Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Images1The editors and contributors of the Legal Writing Prof Blog wish all of our readers a restful and tastey Thanksgiving Day.

November 24, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

legal writing giftlist?

Aba_underscoreIf you're looking for some gift ideas for a lawyer or law student, the ABA has a list of books it publishes that would make good gifts here.



November 23, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Images"Rewriting is really just the middle name of writing."

~ Francis Ford Coppola, interviewed at the June 2010 Toronto Film Festival





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

NYT: Law Schools Don't Train Lawyers

The New York Times' latest anti law school piece, What They Don't Teach Law Students: Lawyering, has ignited a cross-discipline discussion about how to best train young lawyers.  As the dust settles over the blogosphere, I thought I would summarize the action here for those who haven't been following it live.  The gist of the NYT article is that law students spend all of their time studying abstract and arcane theory rather than practical skills.  The article goes on to criticize the role of traditional legal scholarship in the contemporary academy.  The piece's author, David Segal, summarizes the modern legal education:

[Law students] have each spent three years and as much as $150,000 for a legal degree. What they did not get, for all that time and money, was much practical training. Law schools have long emphasized the theoretical over the useful, with classes that are often overstuffed with antiquated distinctions, like the variety of property law in post-feudal England. Professors are rewarded for chin-stroking scholarship, like law review articles with titles like 'A Future Foretold: Neo-Aristotelian Praise of Postmodern Legal Theory.'

Over at the Legal Skills Prof Blog, Scott Fruewald, responded by acknowledging that progress still needs to be made:

Despite the efforts of the Carnegie Report, Best Practices, LWI, ALWD, etc., there has been and will continue to be resistance to change, both by law professors and students.  Since we need to make changes in all law school classes, all professors will have to change their teaching methods, but I think a lot of this can be accomplished by a new type of casebook--a casebook that includes cases, skills exercises, drafting exercises, and practical problems...Of course, we have to also convince our students to take these courses.  While such courses might require more work on the students' part, they should also be more interesting.

Prawfsblog, meanwhile, has had several posts (here, here, and here) responding to the criticism of legal scholarship in the NYT piece.  Michael Hefland makes the interesting point that while some law review articles are arcane, the purported victims of the cost of worthless scholarship are the very individuals who select it for publication in the first place:  students.

And while many law profs bemoan the submission process, it seems worth noting that students are the ones who select the articles.  So it seems fair to say that, at least to some degree (professors may very well shape what their students consider good scholarship), students play a major role in the type of scholarship that law schools reward. 

And the listerves are buzzing with responses to the NYT article.  While I won't breach listserve etiquette by quoting or naming anyone, the responses comprise a few basic arguments.  First, law schools are doing a much better job of skills education than they did years ago.  Second, legal writing professors have played a major role in advancing skills in contemporary legal education (although they get no credit for having done so in the NYT article).  Third, doctrinal knowledge is critical to understanding the arguments that you would make using skills developed in skills classes.  Fourth, the legal reasoning taught in traditional doctrinal classes is critical in forming young legal minds.

Many are dissatisfied with inaccuracies and incompleteness in the NYT article, but the debate the article has provoked is interesting and necessary.


November 22, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

LWI One-Day Workshops for Legal Writing Faculty

The Legal Writing Institute will hold one-day workshops at various locations around the country on Friday, December 2, 2011Registration is now open.  Here is a list of the law schools confirmed to host:

  • California:  Loyola Law School, Los Angeles
  • Florida:  University of Miami
  • Georgia:  Atlanta‚Äôs 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
  • Ohio:  The Ohio State University
  • 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
  • Washington, D.C./Northern Virginia:  George Mason University School of Law, Arlington, Virginia
The topics covered in the workshops have been expanded to include four areas during the day.  Some locations will have slightly different topics or times.  The program in Minnesota will include a field trip to West Publishing.
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. 

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