Friday, January 22, 2010

Do we need to re-think how legal research is taught?

Courtesy of the Law Librarian Blog:

It's common knowledge that that most law schools provide 'legal research instruction that is not only ineffective in teaching basic research skills but is potentially hazardous to students attempting to learn legal analysis' according to Sarah Valentine, Legal Research Coordinator and Associate Law Library Professor and CUNY School of Law.   In Legal Research as a Fundamental Skill: A Lifeboat for Students and Law Schools, Valentine argues that current legal research education needs to be reconceptualized "to become a synergistic first year course that supports the learning of doctrine and legal analysis, as well as necessary research skills in accordance with recent suggestions by the ABA, the authors of the Carnegie Report, and other legal commentators."

To say that law firm librarians hope the legal academy will spit out law school grads with some modicum of legal research skills some day would be quite an understatement. Recommended reading for academic law librarians and legal research and writing profs.

Remember to add the Law Librarian Blog to your daily blog feed to keep up with the latest news and developments concerning legal research.

I am the scholarship dude.


January 22, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

what's really on their laptops

ImagesCAPLMUR2 Ever wonder what students are really looking at when their laptops are open during class?  Some NYU law students posted a video last spring that provides some insight.

hat tip:  Paula Lustbader


January 22, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Legal Writing Prof Blog wins most improved player award redux

Although we posted this story back in October, blogmaster Paul Caron has published the official rankings on the TaxProf Blog so we think that gives us another excuse to toot our own horn (again):

Here are the largest percentage increases (page views and visitors) among the Top 35 blogs from 2008:


Page Views




Legal Writing Prof Blog


Legal Writing Prof Blog



Antitrust & Competition





Legal History Blog


Antitrust & Competition





Legal History Blog



Leiter Reports: Philosophy


Leiter Reports: Philosophy





Mirror of Justice



Mirror of Justice





Religion Clause


Opinio Juris



Opinio Juris


Religion Clause



Legal Profession Blog


Jack Bog's Blog


In absolute terms, the Top 32 blogs with 2-year track records increased their traffic by 18.7% (page views) and 22.0% (visitors).  The mean changes were +4.3% (page views) and +4.4% (visitors); the median changes were +3.9% (page views) and +4.4% (visitors).

  • These Law Prof Blog Rankings are drawn from Dan Solove's Law Professor Blogger Census, as updated by Colin Miller' Legal Educator Blog Census.  They include all blogs edited by law professors -- both law-related and non law-related.
  • Please email me the names of any Law Prof Blogs with traffic over the past twelve months that would qualify for inclusion on the lists (195,112 page views and/or 124,998 visitors).  If necessary, I will re-publish the list to include all qualifying blogs.
  • Several popular Law Prof Blogs do not have publicly available SiteMeters and thus are not included on the list:  e.g., BlackProf, California Appellate Report, Credit Slips, The Deal Professor, Dorf on Law, Feminist Law Professors, Legal Theory, Point of Law, 
  • These rankings cover only those blogs edited by law professors.  Other law-related blogs edited by practitioners, librarians, non-law school academics, and journalists are not included on this list:  e.g., Above the Law, How Appealing, Law Librarian Blog, Wall Street Journal Law Blog.
  • Members of our Law Professor Blogs Network comprise, by page views, two of the Top 10, four of the Top 20, and ten of the Top 35 blogs; and by visitors, one of the Top 10, four of the Top 20, and ten of the Top 35 blogs.
  • Members of our Law Professor Blogs Network comprise three of the ten fastest growing Law Prof Blog by page views, and two of the of the ten fastest growing Law Prof Blog by visitors (including Legal Writing Prof Blog, the fasted growing blog by both page views and visitors).

You can read the rankings based on total visits and page views here (the Legal Writing Prof Blog is among the top 30 for each).  A special thanks to our loyal readers who have helped make us a success.

I am the scholarship dude.


January 22, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Scholarship alert: "Confronting cliches in online instruction: using a hybrid model to teach lawyering skills."

This article comes to us from Professor Joseph Rosenberg of CUNY Law School and can be found at 12 SMU Sci. & Tech. L. Rev. 19 (2008).  From the introduction:

There is no longer a debate about the value of teaching lawyering skills in law school. The mainstream now includes teaching the value of integrating theory, doctrine, and practice in order to prepare students to be excellent lawyers. What continues is the debate over the value of online teaching and learning. Even as online learning and distance education proliferate, legal academies have banned laptops and disabled Internet access out of fear that the cyberspace universe will permanently distract students. The debates over online learning can be reduced to clichés that revolve around two opposing groups. The first group, the “naysayers,” are skeptical of any technology that interferes with face-to-face human interaction, and they worry about the danger of online learning. The second group, the “enthusiasts,” are true believers in technology, and they are certain the future has arrived with online classes, programs, and universities that promise, and deliver, a cure for much of what ails the modern education enterprise.  The naysayers point to a variety of problems associated with online learning, including the impersonal nature of computer-mediated communication, the excessive cost in human and financial resources relative to the questionable benefits, and the possible demise of the traditional paradigm of the classroom and the academy. The enthusiasts, on the other hand, see online learning as a means to overcome the constraints of space, time, and distance, broaden access to higher education, create opportunities for innovative teaching, and engage students in active learning. Some enthusiasts also see online learning as a means to generate profits. As is typical with opposing sides in a debate, these conflicting points present a false dichotomy. For example, most people involved in the educational process are dependent on computer technology, but even “techno-geeks” still seek meaningful human connection. In sum, most of us are hybrids, meaning that we exhibit certain characteristics from both schools of thought. It is not surprising, therefore, that a hybrid course, one that combines online and face-to- face classes, would seem so promising.

I am the scholarship dude.


January 22, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Article alert: "E-mail Netiquette for Lawyers"

This article is authored by Judge Gerald Lebovits of the New York City Housing Court and an adjunct law professor at Columbia and St. John's.  The article is available on SSRN here.  In addition, you can find other relevant articles from Judge Lebovits here including Advice to Law Clerks: How to Draft Your First Judicial Opinion, Nuts 'n' Bolts: Legal-Writing Mechanics—Part I and Nuts 'n' Bolts: Legal-Writing Mechanics—Part II.

A big tip 'o the hat to Raymond Ward at the (new) legal writer blog.

I am the scholarship dude.


January 21, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

100 tips for dramatically improving your writing

Photos from the Friends of Legal Writing Luncheon

Austin, David  
David Austin, a new professor of legal writing at California Western School of Law, was the photographer for the Friends of Legal Writing Luncheon in New Orleans during the AALS Annual Meeting.  Click here to see more than 60 photos from the Friends of Legal Writing Luncheon. The website allows you to order prints of any photos you like.


January 20, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Top 20 movies for law students

Here's a list of the best legal movies every law student should see based on an informal survey of some law profs as published in the National Jurist Magazine:

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird
  2. Twelve Angry Men
  3. Anatomy of a Murder
  4. Kramer v. Kramer
  5. Michael Clayton
  6. The Accused
  7. The Verdict
  8. Inherit the Wind
  9. The Paper Chase
  10. Erin Brockovich
  11. The Thin Blue Line
  12. Murder in the First
  13. And Justice for All
  14. Presumed Innocent
  15. Class Action
  16. A Few Good Men
  17. The Firm
  18. My Cousin Vinny
  19. A Time to Kill
  20. North Country

One glaring ommission, IMHO, and a film I refer to in class to illustrate the policy underlying removal jurisdiction is Deliverance (although the entire film is a meditation on the "law of the of the jungle" versus "civlized" law, the "removal jurisdiction" scene occurs when, following the murder of Ned Beatty's rapist, Burt Reynolds tries to convince the others that reporting the murder and standing trial in rural Georgia would be a mistake because the judge, jury and witnesses are all likely related to the victim) .  And while I agree with Professor Bond's recommendation that the recent Batman movie, the Dark Knight, should be included on the list, unlike her I saw it as a defense of the Bush-Cheney administration's stance on terrorism rather than a defense of the rule of law.  Just goes to show that films about the law, like the law itself, are subject to wide interpretation.    

I am the scholarship dude.


January 19, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (32) | TrackBack (0)


DrawingPenWebLarge  "Gobbledygook may indicate a failure to think clearly, a contempt for one's clients, or more probably a mixture of both. A system that can't or won't communicate is not a safe basis for a democracy."
  • Michael Shanks, former chairman of the National Consumer Council, England (spl)

January 19, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Would more math at the undergraduate level help students better succeed in law school?

I'm guessing most law school profs would say yes.  Especially legal writing profs who teach an organizational model (whether it's called IRAC, CREAC or something else) that has a mathematical-like elegance and simplicity to it.   Here's an essay from the Chronicle of Higher Ed that makes a persuasive case that a math background helps students with logical reasoning in other, non-mathematical contexts.

Long ago, when I was young, naïve, and chair of a department of mathematics at a liberal-arts college, I recommended that a course in mathematical proofs be required of all students majoring in the liberal arts—including majors in the humanities and the arts. Hereafter, I will refer to those students as "poets."

. . . .

Since we live in an age of pragmatism, let it be said that courses that require students to give presentations of original proofs and defend them in front of their peers prepare them to speak before audiences in real life, even a group of chief executives if the students ever find themselves with an M.B.A. working in middle or upper management in a large corporation.

Introducing students to the essence of mathematics, and its pervasiveness in all disciplines, will help them start to become independent thinkers and masters of their own education.

You can read the rest here.

I am the scholarship dude.


January 18, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

academic writing conference in Israel

Images Legal writing professors are invited to participate in Academic Writing and Beyond in Multicultural Societies, Israel’s first international conference on academic writing, July 28-29, 2010, organized by The Israel Forum for Academic Writing (IFAW) and the Institute of Research, Curriculum and Program Development for Teacher Education (known by its Hebrew aconym, MOFET). Professors Deborah Holdstein (Columbia College, Chicago and editor of CCC), Chris Anson (North Carolina State University, past president of Council of Writing Program Administrators), and Otto Kruse (Director of ZHAW Center for Professional Writing at Zurich University of Applied Sciences, School of Applied Linguistics and Board Member of the European Association of Teachers of Academic Writing) have so far agreed to be plenary speakers for the two-day conference, which will be held in Tel Aviv.

The organizers intend to create a dynamic and interesting conference that will engage in critical dialogue about what it means to teach academic writing in  multicultural and multi-lingual societies, and what will best serve students in such societies when they graduate from their studies.  There are plans to tour Tel Aviv and Jerusalem before and after the conference, to publish the proceedings, and to provide ample opportunity for attendees to hear and participate in engaged dialogue with thoughtful people.

hat tip:  Cynthia Adams


January 18, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

"bottomheavy" legal writing

ImagesCAH9QON3 Joan Magat at Duke has written an article on the problem of Bottomheavy: Legal Footnotes .  Yes, I can hear many legal writing professors cheering.  Here's her abstract:

"For decades, legal footnotes have been the deserving target of both ample criticism and self-mockery. Apart from their complaints as to footnotes’ mere existence, most critics draw a bead on the ballooning of footnote content. Some journal editors, aspiring to respond to this sound theme, hopefully inform their authors of a preference for “light footnoting.” But where does an author begin to trim, and what editor has the audacity to slash what the author (or her research assistant) has so laboriously compiled below the line? Changing our footnote habits is about benefits and costs. To gain the former, we must ante up. If criticism began the round of bidding, this article modestly raises the stakes, suggesting a rule of reason that might govern the author’s, the editor’s, and the reader’s expectations for footnotes. A gamble, perhaps, but one that might be worth taking. "


January 18, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

nominate someone for the Burton Awards

You can submit nominations for the prestigious Burton Awards until January 30, 2010.  New this year are awards for Author of the Decade in Law Fiction and Nonfiction.  Criteria for each award include the quality of the author's writing and the impact of the author's work on the public and the legal profession.  You may make nominations on the Burton Awards website at or

hat tip: Phil Frost


January 17, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)