Friday, April 29, 2011
This was the first year the LRW professors at Widener University have been eligible for five-year contracts. Now at their Harrisburg campus Ann Fruth has received a five-year presumptively renewable contract. And at their Wilmington campus, Doretta McGinnis, Ned Luce, and Micah Yarbrough all received five-year presumptively renewable contracts. Time to celebrate in both locations!
hat tips: Anna Hemingway and Mary Ellen Maatman
Thursday, April 28, 2011
How many times have you sat around arguing about specific provisions of the bylaws for the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research? Well those days are gone! You can now download your OWN PERSONAL COPY of the section bylaws!!! (Yeah!!!)
The section membership approved the revised bylaws in January at the2011 AALS Annual Meeting in San Francisco. The AALS executive office reviewed the new bylaws and has now told us that the changes have been approved. Download AALS Legal Writing Bylaws 2011
Mark E. Wojcik, Chair, AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Monday, April 25, 2011
Professor Jim McElhaney’s column in the April ABA Journal stresses the importance of good storytelling in written and oral advocacy and at various stages of litigation. Suggestions such as “don’t argue what you don’t believe” and “be plausible” are good tips for students as they write briefs and prepare for oral arguments.
Many legal writing professors answered a survey a couple of years ago on juggling work and family obligations. Now the results of that survey are included in a new book by Hollee Temple, West Virginia's legal writing director: The New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood.
In the book, Hollee shares her own experience quitting a law firm to find a more balanced life. Another mother featured in the book is Nikki Willliams, who ended up finding balance in her life as a legal writing professor at Georgia State.
It will be interesting to see how much of our own lives, mothers or not, legal writing professors see in this book.
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Over on the Feminist Law Professors' blog, Professor Nancy Leong reports on her research about the amount of publishing women law students are doing compared to men. She welcomes your comments, especially ideas as to why these discrepancies may exist. Since I can't get our automatic link creating function to work today, please click over to http://www.feministlawprofessors.com/2011/03/ten-years-of-student-notes/.
Saturday, April 23, 2011
A couple of articles worth noting, for and about students using WestlawNext:
Shawn G. Never, "WestlawNext: Westlaw's Next Generation Research System", 39 Student Lawyer 12-13 (Dec. 2010).
"Written for Student Lawyer magazine, this legal research column introduces students to Westlaw's newest iteration – WestlawNext. The author touches on several of WestlawNext's important features, including strengths and weaknesses of the new system."
"When Thomson Reuters debuted its WestlawNext legal research platform a year ago, many predicted that law students would prove to be the biggest fans of this 'googlized' version of Westlaw. And in the six months that the Next platform has been available to law students, anecdotal evidence has suggested that students are indeed abandoning the two major traditional platforms (Westlaw and Lexis) in mass numbers. However, no empirical study has confirmed this trend.
"In this study, I survey the four hundred first-year law students at the University of Texas School of Law to determine which database each uses most often, and what factors are taken into account in making the choice. Preliminary results indicate that the majority of students are using WestlawNext most of the time. When one considers that very few practitioners even have access to WestlawNext, the implications for the effective preparation of law students for the workplace are considerable.
"In this paper, I review the results of my survey and offer proposals as to how law schools can incorporate the seemingly addictive WestlawNext into their research curriculum while still ensuring that students will be effective when working with the limited resources available at the average law office."
hat tip: Nolan Wright
Friday, April 22, 2011
An interesting assessment of lawyers' competence appears in a recent Stanford Law Review article titled What Judges Think of the Quality of Legal Representation. Judge Richard Posner and University of Toronto law professor Albert Yoon surveyed both state and federal judges for their opinions about lawyers' competence. On a 5-point scale, the scores for overall legal representation were between 3 (fair) and 4 (good) for each group of judges.
Some of the data are especially relevant for legal writing professors. To remedy lawyers' generally mediocre performance, the judges' top suggestion by a wide margin was that law schools should include "more course work on pratice-oriented skills." The survey also revealed, again by a wide margin, that judges are more influenced by written argument than by oral argument.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Los Angeles lawyer Scott Bovitz recently compared today’s law practice with the practice when he got his J.D. in 1980. His observations about legal writing mention some well known changes like the demise of carbon paper and the adoption of on-line research. Possibly less well known is that lawyers are now acting as deputy clerks of the court who can make on-line docket entries (sometimes with unwelcome advocacy). And a few techno-savvy lawyers are dictating documents right into their computers, which type them out simultaneously.
Monday, April 18, 2011
Back in January, we commented on the legal writing roller coaster. Now it seems many of us are gearing up (pun intended) for the final uphill push, putting all the organizational pieces in place for 1L oral arguments, and then spending a week or so working intensely with our students in the courtroom. Here's wishing the best of luck to all the professors and students alike!
Alabama lawyer Andrew L. Brasher recently proposed ways to spiff up legal writing. Tips for More Conversational and Effective Writing, For the Defense 62 (January 2011). Brasher’s theme is “If you wouldn’t say it, why write it?” One of his suggestions is to avoid introductory “mumbo-jumbo” that wastes a valuable opportunity to get the court’s attention. He also advises against an error I see with increasing frequency in student papers: placing a comma after a coordinating conjunction.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
If you need a professionalism example for your students, look no further than this case (Download D Kan Order Regarding Professionalism ) out of the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas. And if your students conclude that professionalism no more than playing nice, that wouldn't be a bad conclusion to draw.
This is a busy time of year for legal writing professors, but on the theory you may be compiling a summer reading list, we'll continue bringing promising reads to your attention. Recently Anna Hemingway alerted us to an article she's co-authored with three other Widener University colleagues, Thurgood Marshall: The Writer. Here's their abstract:
"This article profiles Thurgood Marshall as a writer in his roles as an advocate and social activist, a legal scholar and a Supreme Court Justice. It examines the techniques that he used as a writer to inform and persuade his audiences in his life-long endeavor to achieve equality for everyone. This examination of Marshall’s legal, scholarly, and judicial writings can help lawyers, academics, and students increase their knowledge of how the written word profoundly impacts society. The article first studies his arguments and legal strategy in two early civil rights cases, University of Maryland v. Murray and Smith v. Allwright. It goes on to examine several letters Marshall wrote while he was working on Lyons v. Oklahoma, a murder trial where the prosecution sought the death penalty. It explains how his creativity as a legal strategist was fashioned of necessity as a young African-American lawyer representing African-American clients in a still segregated society. The second profile explores how the social context and the ethical dilemma that Marshall faced in drafting his brief in Brown v. Board of Education influenced his use of persuasive writing techniques. It shows how Marshall’s choices as a writer accomplished an effective strategy that was simultaneously principled and practical. The article then considers Marshall as a moral activist by examining his speech and writing on the occasion of the Bicentennial Celebration of the Constitution in which he famously refused to applaud it. It compares the contemporaneous reaction to his stance to the consequent controversy about his position that arose during the Senate confirmation hearings of Marshall’s most famous clerk, Elena Kagan. Finally, the article looks at Justice Marshall as a writer in his dissent in Payne v. Tennessee, a capital sentencing case. It demonstrates that by choosing to attack the assumptions underlying the majority’s argument, he was able to craft a broad and powerful writing in which he not only advocated his position opposing the death penalty, but also defended a panoply of individual rights that he believed essential to attaining and maintaining his aspiration of equality for everyone."
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
The Association of American Law Schools (AALS) is holding a workshop for new legal writing professors and new directors of legal writing programs, June 22-23, in Washington, D.C. The programming will cover how to: teach in the classroom, design assignments, assess student work, hold effective conferences, design your course, pursue legal scholarship, and deal with status issues. For more information, click here.
If you scroll down Scott Fruehwald's SSRN page, you'll see a number of practical articles that are actually lessons on legal writing and editing. The topics include editing for wordiness, active and passive sentences, paragraphing, sentence structure, emphasis, and clarity. Each lesson includes exercises to help the reader apply the information right away, so these articles can be very helpful for students or lawyers who need help with a particular topic. (You'll also see some intriguing other titles that Scott has authored.)
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Monday, April 11, 2011
Congratulations to Anthony Niedwiecki, Director of the Lawyering Skills Program at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, who has just been elected as the next President-Elect of the Association of Legal Writing Directors. He will begin as ALWD President-Elect (vice president) in August 2011 and become president in August 2012.
Here are the election results
- President-Elect: Anthony Niedwiecki (The John Marshall Law School-Chicago)
- Treasurer: Susan Thrower (DePaul)
- Kirsten K. Davis (Stetson)
- Teresa Godwin Phelps (Washington College of Law, American University)
- Ruth Anne Robbins (Rutgers-Camden)
Mark Hale and Ken Lowery, founders of a twitter feed that pokes fun at the Associated Press Stylebook, have published a book titled Write More Good. According to a review, the book features “snarky observations . . . and writing tips so awful they’re good—or at least hilarious.” Interviews with the book's authors and with a site contributor are available on line.