Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A short article on plagiarism

Some helpful guidelines about plagiarism appear in Mary Dunnewold’s recent article Plagiarism: ProceedDunnewold,-Mary with Caution. The piece includes some suitably cautionary anecdotes, like the story of a law graduate who plagiarized his graduation speech and may find his bar admission compromised as a result. Dunnewold includes two different definitions of plagiarism, one from Princeton University’s website, which says plagiarism is “the use of any source, published or unpublished, without proper acknowledgement.” One of the article’s suggestions is that students put an original aside before beginning to paraphrase it, thus eliminating the temptation to copy language without quotation marks. Dunnewold’s article is short and aimed at students, who may find its concise explanations useful. It’s available in hard copy in the September 2011 Student Lawyer magazine or, with a password, from the ABA website.

(jdf)

November 30, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Posner Takes a Swing

The 7th Circuit issued an opinion last week that married the bench slap to the photo-opinion.  Judge Posner called out an attorney, by name, for failing to cite controlling precedent in both his opening and reply brief (the WSJ Blog has the attorney's response here).  Posner showed no mercy to counsel, writing that "The ostrich is a noble animal, but not a proper model for an appellate advocate."  The opinion went on to include photo illustrations of the concept:

Ostrich7thAtty7th

I posted earlier this year about the use of photographs in motions and asked if their use was effective or gratuitous.  I pose the same question about Posner's use of photographs in this opinion.

Another question Posner's opinion raises is whether calling counsel out by name in an opinion reflects poorly on the judiciary as well as the offending lawyer.  If the error is egregious enough, perhaps memorializing the misconduct forever in the pages of the Federal Reporter is appropriate.  If you read between the lines of Posner's opinion, you can see that he reserves the "naming" treatment for who he deems the worst offender.  Another attorney is let off the hook. 

The very real possibility of being called out by name by Richard Posner doubtless has a deterrent effect on attorneys practicing in front of the 7th Circuit.  Perhaps this is good for the public and the professsion so long as the shaming is meted out with appropriate judicial temperment and caution.  It also has the potential to derail careers if used inappropriately.  I asked earlier this year whether bench slap orders were a good or a bad thing.  My opinion is that it depends on the order and the circumstances giving rise to it.  But with the great power that comes from the abiltiy to publish potentially viral orders on the internet, comes great responsiblity in deciding who, and how hard, to bench slap.

hat tip for passing the order along: Joseph Mastrosimone

(dbb)

November 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

another LRW job opening

LawbuildingThe University of Kentucky College of Law invites applications for two newly-created, full-time faculty positions to teach in the legal research and writing program beginning in the 2012-2013 academic year. A successful candidate will teach two or more sections of the legal research and writing course for first-year law students. The course is a year-long, four-credit course that introduces first-year law students to legal writing, analysis, and research. Law librarians teach the research component of the course, which is approximately 1 of the 4 credits. Thus, the new faculty members must be able to work collaboratively with other faculty involved in the legal research and writing program.

The positions offer an initial contract as Assistant Professor of Legal Research and Writing (clinical title series) for a term not to exceed three years. After the initial appointment period, the successful candidate will be eligible for renewable, five-year appointments. The salary will be commensurate with experience. The appointment is a nine-month, academic year appointment. 

Qualified candidates will have a J.D. degree from an ABA-accredited law school, a distinguished academic record, strong analytical, writing, and research skills, and substantial legal-practice experience (a minimum of two years is strongly preferred). Candidates must also possess a commitment to students and to teaching in the legal writing field, which involves significant student interaction and evaluation of students’ written work.

Applicants should submit a cover letter, C.V. or resume, writing sample, and at least three references to Professor Rutheford B. Campbell, James & Mary Lassiter Professor of Law, Chair, Faculty Appointments Committee, at the University of Kentucky College of Law, 235 Law Building, Lexington, Kentucky 40506-0048, or at tiea.roper@uky.edu.  Applications should be received by January 18, 2012. 

For further information, please contact Professor Melissa Henke, Director of Legal Research & Writing, at melissa.henke@uky.edu or (859) 257-0481.

1.  The position advertised may lead to successive long-term contracts of five or more years.
2.  The professor hired will be permitted to vote in faculty meetings (with some limitations).
3.  The school anticipates paying an annual academic year base salary in the range $60,000 - $89,999.
4.  The number of students enrolled in each semester of the courses taught by the legal research & writing professor will be 31- 50.      

hat tip: Melissa Henke

(spl)

 

November 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

LWI One-Day Workshops this Coming Friday

LWIMore than 300 persons will be attending one of the Legal Writing Institute workshops at various locations around the country this Friday, December 2, 2011.  There is still time to register and attend a program near you!  Here is a list of the workshop locations:

  • California:  Loyola Law School, Los Angeles
  • Florida:  University of Miami
  • Georgia:  Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School
  • Illinois:  Chicago-Kent College of Law
  • Massachusetts:  Northeastern University School of Law, Boston
  • Minnesota:  Hamline University School of Law
  • Missouri:  University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law
  • New York:  Brooklyn Law School
  • Ohio:  The Ohio State University
  • North Carolina:  Campbell University Wiggins School of Law, Raleigh
  • Pennsylvania:  Temple University Beasley School of Law, Philadelphia
  • Tennessee:  University of Memphis Humphreys School of Law
  • Washington, D.C./Northern Virginia:  George Mason University School of Law, Arlington, Virginia
The topics covered in the workshops have been expanded to include four areas during the day.  Some locations will have slightly different topics or times.  The program in Minnesota will include a field trip to West Publishing.
 
1.  Teaching Legal Writing [9:00 to 10:20 a.m.] (including topics such as creating problems, grading, selecting materials, conducting paper conferences, and including other assignments as part of the research and writing course). 
2.  Teaching Persuasive  Writing, Appellate Advocacy, and Moot Court [10:40 to noon] (including materials, practice sessions, and guidelines for moot court practices and competitions).
3.  Legal Research Update [2:00 to 3:20 p.m.] (including updates on new research methods and materials that you and your students need to know).
4.  Other Innovations [3:40 to 5:00 p.m.] (a potpourri panel that will differ at each location, where individual speakers and faculty roundtables can discuss classroom teaching innovations, scholarship opportunities, effective use of researh assistants, and other subjects of interest to legal research and writing faculty).
 
The workshops have been a great opportunity for legal writing faculty around the county to meet and share new ideas.  Adjunct faculty who are often unable to travel have found the sessions to be particularly valuable, but as you can see from the topics they are now designed for all legal writing faculty.  The programs have also been of interest to persons who are thinking about entering the legal writing academy as teachers. 
 
The one-day workshops are a fundraiser for the Legal Writing Institute to allow it to continue its many fine and important programs.  Attendees are asked to pay a $100 registration fee, which will be donated to the LWI.  Click here to register.
 
(mew)

November 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 28, 2011

LRW job opening

Law-school-frontHofstra University School of Law invites applications for a position as an assistant/associate professor of legal writing.  This is a  full-time faculty position with renewable contracts potentially leading to eligibility for presumptively renewable five year contracts.  

Applicants must have a J.D. degree and have demonstrated excellence in legal research, writing, and oral communication skills.  Hofstra is particularly interested in applicants with previous experience teaching legal writing, though this is not a requirement.  
 
Interested applicants may send via email only a cover letter, resume, writing sample, and references to the attention of the secretary to the hiring committee, Ryan Duck, Ryan.Duck@Hofstra.edu. In the subject line, include the words “Legal Writing.”  Applications will be received until January 11, 2012.

1.  The position advertised may lead to successive long-term contracts of five or more years. Position complies with ABA Standard 405(c). 
         
2.  The professor hired will be permitted to vote in faculty meetings on all matters except appointments, reappointments, and promotion. 

3.  The school anticipates paying an annual academic year base salary in the range $70,000 - $89,999.

4.  The number of students enrolled in each semester of the courses taught by the legal research & writing professor will be 41 - 45.

hat tip: Amy Stein

(spl)

 

November 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

LRW profs are everywhere

Mcelroy.ashxTo read Lisa McElroy, legal writing professor at Drexel, being quoted in a New York Times article on whether U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments should be televised, click here.

hat tip: Sarah Ricks

(spl)

November 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Images1The editors and contributors of the Legal Writing Prof Blog wish all of our readers a restful and tastey Thanksgiving Day.

November 24, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

legal writing giftlist?

Aba_underscoreIf you're looking for some gift ideas for a lawyer or law student, the ABA has a list of books it publishes that would make good gifts here.

(spl)

 

November 23, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

quotable

Images"Rewriting is really just the middle name of writing."

~ Francis Ford Coppola, interviewed at the June 2010 Toronto Film Festival

 

(spl)

 

 

November 22, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

NYT: Law Schools Don't Train Lawyers

The New York Times' latest anti law school piece, What They Don't Teach Law Students: Lawyering, has ignited a cross-discipline discussion about how to best train young lawyers.  As the dust settles over the blogosphere, I thought I would summarize the action here for those who haven't been following it live.  The gist of the NYT article is that law students spend all of their time studying abstract and arcane theory rather than practical skills.  The article goes on to criticize the role of traditional legal scholarship in the contemporary academy.  The piece's author, David Segal, summarizes the modern legal education:

[Law students] have each spent three years and as much as $150,000 for a legal degree. What they did not get, for all that time and money, was much practical training. Law schools have long emphasized the theoretical over the useful, with classes that are often overstuffed with antiquated distinctions, like the variety of property law in post-feudal England. Professors are rewarded for chin-stroking scholarship, like law review articles with titles like 'A Future Foretold: Neo-Aristotelian Praise of Postmodern Legal Theory.'

Over at the Legal Skills Prof Blog, Scott Fruewald, responded by acknowledging that progress still needs to be made:

Despite the efforts of the Carnegie Report, Best Practices, LWI, ALWD, etc., there has been and will continue to be resistance to change, both by law professors and students.  Since we need to make changes in all law school classes, all professors will have to change their teaching methods, but I think a lot of this can be accomplished by a new type of casebook--a casebook that includes cases, skills exercises, drafting exercises, and practical problems...Of course, we have to also convince our students to take these courses.  While such courses might require more work on the students' part, they should also be more interesting.

Prawfsblog, meanwhile, has had several posts (here, here, and here) responding to the criticism of legal scholarship in the NYT piece.  Michael Hefland makes the interesting point that while some law review articles are arcane, the purported victims of the cost of worthless scholarship are the very individuals who select it for publication in the first place:  students.

And while many law profs bemoan the submission process, it seems worth noting that students are the ones who select the articles.  So it seems fair to say that, at least to some degree (professors may very well shape what their students consider good scholarship), students play a major role in the type of scholarship that law schools reward. 

And the listerves are buzzing with responses to the NYT article.  While I won't breach listserve etiquette by quoting or naming anyone, the responses comprise a few basic arguments.  First, law schools are doing a much better job of skills education than they did years ago.  Second, legal writing professors have played a major role in advancing skills in contemporary legal education (although they get no credit for having done so in the NYT article).  Third, doctrinal knowledge is critical to understanding the arguments that you would make using skills developed in skills classes.  Fourth, the legal reasoning taught in traditional doctrinal classes is critical in forming young legal minds.

Many are dissatisfied with inaccuracies and incompleteness in the NYT article, but the debate the article has provoked is interesting and necessary.

(dbb)

November 22, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

LWI One-Day Workshops for Legal Writing Faculty

The Legal Writing Institute will hold one-day workshops at various locations around the country on Friday, December 2, 2011Registration is now open.  Here is a list of the law schools confirmed to host:

  • California:  Loyola Law School, Los Angeles
  • Florida:  University of Miami
  • Georgia:  Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School
  • Illinois:  Chicago-Kent College of Law
  • Massachusetts:  Northeastern University School of Law, Boston
  • Minnesota:  Hamline University School of Law
  • Missouri:  University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law
  • New York:  Brooklyn Law School
  • Ohio:  The Ohio State University
  • North Carolina:  Campbell University Wiggins School of Law, Raleigh
  • Pennsylvania:  Temple University Beasley School of Law, Philadelphia
  • Tennessee:  University of Memphis Humphreys School of Law
  • Washington, D.C./Northern Virginia:  George Mason University School of Law, Arlington, Virginia
The topics covered in the workshops have been expanded to include four areas during the day.  Some locations will have slightly different topics or times.  The program in Minnesota will include a field trip to West Publishing.
 
1.  Teaching Legal Writing [9:00 to 10:20 a.m.] (including topics such as creating problems, grading, selecting materials, conducting paper conferences, and including other assignments as part of the research and writing course). 
2.  Teaching Persuasive  Writing, Appellate Advocacy, and Moot Court [10:40 to noon] (including materials, practice sessions, and guidelines for moot court practices and competitions).
3.  Legal Research Update [2:00 to 3:20 p.m.] (including updates on new research methods and materials that you and your students need to know).
4.  Other Innovations [3:40 to 5:00 p.m.] (a potpourri panel that will differ at each location, where individual speakers and faculty roundtables can discuss classroom teaching innovations, scholarship opportunities, effective use of researh assistants, and other subjects of interest to legal research and writing faculty).
 
The workshops have been a great opportunity for legal writing faculty around the county to meet and share new ideas.  Adjunct faculty who are often unable to travel have found the sessions to be particularly valuable, but as you can see from the topics they are now designed for all legal writing faculty.  The programs have also been of interest to persons who are thinking about entering the legal writing academy as teachers. Those presenting at the workshops have found them to be a great speaking opportunity too.
 
The one-day workshops are a fundraiser for the Legal Writing Institute to allow it to continue its many fine and important programs.  Attendees are asked to pay a $100 registration fee, which will be donated to the LWI.  As in past years, scholarships for attendees will be available to persons who cannot pay the registration fee.  Law schools who host these generously donate the facilities and often also donate coffee and lunch to make the day particularly wonderful for us. 
(mew)

November 20, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Open Memo Rules

 

From SMU's Student Follies.

hat tip:  Elizabeth Megale

(dbb)

November 17, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday Morning Presentations at the AALS Meeting

The annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools will be in Washington DC in January 2012.  This year the program features a huge number of legal writing presentations.  In addition to the full dayfield trip to the Law Library of Congress (including our section lunch and award presentations), our Friday section program, and our two joint programs on Friday afternoon and Saturday afternoon, we have a Sunday morning program with 16 additional speakers making 12 individual presentations.  The Sunday morning program will last from 9 a.m. to noon, so when you are making your return travel arrangements from Washington, D.C. please pick something after 2 p.m.

Presentations were chosen by the program committee, which was magnificently chaired by Professor Lurene Contento of The John Marshall Law School. The presentations below were selected on an anonymous basis, based only on the quality of the submission.  I'm really looking forward to this panel of Sunday Morning Superstars.

Here's the list of presenters chosen for Washington D.C., together with tentative working titles for the papers.  Congratulations to everyone whose proposal was selected.  Thank you, also, to the others who submitted but we weren't able to use.  We were blessed this year with an abundance of submissions.

Sunday, January 8, 2012
9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning and Research
Delaware Suite A, Lobby Level, Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel

Legal Writing in the 21st Century:
Practical Teaching Tips for Legal Skills Professors

This special three-hour panel presents practical exercises and teaching tips for professors of legal writing, reasoning, and research. A total of 16 selected speakers in 12 different presentations will share their experiences and ideas for innovative and engaged teaching. Attendees can expect to take away materials and ideas that they can use for teaching in the spring semester and beyond. Audience members will be encouraged to share additional teaching tips and ideas,

Part 1:  Teaching Digital-Age Students

  1. Kristen Konrad Tiscione, Georgetown University Law Center -- “Digital Media”
  2. Sarah J. Morath, University of Akron, C. Blake McDowell Law Center -- “Mini Email Memo”
  3. Elena Margolis and Kristen E. Murray, Temple University, James E. Beasley School of Law -- “Information Literacy”
  4. Lisa A. Penland and Melissa H. Weresh, Drake University Law School -- “Pro E Communication”


Part 2:  Student Assessment Tools

  1. Carrie Sperling, Arizona State University, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law -- “Meaningful Assessment”
  2. Lisa Black, California Western School of Law -- “Reflective Writing”
  3. Hilary Stirman Reed and Mireille Butler, Pepperdine University School of Law -- “Clearing the Bar: Methods and Benefits of Teaching the Bar Exam Performance Test”
  4. Jenean M. Taranto and Rosemary Queenan, Albany Law School -- “Meeting with the Partner: Learning to Organize and Draft Meaningful Legal Arguments in the Objective Memo Through Oral Discussion.”


Part 3:  Fun and Useful Exercises

  1. Amy R. Stein, Hofstra University School of Law -- “All the News to Print”
  2. Jodi S. Balsam, New York University School of Law -- “Material Facts Game”
  3. Louis J. Sirico, Jr., Villanova University School of Law -- “Back Story”
  4. Heidi Brown, New York Law School -- “Casey Anthony Vignette”

(mew)

November 17, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

LWI One-Day Workshop in Atlanta, Georgia

LWIThe Legal Writing Institute is holding One-Day Workshops on Friday, December 2, 2011, at 13 locations around the country.  Here's a message about the program being held that day in Atlanta, Georgia:  
We hope you will consider attending the LWI One-Day Workshop at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School. We are really excited about our line-up of experienced and newer faculty members who will be presenting on legal writing, research, advocacy, upper-level drafting, and professional development topics. 
Early winter is a wonderful time to experience Atlanta and the weekend of December 1-4, 2011 is no exception.  Within walking distance of our school is the High Museum of Art, which has an amazing modern art exhibit up – from Picasso to Warhol.  The Atlanta Symphony is across the street from the High Museum; there is a performance of Handel’s Messiah on Thursday evening (December 1) and a gospel performance on Friday (December 2).  Also during this time, The Fox, our historic downtown theater, is hosting performances of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.
Other things to do include seeing the holiday lights at our Botanical Gardens, ice skating at Centennial Olympic park, and riding the pink pig (a quaint holiday tradition at our flagship Macy’s department store).  And don’t forget that Atlanta is the foodie capital of the South.  We have some of the best restaurants and chefs in the country, with a burgeoning focus on farm-to-table dining. The Woodfire Grill, Bacchanalia, Miller Union, and Holeman & Finch Public House are just a few of the outstanding restaurants Atlanta has to offer.
Also keep in mind that traveling to Atlanta is usually inexpensive, given that we are a hub destination for many airlines. We have set up a conference rate of $109-$119 a night at the Artmore Hotel, a boutique hotel just steps away from the law school.  To reserve a room, please call Jessi Ford at 404-201-7555 and mention that this is an AJMLS event. We hope to see you in Atlanta! 

Hat tip to Lucille Jewel from Atlanta's John Marshall Law School.

There are 13 locations available on December 2, 2011:

Please register using the online links for each location listed at http://www.lwionline.org/lwi_conferences.html.  Registration is $100, which is a donation to the Legal Writing Institute.

(mew)

November 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Comma, comma, who's got a comma?

I sometimes think students believe it doesn’t matter where they place commas. But that’s not so for Apple, which stated in a recent pleading, "Apple denies that its correct name is Apple, Inc. The correct name of Respondent is Apple Inc." The company has prided itself on attention to detail, and I'm sure careful thought went into deciding whether to include a comma in its name. Students could take a cue from Apple's success!

Hat tip: Jan Levine

(jdf)

November 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

"Clearly" is clearly too weak

CooneyAs I grade memos, I find instances of a common problem: use of the word “clearly” to modify a point that has little or no support. A recent article by Professor Mark Cooney of Thomas M. Cooley Law School explains why the word is so ineffective: it’s overused, and to sophisticated legal readers, it signals a gap in the writer’s logic.  Cooney recommends putting “because” in the sentence instead. That will prompt the writer to back up the point with specific support.

(jdf)

November 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

LWI One-Day Workshops for Legal Writing Faculty

The Legal Writing Institute will hold one-day workshops at various locations around the country on Friday, December 2, 2011Registration is now open.  Here is a list of the locations:

  • California:  Loyola Law School, Los Angeles
  • Florida:  University of Miami
  • Georgia:  Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School
  • Illinois:  Chicago-Kent College of Law
  • Massachusetts:  Northeastern University School of Law, Boston
  • Minnesota:  Hamline University School of Law
  • Missouri:  University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law
  • New York:  Brooklyn Law School
  • Ohio:  The Ohio State University
  • North Carolina:  Campbell University Wiggins School of Law, Raleigh
  • Pennsylvania:  Temple University Beasley School of Law, Philadelphia
  • Tennessee:  University of Memphis Humphreys School of Law
  • Washington, D.C./Northern Virginia:  George Mason University School of Law, Arlington, Virginia
The topics covered in the workshops have been expanded to include four areas during the day.  Some locations will have slightly different topics or times.  The program in Minnesota will include a field trip to West Publishing.
 
1.  Teaching Legal Writing [9:00 to 10:20 a.m.] (including topics such as creating problems, grading, selecting materials, conducting paper conferences, and including other assignments as part of the research and writing course). 
2.  Teaching Persuasive  Writing, Appellate Advocacy, and Moot Court [10:40 to noon] (including materials, practice sessions, and guidelines for moot court practices and competitions).
3.  Legal Research Update [2:00 to 3:20 p.m.] (including updates on new research methods and materials that you and your students need to know).
4.  Other Innovations [3:40 to 5:00 p.m.] (a potpourri panel that will differ at each location, where individual speakers and faculty roundtables can discuss classroom teaching innovations, scholarship opportunities, effective use of researh assistants, and other subjects of interest to legal research and writing faculty).
 
The workshops have been a great opportunity for legal writing faculty around the county to meet and share new ideas.  Adjunct faculty who are often unable to travel have found the sessions to be particularly valuable, but as you can see from the topics they are now designed for all legal writing faculty.  The programs have also been of interest to persons who are thinking about entering the legal writing academy as teachers. Those presenting at the workshops have found them to be a great speaking opportunity too.
 
The one-day workshops are a fundraiser for the Legal Writing Institute to allow it to continue its many fine and important programs.  Attendees are asked to pay a $100 registration fee, which will be donated to the LWI.  As in past years, scholarships for attendees will be available to persons who cannot pay the registration fee.  Law schools who host these generously donate the facilities and often also donate coffee and lunch to make the day particularly wonderful for us. 
 
 
(mew)

November 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

save the date -- 2012 Western Regional LRW Conference

Homepagebanner_fall2011The University of Oregon School of Law we will be hosting the 2012 Western Regional Conference for legal writing professors on August 10th and 11th. As more information about presenting and attending becomes available, we will post it here. For now, you can mark your calendar for a trip to beautiful Eugene.

hat tip: Liz Frost and Megan McAlpin

(spl)

 

November 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thoughts About Traditional Student Writing Conferences

As student writing conferences begin to wrap up for the semester, several realizations about successful writing conferences are on my mind.  This year I employed the traditional writing conference model by reading drafts in advance, providing comments to the student before the writing conference, and then meeting one-on-one to discuss the draft.  While the debate about the efficacy of this traditional model of conferencing vs. live-conferencing is ongoing, this post is meant to address the traditional model and not that debate.

 

First, a successful conference in the traditional model requires a prepared student and a prepared instructor.  Students who have not reviewed drafts or have not thought sufficiently about what they need from the conference will not get as much out of the process as those who have.  As a result, pre-conference instructions about how to prepare are critical.  Believe it or not, many of my first-year students made it out of undergrad without ever having discussed their writing with a single instructor.  So the concept of a writing conference is foreign and scary to many of them.  Some basic instructions about what to expect and how to prepare for it (e.g. read the draft and think of questions you have about how to improve it) go a long way toward a successful interaction.

 

Second, the conference needs to be interactive.  It is easy, especially in the face of an unprepared student, to simply lecture about writing during the conference.  But your student will tune you out as surely as if you were lecturing in a class of one hundred.  Thus, it is critical to build a conference structure that allows for interaction.  Guided questions about each section of a memo or brief can bring the student into the fold.  But narrow questioning and agenda setting can also stifle interactivity.  Kristen Murray and Christy DeSanctis posted an article several years ago on SSRN, The Art of the Writing Conference: Letting Students Set the Agenda Without Ceding Control, that addresses the balance between structure and interactivity.

 

 Finally, students and professors must work to create a professional, positive, and collegial environment that allows for the effective exchange of information.  From the professor’s end, maintaining appropriate positivity is critical.  Many students have never received individual writing criticism and can be crushed by too heavy a hand.  At the same time, professors must impart reality because failing to do so is the ultimate disservice to students.  Likewise, students need to engage the session in a professional manner.  Addressing professionalism in the writing conference is another great use of pre-conference instructions.  This year, I found that several students were distracted by their own technology.  Thus, even though I provide comments electronically, in future semesters I am going to require that students bring a printed copy of their draft to the conference to mark up by hand.  Mousing around on a computer screen to look for a paragraph or comment is a poor way to use valuable conference time.

 

After all the writing conferences are finished, I always feel exhausted but convinced that one-on-one instruction is the most important part of the semester for writing students.  And I always learn as much, or more, than they do.

 

(dbb)

November 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The importance of legal writing courses

Law and reorder coverHenryDeborah Epstein Henry’s recent book Law and Reorder covers the difficulties of achieving a work-life balance. But one particular section of the book will be of special interest to legal writing professors: Henry's list of core competencies for lawyers. At the top of Henry's list, which she adopted from Peter Sloan’s book From Classes to Competencies, are the subjects that form the basis of our courses: written communication, oral communication, and research and analytical ability. This is just one more source supporting the importance of legal research and writing courses.

(jdf)

November 10, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)