Wednesday, August 31, 2011
The 500,000th visitor to the Legal Writing Prof Blog seems to have been Professor Rebecca K. Stewart, an Assistant Professor of Law at the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University in Houston.
We had lots of visitors from all across the United States right around that time -- from Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, New York and elsewhere. Thank you all for visiting the Legal Writing Prof Blog. We are happy that all of you find the information on our blog to be useful and interesting.
We thank you for your support of this blog and for sending us news of your publications, accomplishments, conferences, and other events.
The blog was started on November 4, 2005 by Nancy Soonpaa (Texas Tech University School of Law), Sue Liemer (Southern Illinois University School of Law), and Collen Barger (University of Arkansas at Little Rock, William H. Bowen School of Law).
Mark E. Wojcik (The John Marshall Law School) joined them later as a contributing editor and then as co-editor. He is also an editor on the International Law Prof Blog. Jim Levy (Nova Southeastern School of Law) joined the for a while (as "The Scholarship Dude") and now is an for the Adjunct Law Prof Blog and the Legal Skills Prof Blog.
The latest additions to the team are Judy Fischer (University of Louisville, Louis D. Brandeis School of Law) and Dustin Benham (Texas Tech University School of Law).
We all thank you for your continued support and friendship.
The Association of Legal Writing Directors and the Legal Writing Institute announced today that Suzanne Rowe, Director of the Legal Research and Writing Program at the University of Oregon, will receive the 2012 Thomas F. Blackwell Award, one of the most prestigious awards in the legal writing field.
Professor Rowe is a graduate of Columbia University School of Law, where she was a Stone Scholar. She Professor Rowe clerked a federal judge in the Southern District of California and then practiced law as a tax associate in Washington, D.C. Before joining the faculty at Oregon, she taught at the University of San Diego and Florida State University. She was a Luvaas Faculty Fellow from 2008 to 2010 and was named a Dean's Distinguished Faculty Fellow in 2010.
She is the co-author of five books on legal research is the editor of the State Legal Research Series published by Carolina Academic Press. She has a new book coming out on Federal Legal Research. She writes a monthly column, The Legal Writer, in the Oregon State Bar Bulletin, which takes a fresh look at writing problems.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
In a recent order (available here) a federal judge in Austin set a hearing on a motion to quash a subpoena to a third party. What makes the order unusual is that the court styles the upcoming hearing as a "kindergarten party" and also as "an advanced seminar on not wasting the time of a busy federal judge and his staff." Discovery disputes are often petty, and this can be especially true of third-party discovery disputes. But this order seems particularly harsh.
The document, as written, would be plainly inappropriate if a litigant filed it. And while it is the federal court's prerogative to draft orders in the language it chooses, does that latitude extend as far as this order? Should federal courts set the tone for civil and respectful writing through their own conduct in court? Or are attorneys fair game when they engage in gamesmanship? When I was in practice, some discovery disputes were so ridiculous that they deserved a smack down. This order definitely qualifies as a bench slap by every available measure.
UPDATE: Someone just forwarded a document that appears to be the motion to quash (available here) that triggered the order I describe above. Worthy of a bench slap? You be the judge.
Ross Guberman picked a list of the 50 most influential lawyers in the United States. He took samples of their writing and placed them into 50 different categories. And he published it all in a new book that analyzes their writing and gives tips about what makes that writing work. He called the book Point Made, and it's now available from Oxford University Press, which sent me a review copy.
Ross Guberman is the president of Legal Writing Pro, a company that conducts legal writing workshops for large law firms, corporations, government agencies, and bar associations. I haven't been to any of his seminars so I cannot tell you how they are, but if you've attended one of them please use our comment box to tell us how it was. But it's obvious that he takes his work seriously.
So who made his list of the 50 most influential lawyers? I won't put the whole list here (because then you would have no reason to look up his book), but they include these lawyers, judges, and professors:
- David Boies
- Alan Dershowitz
- Frank Easterbrook
- Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
- Justice Elena Kagan
- Barack Obama
- Ted Olson
- Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.
- Paul Smith
- Kathleen Sullivan
- Larry Tribe
Mr. Guberman takes excerpts from their writings (and of the others in the book), introduces them in 50 different categories, and then shows us examples of their writing and why he likes what they did. It's fascinating to see the examples he has chosen and to see how patent lawyers, ACLU lawyers, Kenneth Starr and others use the same writing techniques to produce powerful advocacy. It's a nicely done book that took quite a bit of work to assemble.
The paperback edition of this book costs only about twenty dollars. You can click here to order a copy from Oxford University Press if your law library doesn't already have a copy waiting for you. The ISBN number for the paperback edition is 978-0-19-539487-0.
Monday, August 29, 2011
Professor Gregory J. Scott of the University of Missouri School of Law died unexpectedly on Monday afternoon, August 22, 2011. He suffered a heart attack while on his way to teach an organizational ethics class on the first day of the new law school semester.
Professor Scott joined the faculty at the University of Missouri as an adjunct professor in 1996 and jointed the full-time faculty in 1999. Before he began teaching, he served in the litigation division of the Office of the Missouri Attorney General and as a litigator and real estate attorney in the Kansas City law firm of Swanson-Midgley.
Hewas a professor of legal research and writing and also taught in the Trulaske College of Business. His courses included Legal Research and Writing, Advocacy, Trial Practice, and other subjects such as Business Ethics and Corporations Law. He received the Graduate Professional Council's Gold Chalk Award for Excellence in Teaching. He also received the John A. Riggs, Jr., Excellence in MBA Teaching Award.
Greg was actively involved with scouting for more than forty years. He was an Eagle Scout and later became an adult leader of Troop 707.
The Dean of the University of Missouri School of Law, Larry Dessem, was quoted in an article by Janese Silvey in the Columbia Tribune:
“The width of Greg’s smile was only exceeded by the size of his heart, and just this past week we saw Greg at his best in welcoming our newest students to the Law School,” Dessem said. “Greg would have wanted us to remember him at his best and to smile through our tears. Please do so and say a prayer for someone who was such an inspiration and friend to us all.”
Professor John Mollenkamp, who shared the news of Greg's passing with members of the Legal Writing Listserve, also shared the following story about Greg, which we reprint here with his permission:
We extend our condolensces to Greg's family, friends, faculty colleagues, students, and the boy scouts who were such an important part of his life.
An obituary in the Columbia Daily Tribune stated that in lieu of flowers, Greg suggested contributions to Troop 707, c/o Laura Sandstedt, 501 Overland Court, Columbia, Mo., 65203, or the Central Missouri Humane Society, 616 Big Bear Blvd., Columbia, Mo., 65202. It also said that "You also can honor Greg by simply grabbing every opportunity to live life and help those around you."
Those interested in following the positions of the various U.S. Supreme Court justices will find a detailed statistical analysis of the 2010 term on SCOTUSblog. The blog reports that the Court split 5-4 in 20% of the merits cases for the term. Not surprisingly, the justice who most often voted with the majority was Justice Kennedy. Justice Ginsburg had the lowest percentage of votes with the majority. The blog's statistics include additional items like which circuit contributed the most cases to the docket (the Ninth) and which pair of justices most often agreed with each other (Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito).
Here is a reminder about the call for presenters for the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Law Schools. You may forward this message to colleagues who may be interested in presenting at the AALS Annual Meeting. The deadline is this coming Wednesday, August 31, 2011.
FIRST -- On Thursday, January 5, 2012, we have a field trip to the Law Library of Congress. Our program will allow for two or three members of our section to be additional presenters at the Law Library of Congress. (Really, how cool is that!) If you teach something relating to resources at the Law Library of Congress (for example, how to teach students to use THOMAS). We welcome your presentation proposals to be part of this special field trip day. Remember also that this is a ticketed event. Right now there are only 94 tickets left. We do expect to sell out.
SECOND -- We will have a section business meeting at 6:30 p.m. that Thursday evening (so go first to that the meeting and then go to the law school receptions). OK this isn't really a "speaking opportunity" as such but we do want to hear your ideas so I'm including it here too.
THIRD -- On Friday, January 6, the section will have a program from 10:30 am - 12:15 pm called "In the New Millennium, What Are the Best Practices in Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research?" All of the presenters will be selected from a call for papers. The section's program committee will select the presenters from the submissions received. They are also empowered to draft additional speakers for this particular panel.
FOURTH -- Later that Friday, we are co-sponsoring a panel with the AALS Section on Law and Interpretation from 4:00 pm to 5:45 pm. The speakers are already selected for that panel so that's all I'll say about it for the moment (because this is to remind you about speaking opportunities that are still open).
FIFTH -- On Saturday, January 7, the section is co-sponsoring a panel with the AALSSection on Graduate Programs for Non-U.S. Lawyers. The topic of that panel is "Legal Research and Writing for Non-U.S. Lawyers: What Resources Do Law Schools Need to Provide?" Presenters for that program will be selected from a call for papers. This program will be of particular interest to those of us who have students who speak English as a second language. Because it is a co-sponsored program the selection process will involve both sections. We are collecting submissions for the panel -- you may see an additional call for presenters from the AALS Section on Graduate Programs for Non-U.S. Lawyers.
SIXTH -- On Sunday morning, January 8, we have an additional three-hour session on "Legal Writing in the 21st Century: Practical Teaching Tips for Legal Skills Professors." Presenters for that program will also be selected from a call for papers. We may have a dozen or more presenters on Sunday morning -- the program will run from 9 a.m. until noon (so please keep that in mind when you are making arrangements for your return travel from DC). This Sunday morning slot is meant to offer additional speaking opportunities for as many section members as the program committee can accommodate. Presenters for this session should probably plan to speak for 10 minutes or less (although the program committee will make its recommendations based on the submissions received).
TO SUBMIT A PROPOSAL FOR ONE OF THE SESSIONS THAT ARE STILL OPEN please send an email to Professor Lurene Contentoat The John Marshall Law School in Chicago. Her email address is 9content [at] jmls.edu. Please include (1) your name, institutional affiliation, and contact information, (2) which panel(s) you are proposing to speak on, (3) a brief description of what you propose to present. Do this no later than August 31, 2011. The program committee will contact you for any additional information it might need when making its selections and recommendations.
The AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research is also sponsoring posters again this year. The deadline for posters is September 5, 2011. Send a short description of the poster and an actual electronic copy of the poster. The submission guidelines are available on the AALS website.
Mark E. Wojcik, Chair, AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research
Sunday, August 28, 2011
The Western Regional Legal Writing Conference wrapped up yesterday, and it is fair to say that it was an overwhelming success. USF Professors Grace Hum, Amy Flynn, Eugene Kim, Brian Mikulak, Gary Alexander and Monalisa Vu (along with any of their wonderful colleagues that I may be unintentionally omitting) deserve credit for putting on a relevant, timely, and smoothly run event. The conference, “How to Hit the Ground Writing: Meeting the Expectations of a Changing Legal Market,” featured a wide variety of presentations by legal writing professors. But as Professor Soonpaa noted in an earlier post, the conference also featured panel discussions with practitioners from different legal fields and practice settings.
The timing of the conference could not have been better considering rapidly evolving employer expectations in both the private and public legal employment markets. While many of us keep in contact with former colleagues in the real world, having a formal setting to exchange ideas about law students and recent graduates with practicing lawyers is unbeatable. In my view, getting professors and practicing lawyers together to exchange ideas serves several important interests.
First, practicing lawyers can tell the legal academy what they are looking for when hiring young lawyers. Not surprisingly, the panelists at the conference report that they like to hire self-starters with strong practical skill sets. Both law firms and public sector employers want graduates who have the ability to self-diagnose writing problems and fix them without much handholding.
Second, lawyers who hire recent graduates can provide critical feedback on the quality of skills training that law students receive in law school. Good news: At least some of the panelists reported that they have seen an increase in the quality of recent law school graduates’ writing skills during the past few years. Bad news: Recent graduates still struggle with legal writing. This report seems consistent with the expansion of some legal writing programs. But it is also consistent with the need for further expansion.
Third, practicing lawyers have great ideas about teaching law students skills. Because many new law grads still need to improve their writing, senior lawyers often find themselves in a teaching role. Some lawyers use examples and form files, others employ one on one mentoring, and some use good ol’ fashioned comment and revision to bring their younger colleagues’ writing around.
I am sure there are many other reasons to bring the practicing bar and legal writing professors together to discuss legal education. To be sure, the information the panelists provided is anecdotal, but it is a starting point for discussion and further inquiry. The broader point, I think, is that conferences incorporating the viewpoint of the broader profession should be the norm, not the exception. Kudos to Professor Hum and her USF colleagues for a great idea and well-executed conference.
A case settled in Kentucky. The court's order dismissing the case states that news of the amicable settlement "made this Court happier than a tick on a fat dog because otherwise it is busier than a one legged cat in a sand box and, quite frankly, [the court] would have rather jumped naked off of a twelve foot step ladder into a five gallon bucket of porcupines than have presided over a two week trial of the herein dispute, a trial which, no doubt, would have made the jury more confused than a hungry baby in a topless bar and made the parties and their attorneys madder than mosquitoes in a mannequin factory . . . ." Click here to see the order. Download Kentucky Court Order
Hat tip to Marcela Stras.
If you're weathering the hurricane, happen to have power, and want some literary perspective on your experience, click here. If you're far away from the hurricane and are already shuddering at the prose of your new 1Ls, you'll likely appreciate the great literature at that link, too.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
After the keynote address, we heard from the first panel, comprising lawyers from solo firms, public interest law, and the public sector. Professor Brian Mikulak (USF) moderated, and he led the group through a series of questions about what they see in our law students and what they'd like LRW profs to do to make students more prepared to enter the practice of law.
Here are some take-away points:
1. Students need to be more willing to use secondary sources like treatises. Instead, they like to Google (or use WestlawNext) and find "the answer," even though they often don't fully understand it due to lack of context.
2. They don't know how to write a decent summary of the argument in a brief.
3. They're not analytical enough . . . they don't think creatively about the law and the facts.
4. They're often too safe and not passionate enough to be effective advocates.
Friday afternoon started off with a keynote address by Richard Wydick, author of "Plain English for Lawyers." (But really, do I even need to say that? I was struck by a bit of hero worship upon meeting him in person!!) Professor Wydick engaged a crowd of about 50 conference attendees with a lesson on ambiguity and its elimination through careful word choice and sentence contruction (or as he labeled them, semantic and syntactic ambiguity).
He completely won over the crowd by telling us how lucky we are as LRW profs: we get to teach 1-L's, who are fun and willing to learn, and we get to teach them two of the most useful lawyering skills, how to research the law and how to write "legal things."
And we get to attend conferences and meet inspiring folks like him. Lucky indeed!
The Legal Practice Skills Program at Suffolk Law is trying out a Twitter feed, which you can find at @SuffolkLPS. They plan to use Twitter to send out links to students to supplement what they are learning in their LRW class. The content will provide links to news stories, cases, blog posts, etc., to help their law students recognize that what they’re learning in class is relevant to their future in the legal field. For their first tweet, they posted a link to a classic article on the nature of LRW courses, Suzanne Rowe’s Legal Research, Legal Writing, And Legal Analysis: Putting Law School Into Practice. If you or your students want to follow along, you are welcome to do so. And if you have any hot tips for content, send them to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
hat tip: Sabrina DeFabritiis
Friday, August 26, 2011
If you've gotten through the first harried week of the fall semester and already can't recall what the serenity of the summer felt like, click here to see some photos of legal writing professors enjoying relaxed exchanges at the ALWD conference in sunny Sacaramento in July. I just stumbled upon these while looking for something else online.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
There's a new website you can go to, Phraseup, clearly designed for those of us of a certain age who write a lot. If a word or phrase is stuck maddeningly on the tip of your tongue, but just won't come to you, type into Phraseup whatever partial information your brain is accessing at the moment. It will deliver a list of possibilities, where you may well find the word or phrase you're after.
hat tip: Candle Wester-Mittan
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
The Wall Street Journal Blog ran an interesting piece this week about new law firm training requirements for first year associates. Some firms now require associates to attend firm sponsored business education courses. These courses are cropping up as more and more big firm clients refuse to allow first year associates to work on actual cases. According to the blog, the new associates will “learn practical skills that many law schools don’t teach, such as creating power point presentations and computer spreadsheets” as well as “how to read balance sheets.” While I do not dispute the value of business skills, I am surprised that mandatory first year associate training at some law firms does not focus squarely on legal writing, including legal drafting.
When I visit with practicing lawyers and judges and ask them what they want to see in new lawyers, the answer is almost always “stronger writing skills.” Perhaps other post-graduate, law firm sponsored training focuses on writing. At my firm, we had ongoing first year training in both persuasive writing and legal drafting. Other firms take different approaches. I would be interested to know if anyone has conducted surveys or authored papers on the topic.
For those of you who are coaching teams in the 2012 Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition, here is a link to the competition schedule. The 2012 Jessup problem is expected to be released around September 12, 2011. Memorials will be due on January 10, 2012. Regional and national rounds will be held in January and February. The international rounds will be held in Washington DC from March 25-31, 2012.
Law schools like to tell others about the great things they are doing and the special visitors they have. In the magazine I've just received from the University of Alabama School of Law, I'm pleased to see that page 7 highlights a story called "Judge Carnes Gives Lecture on Legal Writing." Judge Edward Earl Carns serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. It's nice to see that the law school appreciates the imporantance of legal writing by holding the event and by publicizing it later.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
If you haven't yet had a look at the latest newsletter for the Association of American Law Schools Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research, click here. Download AALS-LWRR 2011-1 Newsletter It's 22 pages long with information about upcoming legal writing events, news of section members, award photos, and articles of interest to legal writing faculty. The editor was Judy Rosenbaum of Northwestern University School of Law.
Mark E. Wojcik, Chair, AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research