March 17, 2012
"You'll never plough a field by turning it over in your mind."
~ traditional Irish saying
March 16, 2012
tenure for Higdon!
The law faculty at the University of Tennessee has voted to award tenure to veteran legal writing professor Michael Higdon. Don't let his movie star looks fool you; Michael has made important contributions to the field of legal writing and his tenure is well deserved. Congratulations!
hat tip: Carol Parker
March 15, 2012
deadline approaching for Western Regional Legal Writing Conference
You only have until April 2nd, about two more weeks, to submit your proposal for the Second Annual Western Regional Legal Writing Conference. The conference takes place August 10 and 11, 2012, at the University of Oregon School of Law, in Eugene, Oregon.
The conference theme is Olympic Gold: The Teaching, Scholarship, and Service Triathlon. Proposals are welcome on a wide variety of topics—from ways to succeed in the LRW triathlon to ideas for any of the individual events: teaching, service, and scholarship. The Program Committee encourages proposals for 25-minute conference presentations or panel discussions, but anticipates that there will be a few 50-minute slots as well.
1. presenter(s) name, contact information, and school affiliation
2. title of the proposed presentation
3. brief (one paragraph) description of the presentation, including a description of the presentation format (lecture with Q&A, interactive, panel)
4. two-sentence summary of the presentation for the conference program
5. length of presentation (25 minutes or 50 minutes)
6. technology needs for the presentation
The deadline is Monday, April 2, 2012.
March 14, 2012
More about the Capital Area Legal Writing Conference
At the Capital Area Legal Writing Conference, Amy Sloan (pictured below) of Baltimore gave listeners helpful tips on using Westlaw Next and Lexis Advance. Terri LeClercq, shown below with Karen Mika (Cleveland-Marshall) and Carol Parker (Tennessee), offered ideas about exercises to teach grammar and style. Carol later presented an inspiring plenary talk based on the “Nine Domains” that are needed for a system--such as the legal writing profession--to thrive.
Encyclopedia Britannica Goes Out of Print
In news that is sad for those of us who grew up leafing through our grandmothers' set of hardbound encyclopedias in search of truth and knowledge, Encyclopedia Britannica is at the end of a 244 year run. The NY Times reports:
After 244 years, the Encyclopaedia Britannica is going out of print.
Those coolly authoritative, gold-lettered reference books that were once sold door-to-door by a fleet of traveling salesmen and displayed as proud fixtures in American homes will be discontinued, company executives said.
In an acknowledgment of the realities of the digital age — and of competition from the Web site Wikipedia — Encyclopaedia Britannica will focus primarily on its online encyclopedias and educational curriculum for schools.
But for those who want a set, if for no other reason than nostalgia, time remains! The Times also reports that copies of the books abound on Craigslist.
March 13, 2012
U.S. News Releases Latest Law School Rankings
March 12, 2012
More about the Capital Area Legal Writing Conference
There were so many fascinating presentations at the March 9-10 Capital Area Legal Writing Conference that I was sorry I couldn't attend them all. One particularly enlightening panel was made up of D.C. magistrate judge Joan Goldfrank, large-firm intellectual property lawyer Kerry Konrad, and federal prosecutor Mark Blumberg. All emphasized the importance of legal writing, and all described their exacting expectations for lawyers. Judge Goldfrank advised us not to coddle law students, who may not have received much criticism yet; they will have to learn how to take criticism in the real world. Konrad said he expects junior lawyers to deliver “a work product free from errors of any type.” They must be able to “do it right and do it fast.” He also said much of the firm’s work is done by email rather than by traditional memoranda, although an email may sometimes be similar to a memorandum. Blumberg emphasized the importance of lawyers’ ability to deliver work quickly; a lawyer might have 1½ days to write a formal memorandum. Junior lawyers, he stressed, must be “nimble.”
Following that panel, the keynote speaker was Patricia Millet, pictured at right, who has argued 30 cases before the Supreme Court. As mentioned in Professor Benham's post below, she emphasized the importance of pithy, engaging writing to capture a court’s attention. “Teach students to care about every single word they put in a brief,” she said.
March 11, 2012
Capital Area Keynote Hits the Mark
As mentioned in Professor Fischer’s earlier post, Georgetown Law School hosted the Second Annual Capital Area Legal Writing Conference this weekend. I completely agree with her – the conference was a great success. I just stepped off the plane (D.C. to Lubbock via Southwest isn’t pretty, but I made it) and wanted to share my thoughts on the keynote address. Patricia Millett, co-head of Akin Gump's appellate practice group, gave the keynote. Ms. Millett, formerly of the Solicitor General's office, has briefed and argued thirty cases before the United States Supreme Court. She provided the practitioner's perspective on young legal writers.
She argued that the most important thing that legal writing teachers can do is to teach students to care about quality writing. If we inculcate a desire to write well and to appreciate quality writing, students will continue to improve even after they are no longer in our classrooms. Moreover, Ms. Millett suggested that we teach our students to care, really care, about clients. This involves understanding clients, and other lawyers' clients, as more than just a bland description from a case book. She described her own experience with a client in a Supreme Court case who had sued his former torturer in federal court. After leaving oral argument, Ms. Millett walked with the client, her mind running through questions that the justices asked and those that they did not ask. Asked about his reaction to the oral argument, the client simply said, "I'm glad we had our day in court." A man who had been denied all due process of law was content to trust the justice system to provide a resolution through court proceedings.
Ms. Millett also implored us to teach our students to care about the legal writing audience, most notably courts. She accurately described judges as overworked and tired of reading. If legal writers do not take the time to make briefs concise and readable, judges will simply tune out potentially winning arguments. She made a fascinating point about briefs really being "pre-opinions." The ultimate compliment a judge can pay a brief is structuring an opinion after it. If the judge adopts your brief as the actual opinion, you win. So brief writers should focus on doing things in briefs that would work in opinions. Likewise, writers should avoid doing things in briefs that would not work in an opinion. Ms. Millett gave the audience several good examples, noting that you do not see many opinions with name-calling and statements like "the law is clearly," so writers should avoid including name-calling or "clearly" in a brief.
The keynote included many other great points, so many in fact that I don't have room to recount them all here. The input from such a sage appellate writer was especially timely because many of us teach appellate brief writing in the coming weeks. I'm better prepared to do so having heard Ms. Millett's presentation.
Beyond the keynote, Georgetown put on a great conference. Lots of talented presenters shared recent teaching developments and new ideas. The conference was well run, and it was good to see friends from previous conferences. Thanks to the Georgetown faculty for all of the hard work and a superb weekend of learning.