October 21, 2011
distinguished visitor at John Marshall
Professor Sophie Sparrow will visit The John Marshall Law School next fall as the first distinguished visitor in its Lawyering Skills Program.
Sophie M. Sparrow is a professor of law and the former director of legal skills at the University of New Hampshire School of Law. She focuses her work on the scholarship of teaching and learning, and she is a consultant to the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning as a well as a member of its Advisory Committee. A graduate of Harvard/Radcliffe College and Harvard Law School, Sophie is a co-author of Techniques for Teaching Law 2 (2011), Teaching Law by Design for Adjuncts (2010), Teaching Law by Design (2009), and The Lawyer as Supervisor, Manager & Motivator (2000). She has conducted more than 70 workshops and presentations on teaching, professionalism, assessment, and writing.
hat tip: Anthony Niedwiecki, Director of Lawyering Skills, Associate Professor of Law
A critique of the process approach to teaching legal writing
The latest issue of the Journal of Legal Education contains a provocative article titled The New Legal Writing Pedagogy: Is It Our Pride and Joy or a Hobble? The author, John Lynch, is Associate Dean at the University of Baltimore School of Law. The pedagogy of which he writes is the process approach, which focuses on the writing process rather than on the end product. Although that approach has been widely accepted in the legal writing field for twenty years or so, it is new to Lynch, who recently returned to the field after an absence of thirty years.
Lynch believes that reviewing drafts and requiring conferences during the writing process are unnecessarily labor intensive and at times burdensome to students, especially night students. He also argues that students who rely on conferences may shortchange their own editing process, expecting the professor to edit for them. In his courses, “I have fewer conferences than if I required them for all students, and I do not spend nearly as much time answering questions before students turn the assignments in as I would if I were reviewing drafts.” He does encourage students to meet with him if they want to, but he argues that the process approach is not suited to all situations and ABA should not require it in its accreditation standards.
Lynch’s article is not yet available on line—I read it in hard copy.
October 19, 2011
First Year Student Study Group Charges Classmates $20 to "Tryout"
Above the Law has a story about a study group of first year students who are charging classmates $20 to "tryout." Their poster says that they want to "suceed" but they don't know how to spell the word correctly. Have a look.
Hat tip to Juli Campagna.
October 18, 2011
Talked Like Yoda, We May Have
MSNBC has coverage of a recent paper by linguists at the Santa Fe Institute on the evolution of human languages; it argues that all human language is derived from a single language arranged in subject-object-verb (SOV) order. In other words, old-school humans talked like Yoda.
I found this theory fascinating because I am currently emphasizing crisp subject-verb-object (SVO) english to my first year legal writing class. Sentences are punchier and more effective when the subject and verb are close to one another, appear in SV order, and appear close to the beginning of the sentence. When the familiar SVO structure appears early in the sentence, the sentence is easier for the english reader to process.
But imagine a world where we spoke like Yoda. Here are some highlights from MSNBC's coverage:
There are various word orders used in the languages of the world. Some, like English, use subject-verb-object (SVO) ordering, as in the sentence "I like you." Others, such as Latin, use subject-object-verb (SOV) ordering, as in "I you like."
In rare cases, OSV, OVS, VOS and VSO are used. In a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Merritt Ruhlen and Murray Gell-Mann, co-directors of the Santa Fe Institute Program on the Evolution of Human Languages, argue that the original language used SOV ordering ("I you like").
"This language would have been spoken by a small East African population who seemingly invented fully modern language and then spread around the world, replacing everyone else," Ruhlen told Life's Little Mysteries.
Use legalese, Yoda did not. Been created by lawyers, it must have.
Some fresh ideas for teaching legal writing
A recent article suggests some fresh ideas for teaching legal writing. Mark Osbeck of the University of Michigan Law School believes legal writing professors focus too much on usage and formulas like IRAC. Good legal writing, Osbeck says, is clear, concise, and engaging, and great legal writing has a separate quality--elegance. Students become proficient at these qualities, he says, by “reading the works of good writers and by practicing their own writing”—not “by memorizing a lot of picayune rules.”
October 17, 2011
Volume 17 of Legal Writing: The Journal of the Legal Writing Institute, is now available on the Journal's website. This volume includes a wide variety of articles, including those from the Yes We CArNegie! symposium at John Marshall Law School. Kudos to Editor in Chief Kristin Gerdy, the editorial board, assistant editors, and team leaders!
October 16, 2011
lost in translation?
Attorney Mark Herrmann continues to ask here: how do you check the quality of legal documents written for your company or client in other countries, in languages other than your own? What advice do you have for him and others similarly situated?
spare the pen, and spoil the child?
For a great take on why the key to good writing is good editing, click here. (If that link isn't working, try this URL, without the line breaks:
hat tip: Bob Sachs