Friday, August 12, 2011

ideas on rubrics

If you wonder why LRW professors use rubrics or wonder what a good rubric for LRW class would look like, take a look at the primer on rubrics in the newsletter of the Institute for Law Teaching.

hat tip: Tonya Kowalski


August 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

introducing a new blogger

I'd like to introduce one of our new bloggers, Dustin Benham. 

Here's some info on him; more can be found at

Professor Benham's teaching and research focus on legal practice and civil procedure, with an emphasis on the integrity of the litigation process and civil judgments. Before joining the faculty at Texas Tech University School of Law, Professor Benham served as a visiting professor at Baylor Law School, teaching appellate advocacy and civil procedure courses.

In addition to his teaching experience, Professor Benham has an array of litigation and appellate experience. Professor Benham began his career in the appellate section of Carrington Coleman Sloman & Blumenthal, LLP, in Dallas, Texas.  After beginning his practice in the appellate arena, Professor Benham practiced at an automotive products liability boutique in Dallas, Texas. During this time, he represented clients who had been catastrophically injured by defective automobiles in trial courts around the country.

In recent years, Professor Benham has served as lead appellate counsel, representing clients before state appellate courts while his clients were on appeal or involved in original proceedings. Professor Benham was honored as a Texas Super Lawyer, Rising Star in 2009.  Professor Benham is licensed to practice in Texas and is also admitted to practice before the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Welcome to the blogging world, Professor Benham!



August 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

the foray into electronic grading

If you've put off electronic grading until it got easier, you might want to consider using Annotate for Legal Writing.  LRW professor Mitch Nathanson at Villanova created it to deal with the frustrations many LRW professors have with electronic grading.

Instead of having to struggle with copying and pasting comments via Word's bubbles, and creating your own macros, Annotate installs a ribbon right onto the top of your screen, with drop-downs of comments focusing on all the different aspects of briefs and memos that you normally would focus on when grading student papers.  There more than 300 preloaded comments.  You can edit those comments and also create your own.  You can also embed links to anything you want, like your PowerPoints or anything on your Blackboard, or anything else available electronically via the Web.

The program comes with dozens of preloaded links to the Purdue Owl grammar website. So if you identify a grammar problem, all you need to do is highlight it, and Annotate will automatically embed a link to the Purdue Owl site. There the student will find an explanation for their particular grammar problem, as well as a short tutorial to helps them correct it.   

hat tip:  Mitch Nathanson


August 11, 2011 in Food and Drink | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Are you writing about legal writing?






If you're working on an article about any aspect of legal writing, consider submitting it to the Journal of Legal Writing, the peer-edited journal of the Legal Writing Institute. The journal is seeking articles from other disciplines that extend the boundaries of legal writing, as well as those that seek to improve pedagogy and scholarship in the field of legal writing through interdisciplinary and empirical research.

The journal publishes articles, research reports, empirical studies, book reviews, and critical commentary about both the theory and the practice of legal writing, or writing issues that have applications to the field of legal writing, the design of courses and curricula, and teaching techniques for the classroom and law office. 

Send your manuscript to the Editor-in-Chief, Kristin B. Gerdy,, as a Word attachment. Citations must comply with the ALWD Citation Manual (ISBN 0-7355-3640-6), and the journal will conform your footnotes if you follow a different system of citation. The deadline for submissions for Volume 18 is September 15, 2011.

hat tip:  Kristin Gerdy


August 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Teaching Cost-Effective Legal Research

Here's a link to a great post about teaching cost-effective legal research.  It argues that teaching cost-effective legal research is hopeless, counter-productive, and keeps our attention focused on the wrong culprit.  Click here to read more.

Hat tips to Jean O´Grady (who wrote the post) and Cynthia Reichard (Indiana University) who shared it with her legal writing colleagues.


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

got fonts?

Images If you are one of those people who don't know why others fuss about fonts, take a look at this infographic on typography. It gives you the basics you need to know to choose fonts that suit your communications purposes.  And it reminds us how much of all graphic design uses text.

hat tip:  Eileen Kavanagh





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

Lawyers scolded for unprofessional writing

           The Fifth Circuit recently chastised two lawyers for verbally attacking a magistrate judge—and doing it with error-ridden language. Sanches v. Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School Dist. Here's a passage from the offending brief:

The Magistrate's egregious errors in its [ sic] failure to utilize or apply the law constitute extraordinary circumstances, justifying vacateur [ sic] of the assignment to [ sic] Magistrate. Specifically, the Magistrate applied improper legal standards in deciding the Title IX elements of loss of educational opportunities and deliberate indifference, ignoring precedent. Further, the Court failed to consider Sanches' Section 1983 claims and summarily dismissed them without analysis or review. Because a magistrate is not an Article III judge, his incompetence in applying general principals [ sic] of law are [ sic] extraordinary.

             The court characterized this passage as an “unjustified and most unprofessional and disrespectful attack on the judicial process in general and the magistrate judge,” and further denounced it as “so poorly written” as to be nearly indecipherable.  


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

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Kristen Tiscione at Georgetown challenges legal writing professors to remain at the forefront of law school teaching, in her new article, "A Call to Combine Rhetorical Theory and Practice in the Legal Writing Classroom".

Here's her summary: 

"The theory and practice of law have been separated in legal education to their detriment since the turn of the twentieth century. As history teaches us and even the 2007 Carnegie Report perhaps suggests, teaching practice without theory is as inadequate as teaching theory without practice. Just as law students should learn how to draft a simple contract from taking Contracts, they should learn the theory of persuasion from taking a legal writing course. In an economy where law apprenticeship has reverted from employer to educator, legal writing courses should do more than teach analysis, conventional documents, and the social context in which lawyers write. The legal writing professor's task is to impart to his or her students the intellectual ballast necessary to navigate complex analytical challenges in the workplace. By combining rhetorical theory and practice in the legal writing classroom, the professor can pique students' interest, hasten their learning, and help them develop transferable skills better than teaching by imitation alone. In addition, teaching the rhetorical nature of law in a legal writing course helps students debunk sooner the myth of black letter law in their doctrinal courses. Finally, as the Carnegie Report indicates, a more holistic approach to teaching can best blend the analytical and practical habits of mind that professional practice demands....

"This Article begins with a brief history of the separation of theory and practice in the law classroom and the impact that it has had on the quality and reputation of writing as its own subject. The Article argues that despite a wave of pedagogical advances, legal writing as its own subject has ample room to grow. For legal writing courses to achieve intellectual maturity, they must incorporate rhetorical theory. To ignore it is to confirm Plato's suspicion that rhetoric is a discipline without a subject matter and to enable the insidious undervaluing of our profession. There are several advantages to teaching legal writing as rhetoric. Although not the focus of this Article, a corollary advantage may be to help legal writing faculty achieve academic equality, which benefits teacher and student alike. For a variety of reasons, this Article concludes that legal writing professors are responsible for teaching both practical skills as well as the theories that inform them."


August 9, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

legal storytelling conference -- the video

Thanks to Professor David Thomson and the IT department at the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law, the Applied Legal Storytelling conference website now includes streaming video of each session of the conference, as well as downloadable copies of handouts. Anyone who was unable to attend the conference or who was there but wanted to attend multiple sessions in a single time slot, now you can.

The next Applied Legal Storytelling conference will take place in two years, in July 2013, at City
University of London, home of conference co-organizer, Professor Robert McPeake. Calls for proposals will go out in the early fall of 2012.

hat tip: Ruth Anne Robbins


August 9, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Western Regional schedule posted

If you're thinking of attending the Western Regional LRW Conference on August 26-27, 2011, you can find the schedule here now.  LRW professors from law schools all around the country, as well as from law schools right down the street from the conference, have already registered.  And they still have room for you, so it's not too late to register.  You can register here.  The deadline for registration is August 15, 2011. Note that parking is free.

hat tip:  Grace Hum


August 7, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)