Friday, June 10, 2011
To honor the 50th anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird, the ABA Journal and the University of Alabama School of Law are holding a competition for the first Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. It seems, however, that readers of legal fiction are not happy with the nominees. When you check out the story about the competition, be sure to scroll down to the comments.
Thursday, June 9, 2011
The latest issue of the Scribes Journal of Legal Writing (Volume 13) is a gold mine of Supreme Court justices’ observations about brief writing and oral argument. Several years ago, legal writing expert Bryan Garner conducted video interviews with eight justices. Garner graciously posted these videos on line, and many law professors have taken advantage of their availability.
Now the interviews are in print. Nearly two hundred pages of nuggets about writing grace the current issue of Scribes. Among the observations I found interesting was Chief Justice Roberts’ assertion that “the only good way to learn about writing is to read good writing.” Many of the justices stressed the importance of conciseness; Roberts said he has yet to finish a brief and wish it were longer. Interestingly, Justice Scalia seldom reads a brief’s summary of the argument, while Justice Thomas likes that section. But Thomas never reads statements of facts—he gets the facts from the court of appeals opinion.
Volume 13 is available on line, which means readers can use the search feature to find particular topics.
Garner and Scribes editor Joseph Kimble have done the legal profession a great service by making these interviews so readily available.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Many legal writing professors have experience that would be relevant for the AALS Section on Women in Legal Education's session at the annual meeting on Busting Out in Scholarship—Becoming Relevant Outside the Legal Academy: Non-Traditional Scholarship and Social Change.
The Section on WLE is looking for 250 word proposals for 12 to 15 minutes presentations, for a panel on Sunday, January 8, 2012, at the AALS annual meeting. Here's more on the theme:
"In recent years, scholars have begun to reach outside of the legal academy with their scholarship—on blogs and other social media, in articles and opinion pieces for newspapers and magazines, in amicus briefs and white papers, in popular books and novels, and through grant-funded research. The panelists will discuss their experiences with nontraditional forms of scholarship and debate its advantages and disadvantages in terms of the tenure and promotion processes, compensation and benefits, and the general public's perception of the legal academy."
Interested law professors should submit a summary of the presentation idea, with a resume. The summary should be no more than 250 words. E-mail these materials to Donna Coker at firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line WLE Busting Out, by July 1, 2011. They will notify the selected presenters by September 1, 2011.
The Association of Legal Writing Directors has announced the recipients of its 2011 ALWD Teaching
Grant. Sarah Morath, Richard Strong, and Elizabeth Shaver have received the honor, to support their work on teaching Litigation Drafting: Different Roles in the Litigation Process. Congratulations!
And kudos, too, to the selection committee chairs and members, who had to make some tough choices: Chris Rollins, Heather Zube, Ann Mallatt Killenbeck, Cassandra Hill, and Rebecca Lonergan.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Miriam Felsenburg and Laura Graham, both at Wake Forest University, have written a very helpful article on "A Better Beginning: Why and How to Help Novice Legal Writers Build a Solid Foundation by Shifting Their Focus from Product to Process". (No, this isn't a repeat. This is a continuation of their prior work.)
Here's how they summarize it:
"Several years ago, we set out to discover why early legal writing is so difficult for many beginning law students and what we can do to make it easier. In a prior article, we described several key factors that contributed to student overconfidence and illustrated how this overconfidence impeded students’ progress in both early legal analysis and early legal writing. In this follow-up article, we suggest strategies for better orienting students to law school learning and better managing their goals for legal writing at the beginning of the first-year course. The legal writing classroom is usually the
place where students are first introduced to the foundational process of legal analysis. It is also usually the place where students receive their earliest feedback on how well they are learning this process. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that legal writing professors design 'a better beginning' for their first-year students. In Part II of this Article, we discuss the importance of giving students a fuller, clearer orientation to the study of law in general; this orientation should emphasize the process of legal analysis as the foundation for all other law school learning. In Part III of the Article, we suggest three specific ways that legal writing professors can design their courses and teaching practices to facilitate students’ receptivity to this process: (1) setting clear, realistic goals and objectives for the first semester of legal writing and communicating them transparently; (2) deliberately encouraging students to be more active metacognitive learners; and (3) providing more opportunities for students to pre-write and to 'write to learn' before asking them to 'write to communicate' to a legal reader."
Monday, June 6, 2011
The 21st Century Legal Skills Conference began last night in Istanbul. The conference is co-sponsored by Bahçeşehir University in Istanbul and the Legal Writing Institute. We'll have details (and hopefully some photos) throughout the week.
On June 20, 2011, the Legal Writing Institiute will hold a research and writing seminar for law firm associates and summer clerks. This is a pilot program that follows on the highly successful one-day workshops that the Legal Writing Institute held last December (and the year before that).
The research and writing seminars will be held at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago. Click here for more information. CLE credit will be available and one hour of professionalism/ethics is also being applied for. Please recommend this program to anyone who you think might benefit from it. If it is successful, the LWI will likely expand it next year to other law schools.
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Experiencing angst over last semester’s student rating forms? Then take a look at a new article, How Metacognitive Deficiencies of Law Students Lead to Biased Ratings of Legal Writing Professors. Catherine J. Wasson of Elon (pictured at left) and Barbara J. Tyler, professor emerita at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, collected data from professors around the country to explore seemingly anomalous comments on student evaluation forms. The article includes contradictory statements from students in the same class and comments completely unrelated to course content, such as “His ties are always too short.” Some comments are stinging but uninformative: “This course sucks.” Others are unintentionally ironic: “This professor spends to [sic] much time on grammer [sic].” The authors point out that students submit such comments anonymously, without ever having to defend them.
Wasson and Tyler offer explanations for these kinds of comments and point out the unfairness of relying on them for personnel decisions.
Hat tip: Scot Freuhwald