Saturday, April 10, 2010

2010 LWI-ALWD summer research grants

The Legal Writing Institute and Association of Legal Writing Directors have announced their 2010 LWI-ALWD Summer Research Grants.  LexisNexis generously agreed to donate $10,000 this year to promote two of the scholarship projects by legal writing professors, while LWI and ALWD agreed to invest an additional $25,000 to promote these projects. Each recipient will receive a $5,000 scholarship grant.
The funded projects will be: 
Jennifer Lear (Widener), Plain English for Legal Writing Professors:  Creating Legal Writers Through Six Traits Instruction and Assessment

Christopher R. Trudeau (Thomas Cooley Law School), Plain English from A Client’s Perspective: An Empirical Study of Client Preferences in Legal Writing

Danton Berube (Detroit-Mercy), Are “Clickers” Just Fun or Do They Actually Work?: A Randomized Experiment Measuring the Efficacy of Student Classroom Response Devices As an Aid To Mastering the Fundamentals of Legal Research

Amanda Smith (Widener), Preparing for Practice from Behind the Bench

Michelle Falkoff (University of Iowa), Using Fiction Writing Teaching Techniques in the Legal Writing Classroom
Alison Donahue Kehner & Mary Ann Robinson (Widener), Mission Impossible, Mission Accomplished, or Mission In Progress?:  An Empirical Study of the Professionalism Movement in American Law Schools
Jean K. Sbarge (Widener), No Swedish Bikini Team Screensavers:  Teaching Professionalism in the Legal Writing Classroom and Beyond


hat tip:  Robin Slocum Wellford


April 10, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Linda Edwards Voted "Faculty of the Year" at UNLV

Blackwell_21 Linda Edwards (University of Nevada at Las Vegas) has won the "Faculty of the Year" award at her school. Here colleague Terrill Pollman tells us that the award is voted on by the students at UNLV and is "a real honor around the school."

Linda is pictured here giving remarks at the Children's Museum in San Diego, where she received the Thomas Blackwell Award from the Association of Legal Writing Directors and the Legal Writing Institute.  (You can click on the photo to enlarge it.)

Congratulations Linda!

Hat tip to Terry Pollman


April 10, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Is the fax machine dead?

Do our students even know what a fax machine is?  According to this article from the LegalBlogWatch, while it may be time to pull-the-plug (literally) on fax machines, faxing itself isn't dead, "just different." 

[H]as the fax become a relic of the 1980s, like "big hair, Cabbage Patch Kids, and padded shoulders?" (Or, more specific to law offices, like law review subscriptions, typewriters, bike messengers and law libraries?) In a guest post on the Legal Technology Blog, Steve Adams of Protus says that faxing remains a vital part of the business world despite the advent of e-mail. Adams notes that faxing is still used on a daily basis in many professions: by real estate agents and insurance brokers, for example. The key change in the use of faxes, he says, is that an actual fax machine is fading away as a means of sending and receiving faxes, in favor of Internet fax services.

And what, exactly, is internet faxing?  You'll have to click here to find out (and learn how much better it is than the clunky machines).

I am the scholarship dude.


April 8, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Scholarship alert: "Lessons in drafting from the new Federal Rules of Civil Procedure"

This article is by Professor Joseph Kimble of Thomas Cooley School of Law and can be found at 12 Scribes J. Legal Writing 25 (2008-09).  From the introduction: 

December 1, 2007, was a historic day in the long, hard fight for better legal writing: the "restyled" Federal Rules of Civil Procedure -- a top-to-bottom redraft -- officially took effect. The project began in mid-2002 and was carried out by the Advisory Committee on Civil Rules. I was the drafting consultant, working with Joseph Spaniol. Bryan Garner had prepared an original draft in 1993, but the project was put on hold during restylings of the appellate and criminal rules.

Now, it's almost impossible to convey how excruciatingly careful our process was for redrafting the civil rules to improve their clarity, consistency, and readability -- without making substantive changes. I outlined the process in a memo that accompanied the rules when they were published for comment in February 2005.  But even that outline doesn't capture the amount of work in my three 40- by 12-inch file drawers or the 775 documents in the archive at the Administrative Office of the United States Courts.

What I can do is offer some drafting tips and examples from the new rules. My February 2005 memo touched on formatting, consistency, outdated and repetitious material, and (broadly) "other kinds of changes." In this article, I'll revisit everything, develop some old points, add some new ones, and try to provide a little advice. At the same time, I hope to put to rest any lingering doubts about whether this redrafting project was needed.

Just three caveats. First, nobody would claim that the new rules are perfect. You can always go back and find things that could be further improved. That said, the difference between the old and new rules is dramatic. (During the public-comment period, a class of students at Thomas Cooley Law School rated the clarity and readability of the old rules at 4.8 and the new rules at 8.4 on a scale of 1 to 10.) Second, if any mistakes were made in the restyling project, they can easily be fixed. Third, the examples below are just that -- examples. They could be multiplied by many others from the old rules.

I am the scholarship dude.


April 8, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday fun - vote for your favorite post-Easter peeps.

I'm not sure why this contest is being held post-Easter but, no matter, the entries are fun and very creative.  It's the ABA Journal's annual peep contest (diorama division) and by clicking here you can vote for your favorite.

Here are a couple of entries to prime the pump:


Above - "The Peeple's Court."  Below - To Kill a MockingPeep."


I am the scholarship dude.


April 8, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

An exercise intended to show students the limitations of Wikipedia as a research tool.

No matter how much we warn students about the limitations of Wikipedia as a research tool (law students use it for both legal and fact research), they're going to disregard those warnings and use it anyway.  You can't blame them, really.  Just because Wikipedia has limitations doesn't mean it's useless as a research tool.  In fact, it's pretty good for some applications.

But students will almost certainly tend to over-rely on it without understanding the risks.  This undergrad writing professor got tired of telling students about the pitfalls of Wikipedia and instead created an exercise intended to show them those risks:

Instead of tellingmy students that Wikipedia is not always an appropriate source, I let them discover it for themselves by integrating a simple exercise into a writing seminar. I assigned a text titled Learning to Think Things Through: A Guide to Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum. The author, Gerald Nosich, lays out standards for critical thinking: clearness, accuracy, relevance, sufficiency, depth, and precision. We thoroughly discussed these and did practice exercises that reinforced the notion that critical thinking involves regular application of the standards. Like most writing seminars, a major research project lay at the end of the intellectual tunnel.

About halfway through the process I threw students a curve ball. I knew that some were beginning to see the holes in their own research and I wanted to make sure they plugged these with substance, not generalities. To that end, I assigned a simple 750-word exercise that I provocatively titled “Does Wikipedia Suck?” (I can get away with slightly off-kilter language at my university; if you can’t, tone it down to something along the lines of “Is Wikipedia Useless?”) Students were told to pick a concept, theory, or individual central to their paper, read the matching Wikipedia entry, and assess how useful it is for their research. The criteria for usefulness were the standards of critical thinking from the Nosich book.

The concept was dead simple, but the results were better than I could have dreamed. Contrary to what enemies of Wikipedia claim, my students did find value in the entries. It was praised for its clarity, organization, relevance and accuracy. (Not a single student detected a factual error in an entry.) Quite a few students found useful cited sources. That was as far as it went, however. Students immediately came to the same conclusion that professors have been harping upon from time immemorial: Most encyclopedia entries sacrifice depth for breadth. Not a single student felt that Wikipedia passed the sufficiency test and most noted that the material contained in the entries was nonspecific, anecdotal, and incomplete; hence Wikipedia also failed the precision test. Aside from the 2 (of 21) students who were so put off that they vowed that they’d never consult Wikipedia, the rest commented that it was a place to get very basic information, but that it could not be relied upon for serious in-depth research.

The most valuable lesson of all took place in the debriefing discussion the day papers were handed in. Students shared their concerns about Wikipedia’svirtues and deficiencies with each other and saw that it was a peer consensus, not a professor’s rant. I then asked them how they could evaluate all sources — electronic and print — in the same fashion as they judged Wikipedia. Within a week I had to but ask of any source “Is it sufficient?” in order to trigger thinking about evidence, logic, and data.

This worked so well that I’m now contemplating ways to adapt the exercise for other courses. I’ll probably reword some of the Nosich standards for history classes — the word “evidence” might make more sense than “precision,” for example. I envision a short paper in which students compare topics they’ve just studied with Wikipedia entries. I’ll probably theme it on what they learned versus what they failed to learn, ask students to speculate on why important exclusions occurred, and brainstorm on how historians use evidence and evaluate the sufficiency of a thesis.

You can read the rest at Inside Higher Ed here.

I am the scholarship dude.


April 7, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Professionalism alert: Florida appellate court reverses ruling holding court spectator in contempt for ringing cellphone.

When Michelle McRoy's cellphone rang during a Florida juvenile court proceeding, the presiding judge ordered the phone confiscated, destroyed and then held Ms. McRoy in contempt of court.  The appellate court just reversed the trial court's ruling finding that although the ringing cellphone was annoying, contempt of court was overkill:

"Contempt is an act tending to embarrass, hinder, or obstruct the court in the administration of justice, or to lessen the court's authority or dignity," the appeal court wrote. "Contempt does not exist just because a judge feels aggrieved or vexed."

Had the ringing cellphone belonged to an attorney in the case rather than a spectator, perhaps the appeals court would not have been so understanding.  In any event, this serves as a good reminder to all attorneys to turn off those cellphones when in court to avoid raising the ire of the judge, whether she holds you in  contempt or not.

You can read the original story here from the Orlando Sentinel and a condensed version here from the online ABA Journal.

I am the scholarship dude.


April 7, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Have you thought about texting deadline reminders to your students?

It's a technique used by this prof, according to the Chronicle of Higher Ed.  An English teacher got frustrated with his students inability to remember assignment deadlines so he started using their own technology against them:

He blasts his classes text-message reminders using Broadtexter, a free software program used by bands to create mobile fan clubs. Rather than texting tour dates, he keeps the phones in students' pockets buzzing with regular reminders like "Paper 4 is due tomorrow."

The instructor offered the optional service in three classroom-based courses last year, embedded as a widget in the course-management system. Out of about 66 students, 45 signed up, Mr. McCann said during a talk on free tech tools at an e-learning conference that wrapped up [in February]. An added bonus: They don't see his phone number, and he doesn't need to see theirs.

Mr. McCann knows what you might be thinking. Are we kidding? Shouldn't students take responsibility for their own friggin' assignments?

Yeah, he said, they should. But Mr. McCann loves new tech toys. And students appreciate it.

"I just decided that, rather than rail against cell phones as being so evil, like some colleagues do, I'm trying to think of a way of going where they live," he said.

You can read the rest here.

I am the scholarship dude.


April 6, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Take an ellipses to lunch

Because after reading this post, it's going to need some comfort food and a little ego-boosting.  According to our friend at the Business Writer blog Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, you should (almost) never use ellipses.  Really?  I love them.  Indeed, I can't get enough of them. 

As Ms. Gaertner-Johnston tells us:

These days business messages are filled with dot dot dots, whose official name is ellipses. People are using ellipses to pause, shift gears, trail off, and figure out what to write next. Unfortunately, none of those uses inspires confidence in readers, who wonder what the writer is doing. Does the pause mean something ominous? 

Just yesterday I received an email from someone who was worried about what the ellipsis after his name in an email might mean. He wrote, "I am trying to discern the tone of the email and the use of the ellipsis following my name." The email he had received began something like this:

David . . . thank you for offering a suggestion about the new incentive program.  

Why did the person who wrote to David (not his real name) use an ellipsis? My guess is that the writer had simply developed the bad habit of sprinkling ellipses here and there in his writing.

David wanted to know when an ellipsis is appropriate following a greeting. The answer: Never.

Yes, I admit there are appropriate uses of ellipses when quoting. I have written about those uses in the post "Using . . . Ellipses," which you will find here. But for sales managers and everyone else who does normal business writing without the use of extended quotations, an ellipsis is never the solution. Don't waste a moment worrying about them

Please visit her blog now and again.

I am the scholarship dude.


April 6, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Google makes another boo-boo

Google Scholar that is.  We reported earlier on a glitch with Google Scholar caught by eagle-eyed and rapier-witted Chris Wren that created an inconsistency between the footnote numbers in the GS version of a case and the official version.  Google quickly responded and the problem has now been fixed.

But this afternoon, via legalblogwatch reported that "the citations that should link to the Supreme Court's decision in Virginia v. Moore all linked to the order denying the ABA's request to participate as amicus, rather than the decision on the merits."  By itself, not a major problem but the bigger issue is whether GS can gain the confidence of hardcore legal researchers as a consistently reliable research tool.   At present it seems unlikely GS will supplant Westlaw as the go-to search engine for critical projects because of the latter's copyrighted key numbered indexing system.  Given that Google is free, it's brand new and thus still working out the bugs, and that it works super-fast, I think they've still got a big winner on their hands despite the occasional glitch.

Hat tip to and the legalblogwatch.

I am the scholarship dude.


April 6, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Article alert: "May it please the classroom: using pending United States Supreme Court cases to teach appellate advocacy and persuasive writing"

This one is by Ohio practitioner Greg Johnson and can be found in 12 Scribes J. Legal Wrting 99 (2008-2009).  From the introduction:

Over the years, the legal-writing academy has developed a rich array of ways to teach persuasive writing. The “Idea Bank” on the Legal Writing Institute's listsery contains dozens of creative approaches using compelling fact patterns developed by experienced professors across the country. While these problems have served many legal-writing professors well, I will offer an alternative to the “canned” problem -- that is, one based on a fictitious case and designed for repeated use.
For more than two decades, professors in the legal-writing department at Vermont Law School have used pending United States Supreme Court cases to teach a three-credit course called Appellate Advocacy. Appellate Advocacy is taught by five professors in the fall semester of the second year, after students have had two semesters and five credits of legal writing in their first year. Each professor has about 40 students, divided into two sections. Each professor picks a different Supreme Court case. The students write a brief based on the actual case. Students then argue the case in a moot-court setting before volunteer lawyers and judges from across Vermont and New Hampshire.
This program has been in place at Vermont for over 20 years. We are convinced that it's one of the best ways to teach persuasive writing and appellate advocacy. In this article, I'll describe how our Appellate Advocacy program works, highlighting what I see as the major advantages and disadvantages of using live United States Supreme Court cases in the legal-writing curriculum.
I am the scholarship dude.

April 5, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Advice to students on writing good post-job interview thank you letters.

You'd think that students who get jobs interviews in this train-wreck of an economy wouldn't need to be reminded of the importance of writing a nice "thank you" letter but it never hurts to be safe rather than sorry by reminding them to do so.  When they sit down to compose those letters, they might find helpful this column from called "Interview Strategies:  A Flawless Follow-up."  Perhaps you can even weave into class-time an exercise on writing a "thank you" letter based on the advice offered by these recruiting experts:

Sending a thank you note to your interviewers is not only polite, it also allows you to reinforce the positive impression you made during your interview or correct any misunderstandings that may have occurred. Furthermore, it emphasizes your enthusiasm for the position you are seeking. It's another way to put your name in front of the hiring authority and to set yourself apart from the other candidates under consideration. If the firm is having a difficult time selecting one candidate in a close race, it might make a positive difference.

While it's best to send a thank you within a couple of days after your interview, a letter arriving a week or so later can be a useful tool to remind the recipient of your meeting, especially if you haven't heard any feedback. On the other hand, if the interviewing process is moving along so quickly that you are scheduled for further meetings before you have had a chance to send a thank you, it can become moot. In the event you learn that the firm has declined to pursue your candidacy, it's good form to send a thank you anyway, perhaps requesting that you be kept in mind for future openings. 

The column provides additional advice on formatting "thank you" letters, how to draft each portion and how to address them to multiple recipients.  You can read the rest here.

I am the scholarship dude.


April 5, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

more LRW job security

Lawre108_head Ncostello_head  Michigan State University College of Law is adding to the trend of enhanced job security in legal writing teaching jobs. Deanne Lawrence, Nancy Costello, and Daphne O'Regan (alas no photo) have been awarded rolling three-year contracts as associate clinical professors of law. They are part of the first group awarded rolling contracts under their school's new policy for the retention and promotion of fixed-term faculty recently.  Congratulations!
hat tip:  Daphne O'Regan

April 5, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Scholarship alert: "Legal Reading and Success in Law School: the Reading Strategies of Law Students with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)"

This article is by legal writing professor Leah M. Christensen and is available at 12 Scholar: St. Mary's Law Review on Minority Issues 177 (2010) and here on SSRN.  From the abstract:

The new reality in legal education is that a certain percentage of our students will come to us with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or with another learning disability, either disclosed or undisclosed. Yet there has been little empirical research on how law students with learning disabilities read and understand the law. This study examined how three law students with ADD read a judicial opinion. The results suggested a relationship between successful law school performance and the use of problematizing and rhetorical reading strategies; and less successful law school performance and the use of default reading strategies. Further, the results suggest that law students with ADD can be successful and productive members of any law school community. Simply because a law student learns differently does not mean that the student cannot learn effectively. Finally, becoming an effective legal reader may be one of the most important ways law students with ADD can enhance their law school success.

I am the scholarship dude.


April 4, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Writing tips for academic writers (and students)

Here's a great column from Inside Higher Ed called "30 Tips for Writers."   While it's directed at academics, some of the suggestions apply equally well to students.   You can read the full list (with explanations) on your own but in the meantime here are some of the highlights that have the most obvious application to law profs and students:

  • Edit your papers a lot (but, in truth, better to be a Combiner than a Mozartian or Beethovenian).
  • Get feedback.
  • Stay current.
  • Be a voracious reader (and ponderer).
  • Persist like an ant.
  • Find emerging areas to research that you are passionate about or at least interested in.
  • Schedule time for writing.
  • Find professional and personal balance.
  • Write all the time.

The only tasks left are to find a good idea and then the time to write about it.  

Hat tip to IHE.

I am the scholarship dude.


April 4, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Law school clinics under attack; U. of Maryland clinic may get a partial reprieve.

This story has been burning up the legal academic blogosphere for a couple of weeks.  Although the U of M website is reporting on a compromise bill introduced on Friday that drops the threat to end funding to the environmental law clinic unless the school reports on the clinic's activities, the fight is not over yet.  If you haven't already done so, you can contact Professor Peter A. Joy, <>, at Washington U. St. Louis and I'm sure he'll be glad to add your name to the petition that's been circulating

Today the New York Times picked up the story, "Law School Clinics Face a Backlash," noting that the problem faced by the UM environmental clinic is threatening other public law school clinics around the country.  

[The Maryland legislature's proposal to cut funding to the UM environmental clinic], which is likely to be sent to the governor this week, comes in response to a suit filed in March by students accusing one of the state’s largest employers, Perdue, of environmental violations — the first effort in the state to hold a poultry company accountable for the environmental impact of its chicken suppliers.

Law clinics at other universities — from New Jersey to Michigan to Louisiana — are facing similar challenges. And legal experts say the attacks jeopardize the work of the clinics, which not only train students with hands-on courtroom experience at more than 200 law schools but also have taken on more cases against companies and government agencies in recent years.

“We’re seeing a very strong pushback from deep-pocket interests, and that pushback is creating a chilling effect on many clinics,” said Robert R. Kuehn, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, citing a recent survey he conducted that found that more than a third of faculty members at legal clinics expressed fears about university or state reaction to their casework and that a sixth said they had turned down unpopular clients because of these concerns.

But critics say law clinics are costly, unaccountable and often counterproductive to states’ interests, especially as they have broadened the scope of their work. The debate has raised larger questions about academic freedom at state-financed law schools and the role lawmakers should have over decisions at those schools.

You can read the rest here.

I am the scholarship dude.


April 4, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)