Saturday, July 3, 2010

the legal writing wardrobe -- part deux

I promised to write about the latest update to the legal writing wardrobe, the souvenir attire given to attendees at this year's 25th anniversary edition of the Legal Writing Institute's conference.  Well, since the conference was held at a beach resort we each received a huge Lands' End beach towel with the LWI logo and anniversary date embroidered on it.  You can see it in the photo here.  (For the record, Lands' End knows its apostrophe is incorrect; it's the result of an early printing error that stuck.)  Beach bags, beach balls, and complimentary sun screen from one of the vendors underlined the theme.  And still most of us spent the whole day inside, at the fascinating conference sessions.  We'll be posting more about those here in the days ahead.


July 3, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The LWI Silver Anniversary Comes to a Close

IMG_4638 By all accounts, the two-year celebration of the silver anniversary of the Legal Writing Institute was a fantastic exercise that allowed us to remember and celebrate the history of our great profession.  Special kudos to Ruth Anne Robbins (Rutgers School of Law-Camden), who magnificently steered the LWI through this anniversary celebration (silver shoes, rhinestones, and all!) and who will graciously continue on the LWI Board and Executive Committee for another two years as its immediate past president. 

As a special gift to honor her presidency, the LWI Board of Directors presented Ruth Anne with a special collection of six-word stories that represented special memories and recognitions of her outstanding leadership. 

My contribution?

For sale: silver shoes.  Successful presidency.

Ruth Anne continues her extraordinary service to the legal writing community by assuming an editorial position on the board of JAWLD, the Journal of the Association of Legal Writing Directors.  Click here to read more.

Photo by David Austin (California Western School of Law)


July 1, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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)