December 17, 2011
The latest issue of the Legal Writing journal is here!
George Gopen, who received the LWI's Golden Pen Award, presents provocative questions about how we teach legal writing, critiquing the “perhaps too tasty alphabet soup” of IRAC, CREAC, CruPAC, and similar acronyms. Other article topics include globalized law practice, teaching part-time evening students, and whether criteria-referenced grading is preferable to norm-referenced grading.
An entire section of the volume presents articles generated by the recent conference on the Carnegie Report at Chicago’s John Marshall Law School. The section begins with Dean Bryant Garth’s historical overview of law school curricular reform in light of the MacCrate and Carnegie reports. Additional articles cover the report’s three “apprenticeships” and relate them to the law school classroom.
The book concludes with a short piece by the current Lieutenant Governor of Illinois, former Southern Illinois University professor Sheila Simon. With her usual light but effective touch, she discusses banjo lessons as an analogy for contextual learning in the legal writing classroom.
Congratulations to Editor-in-Chief Kristin Gerdy, Assistant Editor-in-Chief Brooke Bowman, Managing Editor Terry Pollman, and editorial board members Mary Lawrence, Mary Algero, Ted Becker, Rachel Croskery-Roberts, Kirsten Davis, Lisa Eichorn, Judith Fischer, Robin Boyle Laisure, Pamela Lysaght, Ellie Margolis, Smanatha Moppett, David Ritchie, Kristen Konrad Robbins-Tiscione, Susan Thrower, and Christine Venter.
December 16, 2011
first JLE legal fiction contest
The Journal of Legal Education (JLE), Southwestern, and the Association of American Law School (AALS) have announced the first JLE Legal Fiction Contest. Submissions must be original short works of fiction related to law school or the practice of law.
The panel of distinguished judges will include Michael Connelly, author of bestselling legal-themed novels such as The Lincoln Lawyer, The Brass Verdict, The Reversal and the newly released The Drop. His recent book, The Fifth Witness, featured a character called "Bullocks" who is a recent Southwestern graduate. In agreeing to participate as a judge, Connelly said, "I'm excited to be involved because it's been fun for me to include Southwestern in my novels. But I am also a reader and always looking for good storytellers. I think this should be interesting. I'm looking forward to what comes in." Connelly will be joined on the panel by author Denise Hamilton (Damage Control, The Last Embrace), writer Marshall Goldberg ("L.A. Law," "Paper Chase," "Newhart," "It's Gary Shandling's Show") and Charles Rosenberg (legal consultant to "Paper Chase," "L.A. Law," "The Practice" and "Boston Legal," and author of the recently released legal thriller Death on a High Floor).
The contest is open to lawyers and non-lawyers, academics and non-academics - anyone setting a fictitious story in a legal setting (law school, law firm, courtroom, legislature, judge's chambers, etc.) or focusing on a law-related character (lawyer, law professor, judicial clerk, etc.). According to Marshall Goldberg, "The long hours, the ethical conflicts and the differing notions of justice all force hard choices upon law students, practitioners, judges and academics - and these struggles can make powerful fiction."
Submissions must be in prose form (no screenplays or scripts), under 5,000 words (approximately 20 typewritten pages) and submitted by March 15, 2012. Entries will be reviewed anonymously and judged on originality, quality of writing and depth of character. The ten winners will be announced in June 2012, and their stories will be published in the Journal of Legal Education: The Fiction Issue in early 2013. Additionally, the ten winners and ten runner-up entries will be posted online. Authors will retain copyright ownership. More information on the JLE Legal Fiction Contest is posted here.
hat tip: Frank Houdek
capital area conference registration open
The Second Annual Capital Area Legal Writing Conferencewill take place at Georgetown University Law Center, on March 9-10, 2012. The conference will explore a wide range of topics, including the effect of the iPad in the classroom, teaching "soft skills" to law students, the impact of LRW on Bar passage rates, applied legal storytelling, live critiquing, and much more. There will be roughly 57 presenters from 35 law schools in 17 states.
First, the keynote speaker on Friday evening will be Patricia A. Millet, the head of Akin Gump's Supreme Court practice and former assistant to the Solicitor General and attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Division. Ms. Millet was named in the October 2011 Washingtonian as one of Washington's 100 most powerful women.
Second, the luncheon speaker on Saturday will be Carol McCrehan Parker, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Associate Professor of Law, Director of Legal Writing at the University of Tennessee College of Law, and winner of the 2011 Thomas F. Blackwell Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Legal Writing.
The deadline to register is January 31, 2012, but early registration is encouraged. There is no registration fee, and all attendees must register whether or not they are presenting at the conference. It's easy to register here.
The registration website contains information about reserving a room at a group rate at one of the conference hotels, within walking distance to The Law Center (which is on Capitol Hill, NOT in Georgetown on the main campus).
December 14, 2011
Institute for Law Teaching and Learning
Call for Proposals
The Institute for Law Teaching and Learning invites proposals for conference workshops on the benefits of variety in all aspects of teaching and learning. The Institute’s summer conference provides a forum for dedicated teachers to share innovative ideas and effective methods for cutting edge legal education. This conference will take place at Gonzaga University on June 25, 2012. The Institute invites proposals for 60-minute workshops consistent with a broad interpretation of the conference theme.
Workshops can address teaching and learning in first-year courses, upper-level courses, clinical courses, writing courses, and academic support roles. The workshops can deal with variety and innovation in learning objectives, materials, teaching methods, and assessment. Each workshop should include materials that participants can use during the workshop as well as when they return to their campuses. Workshops should be lively seminar sessions in which presenters model effective teaching methods by actively engaging the participants. Proposals with strong interactive components will be given preference.
To be considered for the conference, proposals must be limited to one page, single-spaced, and include the following:
- The title of the workshop;
- The name, address, phone number, and email address of the presenter(s); and
- A summary of the contents of the workshop, including its goals and methods.
The Institute must receive proposals by February 1, 2012. Email proposals to Barb Anderson, Program Coordinator, Institute for Law Teaching and Learning at banderson2 [at] lawschool.gonzaga.edu.
Hat tips to Conference Organizers Gerry Hess and Sandra Simpson
Should Supreme Court Oral Arguments Be Televised?
Legislation has been introduced to require the U.S. Supreme Court to allow oral arguments to be televised (unless a majority of justices vote in a particular case not to allow that). Click here to read a post about the legislation from Joe Hodnicki at the Law Libarian Blog.
Gopen on Using the Passive Voice
Professor George Gopen, an English Professor at Duke University and the 2011 recipient of the Legal Writing Institute's Golden Pen Award, has published a short article in Law Practice Magazine about five times when you should use the passive voice. Go on. Have a look. We know you want to. Otherwise you have to go back to grading papers.
Hat tip to The (New) Legal Writer
December 13, 2011
An Advocate for Adverbs
The Atlantic recently posted an article by Lily Rothman, Why I am Proudly, Strongly, and Happily in Favor of Adverbs, advocating for the much-maligned part of speech. Some highlights:
It's not that adverbs aren't often unnecessary… It's that adverbs are no guiltier than any other part of speech. A noun can be nonsense. A verb can be vague. A preposition can be improper. An adjective can be antiquated. A conjunction can be confusing. Even if English speakers have a tendency to misuse adverbs, that doesn't mean they're evil. Some—those that help the current move "ceaselessly" at the end of The Great Gatsby or the crew of the starship Enterprise go "boldly"—are downright great.
The only way to learn the difference is from the supreme writing teacher: reading. Reading great books, great magazines, great blogs—and reading a lot—allows you to internalize what works and what doesn't. Read great sentences until you can tell when one isn't. Read great paragraphs until their rhythms get stuck in your head.
Only by reading can you know when an adverb belongs in a phrase and when it belongs in the trash. Then you can write beautifully. You can write masterfully. You can write cleanly.
Rothman's point about the relationship between reading and writing is well-taken. As for the adverb debate, I will simply, perhaps wisely, stay on the sideline.
hat tip: Ben Opipari
Ebenezer Scribe learns a lesson
For some seasonal enjoyment, check the latest Plain Language column in the Michigan Bar Journal. Titled A Legal-Writing Carol, it follows verbose lawyer Ebenezer Scribe on a journey warning him against turgid writing. The column’s author, Thomas M. Cooley Law School professor Mark Cooney, reproduces some especially frightening legalese that motivates Scribe to change his evil ways.
Hat tip: Joe Kimble
how to write less badly ...
There's lots of food for thought about your own writing habits and your students' writing habits at this list of advice and the comments following it.
December 12, 2011
Latest Newsletter for the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research
We are happy to share with you the Fall/Winter newsletter for the Association of American Law Schools Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research. Click here to download a copy. Download AALS-LWRR 2011-2 Newsletter
The newsletter editor for this issue was Professor Judy Rosenbaum of Northwestern University School of Law. The issue contains all of the information you need for the upcoming annual meeting of the AALS. (including the "dance card"). But even if you're not going to the AALS annual meeting, you find lots of news and updates about your friends and colleagues in the legal writing community. Download AALS-LWRR 2011-2 Newsletter
Mark E. Wojcik, Chair, AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research
P.S. If you missed the Spring/Summer issue of the section newsletter, you can still get a copy of that Spring/Summer issue by clicking here.
When your client looks like the big, bad wolf ....
Whether you've got a client who is not going to come across to others as warm and fuzzy, or you're teaching law students who drew that side of the case for their appellate problem, helpful advice is at hand in a law journal article by Jennifer Sheppard, entitled "What If the Wolf Wasn’t Really the Big Bad in All Those Fairy Tales but Was Just Misunderstood?: Techniques for Maintaining Narrative Rationality While Altering Stock Stories that Are Harmful to Your Client's Case".
That title is an excellent micro-summary, and here's a little more from the abstract:
"Humans think in terms of stories and, consequently, are persuaded by stories. That means that lawyers must be wary of stock stories that effect how an audience views a given set of circumstances. When a stock story is so pervasive that it will not allow a lawyer to ignore it or a more favorable alternative story does not exist, a lawyer can present the client’s story from an alternative perspective that will not evoke the embedded knowledge structures triggered by the unfavorable stock story. The lawyer can accomplish this by tinkering with the different threads of narrative rationality to improve the persuasiveness of the story he or she tells. In this article, I will suggest that the principles of narrative coherence, correspondence, and fidelity can help the lawyer whose client does not fit comfortably within one of our culture’s stock stories (e.g., the big bad wolf who wasn’t really bad). Specifically, the lawyer who limits the client’s story to the facts leading to the litigation focuses on the persuasive power of narrative coherence by ensuring that the story is plausible as all aspects of it mesh with one another. On the other hand, the lawyer who shifts from a narrow to a broader view of a case will rely on the persuasive power of narrative correspondence by mapping a cultural myth onto her client’s story. Finally, by creating friction between the client’s character and the outcome associated with a stock story, the lawyer can draw on the persuasive power of narrative fidelity and shift the reader’s expectations about how things should turn out."
hat tip: Nolan Wright
Applied Legal Storytelling Conference - Video Links and Downloadable Copies of Handouts Now Available from the 2011 Conference in Denver
Professor David Thomson at at the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law, has made it possible to view videos from the Applied Legal Storytelling Conference held earlier this year in Denver. The conference website includes streaming video of each session and downloadable copies of handouts.
The next conference will take place in July 2013, at City University of London, in the United Kingdom. Calls for proposals will go out in the early fall of 2012. The conference is expected to be well-attended. In fact, I think that London is hosting the Olympic Games next summer only as a practice round before the next Applied Legal Storytelling Conference.
Hat tips to Professors Ruth Anne Robbins, Robert McPeake, and David Thomson