Saturday, August 27, 2011
After the keynote address, we heard from the first panel, comprising lawyers from solo firms, public interest law, and the public sector. Professor Brian Mikulak (USF) moderated, and he led the group through a series of questions about what they see in our law students and what they'd like LRW profs to do to make students more prepared to enter the practice of law.
Here are some take-away points:
1. Students need to be more willing to use secondary sources like treatises. Instead, they like to Google (or use WestlawNext) and find "the answer," even though they often don't fully understand it due to lack of context.
2. They don't know how to write a decent summary of the argument in a brief.
3. They're not analytical enough . . . they don't think creatively about the law and the facts.
4. They're often too safe and not passionate enough to be effective advocates.
Friday afternoon started off with a keynote address by Richard Wydick, author of "Plain English for Lawyers." (But really, do I even need to say that? I was struck by a bit of hero worship upon meeting him in person!!) Professor Wydick engaged a crowd of about 50 conference attendees with a lesson on ambiguity and its elimination through careful word choice and sentence contruction (or as he labeled them, semantic and syntactic ambiguity).
He completely won over the crowd by telling us how lucky we are as LRW profs: we get to teach 1-L's, who are fun and willing to learn, and we get to teach them two of the most useful lawyering skills, how to research the law and how to write "legal things."
And we get to attend conferences and meet inspiring folks like him. Lucky indeed!
The Legal Practice Skills Program at Suffolk Law is trying out a Twitter feed, which you can find at @SuffolkLPS. They plan to use Twitter to send out links to students to supplement what they are learning in their LRW class. The content will provide links to news stories, cases, blog posts, etc., to help their law students recognize that what they’re learning in class is relevant to their future in the legal field. For their first tweet, they posted a link to a classic article on the nature of LRW courses, Suzanne Rowe’s Legal Research, Legal Writing, And Legal Analysis: Putting Law School Into Practice. If you or your students want to follow along, you are welcome to do so. And if you have any hot tips for content, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
hat tip: Sabrina DeFabritiis
Friday, August 26, 2011
If you've gotten through the first harried week of the fall semester and already can't recall what the serenity of the summer felt like, click here to see some photos of legal writing professors enjoying relaxed exchanges at the ALWD conference in sunny Sacaramento in July. I just stumbled upon these while looking for something else online.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
There's a new website you can go to, Phraseup, clearly designed for those of us of a certain age who write a lot. If a word or phrase is stuck maddeningly on the tip of your tongue, but just won't come to you, type into Phraseup whatever partial information your brain is accessing at the moment. It will deliver a list of possibilities, where you may well find the word or phrase you're after.
hat tip: Candle Wester-Mittan
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
The Wall Street Journal Blog ran an interesting piece this week about new law firm training requirements for first year associates. Some firms now require associates to attend firm sponsored business education courses. These courses are cropping up as more and more big firm clients refuse to allow first year associates to work on actual cases. According to the blog, the new associates will “learn practical skills that many law schools don’t teach, such as creating power point presentations and computer spreadsheets” as well as “how to read balance sheets.” While I do not dispute the value of business skills, I am surprised that mandatory first year associate training at some law firms does not focus squarely on legal writing, including legal drafting.
When I visit with practicing lawyers and judges and ask them what they want to see in new lawyers, the answer is almost always “stronger writing skills.” Perhaps other post-graduate, law firm sponsored training focuses on writing. At my firm, we had ongoing first year training in both persuasive writing and legal drafting. Other firms take different approaches. I would be interested to know if anyone has conducted surveys or authored papers on the topic.
For those of you who are coaching teams in the 2012 Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition, here is a link to the competition schedule. The 2012 Jessup problem is expected to be released around September 12, 2011. Memorials will be due on January 10, 2012. Regional and national rounds will be held in January and February. The international rounds will be held in Washington DC from March 25-31, 2012.
Law schools like to tell others about the great things they are doing and the special visitors they have. In the magazine I've just received from the University of Alabama School of Law, I'm pleased to see that page 7 highlights a story called "Judge Carnes Gives Lecture on Legal Writing." Judge Edward Earl Carns serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. It's nice to see that the law school appreciates the imporantance of legal writing by holding the event and by publicizing it later.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
If you haven't yet had a look at the latest newsletter for the Association of American Law Schools Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research, click here. Download AALS-LWRR 2011-1 Newsletter It's 22 pages long with information about upcoming legal writing events, news of section members, award photos, and articles of interest to legal writing faculty. The editor was Judy Rosenbaum of Northwestern University School of Law.
Mark E. Wojcik, Chair, AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research
Judge Randy Wilson offers some helpful writing tips in the summer issue of The Advocate. His article, which covers motions to compel, reminds lawyers to make a potentially tedious motion as “lively and persuasive as possible.” Just listing the disputed discovery requests won’t do that. A better motion would begin by explaining the core of the dispute and then categorizing the requests. Judge Wilson’s advice to include a summary and make writing “persuasive and alive” will strengthen other types of legal writing as well.
Monday, August 22, 2011
Click here to see the program and speakers for the Central States Regional Legal Writing Conference, being held at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago from September 16-17, 2011. Registration is free -- please register by September 8, 2011.