March 12, 2010
update on U. Texas legal writing program
We have it on good authority:
Yesterday the law faculty at the University of Texas approved doubling the credits for the required legal-writing courses and cutting the student-faculty ratio in half. Credits will go from 2 to 4, and the student-faculty ratio will go from 100-1 (!) to about 47-1. Brief writing and oral advocacy will again be required in the 1L legal writing curriculum.
Hmmm, maybe this means we'll be able to announce some job openings here soon, too.
March 11, 2010
Chief Justice Roberts at the University of Alabama School of Law
U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts spoke recently at the University of Alabama School of Law. The speech was recorded and made available on C-SPAN. Click here to watch (or listen to, while you do other work around your office). The recording is about an hour an twenty minutes long.
March 10, 2010
American Book Review's "Top 40 Bad Books."
After soliciting the opinions of many academics, the American Book Review has compiled this list of the "Top 40 Bad Books." What does it mean when we say a book is bad? "Is it an overrated 'good' book? Can an otherwise good author produce a 'bad' book? Is the badness in style, in execution? Or is it in theme or outlook?"
You can read the full list here.
Hat tip to the Chronicle of Higher Ed.
I am the scholarship dude.
U. of Texas faculty to consider expanding legal writing curriculum
Earlier this week, we ran a couple of stories (here and here) about University of Texas students who are complaining about the lack of legal writing classes in UT's curriculum. Today, Above the Law is reporting that according to a "tipster," the UT faculty will soon be voting on a proposal to double the number of credit hours devoted to legal writing. ATL quotes its source as saying:
With respect the nature of the proposal before the University this week, the faculty will be voting on a proposed change to the legal writing curriculum that will outright double the number of credit hours devoted to legal writing. There will also be upper-division writing classes available to remedy anyone lacking writing courses. In short, every problem raised by the article will be addressed in full.
POST-SCRIPT - I RECEIVED THE FOLLOWING MESSAGE FROM UT'S LEGAL WRITING DIRECTOR:
The post on LRW Prof Blog gives the impression that the proposed change to the Texas legal-writing program is being considered in response to the student complaints raised in a recently published editorial in the campus newspaper.
But the proposal was prepared by our curriculum committee 18 months ago. The faculty vote on it was scheduled more than a month before the editorial.
We'll keep you posted on any further developments. In the meantime, you can read ATL's coverage here.
I am the scholarship dude.
March 9, 2010
Is this the most poorly written judicial decision ever?
With individual sentences topping out at more than 300 words each, Eric Turkewitz of the New York Personal Injury Blog sure thinks so:
A decision from the Second Department in December in Dockery v Sprecher, regarding a $109M medical malpractice verdict that was reduced to $9 million for a brain damaged man. The first sentence of the decision, regarding the procedural history, weighs in at a staggering 303 words. Without any semicolons. Is there a secret law that says writing a procedural history must induce dread on the part of the reader?
But wait! There's more! Not to be outdone, the second sentence of the same decision laughs in the face of the first, stomping it into the ground with a jaw-dropping 343 words. But at least that has two semicolons. (Both re-printed below.)
Really, is such gobstopping exposition necessary? Have simple, declarative sentences been outlawed? Is clarity a crime?
I challenge anyone to find a sentence in another judicial opinion of such length.
You can read the rest of Mr. Turkewitz's post here, included excerpts of the offending opinion.
Hat tip to Above the Law.
I am the scholarship dude.
March 8, 2010
A University of Texas Professor Responds to Criticism About the UT Writing Program
Wayne Schiess from the University of Texas at Austin School of Law asked us to post this message in response to two articles posted this past weekend.
The second article posted concerned a story from the University of Texas student newspaper, which carried a call from students for more legal writing and skills courses to be made available. The article quotes a practitioner who said he would never hire another graduate from that school "because they can't write." Click here to read that story.
So here is the response that we've just received from Professor Wayne Schiess, who was named Director of the Legal Writing Program at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law in 2004. We hope that he and his colleagues will be successful in bringing back the writing classes and skills education that the students (and practitioners) seem to be demanding. Here's his response to the stories posted this weekend:
It is true that the University of Texas School of Law has a first-year legal-writing curriculum without brief writing. When the law school administration removed credits from the required course five years ago, brief writing was lost. Needless to say, the legal-writing faculty thought it was a mistake. So we’ve been teaching a brief-writing elective that only some 1Ls can get into. We're optimistic that brief writing will return to the required first-year curriculum. Indeed, a proposal to do that comes before the faculty this week.
Wayne Schiess, University of Texas School of Law
LWI Board Election Results
The Legal Writing Institute just announced the results of elections for candidates to serve on its Board of Directors. The field of 27 candidates who stepped forward was an exceptionally strong and competitive field, reflecting great interest in the work of the Legal Writing Institute and a deep commitment to serve those teach legal research, writing, and analysis. Only seven candidates could be elected.
In announcing the names of the seven winners, LWI President-Elect Ken Chestek had this to say: "I am delighted with the strength and depth of the field of candidates this year. The LWI Board is a very hard-working board, and I am grateful that so many of our members were willing to step up and serve our profession. While only seven of the candidates could be elected, all of the candidates deserve our congratulations and thanks for their dedication."
He's absolutely right.
Here are the names of the winners. They will serve four-year terms that start at the end of the LWI Conference at Marco Island. (And as a side note, if you haven't yet made your hotel reservations for Marco Island you should click here for more information about the LWI Summer Conference.)
Here are the winners (in alphabetical order):
Rachel Croskery-Roberts (pictured at left) is the Associate Director of the Legal Practice Program at Michigan Law School, where she has taught for eight years. In 2009, she was the Chair of the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research. This year, she is the Chair-Elect of the AALS Section on Teaching Methods. She is an editor on the Journal of the Legal Writing Institute.
Alison Julien (pictured at right) is an Associate Professor of Legal Writing at Marquette University Law School in Wisconsin. Her school recently hosted the successful 2009 Central Regional Legal Writing Conference, and she served as the Chair of the Site Committee for that Conference. Alison is Co-Chair of the 2010 LWI Biennial Conference Program Committee and is also chair of the LWI Committee on Committees. She was a member of the editorial board of the first volume of the LWI Monograph.
Lisa T. McElroy (pictured at left) is an Associate Professor of Law at The Earle Mack School of Law at Drexel University. She was previously Dean of Skills Training and an Assistant Professor of at New England School of Law in Massachusetts and a Professor of Legal Writing at Roger Williams University School of Law in Rhode Island. She was a frequent U.S. Supreme Court Commentator on CourtTV (now part of CNN). Beyond her contributions to the field of legal writing, she also is a contributing author for Parenting magazine. She's also written several biographies of U.S. Supreme Court Justices for children, including forthcoming biography of Sonia Sotomayor: First Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. Click here to learn more about Lisa.
Laurel Currie Oates (pictured at right) is one of the founding members of the Legal Writing Institute. She's a Professor of Law and Director of the Legal Writing Program at Seattle University School of Law. Laurel has worked on seven national LWI Conferences (1984, 1986, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004 in case you were wondering which ones). She is the co-author of five books, including The Legal Writing Handbook. Click here to learn more about Laurel. Laurel and her colleague Mimi Samuel have conducted workshops for lawyers and law students in India, Uganda, and South Africa among other places. In 2007, she received the prestigious Burton Award for Outstanding Contributions to Legal Writing Education.
Suzanne Rabe (pictured at left) is a Clinical Professor of Law at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. She started teaching legal writing in 1980 (in a capped program -- remember those?) After taking time off to practice law she returned to teaching legal writing in 1987 as an adjunct professor. She became the director of Legal Writing at the University of Arizona in 2000 and the following year founded and co-hosted the first Rocky Mountain Regional Legal Writing Conference.
Joan Malmud Rocklin (pictured at right) is a Legal Research and Writing Professor and Director of Externships and Clinics at the University of Oregon School of Law. She is co-chair of the Program Committee of the LWI 2010 Biennial Conference and is also coordinating the Critiquing Workshop that will be held at Marco Island as part of that conference. She has been a Co-Editor of the LWI Newsletter, The Second Draft. She was also the 2008-09 Secretary to the Association of American Law Schools Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research. Her work includes working with non-U.S. lawyers and law students on their legal writing and analysis. She also co-authored (with two colleagues) the first year legal writing textbook called A Lawyer Writes. Her law school website says that since moving to Oregon she has taken up the sport of snowboarding.
David Thomson is a Lawyering Practice Professor and Director of the Legal Writing Program at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. As a member of the LWI's Website Committee, he worked on the 2008 redesign and launch of the LWI website. Since then he has chaired the LWI's Website and Communications Committee. He is also serving the LWI by heading up the technology aspects of the 2010 Conference at Marco Island. He previously served on the LWI Bylaws Committee, chaired the Idea Bank 2.0 Committee, and was an assistant editor of the LWI Journal. In his non-LWI work, he is series editor for the Lexis Nexis Skills & Values Series of supplemental texts. His own publications include the very highly regarded Law School 2.0: Legal Education for a Digital Age (LexisNexis/Matthew Bender 2009).
Congratulations to the seven winners and also to the 20 other candidates who were brave enough to step forward and offer their skills and energy in service to the Legal Writing Institute. I look forward to serving with you on the Board! Hat tip to LWI President-Elect Ken Chestek for providing the election results.
Mark E. Wojcik (The John Marshall Law School-Chicago)
March 7, 2010
UT student newspaper declares "Law students need a practical education"
Apropos to the story below, the University of Texas' student newspaper, The Daily Texan, recently ran the above Op-Ed headline. It's a call by students for more legal writing and other skills courses in the UT curriculum. At one point, the Op-Ed quotes a "well-known" practitioner who complained to UT's dean that he would never hire another grad because they can't write. Here's more:
Lax institutional standards have marginalized the law school’s role in society of preparing its students to be competent, ethical lawyers. Institutional indifference to students and the school’s role in society as a whole is nothing new.
Several years ago, Judge Harry Edwards criticized our law school in a now-famous article in the Michigan Law Review. Edwards revealed that a well-known UT constitutional law professor confided in Edwards, saying he is “unwilling to redirect” his activities in “useful ways.” Edwards charged that this “so-called elite” law school is primarily dedicated to work that serves “no social purpose at all.” Of such professors, Edwards concluded, “We do not give tenure to stamp collectors, or to light readers.”The late professor Charles Allen Wright found these arguments persuasive. At an American Law Institute conference, he presented Edwards’ criticism, commenting, “In the academy we are tending too much to pretend that we are a think tank and a graduate school and forgetting that the high percentage of our graduates are going to go into the practice of law and ought know at least a little about what lawyers do and how they ought to do it.”
But the criticism has changed nothing.
Consider Edwards’ comment that the law school is “insufficiently clinical” and suffers from a “lack of good training in legal writing.” Last semester, a well-known lawyer wrote to law school Dean Lawrence Sager, charging that UT graduates are incompetent legal writers and that he would never hire a UT Law graduate again.
You can read the full story here.
Hat tip to our commenters for alerting me to the story.
I am the scholarship dude.
U. of Texas accused of failing to provide 1L's with adequate training in brief writing
According to The Blackbook Legal Blog, UT's first year curriculum doesn't include a mandatory brief writing class (although according to our sources students do receive a mandatory single semester in objective memo writing). Instead, it's a first year elective which only about half the students are able to register for. So rather than making the course mandatory or increasing the number of sections offered, UT allegedly steers students away from it "by offering grossly grade-inflated first-year electives on such totally impractical topics as Race and Gender in the Constitution."
The Blackbook Legal Blog is critical of UT's curriculum because of the way it disadvantages students who must compete for jobs in a ferocious job market where practice skills have paramount importance.
[C]riticisms [of the University of Texas Law School] are well-founded. In a survey of accredited law schools, Texas was the only school without a mandatory brief-writing course. In fact, only about half of first-year students surveyed reported being able to get into a brief-writing course. As a result, they will not be trained how to present arguments to a court — one of the most basic legal skills.
Instead of rectifying the problem by meeting national practical skills standards, UT Law instead chooses to steer law students away from taking practical courses by offering grossly grade-inflated first-year electives on such totally impractical topics as Race and Gender in the Constitution.
The first-year curve in all courses is set at 3.3; the average in these “electives” is a 3.8. A student in Race and Gender in the Constitution commented, “The class is a complete joke and a waste of time, but the professor gives almost everyone A’s.” Since law students’ employment is determined by their first-year GPA, creating such an exception to the curve is unfair to other students and misleading to employers relying on the veracity of student transcripts. . . .
The 10 best Academy Award related lawsuits
- Disney sues the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, alleging that the infamous Rob Lowe-Snow White duet at the 1989 Oscars was unflattering to the beloved character and lacked permission.
- The Academy sues a chocolatier in North Hollywood who made chocolate Oscar figurines of a former Sony Pictures president.
- "Crash" producer Bob Yari sues the Academy after being denied an official producer's credit on the Oscar ballot, making him ineligible to receive a statue.
- The Academy sues the operator of "Oscarwatch," alleging that a website that predicts the winners violates its trademark.
- The Academy sues the "Hackademy Awards," an annual event going on for more than a decade that highlights how tobacco use in movies influences young people. The Academy also sues an Italian TV station trying to broadcast "The Wine Oscars," "TV Oscars," "Fashion Oscars" and "Theater Oscars."
- Producers of "A Place in the World" sue the Academy after disqualifying the film for consideration in the foreign-language film category because it was presented as being from Uruguay when it was found to be a product of Argentina.
- The Academy sues the heirs of Mary Pickford for selling her 1930 Oscar for best actress, claiming it should have first chance to buy the Oscar for $10.
- A comedian sues the Academy after being arrested for allegedly trying to crash the Oscars.
- The Academy sues a company trying to market a travel package that includes four tickets to the Oscars and a hotel stay in Los Angeles.
- The Academy sues a man claiming he was a three-time "Oscar winner" in sound design, who had paid a jeweler to create a fake Academy Award statue.
I am the scholarship dude.
on plain English?
A column on plain English by Tommy Tomlinson, a Charlotte Observer columnist, might be just what some wordy law students need to read.
hat tip: Eileen Kavanagh