Saturday, November 13, 2010

Researching U.S. Supreme Court Materials and Oral Arguments

US Supreme Court The Oyez Project, a multimedia archive devoted to the U.S. Supreme Court of the United States, is moving its website to IIT Chicago Kent.  The site aims to be a complete and authoritative source for all audio recorded in the U.S. Supreme Court since the installation of a recording system in October 1955.

The site's archive of digitized arguments allows users to search for key terms relevant to their research. A search for a particular term, such as "strict scrutiny" or "substantive due process," yields a list of snippets from case transcripts that link to the corresponding audio recording.  The new version will have identification of the speakers as they speak.

"No other site boasts such functionality," said Chicago-Kent Dean Harold J. Krent. "With the Oyez Project, Chicago-Kent leverages the power of the Internet to deliver a unique legal resource to students, scholars, lawyers, jurists, legislators, teachers and countless others who are interested in the dynamics of the U.S. Supreme Court."

Founded and directed by political scientist Jerry Goldman, the Oyez website also provides written summaries of Supreme Court cases and holdings, links to the written opinions, detailed biographies and voting records of Supreme Court justices, and a virtual tour of the Supreme Court building.

The site will soon make its content widely accessible to mobile users via apps for iPads and other handheld devices. iPhone apps for selected content are already available.

Chicago-Kent plans to utilize the research of its students and faculty in further content development. "Bringing Oyez to Chicago-Kent allows us to expand our initiatives at the forefront of law and technology," said Dean Krent. "It also presents a valuable opportunity for our law school to reach out to a larger community and for our students to work on Supreme Court projects knowing that their work will be viewed far and wide."

(From a news release from IIT-Chicago Kent)
Hat tip to Ralph Brill

Click here to visit the Oyez Project.


November 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Reducing Word Counts

One skill that we need to teach our students is how to reduce the number of words in their writing without sacrificing the underlying message.  Where courts limit words, we must teach our students to eliminate phrases such as these:
  • "It is important to note that . . . "
  • "It should be noted that . . . "
If it is important, or if it should be noted, it will be so even without saying that it is important or should be noted.  In addition to eliminating certain phrases, we should teach our students how to reduce wordy phrases and use plain language alternatives instead.  For example:
  • in addition to = and
  • as well as = and
  • is required to = must
  • has a duty to = must
  • will be permitted to = may
  • has the power to = can, may
  • will be able to = can, may
  • the totality of the facts = the facts
  • which is required to = required
  • asked the question of whether = asked
  • failed to report = omitted
  • despite the fact that = although
  • will serve as a warning to = warn
  • offered testimony in support of her case = testified
  • brought the concept to articulation = said
  • at that point in time = then
  • very unique = unique
  • on the grounds that = because
  • in the event that = if
  • does constitute = is
  • a number of = several
  • does not possess = lacks
  • in the absence of = without
  • period of time = time
  • rate of speed = speed
  • if for any reason whatsoever = if
  • makes provision for = provides
  • expressly provides = provides
  • the City of Chicago = Chicago
  • the State of Illinois = Illinois

November 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Tim Blevins elected


Word has arrived that Tim Blevins, veteran legal writing professor at FAMU, has been elected the Orange Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor, Group 2, i.e. for his area of Florida.  Congratulations Tim!

So why is it that experience as a legal writing professor correlates well with aptitude for public office?

hat tip:  Richard Neumann


November 12, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

writing negotiation demand letters

An aspect of legal writing often overlooked is how to truly successfully draft a negotiation demand letter.  Now Carrie Sperling has filled the gap with her article on "Priming Legal Negotiations Through Written Demands".  Here's her abstract:

"Lawyers frequently start negotiations with a written demand. But legal scholars have not, until now, considered the demand letter part of the negotiation process. Negotiation theory focuses almost exclusively on face-to-face negotiations and incorporates research from psychology, economics, and other social sciences to explain lawyers’ and clients’ emotions and decisions. By contrast, legal writing texts give lawyers guidance about how to effectively write a demand letter, but this advice lacks any connection to the multi-disciplinary empirical research seen as so important in the negotiation context. This disconnect may serve as an impediment to more favorable negotiations. In fact, this untested advice about how to write demand letters could actually have the unwanted effect of causing protracted litigation and less favorable settlements.

"This article draws upon research in social psychology to demonstrate that demand letters deserve more attention and study. The words lawyers use to convey their demands can have powerful, lasting effects on the course and nature of negotiations because they almost certainly frame the issues, anchor a recipient’s perceptions, and prime the recipient’s goals and behaviors. If we are to fully understand what causes protracted, hostile litigation as opposed to cooperative negotiations and lasting resolutions, we must start by applying sound negotiation theory to the written demand."


November 12, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

the 11th day of the 11th month

staying up-to-date

For those of us of a certain age who teach legal research and writing, the challenge to stay-up-to-date in the internet age can seem daunting.  Edward McClure provides some reassurance in his article on "How to Drink from a Firehose Without Drowning, or Online Current Awareness Made Less Difficult".  As he so aptly puts it:

"Once upon a time, the law changed gently; actively keeping ahead of your students was unnecessary. Now you can have up to the minute information on your desktop. In fact, now you must have up to the minute information on your desktop, because your students are following 'blawgs' and subscribing to 'feeds' and reading 'tweets'. While you are asking that elegant Socratic question, they are reading an appellate opinion that had not been published when class began. Some of your peers - and rivals - are doing the same. No matter how unnatural they seem, we must force ourselves to learn how to use the Internet tools that have accelerated current awareness to the point of seeming madness. It is difficult, confusing, frustrating - and so, so important. This paper attempts to smooth your path towards online awareness sanity in the Twenty-First Century."


November 11, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

save a word

Yesterday evening, on All Things Considered, NPR reported on a movement to save English words that have fallen out of usage.  You can adopt a word, promising to use it with some regularity, and help bring it back to life.  Check out the full story here.


November 10, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

legal writing, lead the way

Kirsten Dauphinais, at the University of North Dakota, has written an article on the "Sea Change: The Seismic Shift in the Legal Profession and How Legal Writing Professors Will Keep Legal Education Afloat in its Wake".  Here's her summary of her article:

"2010 finds us in the midst of what commentators have called 'The Great Recession' and the effects on the legal profession have been profound. Law firms have lost their immunity to recession and industry leaders are concluding that the recession has and will continue to have an enduring impact on the profession, including extensive layoffs, salary decreases, hiring freezes, firm closures, and even deaths.

"Many observers have predicted that these changes may prove to be permanent, not only because of the magnitude of the economic downturn, but also because the present predicament is only an acceleration of the decline of an already failing system, including the fundamental erosion of the traditional large firm model organization for law practice, often referred to as the “tournament.”

"Traditionally, legal education has, in many respects, patterned its offerings and teaching focus on the demands of large law firms and, as these law firms previously assumed the lion’s share of responsibility for the practical skills training of new attorneys, law schools felt comfortable putting that training on the back burner. However, the new economic imperatives of law practice now require law schools to alter their pedagogical methods to produce graduates ready to compete in this market.

"Moreover, just as the traditional law firm tournament model was becoming unsustainable even before the onset of the recession, so too were many key facets of legal education, including the neglect of skills education, as noted by prominent works like Best Practices in Legal Education and the Carnegie Report.

"This article will explore whether changes to the hiring and business practices of American lawyers in the wake of the recession are cyclical in nature or represent a fundamental transformation in the legal profession. The article will then go on to discuss the aforementioned changes to legal education already under way before the economic crisis and will explain why continuing this trajectory will be necessary to an effective response by the academy to the recession.

"In particular, this article advocates for a revisiting of the academy’s customs and practices regarding legal writing professors, as these educators are key to the advancement of legal pedagogy and their lack of professional parity cannot be justified, especially now when the need for their expertise is nothing if not amplified. In advocating for an improvement of the status of legal writing professors, this article will raise and defeat various arguments that have been advanced over the years as to why these professors are undeserving of equal treatment and will explore the troubling impression of gender discrimination in this regard, as the field of legal writing is overwhelmingly dominated by women. Particular emphasis is given to describing the contribution of legal writing professors to a wide spectrum of law teaching, scholarship, and service, all of which contribute to law student preparedness for practice. Finally, the article will conclude with a review of promising future trends."


November 10, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Reminder: Applied Legal Storytelling Conference

The Third Applied Legal Storytelling Conference, co-sponsored by the Legal Writing Institute (LWI) and the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA), will be hosted by Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver on July 8-10, 2011.

Although that conference is months away, proposals to present at are due by December 7, 2010. Click here for the LWI Homepage, where you can find more information about the conference.

Hat tip to Ruth Anne Robbins


November 10, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

happy lawyers?

200px-Ayram Click here to take the little quiz on lawyer happiness.

hat tip:  Larry Krieger


November 9, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 8, 2010

writing exercises on concise usage

Scott Fruehwald has posted some helpful writing exercises on his SSRN page.  These exercises will help legal writing students learn to eliminate wordiness from their writing.  You can find them here -- or send your students directly to them.


November 8, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)