Friday, September 23, 2011

The Empire Strikes Back Again! Save the Date for the next Empire State Legal Writing Conference

The Third Annual Empire State Legal Writing Conference will be held on Saturday, June 23, 2012, at the University at Buffalo Law School in Buffalo, New York.  Last year’s conference at St. John's University School of Law featured over 50 presenters from around the country, with a focus on creative teaching ideas that attendees could implement immediately.  The Call for Proposals will be circulated in early November.  It sounds like a great place to visit in June, particularly after the LWI Biennial Meeting in California from May 29 to June 1. 
Hat tip to Stephen Paskey (University at Buffalo Law School)

September 23, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Florida job opening

We're seeing a lot of legal writing teaching job announcements now and will try to post them as time allows.

For starters, Florida International University College of Law, a public law school located in Miami, Florida, is seeking applicants for the position of Lecturer in Legal Skills and Values.  The Legal Skills and Values program consists of two required courses in the first year of law school, and an additional required course by the end of a student’s fourth semester. They need dedicated legal writing and skills teachers to teach legal research, analysis, and written and oral communication skills, all with a heavy emphasis on professionalism.

This is a full-time faculty appointment, with an initial one year term, with the possibility of successive three-year and then five-year terms. The anticipated salary is between $60,000 and $80,000, depending upon experience.

Interested applicants should send a cover letter and c.v. to Professor Marci Rosenthal, FIU College of Law, Modesto Madique Campus, RDB 2052, Miami, FL  33199. Applicants also may submit materials electronically to  Applications will be considered on a rolling basis. Applicants also must register and create an on-line Profile through the university’s website at; reference Position No. 33291.

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

2.  The professor hired will be permitted to vote in faculty meetings.

3.  The school anticipates paying an annual academic year base salary in the range $60,000 - $80,000.

4.  The number of students enrolled in each semester of the courses taught by the legal research & writing professor will be 31 - 35.

hat tip: Marci Rosenthal


September 23, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Seventh Circuit rebukes a lawyer for poor writing

This week, the Seventh Circuit affirmed a case dismissal after an attorney, Maksym, repeatedly filed substandard documents. Stanard v. Nygren, __ F. 2d __ (7th Cir. Sept. 19, 2011). Maksym filed complaints that were “generally incomprehensible and riddled with errors,” thus failing to give the defendants adequate notice of the claims against them. His Second Amended Complaint was incoherent, as illustrated by a “staggering and incomprehensible 345-word sentence” (which the court reproduced for the reader’s edification in footnote 7). The pleading contained so many spelling and grammatical errors that the judge said it would be impractical to add “[sic]” to each. The judge concluded that the document was “little more than gibberish” and dismissed it without leave to amend.

On appeal, the Seventh Circuit observed that not all prolix complaints merit dismissal, but when prolixity and other errors make a complaint unintelligible, then dismissal is warranted. In this instance, Maksym had even failed to learn from his missteps in the district court. His appellate brief  contained “all the deficiencies” of the trial court documents. And although he cited 81 cases, most were irrelevant to the issues. Finding Maksym's work “alarmingly deficient,” the Seventh Circuit upheld the dismissal, sent a copy of the decision to the Illinois bar’s disciplinary body, and ordered Maksym to show cause why he should not be removed from the court’s bar.

This case would serve as an excellent cautionary tale for your students who don't think that judges really care about good writing and careful drafting.  Pages 13-17 focus on the court's exasperation with poor writing skills and general incomprehensibility.  (You've got to love an opinion that uses language like this:  " . . . prolixity was not its chief deficiency.")

You can also use the case as a teaching tool to show students that you can also listen to oral arguments on the Seventh Circuit website.  It's sometimes fascinating to listen to the argument of a case you are going to use in a brief or memorandum.

hat tip:  Mireille Butler, Assistant Professor, Legal Research and Writing Pepperdine University School of Law

(njs and jdf and mew)

September 22, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

LWI One-Day Workshops

LWI The Legal Writing Institute will hold one-day workshops at various locations around the country on Friday, December 2, 2011. Here is a list of the law schools confirmed to host:
  • California:  Loyola Law School, Los Angeles
  • Florida:  University of Miami
  • Georgia:  Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School
  • Illinois:  Chicago-Kent College of Law
  • Massachusetts:  Northeastern University School of Law, Boston
  • Minnesota:  Hamline University School of Law
  • Missouri:  University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law
  • New York:  Brooklyn Law School
  • North Carolina:  Campbell University Wiggins School of Law, Raleigh
  • Pennsylvania:  Temple University Beasley School of Law, Philadelphia
  • Tennessee:  University of Memphis Humphreys School of Law

We are confirming additional locations in Ohio and the Washington DC/Northern Virginia area.

The topics covered in the workshops have been expanded to include these four areas during the day:
1.  Teaching Legal Writing [9:00 to 10:20 a.m.] (including topics such as creating problems, grading, selecting materials, conducting paper conferences, and including other assignments as part of the research and writing course). 
2.  Teaching Persuasive  Writing, Appellate Advocacy, and Moot Court [10:40 to noon] (including materials, practice sessions, and guidelines for moot court practices and competitions).
3.  Legal Research Update [2:00 to 3:20 p.m.] (including updates on new research methods and materials that you and your students need to know).
4.  Other Innovations [3:40 to 5:00 p.m.] (a potpourri panel that will differ at each location, where individual speakers and faculty roundtables can discuss classroom teaching innovations, scholarship opportunities, effective use of researh assistants, and other subjects of interest to legal research and writing faculty).
The workshops have been a great opportunity for legal writing faculty around the county to meet and share new ideas.  Adjunct faculty who are often unable to travel have found the sessions to be particularly valuable, but as you can see from the topics they are now designed for all legal writing faculty.  The programs have also been of interest to persons who are thinking about entering the legal writing academy as teachers. Those presenting at the workshops have found them to be a great speaking opportunity too.
The one-day workshops are a fundraiser for the Legal Writing Institute to allow it to continue its many fine and important programs.  Attendees are asked to pay a $100 registration fee, which will be donated to the LWI.  As in past years, scholarships for attendees will be available to persons who cannot pay the registration fee.  Law schools who host these generously donate the facilities and often also donate coffee and lunch to make the day particularly wonderful for us. 

September 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Print Citators and Professional Negligence

While teaching basic research skills to 1Ls this week, a potentially blasphemous idea crossed my mind:  Is using the print-based version of a citator to update an important source professional negligence?  The answer is probably no, but the ubiquitous and easy-to-use nature of online source updating does make me question the prudence of using print.  At the least, practitioners who use a print citator without calling a research service to obtain up-to-the-minute case updates may be at risk of using a source that was overruled since the last print update.

Even if using the books instead of the online citators does not rise to the level of negligence, using print definitely entails peril for the practitioner.  It is easy to miss critical notations in the fine print of a book, and it is even easier to misunderstand the somewhat complex process to update the citator itself.  Perhaps the real question is whether using print citators to update cases is wise.  My answer is that in most cases it is not.  The cost in time would likely outweigh the cost in electronic research services for most attorneys.

Should legal writing and research professors teach students how to use print citators?  Or should we teach students that using print is a bad idea when online services like KeyCite and Shepard’s are on the market?


September 20, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Nominations for the AALS Section Award

The Association of American Law Schools Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research periodically makes a section award to honor individuals who has made a significant lifetime contributions to the field of legal writing and research.

You can click here to see the announcement of the 2010 Section award when it was given to mighty Joe Kimble (who is pictured there with Justice Antonin Scalia).

And here's a link to an announcement of the 2011 award, which went to Betsy Fajans.

The following persons are members of the 2012 Section Award Committee: Ralph Brill, Anne Enquist, Ardath Hamann, Richard Neumann, and Helene Shapo.

TO NOMINATE SOMEONE -- Send your nomination to one of the committeemembers by September 30th.  There is no formal nomination form, but usually a letter explaining why the particular person deserves the award.  We hope to present the 2012 award at the Section's Field Trip to the Law Library of Congress.

Mark E. Wojcik, Section Chair, AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research

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

Monday, September 19, 2011

Writing for Generalist Judges

Professor Douglas E. Abrams of the Univeristy of Missouri has witten an article that appears in this month's issue of The Nebraska Lawyer, the magazine published by the Nebraska State Bar Association.  His article (on page 17) is on "Effective Written Advocacy Before Generalist Judges: Advice from Recent Decisions."  He notes that judges often lack familiarity with many areas of law and that lawyers who live in those specialized fields may have to dial back their use of jargon specific to a particular field.  He cites examples from fields such as patent law and reinsurance. 

In the reinsurance field, for example, Professor Abrams cites Judge Richard Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, who wrote that "[e]very esoteric term used by the reinsurance industry has a counterpart in ordinary English."  Indiana Lumbermens Mutual Insurance Co. v. Reinsurance Results, Inc., 513 F.3d 652, 658 (7th Cir. 2008). 

We can't have too many of these articles in journals for the practicing bar.  Carry on, Professor Abrams, and help those lawyers write in plain English!


September 19, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Volunteer for the LWI One-Day Workshop Committees

In December 2009, the Legal Writing Institute held its first one-day workshops in two locations (In Chicago at The John Marshall Law School and in New York City at the Manhattan Campus of St. John's Univeristy).  In December 2010, we held workshops in 14 locations across the country.  The programs were universally successful, and the LWI Board has asked One-Day Workshop co-chairs Robin Boyle Laisure, Tracy McGaugh, and Mark Wojcik to plan the 2011 One-Day Workshops.

The co-chairs are seeking 6-10 additional committee members to help them plan and organize the 2011 One-Day workshops.  We anticipate that the committee members will assist with the program, registration, handouts, publicity, and other matters.  

•     We need people to help coordinate the common materials program book that will be used at each location.  That's the program materials subcommittee.

•     We need people to collect the names of speaker volunteers and to assign them to the different locations.  That's the program subcommittee.

•     We need one or two people to coordinate the bios of all the speakers.  That's the program book subcommittee.

•     We need one or two people to help coordinate the national registrations.  That's the registration subcommittee.

•     We need a couple of people to help generate publicity and to promote the workshops.  That's the publicity subcommittee.

•     We need people to check into CLE credit for various states.  That's the CLE subcommittee.

If you are interested in volunteering to serve on this committee, please email:

Suzanne Rabe
Chair, LWI Committee on Committees
rabe [at]


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

Sunday, September 18, 2011

intensive workshop on legal persuasion

On December 15-16, 2011, in Las Vegas, lawyers, judges and scholars from around the country will participate in an intensive workshop that will provide insights into all forms of legal persuasion. The William S. Boyd School of Law is bringing together excellent attorneys, nationally-known trial consultants and leading professors to provide two days of instruction in advanced techniques for all facets of legal persuasion: negotiation, written and oral advocacy, and visual persuasion. The enrollment will be limited to facilitate a dynamic and interactive learning environment.

For attorneys and judges, this program offers the opportunity to learn about persuasive techniques inside and outside the courtroom and new developments within the study of persuasion. Scholars and consultants will also benefit by learning about some of the latest research in the field of legal persuasion and how theory becomes practically implemented within legal communication. You can read more here.

You can apply for participation in this event here. The organizers will review the applications with the goal of selecting a good mix of participants, including judges, lawyers, academics and consultants.

For answers to your questions, contact Associate Dean Mootz at

hat tip: Susan Heinzelman


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