Friday, March 23, 2012
Here's a reminder of a legal writing program being give today by Scribes - The American Society of Legal Writers. It's being held from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. today at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, which is hosting the Scribes for its board meeting. (The Scribes board includes some big names in legal writing, including Richard Wydick, Bryan Garner, Darby Dickerson, Joe Kimble, Judge Mark Painter, etc.) The law school is expecting a pretty full house of close to 100 people for today's program.
For those of you who are not individual members of Scribes, it is a great organization that you should consider joining. You can become an individual member if you've published a book, law review article, or judicial opinion, or if you have served as an editor of a legal publication. There are also institutional memberships available, and many law schools have decided to do that. Scribes publishes quite a good journal (the 2010 issue, for example, included transcripts of interviews with eight U.S. Supreme Court Justices on their views on legal writing). There's also an award luncheon held during the ABA Annual Meeting (this year, that luncheon will be on Friday, August 3, 2012). And Scribes also hosts its own writing conferences (the next one is in Washington DC in May).
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Surely many a law professor's mind wanders, half way through a summer writing footnotes for a law review article on some narrow area of the law, to what it would be like to let loose the creative juices and write the next great American novel. Well some law professors have already done just that. And you can read about their experiences in "Why a Law Professor Writes Fiction", by SCOTT D. GERBER, in the January 2012 edition of the National Jurist.
Yet another author has added to the increasing literature about the flaws in student ratings. In a recent Chronicle of Higher Education piece, Timothy Edwards, an adjunct legal writing professor at the University of Wisconsin, recounts how he received high student evaluations when he catered to his students’ desires. He followed a “consumer model,” telling students exactly how to do his writing assignments. This resulted in high numbers because the students, Edwards, says, place receiving good grades at the top of their priorities. “They are rarely interested in whether they are learning how to be a good lawyer—unless that helps them get a good grade.”
But in his law practice, Edwards and his partners are finding that new law graduates are not prepared for the practice of law. They often fail to understand that legal problems seldom have “easy” or “right” answers. So Edwards decided to stop spoon-feeding. Instead, he now challenges students to wrestle with the uncertainties in legal practice. This leads to student frustration and lower student ratings, he says, but it also results in a better learning experience.
Edwards also points out the irony in law schools’ reliance on rating forms that would never pass muster in a courtroom. They are “insulting, false, and otherwise prejudicial,” and would be inadmissible hearsay, a problem exacerbated by their anonymity. Moreover, Edwards says students are not qualified to judge teaching or even whether they have learned the subject matter well. He adds that the “inconsistent and misguided student evaluations” have provided him with little help as he seeks ways to improve his teaching.
The article concludes that it is not “fair or wise” to judge teaching solely by student evaluations. Students should be exposed to the realities of law practice, “not placated when they complain after being properly challenged,” even if that approach results in lover student ratings.
Hat tip: John D. Edwards
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
The promotion committee at Western New England University School of Law recently voted to promote Jeanne Kaiser and Harris Freeman to the status of full Professor of Legal Research and Writing.In addition, the committee voted to promote Myra Olren to the rank of Associate Professor of Legal Research and Writing. Congratulations to each of you -- and to WNE!
Ross Guberman, whose book Point Made has been mentioned on this blog, has posted his annotations to the Solicitor General’s brief in the pending Supreme Court health care case (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida). Guberman’s 140 marginal comments are likely to prompt a spirited discussion in a class about brief writing.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Chief Judge Fred Biery, Western District of Texas, issued an order styled a "Non-Kumbaya Order" in a notable Texas school prayer case. The order stems from alleged violations of a provision in a settlement agreement that forbids the defendants in the case from disparaging the plaintiffs. Judge Biery, like some other federal judges (here and here), appears to have written the order, at least in part, to entertain the internet consuming public. Some highlights:
While Hollywood once proposed that "love means never having to say you're sorry," life and litigation offer more realistic approaches to resolving disputes and avoiding lengthy court hearing[s] on the allegations and responses presently before the Court. Surely, the parties and counsel have more constructive things to do.
The Court does not expect the parties to hold hands and sing "Kumbaya" around a campfire beside the Medina River.
The court went on to order the parties to sign a statement apologizing for the disparaging comments and promising to abide by the settlement agreement in the future.
While the order is an entertaining piece of writing, I hesitated to post it because I am bringing more attention to the trend of judges, particularly federal judges, issuing orders meant to go "viral." I've posted my concerns about the trend before, but decided to pass along the order as noteworthy for anyone following or studying it.
Monday, March 19, 2012
One of our regular readers (and comment contributor) is Christopher Wren, who works in Wisconsin as an Assistant Attorney General. Here's a bit of news that he has just shared with us in a comment on an earlier post:
“If the judge adopts your brief as the actual opinion, you win.” True, but not permissible here in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals condemns the practice of a trial court adopting a party’s brief as the court’s opinion. See State v. McDermott, 2012 WI App 14, ¶ 9 n.2.
Thanks for keeping us informed, Chris!
OK, we've known about this since December but it's been under a "blog embargo" until now. The President of the Legal Writing Institute Board, Kenneth D. Chestek, will be leaving the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis to join the faculty at University of Wyoming College of Law. Ken finishes his term as LWI President this summer at the conclusion of the LWI Biennial Meeting in California. He'll remain on the LWI Board as Immediate Past President. Congratulations on your move to Wyoming, Ken! Yeehah!
"New Ways to Teach Drafting and Drafting Ethics", 12 Transactions: The Tennessee Journal of Business Law 187 (2011).
The abstract states:
"Teaching legal writing online seems like something that would be impossible. But it can be effective, and has been done well. Teaching contract drafting online is a newer challenge, and presents particular difficulties. This article describes how to convert a writing based “ground class” to an online class generally, and describes the process one faculty member went through to convert a contract drafting class to an online class. The article is based on presentations made by the authors at the Transactional Law Teaching Conference, sponsored by Emory Law School."