Saturday, August 20, 2011

Newsletter for the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research

AALS logo We are happy to be able to share with you here the latest issue of the Newsletter for the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research.  Download AALS-LWRR 2011-1 Newsletter

This issue is 22 pages long and has photos, news of section members, information about the upcoming annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools, and articles about the panels, award presentations, and posters of the January 2011 annual meeting.  There's a picture of you or one of your friends in this issue, so click on the link and have a look.  Download AALS-LWRR 2011-1 Newsletter

The newsletter editor for this issue is Judy Rosenbaum of Northwestern University School of Law. 

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

Friday, August 19, 2011

another date to save

The Rocky Mountain Regional Legal Writing Conference will be held on Friday, March 23, and Saturday, March 24, at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University in Tempe.  As in previous years, there will be no registration fee for this conference.  Additional details about the conference and a call for proposals will follow at a later date.

hat tip: Carrie Sperling and Kim Holst, Conference Co-Chairs


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

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Two Recent Motions Worth a Read (or Look)

Desktop document editing software is expanding the modes of presentation available to motion writers.  Many motions, in both state and federal court, now include full color photographs embedded in the text.  For those who want to explore this development with students, both the Dallas Mavericks and Manny Pacquiao have recently filed entertaining photo motions in two high profile sports related cases.  The motions are available here and here.  The Mavericks’ Motion for Summary Judgment uses a photo of the Mavs on the championship podium last season to counter claims that Mark Cuban is mismanaging the team.  Pacquiao’s Motion for Sanctions uses photos that are purportedly of Floyd Mayweather partying while allegedly not complying with discovery obligations.  I am not convinced of the merits of the Mavericks’ motion, but it is an excellent example of a court filing as a public relations vehicle.  And anytime you get to file a motion with a picture of Dirk holding the championship trophy, I think you have already won (no disrespect to Heat fans).

Is the photo motion trend a good thing for legal writing?  Are pictures really worth 1000 words?  I am convinced that the Mavericks' photo is worth the space, but what about Pacquiao’s photo montage?  Effective or gratuitous?


August 18, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)

AALS Field Trip to the Law Library of Congress

If you are planning to attend the Legal Writing Section field trip to the Law Library of Congress during the 2012 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., please remember to register early and to buy a ticket for that event.  As of today there are 102 more tickets available for the field trip, but that number will decrease as more people register.  If you want to go on the Field Trip, register early to avoid disappointment.  Click here to visit the AALS Wesbsite.


August 18, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

another LRW job opening

Phoenix School of Law is inviting applications for at least three full-time legal writing professors for the 2012-2013 academic year. Both beginning and experienced teachers will be considered. Candidates should have distinguished academic qualifications and a commitment to excellence in teaching, scholarship, student mentoring, and collegiality. In addition, Phoenix School of Law values candidates with legal practice experience

Phoenix Law prides itself on being student-outcome centered; infusing the academic program with professional skills, ethics, and comparative perspectives throughout the curriculum; serving the underserved in the community; having an institutional environment friendly to change and innovation; and taking the quality of interpersonal relationships seriously. It has been named a top school for diversity efforts by the LSCAS. It has a very strong commitment to the full breadth of diversity and to maintaining a diverse faculty. Women, members of minority groups, LGBT, and disabled candidates, and others whose background and experience are underrepresented in the academy are strongly encouraged to apply. 

To apply, contact: Chair, Faculty Appointments Committee, Phoenix School of Law, 4041 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona, 85012.

1) This position may lead to successive long-term contracts of five or more years.

2) Faculty in this position will be able to vote in faculty meetings.

3) The base salary for this position is in the range of $60,000 - $69,000.

4) The average number of students per legal writing professor in a semester is 46-50.

hat tip:  Lisa Mills


August 18, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

call for short essays

Legal_writing_institute_logo The Second Draft, the newsletter of the Legal Writing Institute, has issued a call for essays, no longer than 1,200 words:

"The fall 2011 Issue of The Second Draft will address issues related to diversity in the teaching of legal research and writing. As teachers and practitioners in skills programs, legal writing faculty often model behavior and discuss 'real-world' issues with law students. To ensure that our students receive the maximum educational benefit from a practice-based program, we should consider how issues of diversity arise in the context of skills education. These consdierations include cross-cultural training as it pertains to client counseling, interviewing and representing persons from varied backgrounds, e.g., ethnic, linguistic, racial, religious, lgbt, and persons with physical or mental disabilities. A focus on the diversity of audience in the legal writing classroom also frames this inquiry. Articles might consider how to teach students these skills or raise additional issues related to diversity in the classroom that legal writing faculty should address.

"The deadline for submissions for the Fall 2011 issue is Monday, August 29, 2011. Please send your submission as an email attachment to Submissions should be in Microsoft Word. Please include at the top of the submission your name(s), school, address (including city, state, and zip code), e-mail address, and telephone."

hat tip:   Teri McMurtry-Chubb



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

Monday, August 15, 2011

Central States Regional Writing Conference at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago

The Central States Regional Legal Writing Conference will be held at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago from September 16-17, 2011.  Registration is free, but you must register by September 8, 2011.  Click here for the latest lineup of presentations.  


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

save the date

UNH Law2 The New England Consortium for Legal Writing Teachers will hold a conference on Friday, December 16, 2011, at the University of New Hampshire School of Law in Concord, New Hampshire. The topic will be Creating Practice-Ready Assignments and Exercises. Stay tuned for information about submitting a presentation proposal.

hat tip:  Amy Vorenberg


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

Great authors' advice on writing

Abrams-d A recent Texas Bar Journal article presents great authors’ advice on writing. Professor Douglas Abrams (pictured at left) quotes Mark Twain on precision: “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is . . . the difference between the lightening and the lightening bug.”  A Winston Churchill line dryly criticizes verbosity: “This report, by its very length, defends itself against the risk of being read.” The piece contains numerous other intriguing nuggets for legal writers.


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

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Gladwell on Plagiarism

As I was preparing for the new school year, I ran across Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent piece on plagiarism, Something Borrowed: Should a Charge of Plagiarism Ruin Your Life?  Gladwell, author of several books including The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers, describes his personal experience as a plagiarism victim.  Interestingly, he uses the experience to criticize a form of plagiarism fundamentalism:

Creative property, [Professor Lawrence] Lessig reminds us, has many lives – the newspaper arrives at our door, it becomes part of the archive of human knowledge, then it wraps fish.  And, by the time ideas pass into their third and fourth lives, we lose track of where they came from, and we lose control of where they are going.  The final dishonesty of the plagiarism fundamentalists is to encourage us to pretend that these chains of influence and evolution do not exist, and that a writer’s words have a virgin birth and an eternal life.  I suppose that I could get upset about what happened to my words.  I could also simply acknowledge that I had a good, long ride with [the stolen] line – and let it go.

1Ls who extend Gladwell’s logic to the legal writing context would likely find themselves in front of their law school’s honor council.  This is because the purpose of plagiarism restrictions in law school is to allow professors to evaluate individual student performance.  Stolen words impermissibly skew the process. 

But what about other legal writing contexts?  Scholarly writers take pains to attribute the source of ideas to its originator.  In a scholarship market that constantly recycles ideas, however, accurately paying attribution to the original source of some ideas can be an exercise in futility.  In law practice, brief writers regularly lift passages from briefs in another case without attribution.  Most of the time they do so with impunity, despite the time, money, and effort the plagiarized lawyers and their clients have invested in the work product.

Teaching the differences between attribution norms in practice, scholarship, and law school writing assignments is always challenging because of the seemingly dissonant standards.  Differing plagiarism standards stem from the differing, protectable interests in particular writing contexts.  For Gladwell, plagiarism protections in journalism and literature should primarily serve the interest of promoting creativity and new ideas:  “Old words in the service of a new idea aren’t the problem.  What inhibits creativity is new words in the service of an old idea.” 

Plagiarism protections in law school protect the student evaluation process.  But what are the viable interests supporting attribution norms in the legal scholarship context?  Creativity?  Author or institutional prerogatives?  All or none of the above?  Is something being lost because of the lack of any meaningful plagiarism standards in law practice and brief writing?


August 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Clarity Breakfast in London on September 6

Clarity is an international organization of lawyers who promote the use of plain language.  It is holding a breakfast in London, England, on Tuesday, September 6, 2011 to discuss how to improve clarity through document design. The speaker will be Simon Carter of One Three Four, who has spent the last 10 years helping investment banks and law firms improve their research reports, client updates, and pitch documents. The breakfast program begins at 8:00 a.m. with the presentation at 8:35 a.m.

  • Location: City Marketing Suite at the Guildhall
    How to find it: entrance G on the map at
    To reserve a place: Please email daphne.perry [at]
    There is no charge to attend and guests are welcome, though non-members are asked to join Clarity at if they attend a second event.

Hat tip to Daphne Perry.

For more information about Clarity, click here.


August 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)