Friday, June 8, 2012

judge dislikes alphabet soup

Senior Judge Laurence Silberman, writing for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, had this to say in a footnote about court filings full of acronyms:

ImagesWe also remind the parties that our Handbook of Practice and
Internal Procedures states that “parties are strongly urged to limit the
use of acronyms” and “should avoid using acronyms that are not
widely known.” Brief-writing, no less than “written English, is full of
bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one
is willing to take the necessary trouble.” George Orwell, “Politics and
the English Language,” 13 Horizon 76 (1946). Here, both parties
abandoned any attempt to write in plain English, instead abbreviating
every conceivable agency and statute involved, familiar or not, and
littering their briefs with references to “SNF,” “HLW,” “NWF,”
“NWPA,” and “BRC” – shorthand for “spent nuclear fuel,” “highlevel
radioactive waste,” the “Nuclear Waste Fund,” the “Nuclear
Waste Policy Act,” and the “Blue Ribbon Commission.”

You can read the full decision here

hat tip: Dean Cindy Fountaine


June 8, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Contract Drafting in the Spotlight

Faculty_loriJohnson_0from new contributing editor, Lori Johnson, who teaches at UNLV:


The recent LWI Conference in Palm Desert provided a variety of excellent presentations on incorporating drafting into the legal writing curriculum at different levels. These sessions provided excellent information for those of us who teach drafting in stand-alone courses, as well as less experienced instructors dipping their feet into teaching drafting for the first time.

Tina Stark provided an in-depth presentation on Translating the Business Deal into Contract Concepts, which provided instructors some of the substantive foundation necessary to teach contract drafting. As a former transactional practitioner, I found that this session provided helpful insights on teaching Prof. Stark’s methods. Other attendees, even those without a foundation in transactional practice, left the presentation with a deeper grasp of the analytical skills necessary to teach drafting in a more focused environment.

Additionally, Mary Dunnewold and Beth Honetschlager of Hamline University School of Law gave an informative presentation titled Incorporating Drafting into the Standard First-Year LRW Curriculum, which provided strategies and tools to any legal writing professor interested in incorporating drafting into their first-year legal writing courses. The materials they pulled together as successful examples of this approach (including one of my own exercises) have generously been made available and will soon be in the 2012 LWI Idea Bank.   

This post highlights two of the presentations focused mainly on drafting, though a variety of others touched on issues concerning drafting, incorporating skills necessary to meet employer expectations, and the use of interdisciplinary and capstone approaches. All in all, the conference provided some exhilarating motivation to “take the plunge” into teaching drafting!


June 7, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Summertime and the Writing is Easy

Hemmingway_300x266Faculty2.ashxfrom new contributing editor, Anna Hemingway, who teaches at Widener

Grades are in and the LWI Biennial Conference is done. Now what? For some, a break. For others, summer teaching duties have already begun. Either way, for those interested in and having the opportunity to write, now is probably the best time to get to it. For me, post-conference time presents the chance to write while I’m still motivated to do so. I left the LWI Conference not only with great teaching ideas, but also feeling inspired by the energy and commitment of my legal writing colleagues throughout the U.S. Because the conference was held early, this summer presents the opportunity to work on either the 1-2 day shorter piece, or the 1-2 month longer article. I hope the presenters who haven’t already done so will take the time to write up their great ideas so they can be shared with the larger legal writing community. I also hope that some of the many attendees will start working on writing those articles that were inspired by presentations or discussions they had at the conference. I firmly believe that the legal writing community grows a little bit stronger each time we sit at the keyboard and work on scholarship—be it a short piece for a newsletter, or a long piece for a law review. Happy writing everyone!  


June 6, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Presidents as Writing Heroes

This year's LWI Conference had an abundance of excellent presentations.  One of many that stood out to me was Julie Oseid's (University of St. Thomas (Minnesota)) presentation on U.S. presidents as writing heroes.  It turns out that over the past few years, Prof. Oseid has studied the writing and writing habits of several eloquent presidents.  She's turned this study into a series of articles.  We've posted on a few of these as they were released, but I thought I'd highlight them as a collection.  Each focuses on a different president and a notable feature of that president's writing.  Her work has included articles on Lincoln (brevity), Madison (rigor), Jefferson (metaphor), and Grant (clarity).  She's currently studying Teddy Roosevelt, and I look forward to what she uncovers about his writing. 

For those hoping to teach writing by historical example, these articles are must reads.


June 5, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

What do you really know about West?

Davies_rossRoss Davies at George Mason has written an article on "How West Law Was Made: The Company, its Products, and its Promotions", 6 Charleston Law Review 231 (2012). As new ways of conducting legal research try to compete with West, its history provides some helpful perspective. Here's the article's abstract: 

"Only in American law is West not primarily a geographical term. When we lawyers think of West we tend to think first of West Publishing Company – the preeminent source of printed law books since before we were born and of electronic law databases in recent years. But despite its importance to the development and dissemination of American law, West itself is a creature most of us do not know much about; we know only its products. That is not our fault, because there is only a little bit of information available, and much of that little bit is hard to find. This Article offers some perspective on the roots of West, the publishing company, and of its primacy (or at least the primacy of its brand) in the consciousness of modern American lawyers."


June 5, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Photos from the LWI Conference

We are happy to share with you the official David Austin Photo Video of the 2012 LWI Conference.  This version (unfortunately) has no music (darn copyright law), but pick your own soundtrack and enjoy the show.  The photos at the end of the show are from the top of the San Jacinto Mountain, where many of the LWI attendees went before or after the conference.


If there is a photo that you simply MUST have, contact David Austin at California Western School of Law in San Diego.  His email address is daustin [at]


June 4, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

"We're in Love With LWI"

The Opening Ceremony for the LWI Biennial Conference featured the LWI Singers (I'm giving them that name), who gave us a special welcome song called "We're in Love with L-W-I" (sung to the tune of "I'm in Love with a Wonderful Guy"). Karin Mika shared this video clip with us. Mary Beth Beazley leads the group.


And here are the words (so that YOU can sing along!)

When you teach how to write you will work day and night diagnosing your students with care and with tact.
And you'll master critique as you help them to tweak their attempts to persuade in their statements of fact.
But now it's time to put all those memos and briefs away,
no more embedding your comments till Fall.
Get ready to make a whole bunch of new friends today
[And] learn . . . how to keep all your students enthralled!
Join us as we make it clear,
why this conf'rence just has no peer!
We are members of ALWD and Dircon
A-A-L-S is delightful, oh my
While they are dear, we're so glad to be here
We're in love with L.W.I.!
Storytelling is our fav'rite genre
We'll sell a felon as quite the nice guy.
And when we do it, we know that we knew it because of L.W.I!
We are straight, and we're gay, and we're men, but let's face it, more women by far
And when you're crafting a drafting assignment, we'll help you wherever you are!
We're professors of research and writing
IRAC and CRE-AC can still make us sigh
[and] so we rejoice, and please use active voice,
we're in love
we're in love
we're in love
we're in love
we're in love
with L.W.I.!


June 3, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

LWI Conference in Palm Desert

LWI Conference HotelThe Legal Writing Institute (LWI) held its 15th biennial conference this past week in at the JW Marriott Hotel in Palm Desert, California.  More than 550 persons attended the conference, which was the second one that the LWI has held at a conference resort.  (With so many attendees, the LWI has essentially outgrown law school venues.)

The conference programming was of its usual high quality.  There's a reason more than 500 legal writing professors come to attend this conference.  The poster sessions, committee fair, "Idea Bank Live" presentations, and "morning coffee" sessions allowed the LWI and its members to showcase the talent, energy, and vision of the legal writing community.  The social events were well received, even in heat that reached 112 degrees!

Putting on a successful conference of this size takes a tremendous amount of volunteer hours and effort, especially from the site committee and the program committee.

Site Committee

  • Carol L. Wallinger (Rutgers-Camden)
  • David Austin (California Western School of Law)
  • Steve Johansen (Lewis & Clark)
  • Alison Julien (Marquette)
  • Ruth Anne Robbins (Rutgers-Camden)

Program Committee

  • Candance Centeno (Villanova)
  • Rebecca Scharf (Nevada-Las Vegas)
  • Kirsten Dauphinais (North Dakota)
  • Jim Dimitri (Indiana-Indianapolis)
  • Amy Langenfeld (Arizona State)
  • Megan McAlpin (Oregon)
  • Samantha Moppett (Suffolk)
  • Joan M. Rocklin (Oregon)
  • Craig Smith (North Carolina)
  • Robin Wellford Slocum (Chapman)

Poster and Committee Fair

  • Kirsten Dauphinais (North Dakota)
  • Samantha Moppett (Suffolk)
  • Nicole Raymond Chong (Penn State)
  • Sabrina DeFabritis (Suffolk)
  • Stephanie Thompson (Pacific McGeorge)

Technology Committee

  • David Thomson (Denver)
  • Kristen Murray (Temple)

Artwork and Signage Committee

  • Ruth Anne Robbins (Rutgers-Camden)
  • Candace Centeno (Villanova)
  • Barbara Kalinowski (Thomas Cooley)
  • Samantha Moppett (Suffolk)
  • Jennifer Romig (Emory)
  • Kristen Tiscione (Georgetown)

Finance Committtee

  • Michael Higdon (Tennessee)
  • Tracy McGaugh (Touro)
  • Laurel Currie Oates (Seattle)
  • Ruth Anne Robbins (Rutgers-Camden)
  • Joan M. Rocklin (Oregon)
  • Cliff Zimmerman (Northwestern)

LWI Board (2010-2012)

  • Kenneth D. Chestek (Indiana-Indianpolis) (President)
  • Melissa H. Weresh (Drake) (President-Elect)
  • Rachel Croskery-Roberts (California-Irvine) (Secretary)
  • Michael J. Higdon (Tennessee) (Treasurer)
  • Robin Boyle (St. John's)
  • Alison E. Julien (Marquette)
  • Lisa T. McElroy (Drexel)
  • Tracy L. McGaugh (Touro)
  • Laurel Currie Oates (Seattle)
  • Suzanne Rabe (Arizona)
  • Joan Rocklin (Oregon)
  • David Thomson (Denver)
  • Mark E. Wojcik (The John Marshall Law School-Chicago)

We hope to have more reports about the conference -- and a special video montage from LWI Photographer David Austin -- later this week.


June 3, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Empire State Legal Writing Conference -- last call to register

Maybe you weren't able to make it to the LWI conference. Or maybe you were, and you just don't want that exciting conference feeling to fade. Well, you're in luck, because you still have time to register for the Empire State Legal Writing Conference. Registration will end on Monday, June 11.

ReportFacilitiesThe conference will be hosted by SUNY Buffalo Law School on Saturday, June 23, 2012. There is no fee, and you can find full details and an online registration form here.

The conference will feature more than 20 presentations on a wide range of topics, including learning outcomes and assessment, effective student conferences, and working with teaching assistants. Many of the presentations involve classroom-ready teaching exercises, including exercises on research skills, local rules, plain English, and legislative advocacy.

SricksIn addition, Sarah Ricks from Rutgers-Camden will deliver a keynote address on collaboration between legal writing faculty and faculty who teach ‘experiential’ learning courses, including clinics and externship programs.

Please direct questions to the Conference Chair, Stephen Paskey, at or 716-645-5044. 



June 3, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)