February 27, 2010
Rankin moving to Seattle
hat tip: Laurel Oates
February 25, 2010
Franklin Pierce Law Center Gets $1 Million Gift to Help Students Write Clearly
Franklin Pierce Law Center in New Hampshire has received a record $1 million gift to create the Mort Goulder Professorship of Legal Writing from the Goulder Family Foundation. The Goulder Professorship will help train Pierce Law students to express legal concepts in clear, concise, plain language.
“Mort envisioned Pierce Law continuing to lead in the transformation of legal writing education. He wanted legal communications to be more accessible and understandable to non-legal communities,” said Dean John D. Hutson of Franklin Pierce Law Center. “Anyone who knew Mort knew how important straight talk and accessibility were to him. Through this gift, he wanted to take the jargon out of lawyer/client communications, leveling the playing field, you could say.”
Goulder, a physics graduate of MIT, founded, directed, and later served as vice president of Sanders, which grew into a billion-dollar business in defense electronics. While there, he originated and managed the divisions that invented the word processor. From 1973 to 1977, he served as the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Warning. He worked later as a consultant and investor in the high-tech industry. In addition, he founded a small business investment corporation and The Breakfast Club, a group of high-tech entrepreneurs who invested in more than 50 start-ups.
In 1983, Goulder joined the Board of Trustees at Franklin Pierce Law Center and served until his death in 2008. “I think he was attracted to the school’s entrepreneurial spirit,” says Doug Wood, a member of the school’s first graduating class in 1976 and now chair of its Board of Trustees. “Here we were, just barely out of the Bull Barn that was our first campus, shaking up the legal world with our concept of teaching law by letting students have supervised experience. While the limit of Intellectual Property at other schools was patent litigation, our students were drafting patents from A to Z while still in school. We were breaking new ground when Mort came aboard, and through his gift, we’ll continue breaking new ground in legal writing—a legal skill that crosses all practice areas.”
Hat tip to Terri LeClercq
Adapted from a press release from the Franklin Pierce Law Center
Print subscriptions for law reviews way down
According to a recent study by Professor Ross Davies of George Mason University School of Law, subscriptions rates are in decline, in some cases precipitously so. For example, the Harvard Law Review has seen its subscription numbers fall from 8,760 in 1979 to 2,029 in 2009. The Yale Law Journal has experienced a similar decline.
Professor Davies offers several explanations for the trend:
- Readers don't need to subscribe when they can get the same content online from Lexis, Westlaw, Heinonline and even open source sites.
- The core audience for law reviews has shrunk as their target readership has moved away from practitioners and towards academics.
- Specialized journals may be siphoning away readers - especially members of the bar - who might otherwise subscribe to a general interest law review.
- Law schools aren't purchasing multiples copies to distribute to faculty members when a single copy placed in the faculty lounge will do.
Professor Davies is quick to point out that declining paid subscriptions doesn't necessarily mean that readership is declining. "It's possible," Davies said, "that more people are reading reviews than before because so many are available online."
I am the scholarship dude.
February 24, 2010
Scholarship alert: "What's on your playlist? The power of podcasts as a pedagogical tool"
It is six in the morning and a law student is walking her dog before beginning a full day of classes. Across town a few hours later, a classmate rushes onto a crowded subway train, forced to stand sandwiched between strangers during his commute to school. That afternoon, an evening student sits in rush hour traffic, hoping to make it into the city in time for class. Later that night, a student jogs on a treadmill at the gym after a long day of school. What do all of these students have in common? They are learning by listening to their professors' podcasts. Even though they are located in different places, at different times of the day, while their hands or eyes may not be free to open a book to study, they can still listen and learn. This Article discusses how and why professors can use podcasts to enhance their students' education. Podcasts provide students with an opportunity to listen to their professor outside of the time and space constraints of the classroom. This Article discusses the accessibility, portability, and simplicity of using podcasts. Whether a student is a night owl or a morning person, whether she prefers to listen on her iPod or MP3 player, burn a CD, or listen to it on her computer, the student decides when, where, and how she will listen to the podcast on her own terms and timetables. The Article also examines the benefits and challenges of using podcasts. Finally, it illustrates how professors can use podcasts as a teaching tool to reach today's multi-tasking, technology-savvy student in a different way than traditional classroom teaching methods. Now instead of just listening to rock, pop, jazz, country, or any other musical genre, students can add their law school podcasts to their playlist.
I am the scholarship dude.
Global Legal Skills Conference Starts Today in Monterrey Mexico
The fifth Global Legal Skills Conference (GLS-V) starts today in Monterrey, Mexico. The conference is being hosted by the Facultad Libre de Derecho de Monterrey, which hosted the conference two years ago. (Last year the Conference was hosted by Georgetown University Law Center in Washington DC).
The conference attracted more than 200 participants (including many law students from Mexico) who came from 14 countries.
February 23, 2010
Model jury instructions now prohibit jurors from using social media during a trial
You may not communicate with anyone about the case on your cell phone, through e-mail, Blackberry, iPhone, text messaging, or on Twitter, through any blog or website, through any internet chat room, or by way of any other social networking websites, including Facebook, My Space, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
Read further commentary here regarding why the revised instructions should also include an explanation to jurors about why they aren't being allowed to use social media during trial.
I am the scholarship dude.
Lexis sees revenue and profits decline in 2009
Why does this matter? Among other reasons, Lexis is a very good friend to legal writing profs everywhere since it sponsors the publication and distribution of the Journal of the Legal Writing Institute.
In a very detailed post, Joe Hodnicki of the Law Librarian Blog explains that Lexis saw revenue drop by 4% in 2009 while operating profits fell by 14%. The numbers are expected to be down this year too:
For LexisNexis, '[t]he core law firm business was flat in the US and marginally lower internationally reflecting the downturn in the legal industry whilst US directory listings were well behind the prior year as firms cut back on directory spend. Corporate, government and academic markets were lower,' according to Reed Elsevier's press release announcing the Company's 2009 financial results. Operating margins are expected to be lower in 2010 due to a weak revenue environment and spending for product development and its back-office infrastructure.
Whether, and to what extent, this news will affect the support Lexis (and Westlaw) provides to the legal writing community - both inside the classroom and extracurricularly - remains to be seen. However it shakes out this year, remember that you heard it here second.
I am the scholarship dude.
Scholarship alert: "Lawyer as Professional Writer."
By Brandon J. Harrison, esq. and available in 62 Ark. L. Rev. 725 (2009). From the introduction:
Lawyers are professional writers. If you practice law in Arkansas or anywhere else in the world, then you are by any practical definition a professional writer. Accept it or not, it's true. Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe told a packed room during the most recent Arkansas Bar Association's annual meeting that lawyers are professional communicators. Governor Beebe's remarks were spoken to encourage--no, admonish is the better word--his audience to stand up for Arkansas and argue for the merits of what our State has accomplished, and what it will accomplish in the future. I nodded in agreement because I liked the point the Governor made and because his theme echoed an idea that has percolated in my mind for a few years now. Lawyers are professional communicators. We should take this fact seriously. Today, I concentrate on the written word.
More than two decades ago, in the Harvard Law Review, Steven Stark voiced his concern in plain, if not caustic, terms:
If you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, you don't need a literary critic to know how badly most legal prose is written. You need only turn to any page of most legal briefs, judicial opinions, or law review articles to find convoluted sentences, tortuous phrasing, and boring passages filled with passive verbs.I disagree with some points Stark made in his article, Why Lawyers Can't Write. For example, I don't believe that lawyers, as a professional class, intentionally use “doublespeak” and “jargon” to “convince the world of [our] occupational importance, which leads to payment for services.” Nor do I believe that “[e]very time lawyers confound their clients with a case citation, a ‘heretofore,’ or an ‘in the instant case,’ they are letting everyone know that they possess something the non-legal world does not.” Yet, Stark is by no means alone in his general criticism. And his main point, which is that lawyers should write better, hit home.
ALI honors for Brad Clary
Legal writing colleague Brad Clary, from the University of Minnesota School of Law, was recently elected to the American Law Institute. Election to the ALI is considered one of the highest honors in legal education.
hat tip: Professor Pa
hat tip: Professor Pamela Lysaght, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law
Hey, I'm Going to the LWI Conference at Marco Island. Which Airports Can I Fly To?
The Legal Writing Institute (LWI) Biennial Conference will be held June 27-30, 2010 at Marco Island, Florida. Click here for information about the LWI conference, including information about registration, hotels, and transportation to the conference hotel.
SEE UPDATES BELOW AND ALSO READ THE VERY HELPFUL COMMENTS TO THIS POST WITH ADDITIONAL ADVICE FOR YOUR TRAVEL TO FLORIDA
Fort Myers Airport (RSW) is 52 miles away (about an hour's drive) from Marco Island. It is a nice airport and easy to navigate. The LWI conference website has information about shuttle service from RSW to Marco Island. Click here for that transportation information.
UPDATE FROM ROBERT VOLK: Naples Airport (AFP) is even closer to Marco Island. It is less than 19 miles (about 30 minutes) away.
So here's some information to share with you about other airports. This is not "official" LWI information; these are just my own thoughts after visiting the conference hotel last year with other LWI Board Members. I flew into Ft. Meyers (RSW) last time and rented a car (which was cheaper than the shuttle). [But keep in mind there's a daily parking fee at the hotel.]
If you don't mind driving an extra hour (or more if you stop for birdwatching or to look for alligators in the everglades), you can also fly to Miami (MIA) which is 103 miles away from Marco Island (a drive of about two hours and five minutes), or to Fort Lauderdale (FLL) which is 117 miles away (about two hours). Check it out on Mapquest or whatever other website you use. Both of those airports are the other side of the state, but the drive is not bad and can be quite interesting.
UPDATE FROM ANTHONY NIEDWIECKI: In the comments to this post, Anthony Niedwiecki (who was recently featured here in a post about his new position at The John Marshall Law School) shared this gem of local knowledge: Even though Fort Lauderdale airport is further, it will take much less time than traveling from MIA. It is almost a direct trip (very easy and quick) across Alligator Alley from the FLL airport, while you will be stuck in traffic if you come from MIA. My experience is that flying into FLL or Fort Myers will cost less than flying into MIA. Anthony Niedwiecki
Keep this in mind too-- depending on where you live and when you want to arrive, you may more frequent flights and even better deals by looking at various airport options.
If you know the area and have additional advice, please leave a comment for us on this post. Please check out the comments already posted too.
ANOTHER POSSIBILITY: Robert Volk reminded me as well about Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) which is 137 miles (2 hours 18 minutes) away (and also on the West Coast of Florida).
ANOTHER UPDATE from Kirsten Davis: Flying through Tampa is also an option, particularly if you want to include Disney or Universal Studios in your trip. It is a much longer drive to Marco Island (about 3 hours, 185 miles) than from Ft. Myers, but the flights likely will be more plentiful than to Sarasota, Ft. Myers, or Naples, and the Tampa International Airport is about 90 minutes from Walt Disney World in Orlando. So, if you want to make Disney a part of your trip, you can fly to Tampa, drive to Marco, drive back to Disney, and fly home from Tampa. Orlando would also be an option, except you would need to add 90 minutes or so to your initial drive to Marco Island. (See the comments below for more information from Kirsten Davis, including her contact information as well for specific questions you might have).
- Fort Meyers (RSW)
- Naples (AFP)
- Fort Lauderdale (FLL)
- Miami (MIA)
- Sarasota (SRQ)
- Tampa (TPA)
The photos here are of the conference hotel. They are provided courtesy of Professor Suzanne Rowe.
Open the COMMENTS to this post for additional helpful travel tips.
February 22, 2010
University's online writing lab is co-opted by commercial tutoring service
Insider Higher Ed is reporting that an online writing lab developed by Purdue University to help undergrads improve their writing skills has been co-opted by a commercial tutoring service called Tutor.com through a web-practice called "framing." University officials are upset by what they view as copyright infringement since the online writing lessons are part of the school's intellectual property and thus can't be used without permission.
Purdue officials view framing as an unfair use of their material. They sent Tutor.com a "cease and desist" letter, claiming the company’s framing of its Web pages amounted to a copyright violation. “We encourage people to link to our Web site,” Tammy Conard-Salvo, associate director of the writing lab, told Inside Higher Ed. “But we don’t allow other sites to mirror our content.” Conard-Salvo said displaying OWL resources under the Tutor.com banner suggests that OWL endorses the company — an endorsement the Purdue lab is not keen to give. “It simply misrepresents our work,” she said. “It really suggests a relationship with a commercial entity that we don’t have.”
You can read the rest of the story here.
And for those readers who operate their own online writing program or resource center, as the above story shows, forewarned is forearmed when it comes to preventing others from "borrowing" your materials.
I am the scholarship dude.
"Top 10 Courtroom Movies of All Time"
Looking for a list of good courtroom movies? The court reporters' blog offers one.
hat tip: Carol Brown, editor, Court Reporter Schools Blog
good news from North Carolina!
from Ruth McKinney at UNC. . .Many of you know Craig well already from the many hats he has worn successfully in the legal writing community, not the least of which was as a recent past President of ALWD.
In addition, Jon McClanahan has accepted our Dean's offer to join the faculty as our new Director of SOAR (our third-year bar success program). Jon is one of our own top graduates who was instrumental as a student in starting our student-led Honors Writing Scholars Program. He has recently completed a clerkship with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. In his new capacity at Carolina, Jon will continue to teach in our first-year legal writing program but he is also developing a for-credit bar exam course and will coach third-year students as they prepare for the bar this summer.
Studying Error in Legal Writing (Terri LeClercq commends an article for your reading)
Terri LeClercq (who is visiting Chicago this week and making presentations at both The John Marshall Law School and Chicago-Kent College of Law) strongly recommends the following article, written by Professor Aida Alaka (pictured at right) of the Washburn University School of Law. Here's Terri's message:
I encourage everyone to take a few minutes to read Aida Alaka's article "Phenomenology of Error in Legal Writing." 28 Quinnipiac 1. Wow.
She builds her investigation on the ground-breaking empirical work of Anne Enquist, and then integrates many of our collegues' theories and practices into her own empirical study of why students don't seem to incorporate (our great) advice into their subsequent writing. Among other findings, she realized that "they did not understand the underlying rules applicable to their weaknesses. . . . Sending them to a grammar and style manual, without guidance, was largely ineffective. One-on-one lessons were more effective." She adds a bit of cheer for the writing specialists out there, however: "Addressing the phenomenon of persistently poor basic writing skills must occur in the legal writing classroom." This investigation may reiterate what we have suspected, but it is a stronger argument because it is based on semester-long interviews. It is solid. I hope some of you take up the investigation from here: it would be useful to have more control groups, more writing professionals with different types of students in the groups, etc. Do take a moment to read this article, and perhaps take that next step.
February 21, 2010
Legal Writing Institute Summer Conference at Marco Island
OK, we're going to be at a resort. But if you think for a minute that there will be any less content at this summer's LWI conference, you would be sadly mistaken. Click here to see the extraordinary program of offerings at the conference, which will be held at Marco Island Florida from Sunday June 27 to Wednesday evening, June 30, 2010.
The Conference co-chairs tell us that program promises to be fantastic. Here's what they posted to the Legal Writing Listserve:
The conference kicks off Sunday, June 27, with a golf tournament, an LWI board meeting, and the opening reception. Monday, the programs begin with a plenary session delivered by Professor Sophie Sparrow, who is known for her dynamic teaching and forward-looking approach to curricular reform. Throughout the conference -- whether through poster presentations, evening popcorn sessions, or traditional presentations -- you will find sessions that appeal to new and experienced teachers.
Some things are new. For example, if you are looking for new teaching ideas, consider the “Idea Bank Live” presentations; in each of those presentations, presenters will deliver three concrete teaching ideas in just one 75-minute session. Finally, this year, we are inviting practitioners to purchase a one-day registration for Wednesday; therefore, you will also find programming on Wednesday that appeals to both teachers and practitioners. We're looking forward to a great program.
Alison Julien, 2010 Conference Co-Chair
Joan Malmud Rocklin, 2010 Program Committee Co-Chair
Here is a link to the LWI conference website, which has lots of information (including how to reserve your hotel room). You can extend the special hotel rate for a few days on either end of the conference in case you want to take your family to the everglades or some other part of south Florida.
More commentary on teaching novice researchers to use WestlawNext
Last week we blogged about how the algorithm used by WestlawNext to lead legal researchers from search terms to search results doesn't take into account the perspective of novice law students. For legal research scholar Chris Wren, it raises again the same drawback that all user-indexed computer research engines pose; they lack the consistency and predictability of a common, discernible indexing system. The prescient words Chris and Jill Wren authored back in 1988 still hold true today:
The widespread use of computers to retrieve legal authorities based on words in their text diminishes the leveling effect that has resulted from the profession's reliance on a common indexing system. Indexes channel researchers dealing with similar facts and legal issues to a common pool of authorities; a researcher's level of skill at using the indexes affects mainly the amount of time required to find relevant authorities, not whether the researcher will find those authorities. When professionally indexed printed resources provided the only realistic avenue for locating legal authorities to support an assertion, all participants in a legal proceeding could, with a sufficient amount of diligence, reasonably expect to locate all or nearly all of the same authorities. But different researchers looking online for authorities addressing the same issue can create entirely different indexes and locate disparate pools of authorities; each researcher's results will depend on his or her skill at indexing online documents.
As the use of CALR services spreads, and in some places supplants the use of printed research tools, the special skills required to use the databases (and the possible need for assistance from specialists) will make gaining access to the law more difficult for some groups. Clients who cannot afford to hire lawyers in firms with the resources to devote to keeping on top of database searching, as well as laypeople who want to do their own legal research, will find their access to the law diminished in comparison to the access that would have been available through printed materials.
Chris worries that the problem faced by novice users of all CALR services might be compounded by those products that use an algorithm to generate results.
The more the research details get turned over to unseen computer algorithms, the more dependent the researcher becomes on the skill and insight of those who create the algorithms. That's especially dangerous for the novice, who, at the outset, stands a good chance of not seeding the algorithm with suitable search terms, and then likely does not have any experiential benchmark for assessing whether the algorithm has retrieved a relevant collection of documents or accurately ranked those documents.
It's always great to get the insights of a giant in the field like Chris. And you, our dear readers, are clearly the beneficiaries.
I am the scholarship dude.