Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Last Day of the LWI Conference

Today is the last day of the Legal Writing Institute Biennial Conference.  I was discussing the conference this morning with some other attendees.  No one has been to a bad session—all of the presenters are at the top of their game.  If there is any complaint at all, it might be that sessions are too short.  And obviously, that “complaint” just show how great the sessions are. 

One session I attended this morning had a completely filled room.  The presenters were Mary Jean Dolan and Kim D. Chanbonpin, both of The John Marshall Law School in Chicago. 

Dolan, Mary Jean Professor Dolan made a fascinating presentation that showed how legal writing professors can improve how they critique students based on the extensive, research-based literature on employee performance evaluations in the workplace setting.  Employee evaluations—when done improperly—can be devastating and destructive.  So too comments on a student’s paper.  Professor Dolan emphasized that legal writing professors need to provide adequate explanations, to appear to be neutral in giving comments, and to handle evaluations with respect and dignity.  Legal writing professors may also benefit from involving students more in the learning process and in setting the standards by which their work will be later judged by the professor. 

Professor Chanbonpin, Kim Chanbonpin spoke about how the use of mandatory curves in writing programs can adversely affect writing professors who are forced to give feedback on such a matrix.  When students who have been told throughout college that they are stars receive negative feedback, they react badly and retaliate with bad comments on the student evaluations of their professors.  Those bad comments can adversely affect retention, pay raises, promotion, and tenure.  When legal writing professors are evaluated using the same teacher evaluation form as the casebook faculty, there will usually be questions on that form that may not apply to legal writing classes.  Professor Chanbonpin also spoke about how fear of bad student evaluations may adversely affect how classes are taught.  She suggested using “mid-term evaluations” to check on students before students receive their first graded paper.  She showed how using websites such as Survey Monkey,,, and to use midterm assessments that she could later compare to comments received at the end of the semester.  She spoke about how such mid-term evaluations should include not only comments about the professor, but evaluations of their own work.  For example, if the form asks students “Did you complete the reading assignments for class”?” or “Did you prepare for your paper conference?” will emphasize the collaborative nature of law school learning.  Professor Chanbonpin also shared some VERY funny comments that she received from a judge for whom she clerked.  Using real-life feedback that she received made students feel much better about the (much nicer) comments that they would receive from their writing professor.

It has been a great conference -- top quality all the way.


June 30, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Award Winners at Marco Island

IMG_4358 Here are some photos from the LWI Conference at Marco Island.  Click on any photo to enlarge it.

The the photo at the left, Jeremy Francis of Michigan State University College of Law was selected as the winner of the second Deborah Hecht Memorial Writing Contest Award.  Dr. Francis won his award for his article Finding Your Voice while Learning to Dance, which appeared in Volume 24, Number 1 of The Second Draft (Fall 2009). 

Standing in the center of the photo to the left is Steve Johansen, who won the Blackwell Award which is jointly presented by the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) and the Legal Writing Institute.  Click here to read more about that award, which was originally presented at a spectacular party in New Orleans at the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools.

Also pictured is the immediate past president of the Legal Writing Institute, Ruth Anne Robbins.

Photo by David Austin


June 29, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

LWI President Chestek Crossing the Finish Line at this Morning's Beach Race

Ken LWI 25 The LWI Conference at Marco Island included a 5K race this morning.  Crossing the finish line here is LWI President Ken Chestek, who is known to be an avid runner.

Click on the photo to enlarge it.  Photo courtesy of Leslie P. Wallace (California Western School of Law).  Official LWI beach towel provided to the race committee courtesy of my co-blog-editor Sue Liemer (Southern Illinois University School of Law). 

In the comments to this post, Ken clarified that he was not the overall winner of this race -- he won only in the President's Division.


P.S.  Sue's beach towel was the finish line -- it was not being held up to cover Ken!


June 29, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Legal Writing History Video Premier Tuesday!

Mika, KarinLWI 25 Brill, Ralph Karin Mika and Ralph Brill have been filming many of the leaders in the legal writing community to create a video history archive.  This has been a very welcome initiative on their part to help celebrate the 25th  Anniversary of the Legal Writing Institute.  Karin and Ralph have put in well more than 1000 hours of work to create what promises to be a very impressive documentary. 

The video is narrated by Terri LeClercq and contains footage of Mary Lawrence, Chris Kunz, Helene Shapo, Susan Brody, Richard Neumann, Grace Tonner, Mary Beth Beazley, Laurel Oates, Chris Rideout, Anne Enquist, Marjorie Rombauer, and Jill Ramsfield.   It also contains about 200 photos of LW people, places, and many important documents.  

The video debut will be at the LWI conference lunch at Marco Island on Tuesday, June 29, 2010.  It will also be shown later in the day in case you can't get into the room where it will be shown.  The video is about 25 minutes long.

Hat tips to Ralph Brill and Karin Mika.


June 28, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Some highlights from Day One of the LWI Conference at Marco Island

LWI 25 The 14th Biennial Conference of the Legal Writing Institute at the Marriott Hotel on Marco Island, Florida finished its first full day of programming.  The conference is the best attended ever in the 25-year anniversary of the Legal Writing Institute.  Energy fills the hallways, sessions, and receptions as colleagues from around the country—and a few other countries—exchange information and ideas on how we teach legal research, analysis, and writing.

The sessions are of the highest quality and value to the attendees, from new teachers of writing to the most experienced. The program committee did a fantastic job picking programs.

Here’s an example of one of the really great programs I attended today.

Smith, Michael Michael R. Smith, the Winston S. Howard Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of Legal Writing at the University of Wyoming College of Law, presented on the subject “Ethos: Establishing Credibility in Persuasive Legal Writing.”  Michael’s presentation was based in part on his book, Advanced Legal Writing: Theories and Strategies in Persuasive Writing (Aspen Publishing 2008).  In an interactive presentation, he discussed how courts dealt with the issue of attorney credibility in cases such as these:

  • Howells v. Pennsylvania, 442 A.2d 389 (Pa. Cmwtlth. 1982) (lawyer “seriously undermined his professional credibility with [the] court by submitting” a brief that included several misstatements);
  • Hickman v. Fraternal Order of Eagles, 758 P.2d 704 (Idaho 1988) (lawyer “failed to include [several] facts in his brief” and “failed to provide an adequate transcript of the trial proceeding”); and
  • Glassalum Engineering Corp. v. 392208 Ontario Ltd., 487 So.2d 87 (Fla. Dist. App. 1986) (court was “distressed that neither appellant’s counsel nor appellee’s counsel favored [the appellate court] or the trial court with citation to any of the cases referred to in the [appellate court’s] opinion” and that counsel failed to do basic updating of cases cited).

IMG_4660  His presentation also included a staged reading of part of the script of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” that illustrated how enthusiasm for an argument could increase its success (quoting a senator who told a colleague that “most of us feel that no man who wasn’t sincere could stage a fight like this against those impossible odds”).

Michael’s presentation emphasized that character, intelligence, and good will are important components of credibility, and discussed how to increase those components, such as by evincing a trustworthy character through truthfulness, candor, zeal, respect, and professionalism.  His useful and interesting materials and presentation included a number of teaching tips that attendees took back with them.

At the end of Michael’s presentation, he was surprised by a presentation made by Ruth Anne Robbins (the immediate past president of LWI), Linda Berger (pictured here with Michael; she is one of the editors of the Journal of the Legal Writing Institute), and Mary Beth Beazley (president of the ALWD), who presented him with a plaque to recognize his service to JALWD.  (Click on the photo to enlarge it.) IMG_4662  

That this and all of the sessions at LWI all well attended is a testament to the high quality of the presentations.  The beach and pool are only steps away from the conference rooms, but legal writing professors and academic support personnel also attending the program are attending the sessions and deriving great benefit from the presentations.

Photos by David Austin (California Western School of Law)


June 28, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Burton Gets the Golden Pen

IMG_4555  The Legal Writing Institute Conference is in full swing at Marco Island, where the largest number of paid attendees in the LWI's 25-year history and great vendor support have pushed overall attendance beyond 650 persons.

William Burton received the Golden Pen Award this morning.  Among other things, he's the author of Burton's Legal Thesaurus -- a book that came out in its first edition even before there were Legal Writing Institute Conferences.  Unfortunately the publisher of that book isn't an exhibitor here -- they would have sold lots of copies of it and a great number of our colleagues would have likely added it to the recommended textbook list for classes this fall.

Burton's acceptance speech was great and included a great 4-minute excerpt from the 2004 Burton Awards. Burton is pictured here (with his wife) receiving the award from LWI President Ken Chestek.

(Photo courtesy of David Austin)


June 28, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Save the Dates: Global Legal Skills Conference VI

The next Global Legal Skills Conference will be held in Chicago from May 5-7, 2011.


June 27, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Save the Dates: Applied Legal Storytelling Conference

The Applied Legal Storytelling Conference will be held from July 8-10, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.


June 27, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

LWI Elects New Officers

LWI 25 The Legal Writing Institute elected the following officers a few minutes ago.  The officers will serve a two-year term.


    President    Ken Chestek

    President-Elect Mel Weresh

    Treasurer   Michael Higdon

    Secretary   Rachel Croskery-Roberts


Congratulations to all!


June 27, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

ALWD: Save the Dates

ALWD_Logo The Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) has tentaitvely set its next conference dates for Thursday, June 23 to Saturday, June 25, 2011 for the ALWD Conference.  The conference will be held in Sacramento, California at the Pacific McGeorge School of Law.



June 27, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

LWI Conference at Marco Island is the Largest Conference in LWI History!

Marco Island Rowe 3 The Legal Writing Institute Conference at Marco Island is the largest conference in the LWI’s history.  There are 606 registrants so far.  In total, there are more than 650 attendees and vendors at Marco Island. 


Have a great week everybody!



LWI 2010
















June 27, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Potential for serious weather heading into the gulf next week

Could anything be worse than the BP offshore drilling debacle that's turned into the worst natural disaster in U.S. history and will undoubtedly affect the economies of the gulf states for years to come?  How about adding a few dozen hurricanes to really stir things up?

According to FoxNews, there are a couple of weather systems now forming in the Atlantic one of which might  move into the gulf in the next couple of days.  After making landfall in Central America, if it then heads into the gulf, it will most likely track toward Mexico or Texas according to the forecasters at  

Here's a picture of their map: Tropical-disturbance-062510-600x405

Here's more detailed coverage from FoxNews:

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned Friday morning of not one but two weather formations in the Gulf of Mexico, both with the potential to swell into more serious weather systems. Responders in the Gulf of Mexico are eyeing the storm system closely, to see whether it turns towards the Gulf and interferes with ability to mop up spilled oil and cap the leaking well.  "We're watching the storm very, very closely," former Coast Guard commander and national incident commander Thad Allen told Fox News. 

There is a 70 percent chance that the low-pressure area centered off the coast of Honduras could become a tropical cyclone during the next 48 hours, warned the NHC, indicating winds as fast as 73 mph. Any faster and the storm could officially become the first Gulf hurricane of the season -- and will be named Alex. 

Meanwhile, a smaller weather formation just East of the Northern Leeward Islands is also being eyed. NHC describes it as "a large but disorganized area of cloudiness and showers ... associated with a tropical wave interacting with an upper level trough."
. . . .
Joe Bastardi, Accuweather's chief hurricane expert, told that the storm probably won't rage through the Gulf of Mexico, though it could become a hurricane. Instead it will move towards Belize, making landfall there by Sunday. By Monday it could reach Mexico, making landfall Tuesday somewhere between Tampico, Mexico, and Corpus Christi, Texas, he predicts.

But regardless of the strength of this first storm,  Bastardi worries that these storms are indicative of the severity of the season ahead. And raging storms will undoubtedly hamper efforts to clean up the massive Gulf oil spill.

Bastardi believes we'll see as many as 21 hurricanes in the Gulf area, which means "you may see a naming orgy this season," he predicted. Hurricane season for the western Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico begins June 1 and lasts through Nov. 30. That's when about 90 percent of the storms make themselves present. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) has predicted an active season, with as many as 23 named tropical storms. An estimated 8 to 14 of those storms could strengthen into hurricanes, and of those storms, 3 to 7 could become major hurricanes, NOAA said.
. . . .
[T]he real worry is that a hurricane might turn the millions of gallons of floating crude into a crashing black surf. A NOAA factsheet on the topic leaves many questions open. "The high winds may distribute oil over a wider area, but it is difficult to model exactly where the oil may be transported," it notes, and also points out that "movement of oil would depend greatly on the track of the hurricane." Hurricanes-in-Gulf_doomsday_604x341
Read the rest of FoxNews' coverage here or, if you prefer, here's the site for the National Weather Service.

Hat tip to Doreen McKee.

I am the scholarship dude.


June 25, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

congratulations to Susan Thrower

Susan Thrower, of DePaul University College of Law, has just received tenure.  Congratulations!

hat tip:  Brad Clary


June 25, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday Fun: The Best Plagiarism Video Ever Made

This may be the best plagiarism video ever made.

It is from the University of Bergen in Norway.

Hat tip to Lurene Contento of The John Marshall Law School in Chicago


And you don't even have to speak Norwegian to get the point.


June 25, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

ALWD Meeting at Marco Island

ALWD_Logo The Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) will host a short membership meeting during the LWI Conference on Sunday, June 27, 2010, from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. (Eastern time) in the Marriott Capri Ballroom, Salon 6.  The meeting is open to everyone who is attending LWI.  You do not have to be a member of ALWD to attend.  ALWD will provide an update of its activities and information about how to become active in ALWD through membership, committee work, and teaching and scholarship grants. 

Beazley_marybeth Here is the agenda:

  • Welcome & President's Report: (Mary Beth Beazley) (pictured)
  • Report of President-elect (Mary Algero)
  • Treasurer's report (Grace Wigal)
  • ALWD Journal Report (Linda Berger)
  • DIRCON Policies & Procedures (Lyn Goering)
  • Acknowledgment of Departing Board Members and Officers (Mary Beth Beazley)
  • Welcome to new Board Members (Mary Algero

Hat tip to ALWD President Mary Beth Beazley of The Ohio State University


June 23, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Karin Mika Has Your Picture

Mika, Karin and Mark For the Legal Writing History video that will premier next Tuesday at the LWI Conference n Marco Island, Professor Karin Mika says that she collected "many, many pictures, past and present, from many sources and people."  Knowing Karin, that is a massive understatement about the amount of work she's done to document the history of the Legal Writing Institute and its members.  So many of you attending the LWI Conference in Marco Island may be surprised to see yourselves, or see some of the pictures that Karin was unable to unearth or otherwise secure by bribery.  Also plan to have a look at the poster for the ALWD/LWI Scholarship Committee, which will include a mosaic that is constructed entirely of pictures of Legal Writing profs.  Karin put together a database of about 300 pictures and used a mosaic program to construct the final image.  This is going to be fun.

(In the photo, Karin Mika and Mark Wojcik)


June 23, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Commercial anti-plagiarism software may now be used for application essays

Inside Higher Ed is reporting on a controversial new use of's anti-plagiarism software; admission officers who use it to catch applicants who plagiarize their college admission essays.  As you may know, Turnitin is  a service that allows teachers to submit suspicious-looking student work to a database that compares the writing in question to all other student work that has been submitted by teachers across the country.  (A bit of legal trivia for our IP readers - four high school students sued Turnitin for copyright infringement claiming the company violated their rights by including student work in a database they sold to teachers.  However, the court granted summary judgment to Turnitin on fair use grounds).

But there are risks to using this software in connection with application essays rather than work submitted for academic credit:

Some admissions officials, like those at Penn State, welcome the service. They feel that the problem is serious enough that they need help. Others, however, are skeptical, saying that the push by Turnitin will shift the focus away from more serious issues in college admissions and suggests that colleges aren't capable of uncovering plagiarism themselves.

Others worry about due process: Current students accused of plagiarism on the basis of a Turnitin (or a competitor company's) review have whatever rights their colleges give those accused of academic dishonesty. Colleges almost never tell applicants why they are rejected, however, so some fear that this system could lead to some would-be students being rejected on the basis of "false positives" for plagiarism on their admissions essays -- an accusation that they may never know about.

Turnitin is a huge force on campuses: it is currently used at 9,000 high schools and colleges, and has processed more than 100 million papers. Many professors value Turnitin and can be seen at scholarly meetings thanking its representatives in the exhibit hall. These faculty members tend to say that they used to feel helpless to fight plagiarism -- and that they were tired of using Google to try to find proof about work they suspected wasn't original.

In other academic circles, however, Turnitin is controversial. Some have raised intellectual property concerns about its use of students' essays. And many composition experts believe that colleges -- by focusing on scaring students that their plagiarism might be caught -- have missed an opportunity to teach students about issues of writing ethics. Others believe that software detection services produce an unacceptable number of false positives.

You can read the rest here courtesy of IHE.

I am the scholarship dude.


June 23, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

storytelling on the law job hunt

ABA Legal writing professors have produced scholarship, academic conferences, and even a few blog posts on the importance of strong story telling skills for lawyers.  Now over at the ABA's Book Briefs blog, Richard Hermann has applied much of the same thinking to arrive at The Critical Importance of Storytelling when looking for employment in the world of law.  If you think it's only about telling a compelling story during a job interview, think again and take a look.


June 22, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Another Court Comes Out Against the Use of "And/Or" in Drafting

We've been blogging about "and/or" for a long time.  Here, for example, is a post from 2007.

Well another court has added its voice to the chorus of those who find "and/or" to be abhorrent.  On page 8 of the decision from the Minnesota Appellate Court in Carley Foundry Inc. v. CBIZ BVKT, LLC,, you will see the court say this:

The phrase "and/or" is semantically and logically contradictory.  A thing or situation cannot be simultaneously conjunctive and disjunctive.  Laypersons often use the phrase and, surprisingly, lawyers resort to it from time to time. It is an indolent way to express a series of items that might exist in the conjunctive, but might also exist in the disjunctive. It is a totally avoidable problem if the drafter would simply define the "and" and the "or" in the context of the subject matter. Or the drafter could express a series of items as, "A, B, C, and D together, or any combination together, or any one of them alone." If used to refer to a material topic, as here, the expression "and/or" creates an instant ambiguity. Furthermore, as one legal-writing authority noted, a bad-faith reader of a document can pick whichever one suits him—the "and" or the "or." Bryan A. Garner, Looking for Words to Kill? Start with These, STUDENT LAW., Sept. 2006, at 12-14. At the very least, this sloppy expression can lead to disputes; at the worst to expensive litigation.


June 22, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 21, 2010

In-house legal department tries "apprenticeship program" for new law grads

Although the National Law Journal reported last week that commentators are more enamored with the "apprenticeship model" of law firm hiring then the firms themselves, Hewlett-Packard announced it will also give the program a try as an alternative to its usual hiring practice.  

Readers of this blog know that beginning last fall, in the wake of the legal market meltdown, a few firms announced that they would spurn the traditional BigLaw hiring model in favor of an "apprenticeship model" whereby new law grads would be hired at a below market salary allowing them the luxury of learning the necessary legal practice skills for a year or two without the additional pressure from their employers to immediately produce high billable hours.  The so-called "apprenticeship model" has generated a lot of discussion in the blogosphere with many commentators wondering if it would fundamentally change the way legal employers hire and train new grads.  But as the NLJ recently reported:

Proponents hail the programs as a positive step away from the sink-or-swim environment many young attorneys encounter when they show up at large firms, and as a practical response to the growing cost-consciousness of clients. The firms bill at much lower rates or not at all for work performed by the apprentices, who earn lower salaries than the industry standard.

Nearly one year in, partners said they are pleased with the progress new associates have made with more extensive training, while first-year associates said they have a better understanding of how lawyers work and what clients want. Firms need a few more years to gauge whether these apprenticeships ultimately produce lawyers who work more efficiently, bill at higher rates and stay with the firm longer than the typical associate, but Howrey, Drinker Biddle and Frost Brown all plan to continue the apprenticeships for new arrivals in September. "It's turned out fabulously, to be honest," said Frost Brown Todd partner Chris Habel, the chairman of the firm's attorney advancement committee. "The clients understand that we are trying to improve the legal profession, and the partners have been happy with it."

. . . .

Not that there's any rush to jump on the bandwagon — no other firms have announced similar programs since last summer. Critics worry that lower apprenticeship salaries will hurt a firm's ability to recruit top prospects and that the programs aren't worth the necessary partner time and resources. The few firms that have made the transition are either litigation-focused or regional in scope. No large general practice or white-shoe firms have started apprenticeship programs, which likely adds to the overall reluctance to take that step, said Jordan Furlong, a Canadian legal consultant. He discussed apprenticeship programs at U.S. firms during a recent symposium on the evolution of law firms at Georgetown University Law Center.

Nevertheless, the online ABA Journal is reporting today that Hewlett-Packard is going to try the "apprenticeship model" for its own in-house legal hiring needs representing a departure from the usual industry-wide practice of hiring laterals:

Like most corporations, Hewlett-Packard hired its in-house lawyers after they got some experience at law firms.

Now the company is trying a different tack. It is hiring four lawyers fresh out of law school and paying them $115,000 a year, plus a $15,000 hiring bonus, the Recorder reports. HP will train the lawyers in programs similar to the ones implemented at Howrey and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.

. . . .

The training program will be divided into practice areas, including intellectual property, litigation, mergers and acquisitions, and employment law, the story says. Skills emphasized will include research and writing, negotiation, litigation and business acumen.

You can read more of the ABA's coverage here and the NLJ coverage here.

I am the scholarship dude.



June 21, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)