April 22, 2010
LWI Conference in Marco Island
Do you still need to register for the Legal Writing Institute Conference at Marco Island? Click here for more information.
A new study explaining how successful law students read
LW Professor Leah Christensen has authored several articles on the reading strategies of successful law students including her most recent article we blogged about a few weeks ago here. Earlier this week, the online ABA Journal sought Professor Christensen's comment in connection with a new empirical study funded by the LSAC that also analyzes the reading habits of successful law students. Professor Christensen's remarks can be found here. The LSAC study is described in this press release from Penn. State. Here's an excerpt:
A growing body of research demonstrates that law students struggle, to varying degrees, with legal discourse and its multiple purposes throughout law school.
“We often hear that law students need to learn to think like lawyers, but they also need to learn how to read like lawyers,” said Dorothy Evensen, professor of higher education and senior scientist in Penn State’s Center for the Study of Higher Education.
Evensen has conducted extensive research on assessing law students’ reading strategies. She is one of the pioneer researchers on the matter. In the late 1980s, Evensen theorized that many law students struggle in their case reading and reasoning capabilities.
At the time, she was working as an item writer for the reading comprehension section of the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), which measures, in part, students' ability to read complex texts.
“I knew that the kind of reading tested by that instrument was different from the reading required in law school,” she said.
But Evensen’s instinct ran counter to the perceptions of most law professors, who saw no problem with the ability of law students to read cases.
. . . .
More recently, Evensen and colleagues completed a three-year study on law students’ case reading and reasoning skills. Evensen worked with James Stratman (University of Colorado at Denver), Laurel Oates (Seattle University School of Law), and Sarah Zappe (director of assessment and instructional support in Penn State’s College of Engineering) on the project, sponsored by the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC), which administers the LSAT.
Their work was aimed at testing a series of hypotheses, some of which made predictions about performance on the researchers’ case reading and reasoning tool and the LSAT.
“We predicted that correlations between our ‘test’ and the LSAT would be low, and indeed they were found to be. The reason relates to the demands of legal discourse and the fact that the LSAT does not attempt to assess facility with legal discourse or literacy,” said Evensen.
“We operationalized the various purposes of case reading and designed a way of assessing them,” said Evensen. She and her colleagues developed a prototype, multiple-choice test to assess case reading and reasoning skills among law students. This work was primarily aimed at testing a theory of case reading. But it also has practical applications since this flexible, adaptable assessment tool that can be used in various law school contexts.
The researchers are contracted to write a forthcoming book that introduces the assessment tool and gives examples of its various uses. "Facilitating the Development of Case Reading and Reasoning through Formative Assessment: A Workbook for Law School Teachers" (Carolina Academic Press) is aimed at law professors of different varieties, including doctrinal teachers, legal writing teachers, academic support personnel, and clinical staff.
You can read the rest here.
Hat tip to the online ABA Journal.
I am the scholarship dude.
new ALWD officers and directors
LWI President-Elect Ken Chestek
Ken Chestek (Indiana University of Indianapolis) will be a Visiting Lawyering Process Professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law in the Fall 2010 Semester. Ken will be teaching two sections of the first-year LRW course at that school.
Ken is President-Elect of the Legal Writing Institute. He will take office this summer at the conclusion of the Legal Writing Institute Conference in Marco Island, so he will be the LWI President when he is visiting at Denver.
The current president of the Legal Writing Institute is Ruth Anne Robbins, Clinical Professor of Law at Rutgers School of Law-Camden.
Hat tip to David I.C. Thomson
(mew)P.S. Regular readers of this blog may remember an earlier post about Ken's Superbowl bet with Mary Alegro, President-Elect of the Association of Legal Writing Directors. Click here to refresh your memory.
April 21, 2010
Talk about typos! This is a big one.
Thanks to our good buddy Raymond Ward at the (new) legal writer blog for bringing this one to our attention courtesy of the "You Don't Say" blog. The Australian arm (or is that flipper?) of Penguin Books had to recall and destroy 7,000 copies of The Pasta Bible, at a cost of $18,000.00, after it discovered the following typo:
The recipe for tagliatelle with sardines and prosciutto called for sprinkling the dish with 'salt and freshly ground black people' [with "people" erroneously substituted for "pepper"]
You Don't Say's John McIntyre has this to say about the imprudent typo:
You may snicker, but you too could have committed this error, or overlooked it. So could I. So could anyone. And this inborn propensity to get things wrong, dear ones, is why old-fashioned, fuddy-duddy, stick-in-the-mud, nineteenth-century-industrial-era-production-model editors suspect that the current enthusiasm among cheese-paring corporate types for fewer-touches, sack-editors-and-save-bucks, direct-to-the-reader, nobody-cares-about-accuracy-anyhow publishing may encounter some unanticipated expenses.
A punchlist of law student writing errors
I have just gone through a difficult session reviewing a student's "directed study" term paper. It was odd to hear a statement to the effect that "I was a good writer before I got to law school, but legal writing screwed me up." I can still remember vividly sitting in a small section of my sophomore year U.S. history survey course at the University of Michigan (circa 1973), and the teaching fellow (to become lifelong friend and widely-acclaimed historian and gerontologist) W. Andrew Achenbaum describing what we were to do when we wrote the three five page papers that were required for the course. "A history paper," Andy said, "is like a legal brief." Well, at age nineteen, I had no clue what that meant, but I do now. You make an overall assertion - the thesis statement - then supply supporting arguments that are backed by the historical evidence. (Note: just to make me feel really old, the other grader on the papers was Andy's best friend and fellow TF, Jan Lewis, the mother of current New York Law School prof James Grimmelmann.)
Professor Lipshaw then describes three categories of student writing errors: 1. The "Elevator Speech Error (i.e. organizational problems) "; 2 the "Peeling the Artichoke Failure" (i.e. lack of analytical depth); and 3. the "Presentational Failure" (i.e. ethos fail) Read the elaborated upon explanations here.
I am the scholarship dude.
This transcript of a case Download Case from Florida offers a great teaching moment about preparation, among other issues. It will also fit well with teaching first semester civil procedure SJ motions. The judge and one lawyer are prepared. The other lawyer isn't.
hat tip: Bryan Camp, Texas Tech
The Second Draft celebrates LWI's 25th
The Legal Writing Institute's 25th anniversary is celebrated in the Spring 2010 edition of its newsletter, The Second Draft. The articles remind us of how far things have come in the professional academic field of legal writing in the last quarter century. You can read it all here.
April 20, 2010
Expert tips on excellent oral advocacy
SCOTUS Justice Scalia and Bryan Garner, Black's Law Dictionary EIC and President of LawProse, offered the following advice to those interested in improving their advocacy skills: "practice, practice, practice." Both were plenary speakers during last week's National Legal Malpractice Conference sponsored by the ABA's Standing Committee on Lawyer's Professional Responsibility.
Among the other bits of advice was this:
According to Garner, few judges are being convincingly persuaded. “There is a crisis in advocacy,” he said. Scalia countered, “I am always amazed at the quality of advocacy at the court.” “I keep reminding him that the advocacy is quite advanced by the time lawyers are before the Supreme Court,” said on-stage foil Garner.
While the level of advocacy at the highest court was reported to be, generally, of top quality, Scalia and Garner both offered common sense tips about preparation and practice that can escape even the most seasoned lawyer.
The speakers agreed that oral argument is an art that takes time to refine. Garner said that many lawyers do not have enough practice in public speaking and that every opportunity to speak in public is one that should be taken. Scalia concurred, adding that a practiced public speaker will have “no ‘ums’ or ‘ers’” and will know how to modulate his voice.
In lockstep with practice is preparation. Scalia said the more you can think about the key points of your case ahead of time throughout the day — even while getting ready to go to work or driving — the better equipped you will be to answer questions at oral argument. This includes going over the entire record of the case in your mind and making notes to have in court.
Sound advice for students practicing for their 1L moot court arguments as well as experienced practitioners.
Hat tip to Above the Law.
I am the scholarship dude.
legal writing at the forefront of multi-cultural legal education
Joahnna Dennis at Vermont Law School has written an article challenging legal writing professors on another front: "Ensuring a Multicultural Educational Experience in Legal Education: Start with the Legal Writing Classroom". Here's her abstract:
"Legal educators have an obligation to educate the future generation of lawyers in a multicultural way by creating a learning environment in which the issues faced by minority communities are criticized, evaluated and challenged.
"This article discusses multicultural education, current efforts in the law school which positively impact the educational experience, some of the shortfalls in these efforts, the need for first-year integration of multicultural topics, and how an educator in the legal academy can ensure that her students receive a well-rounded multicultural educational experience. In particular, the article addresses creating a multicultural educational experience through the lens of a minority legal writing professor, whose role entails instructing students in small-section classes on predictive and persuasive writing over the course of the first two or three semesters of law school. The article concludes by making recommendations for how all legal educators can impact the pipeline to the legal profession by enhancing the law school experience through multicultural education. "
April 19, 2010
are law schools dinosaurs?
Over on the idealawg, Stephanie Allen continues to report on a recent conference that looked at how behind the times our law schools are now. Some of this gloom and doom appears to be coming from people who are looking too much at the elite law schools and assuming they set the pace. A lot of healthy innovation IS happening at many other law schools across the country.
LWI Writers Workshop
There are still a few openings in the LWI's Writers Workshop, being held June 26th and 27th in Marco Island, Florida, right before the LWI bi-ennial conference. This workshop is open to any member of the Legal Writing Institute who is working on a scholarly article for publication. It is likely the most supportive writing workshop you can experience in the legal academy, with opportunities to give and receive feedback on your draft, as well as sessions with tips on publishing. To apply contact Lou Sirico at Sirico@law.villanova.edu.
April 18, 2010
Congratulations, Susan Stuart!