Friday, November 19, 2010

Typography for Lawyers

Tfl-book-cover Matthew Butterick has written a new book, Typography for Lawyers.  If you are a lawyer who writes anything that ends up as typed text, you need to read this book.  If you are a legal writing professor who teaches law students or paralegal students, you need to read this book.  You will learn a lot--unless, like Butterick, you happen to have previously studied typography and worked as a professional typographer before going to law school. 

The book is also beautiful, an aesthetically pleasing experience as you read.  How many law practice related books can you say that about?  Butterick practices what he preaches, so beyond the numerous helpful examples, studying the presentation of the book itself provides further instruction.

And even if you don't care a whit about typography (although the book explains why you should), the discussion on pages 22 to 24 about readers' attention is worth sharing with every legal writing student and junior attorney.  


UPDATE:  For writing this book, Matthew Butterick received the Golden Pen Award in 2012 from the Legal Writing Institute.


November 19, 2010 in Books | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

job opening in North Carolina

Elon University School of Law is taking applications for a full-time instructor position, teaching two sections of Legal Method & Communication, a two-semester, five credit, first-year course, beginning in August 2011. The initial appointment will be for a three-year term, with the possibility of renewal in future years. 


Applicants must have a J.D. from an accredited law school, a strong academic record, excellent legal research and writing skills, and at least three years experience in a clerkship or law practice. Applicants must also possess a commitment to legal writing teaching, and an interest in working within a coordinated program to build an innovative and challenging curriculum. Two or more years of recent experience teaching legal writing is strongly preferred.        

To apply, send a cover letter, resume (including names and contact information of-three references) and a short writing sample or example of course materials that you have prepared to Professor Catherine J. Wasson, Elon University School of Law, 201 North Greene Street, Greensboro, N.C.  27401. Email applications are welcome. All applications received by February 1, 2011, will receive full consideration. 


1.  The position advertised may lead only to successive short-term contracts of one to four years.
2.  The professor hired will be permitted to vote in faculty meetings, except on matters of hiring, promotion and tenure.
3.  The school anticipates paying an annual academic year base salary in the range $60,000-$79,999.
4.  The number of students enrolled in each semester of the courses taught by the legal research & writing professor will be 31 - 40.


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

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

empathy -- a core legal skill

IanGallacher Perhaps you have to be a legal academic to become a fan of the law journal articles of particular authors.  Over time I've come to appreciate that no matter what I read by Ian Gallacher at Syracuse University, my time will be well spent.  Now Ian has written "Thinking Like Non-Lawyers: Why Empathy is a Core Lawyering Skill and Why Legal Education Should Change to Reflect its Importance", to be published soon in the Journal of the Association of Legal Writing Directors.

Here's Ian's abstract:

"This article is an exploration of some of the issues raised by the recent Carnegie Report on Educating Lawyers, and contains a recommendation that law schools change the way they teach especially first year law students in order to make them more empathetically aware of the circumstances by which the court opinions they study arose and the effects those opinions will have on others. The article argues that such changes will not just make lawyers better people, they will also make them better lawyers. The article examines the dangers inherent in an overemphasis on the 'logical' form of analysis taught in law schools, and explores in depth two examples of logical thinking that failed to persuade non-lawyers, in the form of a jury. The article also looks at one strikingly successful example of empathetic lawyering – Max Steur’s cross-examination of a key witness during the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire trial – to show how a lawyer who is empathetically attuned with a jury can be devastatingly effective. The article offers specific proposals to help law schools ameliorate the dangers of an over-emphasis on 'thinking like a lawyer' before, during, and after a student’s formal legal education."



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

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

the non-tenured life

Most legal writing professors do not have tenure-line appointments.  What is it like to be surrounded by tenured faculty when you don't -- and won't ever -- have tenure?  Click here to see.

hat tip:  Melissa Marlow




November 16, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Preserving Our History: Past LWI Newsletters Now Online

Legal_writing_institute_logo LWI Karin Mika has kindly uploaded earlier editions of the LWI newsletter and The Second Draft.  Click here to see the list of newsletters now available.  If you would like to have a look at the very first LWI newsletter from 1985, click here.

Hat tips to Karin Mika for uploading the newsletters, to Yonna Shaw for scanning the newsletters, and to Jane Gionfriddo who preserved our history.  We've also learned that Chris Wren has made the .pdfs searchable as well.


November 14, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Plain Writing Act of 2010

President Obama signed the Plain Writing Act of 2010 into law on October 13, 2010.  The new legislation will require federal government agencies to draw up a plain language action plan, and to train staff to write plain English, within the next 6-9 months.  Under the act, documents from agencies must be in plain English: clear, concise, well-organized, and appropriate to the subject and audience.

Congressman Bruce Braley of Iowa, who sponsored the Plain Writing Act of 2010 (H.R. 946), has a press release that provides some background to the act.  The press release also includes these helpful examples about how government language would change (for the better!) by using plain language:

Examples of Plain Language in Use: Before and After

Here are three before-and-after examples of how plain language was applied to federal documents to make them easier to understand.  For more examples, see

Example #1: Medicare Fraud Letter (click link)

Example #2: FDA drug warning label (click link)

Example #3: IRS form (click links)



Congratulations to Congressman Braley, Joe Kimble, Annetta Cheek, and the Center for Plain Language for their support of this helpful legislation.  Click here for more information from the Center for Plain Language.

Click here to read the text of the Plain Writing Act of 2010.

Hat tip to Clarity.


The Legal Blog Watch has flagged this post and written more about the Plain Writing Act of 2010.  Click here for a look.

November 14, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)