Saturday, February 20, 2010

Terri LeClercq Visits Chicago This Week as the First Ralph Brill Distinguished Visitor

LeClercq 2We reported last year about the appointment of Terri LeClercq as the first Ralph L. Brill Distinguished Visitor at Chicago-Kent College of Law.  Click here to read that post.  The law school actually established a Ralph L. Brill Professor of Law Chair to recognize the contributions of one of the nation's most well-known and best-loved heroes of legal writing, but the school decided to go with short-term visitors for the moment until it fills that Chair. 

This photo a Terri was taken in January by David Austin (California Western School of Law) at the Friends of Legal Writing Luncheon.

Terri LeClercq was a Senior Lecturer in Legal Writing at the University of Texas School of Law and Director of the University of Texas Law International Programs.  She was also a Distinguished Visiting Professor at The University of Alabama Law School and at the University of Nevada Las Vegas Law School.  LeClerq Book Terri is the author of Guide to Legal Writing Style (4th ed. Aspen 2007), and I understand that she's planning a new edition of that to be co-authored with Karin Mika.  Her other writings include Expert Legal Writing (Univ. of Texas Press 1995), and perhaps 90 articles on writing in various publications (including the  Second Draft, Perspectives, Scribes, various bar journals, and the Legal Writing: The Journal of the Legal Writing Institute).  She has been a speaker at countless programs, including as the plenary speaker at several of the National Legal Writing Institute conferences.   

Within the Legal Writing Institute, Terri established the "Terri LeClercq Courage Award" to recognize outstanding acts of courage in the legal writing community.  Terri hersefl deserves the award for coming to Chicago in February (and arriving on the morning of a snowstorm expected tonight). 

Brill, RalphI just finished having a great Sunday brunch with Terri, her husband Jack, and Ralph Brill.  It was a warm welcome to Chicago (if such a thing can be done in Chicago in February).  Terri's husband, Jack Getman, is the Earle E. Sheffield Regents Chair Professor at the University of Texas Law School and one of the country's most illustrious Labor Law professors. 


Welcome to Chicago, Terri (and Jack) and congratulations again to Ralph Brill on hosting her as the first Ralph Brill Distinguished Visitor.


Events scheduled for this week include a legal writing faculty roundtable on Monday afternoon at The John Marshall Law School, a reception at Chicago Kent on Monday evening, meetings with law review editors and moot court teams, and a roundtable on Friday with legal writing professors from the Chicago-area law schools.



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

Friday, February 19, 2010

Anthony Niedwicki Named as New Director of The John Marshall Law School Legal Writing Program

Niedwiecki, Anthony SThe John Marshall Law School in Chicago announced today that Anthony Niedwiecki will be the next Director of the school's Lawyering Skills Program.  Anthony is presently an Associate Professor and Director of the Lawyering Skills and Values Program at Nova Southeastern University, Shepard Broad Law Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Anthony received his B.A. from Wayne State, his J.D. from Tulane, and an LL.M. from Temple.  He was the Managing Editor of the Tulane Law Review.  He was a commercial litigation attorney with Mayer Brown & Platt (in their Houston office) and a labor and employment attorney with Gardere & Wynne (Dallas).  He was a lecturer and later an Assistant Professor at Temple University.  He also taught at Arizona State before joining the faculty at Nova Southeastern. 

Anthony brings to John Marshall many years of directing a large and vibrant program.  Congratulations to Anthony (and to The John Marshall Law School).


February 19, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

LWI President-Elect (in a New Orleans Saints Football Jersey)

I lost the bet Why is Ken Chestek, a legal writing professor at the University of Indiana-Indianapolis and  President-elect of the Legal Writing Institute, wearing a New Orleans Saints football jersey?  Because he made a bet with Mary Algero, a legal writing professor at Loyola University in New Orleans and President-elect of the Association of Legal Writing Directors as to whose team would win the Superbowl.  The loser had to don the other side's jersey, have their photo taken at the classroom podium, and post the photo on Facebook for a week.  The loser also has to wear the jersey to the other writing organization's board meeting in Marco Island at LWI's conference in June.  Get used to that Saints shirt, Ken!


February 19, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Law Librarian BlogTalkRadio hosting discussion of WestlawNext

From the Law Librarian Blog:

The Law Librarian Blogtalkradio program will discuss WestlawNext, NCCUSL and other timely topics of concern to law libraries, law librarians, legal bibliography and the profession during today's episode at 2:00 PM Central. The call-in number during the live broadcast is 347-945-7183

I am the scholarship dude.


February 19, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Scholarship alert: "The Ethics of Contract Drafting"

This article is by Professor Gregory M. Duhl of William Mitchell College of Law. It's forthcoming in the spring edition of the Lewis and Clark Law Review but for now can be found on SSRN here.

From the abstract:

This Article provides the first comprehensive discussion of the ethical obligations and duties to non-clients of lawyers drafting contracts. It discusses fraudulent representations, errors, fraud, and "conscious ambiguity" in transcription, as well as "iffy" and invalid clauses, and argues that the standard for lawyer misconduct under the disciplinary rules should be consistent with the purposes of contract law, one of which is to promote trust between contracting parties. Additionally, the Article discusses lawyer liability for negligence to non-parties in contract drafting and contends that lawyers should be liable to non-parties only when they are third-party beneficiaries to the contract between the lawyer and client for the lawyer‘s services. The Article concludes by arguing for a functional set of ethical rules for lawyers drafting contracts that reflect the increasing emphasis on cooperation, rather than competition, in the contracting process.

Hat tip to Professor May Beth Beazley.

I am the scholarship dude.


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

Inside the belly of the beast - the Chicago Manual of Style's "scary" online forum

The Chicago Manual of Style recently launched an online forum where you can get answered any and all of your writing style questions.  The problem is, as Inside Higher Ed reports, many people are so intimidated by the forum's fastidious readers that they're afraid to post:

Just two weeks after its Feb. 2 launch, The Chicago Manual of Style Online’s new discussion forum already features numerous discussions with titles like “ ‘Predecessor to’ or ‘predecessor of’ “? and “Worst online punctuation abuse?” But the most popular thread thus far is titled “I’m afraid to post here.” Its first message: “Could there be a more intimidating place to post?”

Other commenters echoed that sentiment: “I do fear a grammatical error in posts here because even if everyone is polite enough to ignore it they will surely notice it,” fretted one.

On the positive side, the nascent forum is proving to be an invaluable resource to writers everywhere.

[U]sers can ask any and all style-related questions ("Is there a rule about using whether or if?") and receive quick responses from others, often citing the Manual itself ("From CMOS 5.202: determine whether; determine if. The first phrasing is irreproachable style; the second is acceptable, though less formal"). The press hopes that this function will finally bridge the long-standing gap between the number of questions that Chicago users submit to its Q&A each month (hundreds, Gibson said) and the number that editors can answer (about 10 every month). But the forum isn't limited to the nitty-gritty of copy editing; it also includes sections where users can post their questions on author relations ("How does one deal with the frustration of continually correcting the same differences in usage without losing one's temper or alienating the writer?"), professional development ("Have you ever taken a class in copyediting?") and the publishing industry ("How can publishers best utilize Facebook and Twitter for marketing purposes?"), as well as, of course, miscellaneous ("Best way to develop good grammar habits?"

You can read more here.

I am the scholarship dude.



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

Scribes Program on "Legal-Writing Tips from Top Experts"

Picture 125 Dickerson, Darby Kimble, Joe Scribes--The American Society of Legal Writers--will hold a free legal writing seminar from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. on Friday, March 5, 2010 (to be followed by a reception).  The program will offer "sound, practical tips for writing clearly in all legal papers, preparing effective memos and briefs, [and] drafting contracts and rules."

Panelists will include some of the superstars of legal writing: Darby Dickerson (Dean of Stetson University College of Law and author of the ALWD Citation Manual), Bryan Garner (pictured at left; he's the President of LawProse, Editor of Black's Law Dictionary, and author of many many many many writing books), Joe Kimble (pictured at right; he's a Professor at Thomas Cooley Law School and editor-in-chief of the Scribes Journal of Legal Writing).  The moderator will be Professor Mary Rose Strubbe of Chicago-Kent College of Law (whose picture I sadly don't have).  The program will be held at the Chicago-Kent College of Law, 565 W. Adams Street, Chicago.  Click here for more information.  Download Writing Seminar 2010 Flyer.  There does not appear to be an RSVP list.


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

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Is WestlawNext calibrated to allow novice legal researchers to find the results they need?

On today's Law Librarian Blog, Joe Hodnicki has reprinted a message from Westlaw sent to the law librarian listservs in response to questions raised by bloggers about the new WestlawNext research platform.  Although I haven't yet taken it for a test-drive, WestlawNext is supposed to provide users with a more "Google-like" search experience.  Apparently it does so by employing an algorithm that generates a list of the most relevant results based on the user's search query. (Perhaps WestlawNext - like Google - "learns" the idiosyncrasies of its user and adjusts the search results accordingly).

One of those very clever law librarian-types thought to ask Westlaw whether the algorithm takes into account the unsophisticated search queries of novice law students.  Thus, the question implies that 1L's might have more problems generating meaningful search results from WestlawNext than they would if, for instance, they were searching for shoes on Google (the response, below, implies that WestlawNext search results are more accurate than if the algorithm took into account novice missteps and thus WestlawNext rewards the skill and experience of the researcher). 

It's an excellent question although as a practical matter I don't think it changes much about how we'll teach legal research next fall.  Regardless of the search engine, the biggest hurdle is teaching students to "think" like a lawyer as a prerequisite to being able to formulate appropriate search queries.  Like writing, the teaching of legal research is dependent on students having some foundational understanding of the substantive law that is the subject of their search.

Questions relating to inexperienced researchers informing the search results. This is a really interesting discussion. I talked to the technology team behind WestlawNext, and student research was never to be part of the algorithm to inform search results. It was a very good question though, and I wish we had spoken to it in our original discussion about the artificial intelligence technology.
WestlawNext is an entirely new platform, and we worked hard in the days around launch to provide the right information to the right individuals. I think we all understand now that there will be questions popping up for awhile as people ask smart questions and as strategy and planning unfold.
We will continue to scan the blogs and listservs for comments that reveal gaps in the discussion, and I will try to speak to those points on a regular basis on Legal Current, the corporate blog for Thomson Reuters, Legal. I invite your questions and comments and I appreciate being part of the discussion.

Westlaw is actively reading the blogs to better understand what questions and concerns you have so please feel free to let them know by posting your questions in the comments section below.

I am the scholarship dude.


February 16, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Another update from Westlaw on when academics can expect to receive their WestlawNext passwords

Westlaw has been monitoring the blogosphere buzz on WestlawNext and knows both law librarians and profs are anxious to learn when they'll be getting new passwords.  As reported by the Law Librarian Blogtoday, a Westlaw representative responded with a message sent to the AALL's listservs (I guess legal writing prof listservs don't rate) providing the following update:

There has been a lot of conversation around WestlawNext these past couple weeks. Overall, we are pleased with the attention that WestlawNext has generated. When we went down this path, five years ago, we began with the question, "how can we make doing legal research and practicing law easier for our customers?" That is still our goal, and I’m happy that our work toward this end is something that you also find interesting.
Recent commentary from the librarian community has been mostly very thoughtful, as I would expect, and related to product strategy, rather than the posts of the past couple weeks that spoke mostly to features and functionality.
There are [two] points I’d like to address, where it seems speculation has been incorrect and has understandably caused concern:
Rolling out WestlawNext to law firms. Our sales team will make trials of WestlawNext available to customers based on customer needs and priorities. Customers can learn more about WestlawNext by visiting
Rolling out WestlawNext to law schools. In a previous note, I said that we would begin showing WestlawNext to law schools in a phased rollout of trial passwords, beginning with librarians and faculty this spring, and that we were making plans for launching WestlawNext to law students, with possible introduction as early as the Fall 2010 semester. It appears that it was understood by some that this meant that WestlawNext would be in all law schools by the fall of this year. To be clear, we are still determining timing for our rollout to law schools, and will work closely with law schools and the legal profession overall with the goal of helping them make better potential lawyers as we have always done.

So for now, we sit tight and wait for further word from the legal research deities in Eagan.

I am the scholarship dude.


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

Green Bag announces legal writing awards for 2009 - Ginsburg, Roberts and Souter make the list.

File this story under "better late than never."  Somehow I missed the original announcement back in early January so thanks to our good friend Mitch Rubinstein of the Adjunct Law Prof Blog for tipping me off to this.

The Green Bag, a self-described "unconventional" law review, is devoted to excellent legal writing.  To that end, the publications gives several annual awards to those who have demonstrated exemplary legal writing over the past year.  According to the Blog of the Legal Times:

Among the winners are three Supreme Court justices: Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and now-retired Justice David Souter.

Souter's award is perhaps the most notable due to the brevity of what he wrote: a two-sentence concurrence in a mostly overlooked ruling from April, United States v. Navajo Nation.The ruling was a defeat for the Navajos in a long-running dispute over royalties under a coal lease. It was a sequel to a 2003 ruling by the same name, which was also a loss for the tribe. Souter's simple and eloquent concurrence (joined by Justice John Paul Stevens,) went like this: "I am not through regretting that my position in [the first case] did not carry the day. But it did not, and I agree that the precedent of that case calls for the result reached here."

Roberts won for his forceful anti-drunk-driving tract in his dissent from denial of review in Virginia v. Harris, and Ginsburg won for her majority opinion in United States v. Hayes, a statutory interpretation case heavy with references to syntax and grammar. 

Other winners in the jurist category include the Honorable Alex Kozinski of the 9th Circuit and the Honorable Frank Easterbrook of the 7th Circuit.  Non-jurist winners include book authors: 

Amy Bach for her "Ordinary Justice," Annette Gordon-Reed for "The Hemingses of Monticello," and David Post for "In Search for Jefferson's Moose." 

In the news and editorial categories, Eugene Fidell, Dahlia Lithwick, Kermit Roosevelt, and Jeffrey Toobin were winners. The finalists were picked from among books and articles nominated by a board of advisers (disclosure: including the author of this blog post.) The winning entries will be published in full or in excerpts in the Green Bag's forthcoming legal almanac for 2010. Among other winners were Solicitor General Elena Kagan and law professors Lani Guinier, Pamela Karlan, Frederick Schauer, and G. Edward White.

You can read the rest here.

I am the scholarship dude.


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

Monday, February 15, 2010


Here's one I wish some legal writing students would take to heart.:

"I try to leave out the parts that people skip."

~ Elmore Leonard

February 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

the neuroscience of persuasive legal writing

1620403_big The ABA had published a new book on How Brain Science Can Make You a Better Lawyer, by David Sousa.  It seems like information we should start incorporating in legal writing instruction.  Here's a summary of the book, from the ABA's bookstore website:

"Recent studies of the brain offer information, strategies, and insights that can make you more successful as a lawyer and a professional. In recent years, discoveries in Neuroscience and cognitive psychology have revealed more and more about how the human brain learns. On a daily basis, lawyers are involved in changing someone's brain. That may sound dramatic, but that's exactly what happens when the human brain learns and remembers information--it is changed for a long time, perhaps forever.

"Whether it is with a client, arbitrator, colleague, judge, or jury, lawyers are usually arguing a point, explaining a rule, or defending a position in an effort to teach or convince the listener. Consequently, the more lawyers know about how the brain works, the more likely they are to be successful at helping it to learn and remember.

"Now you can add these discoveries and insights on the human brain to help make you more effective with the clients they serve, and be more persuasive in front of a judge or jury. This is information rarely taught in law schools. Lawyers need new approaches in order to communicate with juries composed of members acclimated to today's technological world. Learn what appeals to the brain and apply it in your day-to-day practice with this unique and informative book."


February 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)