Friday, May 20, 2011

Advice on brief writing

 Porto_Full  Vermont legal writing professor Brian Porto recently published Improving Your Appellate Briefs: The Best Advice from Bench, Bar, and Academy. Among Porto’s practical suggestions are to use “narrative persuasion” in the statement of the case and write an argument section that flows logically like a stream.


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

Western Regional LRW Conference

Registration is now open for the 2011 Western Regional Conference, which the University of San Francisco School of Law is hosting on August 26-27, 2011. Professor Richard Wydick, the author of Plain English for Lawyers, will be the conference's keynote speaker.

If you'd like to present at the conference, too, send your proposal here.

hat tip: Grace Hum


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

Thursday, May 19, 2011

LRW profs are movin' up!

As the spring semester has been coming to a close across the U.S., we’ve gotten lot of good news about legal writing professors:

Jennifer Shepard, at Mercer University, received the Eisenberg Prize from the American Academy of Appellate lawyers, for the best article on appellate practice and procedure. Her prize-winning article is Once Upon a Time, Happily Ever After, and in a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Using Narrative to Fill the Cognitive Gap Left by Overreliance on Pure Logic in Appellate Briefs and Motion Memoranda.

At Rutgers University in Camden, Carol Wallinger, who already had clinical tenure, was promoted from Clinical Associate Professor to Clinical Professor. Jason Cohen was awarded clinical tenure, which at Rutgers means a five-year presumptively renewable contract. And Ruth Anne Robbins has been promoted to the position of Director of Lawyering Programs.

Kirsten Dauphinais, at the University of North Dakota, received the 2011 North Dakota Spirit Faculty Award, for her outstanding contributions in teaching, scholarship, and service. The University of North Dakota Foundation awards just one faculty member per department or school annually.

Suzanne Rowe received the 2011 Hollis Teaching Award at the University of Oregon. That award takes into account both peer reviews of teaching and students’ teaching evaluations. The University of Oregon has also finished the process of promoting Suzanne to full Professor.

McGeorge University has adjusted the faculty status, contracts, and titles of its full-time LRW professors. They now have a career path from Assistant Professor of Lawyering Skills to Associate Professor of Lawyering Skills to full Professor of Lawyering Skills. Four of them were put on presumptively-renewable five-year contracts right away: Mary-Beth Moylan, Stephanie Thompson, Ed Telfeyan, and Hether Macfarlane. Others will be eligible next year.

The law faculty at Stetson University voted to grant tenure to their LRW Director, Kirsten Davis.

Olympia Duhart and David Cleveland, at Nova Southeastern University, were promoted to the rank of full Professor.

And at the University of Missouri – Kansas City, the law faculty voted in favor of having all of the legal writing professors vote at faculty meetings and in favor of a smaller class size for LRW class. Both changes will improve the professional lives of Wanda Temm, Barb Wilson, Judy Popper, and Dan Weddle.

When it comes to legal writing professors making progress, it seems resistance is futile! Congratulations to you all!






May 19, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

mentoring for women law profs

The AALS Section on Women in Legal Education has upgraded its mentoring program and made it easy for you to access it via a new website. (Since 75% of the people who teach legal writing in the U.S. are female, this information seems germane to this blog.) Whether you are looking for a mentor or want to volunteer to be a mentor, check out the new and improved WLE mentoring website. You might want advice on law teaching, legal scholarship, or attempts to achieve some kind of work-life balance, and want to hear from someone who has been there and done that. Or perhaps you are the one who has been there and done that and have some advice to offer. Either way, take a look!

Hat tip: Melissa Marlow


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

Twelve steps for judge-friendly briefs

A recent bar-journal article by Michael A. Greene, an Oregon practitioner and judge pro tem, offers twelve steps for writing “judge-friendly” briefs. In addition to urging lawyers to write in plain, direct English, Greene suggests including an alternative to the preferred result, because a fallback position may aid the court.

I do disagree with two of Greene’s suggestions. One is to place citations in footnotes.  In that running controversy, I come down on the side of citing in the text, which is the accepted practice in most legal writing. As a wag once said, if humans were supposed to write footnotes, our eyes would have been placed vertically instead of horizontally. But I agree with Greene’s other recommendations about citations, including to cite only the most significant cases and to focus on the leading case. 

Greene also suggests using the present tense. He doesn’t give examples of how this would play out, but if he means putting past events in the present tense, I strongly disagree. If the injury in a precedent case occurred five years ago, it would be too informal and may even be misleading to write, “Then the plaintiff slips on a banana peel.”  (Yes, this post is written in the present tense.  My reasons: a blog post is less formal than a brief, and Greene’s article is quite recent.)

The article is worth a read and may spark some useful discussion.


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

Monday, May 16, 2011

Reminder: LWI 2012 Conference Proposals

Proposals for the 2012 Biennial Conference of the Legal Writing Institute are due June 6, 2011.  To submit a proposal, please go to:  

Mark E. Wojcik (Member, LWI Board of Directors)

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

Celebrating 50 Years of Ralph Brill

Chicago-Kent College of Law celebrates the 50th teaching anniversary of Professor Ralph Brill on Thursday, July 21, 2011 at the Chicago Cultural Center, which is one of the most beautiful buildings in Chicago.  The event starts with a reception at 5:30 p.m. and a program at 7:00 p.m.  There is probably some rsvp contact information, but unfortunately I don't have any of that . . . so just plan on crashing the party and blame me later. 

Congratulations Ralph!


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

remember to nominate students for the Milani Award

As you finish grading your law students' end-of-the-semester papers, remember to nominate the best ones for the Milani Award.

Mercer University and the ABA host this annual writing competition in honor of Mercer’s former legal writing professor, Adam Milani. It is one of the few student competitions for briefs – not academic papers. The prizes can be as high as $1,000. And the students don't have to write anything extra.

Here are this year’s topics:
-disability law
-the Civil Rights Act of 1964
-Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972
-the Age Discrimination in Employment Act
-the Family and Medical Leave Act or
-a state statute or municipal ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The deadline for submission is June 1, 2011. Further information is posted on the Mercer website at

hat tip: Sue Painter-Thorne


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

What's Not to Like? Sheila Simon on Facebook!

Simon, Sheila 2


Legal writing professor and book author Sheila Simon was elected as the Lieutenant Governor of Illinois. If you "like" that, please take a moment to "like" Sheila Simon on Facebook. Click here or use this link




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

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Seven New Members Added to the Executive Committee for the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research

The Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research of the Association of American Law Schools announce that the Section has added seven additional members to its executive committee.  Their term starts immediately and continues until January 2012, when a new executive committee will be elected at the Section's Business Meeting.

The new executive committee will be comprised of these persons:

Charles Calleros, Arizona State University, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Tempe, Arizona
Christy DeSanctis, The George Washington University Law School, Washington, D.C.
Karin Mika, Cleveland State University, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Cleveland, Ohio
Craig Smith, University of North Carolina School of Law, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Jo Ellen Lewis, Washington University School of Law, St. Louis, Missouri
Sarah Ricks, Rutgers School of Law, Camden, New Jersey
Jane Scott, St. John’s University School of Law, New York

who join these section officers in serving on the Section's Executive Committee

Martha Pagliari, DePaul University College of Law, Chicago (Immediate Past Chair)
Judith Rosenbaum, Northwestern University School of Law, Chicago (Secretary)
Kathleen Elliott Vinson, Suffolk University (Chair-Elect)
Mark E. Wojcik, The John Marshall Law School, Chicago (Chair)

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