May 1, 2010
Happy Law Day!
Happy "Law Day" to all of our readers!
Nancy, Sue, Coleen, Mark, and Jim
April 30, 2010
Travel Options for Marco Island
If (like me) you haven't yet finalized your travel arrangements for the LWI Conference on Marco Island, here is a link to our earlier post about travel options to get there.
Photo of the Marco Island Resort by Suzanne Rowe (click on the photo to enlarge it)
April 29, 2010
Guess How Much the Fourth Edition of the ALWD Manual Weighs?
I was an early fan of the ALWD manual as a substitute for the Bluebook. But I've just received the fourth edition of the ALWD Manual and my first impression is that it has almost become a monster. It is now spiral-bound (at least the version I received about an hour ago) and weighs more than two pounds (two pounds and four ounces if you want to know the exact weight).
How will students react to the new edition? The ones who I've showed it to are almost frightened by it. It simply is BIG.
The new version does contain many useful features that we featured in a post last month. And I will certainly use it for my own citation needs. But I'm concerned about how big the book is growing. The third edition (shown in the picture to the left) was 572 pages. The fourth edition (not yet shown) is 661 pages.
If you teach legal research and writing, you'll likely be receiving a review copy soon. You can also request a review copy from the publisher directly.
Please use the comment feature on this blog to share your thoughts with us -- not just about the look and feel but also about the substance. And if you use something like the electronic version of the Bluebook, please share your thoughts with us on that as well.
As for substance, the ALWD manual is easier to teach and to use. Is this new size a price of that ease?
PLEASE CLICK ON THE "COMMENTS" TO READ COMMENTS SUBMITTED IN RESPONSE TO THIS POST
April 28, 2010
Tell your students to keep in mind the cost of commercial legal research
Because you don't want them to run into this problem with their first employer; a partner having a conniption because some associate did an inefficient search that requires the firm to write off a large Wexis bill. Our good buddy Joe Hodnicki at the Law Librarian Blog explains that because of this, one BigLaw firm sent a memo to all associates telling them to they must use "best practices" when conducting electronic legal research:
A BigLaw memo sent out to all associates mandating any associate that "utilizes or intends to utilize Westlaw" to attend a training session to learn the firm's "Best Practices" at Inefficient Westlaw Searches Causes One National Firm to Hold Mandatory Training for Associates. Unfortunately the firm's "Best Practices" are not identified but most law librarians have a very good idea.
No doubt we're going to see a lot more of this given the belt-tightening many firms are having to do these days and the intense pressure for new associates to earn their keep sooner rather than later. As Joe reminds us:
You Don't Want to be Called into the Billing Partner's Office Because of This Online Legal Search Session. Cost-efficient legal search instruction needs to start in law school. See Patrick Meyer's Law Firm Legal Research Requirements for New Attorneys, 101 Law Library Journal 297 (2009) [reported on LLB here]. Meyer's article reports on the findings of his 2007 survey of law firm librarians which identifies the most important law firm research tasks and the proper format or formats in which those tasks should be performed so that advanced legal research courses could be designed to prepare new law firm attorneys. Unfortunately it is almost utterly impossible for legal research instructors in the legal academy to demonstrate the actual cost of WEXIS searches to students but they certainly can provide detailed instruction about potential costs in the real world.
Some local law firm librarians can provide redacted copies of pricing schedules for lectures on WEXIS licensing practices and may even be willing, eager in fact, to present a guest lecture on WEXIS costs and client push-back on billing WEXIS search charges. More than a few law firm librarian guest lecturers probably have horrors stories to tell they can illustrate in Powerpoint presentations. No doubt some guest lecturers can start their presentation off by saying "you don't want to be called into the billing partner's office because of the cost of this online legal search session."
Read more from the Law Librarian Blog here.
I am the scholarship dude.
legal writing professors on ABA site teams
The office of the ABA Consultant on Legal Education recently mailed out its annual report for academic year 2008-2009. Among the items reported were listings of the site teams who visited law schools on fact finding missions as part of the normal re-accreditation process for those schools. Each site team typically includes a clinic or legal writing professor, who will be sensitive to the information needed for properly evaluating the skills instruction in the law school being reviewed. The following professors who currently teach legal writing served as site team members in 2008-2009:
Being a site team member requires contributing about two weeks worth of work to the process. Thank you to these legal writing professors for doing this important work on behalf of the profession.
More than 300 People Have Already Registered for the LWI Conference at Marco Island
Here's an update on the Legal Writing Institute Summer Conference -- more than 300 people have taken advantage of the early bird registration fees and already registered for the LWI Conference at Marco Island, Florida. That conference begins on Sunday June 27, 2010 (although many people are arriving on Saturday or even Friday). It runs through Wednesday evening on June 30, 2010 (and many people are staying an extra day or two in the area). If you haven't yet registered, click here for the LWI Conference Registration Information.
The LWI Conference is a "must attend" event for legal writing professors and others concerned with the teaching of legal writing, research, and analysis.
The photo here is from the 2008 Conference in Indianapolis, where more than 650 people attended.
April 27, 2010
congratulations are in order
Washburn University School of Law in Kansas has granted tenure to legal writing director extraordinaire Lyn Goering. She has been a force of nature within the legal writing community, quickly joining the new generation of legal writing leaders when she joined our field some half a dozen years ago. Congratulations to both Washburn and Lyn!
In addition to winning tenure at Washurn, Lyn was also recently selected as the President-Elect of the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD).
(spl and mew)
Scholarship alert: "Developing a comprehensive approach to teaching lawyering skills: a response to the MacCrate Report, fifteen years later"
This article come to us from Professor Scott Thompson of Liberty University School of Law and can be found at 3 Liberty U.L. Rev. 47 (2009). From the introduction:
In 1992, the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar issued its Report of the Task Force on Law School and the Profession: Narrowing the Gap (“MacCrate Report”). While the report covered a number of significant topics, it is perhaps best known for the Statement of Skills and Values, which listed ten key skills necessary for any attorney to competently represent a client . . . .The purpose of the MacCrate Report, as noted in its title, was to “Narrow the Gap” between the education offered at ABA approved law schools and the expectations of the bar. The report itself suggests that the gap envisioned at the time the task force was formed did not exist, and that what was needed was “a more accurate vision of the relationship between legal education and the practicing bar.” However, the report still recognized that the criticisms leveled at the academy by the bar (and vice versa) “have a strong base in reality.” More than fifteen years after the MacCrate Report was published, reports, studies and practicing lawyers continue to challenge the legal academy to provide more instruction in skills and practical training, and spend less time focusing on esoteric issues and scholarly debates that have little relation to the real world of the practice of law.In 2004, Liberty University School of Law (“LUSOL”) opened its doors with an entering class of sixty students. From its earliest planning days, during the drafting of its feasibility study, and from the moment its first curriculum was planned, LUSOL placed an emphasis on lawyering skills that is unique among American law schools. The Lawyering Skills (“LS”) program does not answer all of the criticisms leveled at the legal academy, but it does provide a comprehensive skills curriculum, comprised of a minimum of fourteen hours of skills training required of all students, that better prepares them for the practice of law than the traditional curriculum. The curriculum addresses each of the key skills identified in the MacCrate Report as being critical to the success of a competent lawyer.In Section II, this article presents a brief sampling of the concerns of the bench and bar, both before and after the MacCrate Report. Section III explains in detail the skills curriculum used at LUSOL and shows how each of the key skills identified in the MacCrate Report is taught throughout the curriculum. Section IV comments on four significant challenges to a skills curriculum that were raised in the MacCrate Report and LUSOL's response to these challenges. Finally, Section V offers a brief conclusion.
April 26, 2010
The future of legal education according to HLS Dean Martha Minow (and what it may mean for LW Profs)
Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow recently addressed the HLS community in a speech titled "The Past, Present, and Future of Legal Education" during which she described the reforms presently contemplated by many legal educators as being as historically significant to the training of lawyers as the first classroom use of case method more than 140 years ago.
Relevant to legal writing profs, Dean Minow made the following observations:
- Legal education hasn't changed much in the past 100 years. Indeed, a 1914 Carnegie Report on the state of legal education identified many of the same problems raised by the 2007 Carnegie Report including the over-reliance on the case method approach and need for more practical training.
- The largest change in law schools during the past 30 years is the rise of clinical education. Clinics help bridge theory and practice, make parts of legal education closer to a teaching hospital, and clinics also elevated attention to poverty, racial and gender discrimination, and access to justice. They . . . involve a much higher devotion of instructional resources than the conventional classroom.
- [At present L]egal education –except for clinical work--[seems] like the traditional first two years
of medical school—lots of knowledge, little direct work in the field. Schools across the
country incorporated policy studies, social science and the administrative state, but as
add-ons, not altering the basic map of the legal world which still started with common law, focused on courts, and obscured the multiple pathways through law school and into
careers that students actually want to pursue. . . . We contrasted the lack of change in legal education for more than 100 years with changes in medical, business, engineering, and policy education. We learned especially from transformations in medical education, led by Harvard Medical School, which radically reduced time devoted to lectures in favor of hands-on problem-solving, decision making, and engagement of students in collaborations, taking responsibility for their own learning.
Hat tip to Above the Law.
I am the scholarship dude.
one approach to bridging the gap
In "Skills Without Stigma: Using the JURIST Method to Teach Legal Research and Writing", Abigail Salisbury, the Executive Director of JURIST, offers an approach to bridge the gap between law school legal writing programs and legal writing on the job as a lawyer. Here's her abstract:
"Common to every practice area of the law is the need for clear, concise writing which conveys the relevant legal principles and precedents. However, practitioners constantly report that their new associates are unprepared for the work required of them upon graduating from law school, a dilemma consistent with data indicating that law schools are not improving students’ legal information literacy skills.
"Law schools put students through legal writing programs, and writing plays an important role in helping or hindering a lawyer’s career advancement, yet students graduate grossly underequipped to meet the demands of this crucial aspect of their chosen professions. Add to these troubles the debate over skills training and the expansion of the material which is expected to fit into a first-year legal writing class, and one can see the growing need for new and more efficient teaching methods.
"This article explores the reasons why the current legal writing curriculum is not meeting the needs of the modern law student, ultimately proposing that instructors consider and implement various aspects of the legal research and writing model pioneered by JURIST, the online legal news and commentary service hosted by the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Previous parallels have been drawn between the training of journalists and the teaching of legal writing, but no one else has made full use of this relationship.
"JURIST’s student staffers are put through a rigorous training process which improves their research and writing skills by teaching them innovative methods of comprehension and analysis. The method is specially tailored to the learning style of the modern student and encourages self-structuring. The legal news stories posted on JURIST’s website are essentially mini-casebooks which can serve as a model for many forms of writing in almost any discipline.
"The positive results of JURIST’s teaching method are evident not only from the student work which is published on the website, but also from the student staffers themselves, who report being better-prepared for classes, feeling more tied-in with the subject matter because they have seen law in action, and having a much easier time of researching effectively and writing quickly and succinctly under pressure. Not every student can write for JURIST, and Pitt is the only law school with such a unique clinic-like law documentation project, but every professor can use JURIST as a teaching tool. The article concludes by providing a variety of easily-implemented classroom applications."
A "Virtual Legal Writing Conference"
April 25, 2010
Here's an argument that writing-across-the-curriculum helps faculty too
Although still not prevalent in law schools, the writing-across-the-curriculum movement has served students very well at the undergraduate level for the past 30 years or so. If you're trying to convince your faculty to move in that direction, here's a short article from the Chronicle of Higher Ed making the case that WATC benefits profs too. The benefits include:
- Helping students with the writing process helps professors think about their own writing process;
- It also helps remind professors how important it is to circulate early drafts as part of the drafting process in order to solicit several opinions which only help to make the final product even better; and
- Assigning writing projects throughout the semester better helps professors assess their students progress since writing is where the rubber meets the road in terms of whether they are really "getting it" or not.
It's like the old saying: If you really want to learn something well, try teaching it to others. It's true with writing too.
I am the scholarship dude.
Summer Conference on Teaching Law Practice Across the Curriculum (and a list of articles from the current issue of "The Law Teacher")
The Institute for Law Teaching and Learning Summer Conference will be held June 17-18, 2010 at Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas. (This is just before theLegal Writing Institute Conference in Marco Island.)
The Institute for Law Teaching is a combined effort between Gonzaga University and Washburn University. Details about the conference--including a day-by-day breakdown of the schedule and the registration form--are available in the current issue of The Law Teacher (which also has some articles from legal writing folk such as Sophie Sparrow of the Franklin Pierce Law Center).
Click here to see the current issue of The Law Teacher. Articles in the current issue include these:
- Team-Based Learning
- The Socratic Method Outline
- Student Self-Assessment: Reflective Thinking and Journaling in Law School
- Teaching State Criminal Law to 1Ls
- Looking at the Initial Client Meeting through an Interdisciplinary Lens
- Bringing Lawyers Back on Campus
Hat tip to ALWD President-Elect J. Lyn Entrikin Goering