Friday, July 16, 2010
Although I was only at the Marco Island conference for a short time, the experience led me to ponder how the conferences have changed.
I remember my first conference at Puget Sound in 1992 after I'd been teaching for one year. Lots of people stayed in dorms, it was a much smaller group than our impressive numbers at Marco Island, and there was a strong sense of community built in some part on the "we are the misunderstood and underappreciated few." But we stood in solidarity.
I remember another LWI conference a few years later when I met one of my co-blog-editors as she and her family arrived late at the dorm, weary and with children, only to discover a paucity of mattresses in their dorm room. We bonded as we dragged mattresses from room to room sometime around midnight. It might have been at that same conference when I sat with another colleague in the TV room in the dorm lounge, getting to know him.
Our specialty--our legal writing community--has changed a lot, but I hope that we will always have that sense of solidarity and that sense of mutual support. And whatever the Marco Island version of bonding experience, I hope that lots of participants met colleagues who will become friends.
Other conference memories and stories?
The Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities invites submissions for its 2011 Julien Mezey Dissertation Award, for the dissertation that most promises to enrich and advance interdisciplinary scholarship at the intersection of law, culture and the humanities. The award will be presented at the Association's 2011 annual meeting, at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, March 11-12.
The Association seeks the submission of outstanding work from a wide variety of perspectives, including but not limited to law and cultural studies, legal hermeneutics and rhetoric, law and literature, law and psychoanalysis, law and visual studies, legal history, legal theory and jurisprudence. Scholars completing humanities-oriented dissertations in SJD and related programs, as well as those earning PhDs, are encouraged to submit their work. Applicants for the 2011 award must have defended their dissertations successfully between September 1, 2009, and August 31, 2010.
Each nominee must submit the following by November 1, 2010:
• a letter by the nominee detailing the genesis, goal, and contribution of the dissertation;
• a letter of support from a faculty member familiar with the work;
• an abstract, outline, and selected chapter of the dissertation; and
• contact information for the nominee.
All materials should be sent to: Professor Tucker Culbertson, email@example.com. Award finalists will be notified by December 1, 2010. Finalists must then submit an electronic version of the entire dissertation. The winner will be determined by early February and invited to the 2011 ASLCH annual meeting; ASLCH will pay travel and lodging costs.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
From Monday's editorial in the New York Times entitled "Cutting and Pasting: A Senior Thesis by (Insert Name)."
A friend who teaches at a well-known eastern university told me recently that plagiarism was turning him into a cop. He begins the semester collecting evidence, in the form of an in-class essay that gives him a sense of how well students think and write. He looks back at the samples later when students turn in papers that feature their own, less-than-perfect prose alongside expertly written passages lifted verbatim from the Web.
“I have to assume that in every class, someone will do it,” he said. “It doesn’t stop them if you say, ‘This is plagiarism. I won’t accept it.’ I have to tell them that it is a failing offense and could lead me to file a complaint with the university, which could lead to them being put on probation or being asked to leave.”
Not everyone who gets caught knows enough about what they did to be remorseful. Recently, for example, a student who plagiarized a sizable chunk of a paper essentially told my friend to keep his shirt on, that what he’d done was no big deal. Beyond that, the student said, he would be ashamed to go home to the family with an F.
As my friend sees it: “This represents a shift away from the view of education as the process of intellectual engagement through which we learn to think critically and toward the view of education as mere training. In training, you are trying to find the right answer at any cost, not trying to improve your mind.”
Like many other professors, he no longer sees traditional term papers as a valid index of student competence. To get an accurate, Internet-free reading of how much students have learned, he gives them written assignments in class — where they can be watched.
Here are dates of upcoming legal writing conferences in 2010, 2011, and 2012:
Global Legal Skills Conference VI. May 5-7, 2011 (in Chicago at The John Marshall Law School). The conference returns to where it all began.
ALWD Conference. June 23-25, 2011 (in Sacramento, California at Pacific McGeorge School of Law)
Applied Legal Storytelling Conference. July 8-10, 2011 (at the University of Denver)
LWI One Day Workshops. Friday, December 2, 2011 (coast to coast at various locations).
LWI Biennial Conference (the Big Conference). May 29 to July 1, 2012 (Desert Springs, California)
Please use the comment function to let us know of other upcoming events.
So what's a popcorn session? Well, if you're at an academic conference, and you've had a full day of serious presentations and you've already had dinner, but you're not quite ready to stop talking about things going on in your field, a popcorn session lets the dialogue continue in a less formal setting. And yes, popcorn is served.
In the popcorn session I attended at the LWI conference, Claire Robinson May (Cleveland Marshall) lead a wide-ranging discussion of Academic Freedom and the Staffing Structure of Legal Writing Programs. Claire used an interesting technique to essentially plant various arguments and perceptions throughout the conversation. Each person in attendance was given a large laminated page of paper, on which a comment had already been typed out. These were color-coordinated, so as sub-topics arose, she could call on someone with a pink sheet, for example, to read their prepared comment. That comment then was sure to be in the mix and to encourage responses. This technique could work for any discussion or classroom exchange where it would be helpful to be sure certain perspectives or information is heard -- perhaps a topic on which the audience or students might be reluctant to speak openly or one on which the presenter or professor had specific points to drive home.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
In an economic recession, many writers may be able to afford only a semicolon instead of paying for a full colon. But fear not: Eileen Kavanagh (Thomas Cooley Law School) shares with us a new essay on the resurgance of the colon. Click here to enjoy an essay by Conor J. Dillon.
Hat tip to Eileen Kavanagh
A negotiation team from Texas Tech University School of Law recently won the International Negotiation Competition, held at Bond University on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. The team was coached by professors Wendy Humphrey and Nancy Soonpaa, who both teach in the Legal Practice Program at Tech.
It seems that there have been a number of recent lawsuits involving legal writing profs (several of which we've reported here over the last 12 months). Is that truly the case or is it just my perception because it's what I do for a living? And if it is true, what's going on? Are legal writing profs more adversely affected by the economy or is it something else?
Following up on a story we blogged about in April (and thanks to some helpful readers we corrected facts wrongly reported elsewhere), about a University of Iowa College of Law writing specialist who sued after she was denied a job as a legal writing prof based on her allegedly conservative political beliefs, she has now appealed the dismissal of her complaint to the Eighth Circuit. As reported by the TaxProf Blog:
The National Association of Scholars has posted a number of documents in the case in “They So Despise Her Politics” -- Do Conservative Faculty Candidates Get a Fair Shake?:
If you have time to look at just one document, we recommend the first one, which is a half-page internal memorandum from the law school’s associate dean, Jon Carlson. Carlson expresses his puzzlement at the Faculty’s unwillingness to hire Wagner, even for a lesser position, and worries that this might have something to do with her political views:
Frankly, one thing that worries me is that some people may be opposed to Teresa serving in any role in part, at least, because they so despise her politics (and, especially, her activism about it). I hate to think that is the case, and I don’t actually think it is, but I’m worried that I may be missing something.
That’s as close to a smoking gun as one is likely to find in the academic world.
I am the scholarship dude.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
A number of professors received scholarship grants during the LWI Conference at Marco Island. Awards were conferred by the Legal Writing Institute, the Association of Legal Writing Directors, and LexisNexis.
2010 LWI Scholarship Grants
- Danton Berube (University of Detroit Mercy)
- Amanda Smith (Widener University School of Law)
2010 LexisNexis Scholarhip Grants
- Jennifer Lear (Widener University School of Law)
- Christopher Trudeau (Thomas M. Cooley Law School)
- Carrie Sperling (Arizona State University)
- Mark Hoch (Charleston School of Law)
- Julia Glencer (Duquesne University School of Law)
- Erin Karsman (Duquesne University School of Law)
- Tara Wilke (Duquesne University School of Law)
2010 ALWD Scholarship Grants
- Michelle Falkoff (University of Iowa College of Law)
- Alison Donahue Kehner (Widener University School of Law)
- Mary Ann Robinson (Widener University School of Law)
- Jean Sbarge (Widener University School of Law)
Congratulations to all!
Photographs courtesy of David Austin (California Western School of Law)
The University of Cincinnati College of Law invites applications from entry-level and lateral candidates for as many as two tenure-track or tenured faculty positions in a broad number of areas, including agency/partnership/unincorporated business associations, civil procedure, commercial law, corporations, criminal law, criminal procedure, employment and labor law, evidence, immigration, international law, property, torts, and wills and trusts. They also seek applications for visiting faculty positions in those areas. Applicants should have a distinguished academic background and either great promise or a record of excellence in both scholarship and teaching. The
Still reporting about the LWI conference’s many excellent sessions, as time allows:
Joel Atlas, Megan McAlpin, Suzanne Rowe, Tenielle Fordyce-Ruff, and Andrea Mooney gave a presentation on Investing in the Future: Creating Effective Teaching Assistants. They focused on defining TA’s multiple roles, selecting TA’s, and training them.
TA’s can serve four basic roles, as:
1) mentors or mediators,
2) role models for professional behavior,
3) direct assistants in the teaching process, and
4) graders or evaluators.
In these roles, the TA’s can help the legal writing professor save time, extend her reach, and offer more to the students. Of course TA’s can do the initial research and drafting to develop legal writing problems, and they can be extra sets of eyes during the proofreading stage of anything that is going to the students in writing. TA’s can work with small groups of students or one-on-one, supplementing classroom teaching, and can help keep things positive in either setting. TA’s can also teach some class sessions, such as when citation is covered. And TA’s can give the professor feedback on how things are going and how the students are doing.
When selecting TA’s, an LRW professor needs to be clear to applicants about both the qualitative and quantitative expectations on the job. Quantitative expectations include the number of hours weekly for the job and how much time to spend with any one student. More qualitative expectations include professional behavior towards the professor and students. Although an application process takes more time than just selecting students you already know, the application package and interviews provide additional information about the applicants. Current TA’s can interview prospective TA’s, too.
Training TA’s well is essential for everyone to end up on the same page. TA’s need to understand the big picture of their jobs, more specifically what you want from them, the nature of their new relationship with you and with the students in the course, and how you will give feedback and assess their performance. Group training will help your TA’s gain a sense of their special role, build cohesion among the group, and provide a time to clarify course policies. In a group meeting, TA’s can function for a legal writing professor much like the Cabinet does for the President.
Finally, the presenters highly recommend reading the article by Ted Becker and Rachel Croskery-Roberts, Avoiding Common Problems in Using Teaching Assistants: Hard Lessons Learned from Peer Teaching Theory and Experience, 13 J. Leg. Writing 269 (2007).
Monday, July 12, 2010
Scholarship alert: "The Cost of Judicial Citation: An Empirical Investigation of Citation Practices in the Federal Appellate Courts"
This article is by Casey R. Fronk and can be found at U. Ill. J.L. Tech. & Pol'y 51 (2010). From the abstract:
Since the early 1960s, computerized legal research technology has enabled judges and their law clerks to access legal information quickly and comprehensively. Particularly for appellate judges, who rely on wide-ranging legal research when writing opinions, this technological change has had special resonance. This Article attempts to quantify the effects of computer-assisted legal research on the federal judiciary by empirically analyzing citation patterns over the past fifty years. The results of this analysis suggest that the digitization of legal research has had statistically significant effects on the amount and style of citation in judicial opinions. Although the average number of cases cited in opinions has doubled between 1957 and 2007, the number of cases cited only in string citations has decreased by nearly the same percentage. This Article argues that such results can be explained by a basic economic theory of judicial citation in which judges respond to the decreasing cost of opinion production by discarding string citation for more effective communicative techniques.
I am the scholarship dude.
hat tip: Terry Phelps
Rutgers-Camden Clinical Professor Sarah Ricks's article, The Perils of Unpublished Non-Precedential Federal Appellate Opinions: A Case Study of the Substantive Due Process State-Created Danger Doctrine in One Circuit, 81 Wash. L. Rev. 217 (2006), was cited by a federal district court for a point about this evolving substantive due process doctrine. See Perez v. City Of Philadelphia, 2010 WL 1270378, *12 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 5, 2010). The article is also cited by the Wright & Miller federal courts treatise for a point on unpublished federal appellate opinions and by many law review articles.
Sarah developed the article in the LWI Writer's Workshop and got a lot of very useful feedback from participants at a Central States regional conference and an ALWD Conference. The article also was funded by an ALWD Scholarship Grant. Sarah is a prime example of what legal writing professors can do when they receive support for their scholarship.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
If you attended the LWI Conference at Marco Island, please remember to complete the survey about that conference. Your views will help the organizers of the next conference, which will be held from May 29 to June 1, 2012 in Desert Springs, California.