Friday, September 23, 2011
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis. Applicants also must register and create an on-line Profile through the university’s website at http://www.fiujobs.org; 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
Thursday, September 22, 2011
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)
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
- 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.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
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?
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
Monday, September 19, 2011
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!
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:
Chair, LWI Committee on Committees
rabe [at] email.arizona.edu
Sunday, September 18, 2011
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 Jay.Mootz@unlv.edu.
hat tip: Susan Heinzelman