaching may include upper-level writing and drafting courses, other skills courses, and/or traditional doctrinal courses in the visitor's area of interest and expertise.   

Applicants must have a J.D. from an accredited law school, a strong academic record, excellent legal research and writing skills, and at least three years experience in a clerkship or law practice.  Applicants must also have at least two years of recent experience teaching legal writing, and the ability to work collaboratively within a coordinated program structure.  Anticipated salary is $80,000 - $90,000 +, depending on experience.

Elon University's law school opened in 2006 and shares the university's commitment to engaged learning, professionalism, and civic leadership. It is home to the Center for Engaged Learning in Law, and its innovative programs include executive coaching, leadership training, and a preceptor program that matches first-year students with local practitioners. Elon University School of Law is provisionally accredited by the ABA and will graduate its first class in May 2009. 

The law school is located in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina's third-largest city and the center of the Greensboro/High Point/Winston-Salem "Triad."  The university campus, 15 miles east of the Law School, has a faculty of more than 325 and enrolls almost 6,000 students in its undergraduate and graduate schools.  Click here for more information about the law school.

To apply, send a cover letter, resume (including names and contact information for at least three references) and a short writing sample or example of course materials that you have prepared to Professor Catherine J. Wasson, Elon University School of Law, 201 North Greene Street, Greensboro, N.C.  27401. Email applications are welcome. 


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

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What sentence diagrams reveal about President Obama

From today's Huffington Post - brush the cobwebs off your grade school sentence diagramming skills and follow along. 

Hat tip to Chris Wren - legal research giant.

I am the scholarship dude.


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

a good source of teaching ideas

Although it's geared to K-12, the Harvard Education Letter has insightful articles for those teaching at the college or graduate level, such as teaching middle school students about internet research and plagiarism and innovative teachers who are hindered or stymied by the jealousy of their less innovative peers.


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

More scholarship on the merit of student evaluations of professors

This blog entry fits with the one below like a goatee on a bald guy.  University of Denver law professor Arthur Best has just published in the Southwestern U. law review an article entitled Student Evaluations of Law Teaching Work Well:  Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, Strongly Disagree

From the abstract available on SSRN:

Academics in the fields of psychology and education generally describe student evaluations of teaching as reliable and useful. On the other hand, law professors often criticize them as unreliable and impaired by students' biases. This Article considers resolving these discrepant views by paying close attention to the various purposes for which student evaluations of teaching are used. For some uses, such as guidance for students in course selection, shortcomings of the evaluations would be of slight consequence. For promotion or tenure decisions, despite law professors' skepticism, schools should use the data to identify outlier instructors. Basing conclusions only on large numerical differences among faculty should protect faculty members from unfair consequences caused by students' biases, since the effects of biases (if present) are likely to be relatively small. It is also consistent with the modern consensus among educational researchers.

The Article also reports findings from analysis of a large number of law school evaluation of teaching forms. Virtually all of them use phraseology that ignores the collaborative nature of teaching and learning. They focus attention on the professor, with the unintended consequence of portraying students as passive participants in their education. The Article recommends revising questionnaires to have a balance between terminology that ignores students' roles and terminology that reflects them. With regard to other attributes, there are large variations among different law schools questionnaires. The Article documents those differences and identifies some that may be problematic.

Hat tip to the TaxProf Blog.

I am the scholarship dude.


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

New study shows college students expect good grades just for showing up

Given the interest and scholarship generated by legal writing professors regarding the reliability of student evaluations generally and, more specifically, the research showing a correlation between expected grades and student rating of professors, I thought some of you might be interested in this article from yesterday's NYT:  "Student Expectations Seen as Causing Grade Disputes."

Among other things, the study by University of California researchers suggests that college students may develop a sense of entitlement in high school that if they do the reading and show up for class, they should get a "good" grade.  In response to this phenomenon, at least one university has started a program to help college freshmen learn about what it means to, well, learn. 

The full study by Professor Ellen Greenberger is entitled “Self-Entitled College Students: Contributions of Personality, Parenting, and Motivational Factors,” and can be found in The Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

I am the scholarship dude - bringing 'ya the good stuff.


February 18, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Lexis announces pay freeze for all employees

If you haven't already been hoarding gold, ammo and potable water, you may want to start.  In a sure sign that the financial apocalypse is imminent, legal research and information technology giant Lexis just announced that salaries for all employees will be frozen for 2009.   This move comes less than a year after Lexis' decision in April to lay-off 300 employees.

All joking aside, we hope this won't have an impact on Lexis' gracious sponsorship of the Journal of the Legal Writing Institute.

Hat tip to the AboveTheLaw blog.

I am the scholarship dude.


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

Monday, February 16, 2009

When the economy sucks, it's good to be a digital archivist

As noted by Blogmeister extraordinaire Professor Sue Liemer, below, the crummy (to put it mildly) economy is even affecting academia.  Well, most of it, anyway.  Not surprisingly, the demand among universities for digital archivists, according to this article, is way up and expected to increase three-fold in the next decade assuming we don't encounter Armageddon first.

The pay is good ranging from $70k to $100k per year.  Perhaps that's where some of the thousands (so far) of laid-off BigLaw associates will land.

I am the scholarship dude.


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

Librarians reinvent themselves in the digital era.

In the third installment of a New York Times series on "The Future of Reading," the newspaper reports on how grade school librarians are reinventing themselves in the digital age:  "In Web Age, Library Gets Job Update." 

One public school librarian interviewed for the story noted that “The days of just reshelving a book are over.”  Instead, librarians have become "information literacy teachers" that show students how to employ both print and digital resources to address research problems.  Part of the job involves teaching students how to think critically about the information they find online in order to evaluate its credibility and reliability.  In their new role as digital information experts, librarians are showing even experienced teachers how to better evaluate the reliability of the information they find online. 

I am the scholarship dude.


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

Is digital literacy supplanting print literacy?

In a series of thought provoking articles, the New York Times is exploring the question of whether the emerging visual society we find ourselves in is redefining the notion of literacy itself.  In this second installment entitled "Using Video Games as Bait to Hook Readers," the NYT reports that some commentators like Jack Martin, Assistant Director for Young Adult Programs at the New York Public Library, claim that the concept of what it means to "read" is undergoing a transformation:  “Reading is no longer just in the traditional sense of reading words in English or another language on a paper."  Rather, there is an emerging "digital literacy" that is learned from video games and other visual mediums.

Others, like Professor Mark S. Seidenberg of the University of Wisconsin a scholar in the cognitive processes that support reading, assert that there is still little research on whether students ultimately absorb information better through a digital medium such as video games.  As he says:  “I actually think reading is pretty great and can compete with video games easily.  So rather than say, ‘Oh, books are irrelevant in the modern era because there are all these other media available,’ I would ask shouldn’t we be doing a better job of teaching kids how to read?”

The first article in the series, "Online R U Really Reading?" appears here

I am the scholarship dude.


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

not recession proof

The ABA Journal is reporting that law professors, too, are feeling the effects of the recession.  Given that at many law schools the legal writing professors do not have tenure-line job security and are otherwise low in the faculty hierarchy, the recession is likely to impact legal writing professors more than other law professors. Images

hat tip:  Prof. Paul Caron


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