Saturday, July 14, 2012

a writer's sense of time

When you're fully engaged in writing, it's easy to forget that time is marching on. Hours can go by and seem like minutes. Perhaps that's why someone invented the writer's clock.

hat tip: Kathy Fehrman


July 14, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 13, 2012

fiction techniques for drawing in or distancing the audience

Koehlert-cathrenCatherine Koehlert-Page's new article reveals intriguing techniques that fiction writers use to control how close or distant the reader feels to a character, techniques legal writers may be able to take advantage of. Her article, "Come a Little Closer So That I Can See You My Pretty: The Use and Limits of Fiction Techniques for Establishing an Empathetic Point of View in Appellate Briefs" , has been published in 80 UMKC L. Rev. 399 (2011).

Here's her summary:

"This article starts from the premise that legal clients have individual truths. To convey those truths and create empathy for clients, appellate brief writers can use fiction point of view techniques. Literary fiction writers often believe that they are telling higher truths. In so doing, they utilize subtle degrees of distance. Thus point of view means more than just first person, third person, or omniscient. It means more than just the character from whom a story's viewpoint is told. It includes the distance that the reader feels from the story, the characters, and the viewpoint character.

"Fiction writers use a variety of techniques to establish that close or distant point of view and create or diminish empathy. I have identified some of these techniques. I have provided good examples from fiction works such as Mystic River, The Book Thief, and A Step From Heaven. I have used books such as Twilight and Eragon for the bad examples. I then provide examples of the same techniques used in actual appellate briefs."



July 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Keynote address by Sarah Ricks urges collaboration

RicksRutgers–Camden clinical law professor Sarah Ricks delivered an inspiring keynote address at the Empire State Legal Writing Conference on June 23. Consistent with the trend toward emphasizing skills in law school, she told listeners that “Collaboration among legal writing, clinical, and pro bono programs responds to calls to make students more practice-ready, exposes students to sophisticated legal issues they may not see in summer jobs, and helps achieve the public service mission of the law school.”




July 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Punctuation Love Story

Ben Dolnick has a nice piece in the NY Times that explores his relationship with the semicolon.  What began as disdain, based largely on the crass advice of Kurt Vonnegut, later blossomed into something approaching love:

Their textbook function — to separate parts of a sentence “that need a more distinct break than a comma can signal, but that are too closely connected to be made into separate sentences” — has come to seem like a dryly beautiful little piece of psychological insight. No other piece of punctuation so compactly captures the way in which our thoughts are both liquid and solid, wave and particle.

And so, far from being pretentious, semicolons can be positively democratic. To use a semicolon properly can be an act of faith. It’s a way of saying to the reader, who is already holding one bag of groceries, here, I know it’s a lot, but can you take another? And then (in the case of William James) another? And another? And one more? Which sounds, of course, dreadful, and like just the sort of discourtesy a writer ought strenuously to avoid. But the truth is that there can be something wonderful in being festooned in carefully balanced bags; there’s a kind of exquisite tension, a feeling of delicious responsibility, in being so loaded up that you seem to have half a grocery store suspended from your body.

I am torn on the use of semicolons in legal writing.  With especially complex ideas, I do not know if it is wise to hand the reader another bag.  But then again, semicolons can create a nice flow within paragraphs.  For me it comes down to context, but context-based lessons are the most difficult to teach students without much experience.  Perhaps everyone needs to fall in love on their own.


July 12, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

teaching e-mail writing

ImagesKendra Huard Fershee has written an article explaining why legal writing professors should be teaching law students how to write effective e-mail, in "The New Legal Writing: The Importance of Teaching Law Students How to Use E-Mail Professionally". Here's her abstract:

"Anyone who has worked in a legal capacity in the last ten years can attest to the meteoric rise in the use of e-mail as a means of professional communication. Recent empirical research demonstrates that e-mail is the most common method for professional legal communication today and that the office memorandum has declined as a tool in the lawyer’s arsenal. The reality of this change is raising questions in the legal writing community about the usefulness of the traditional written memo and whether legal writing professors should be teaching students how to distill their analysis into this new, shorter, more direct form of legal writing. The discussion has brought about an even more intense need for legal writing professors to address professionalism and effective communication in e-mail with their students.

"This Article proposes that law schools must make teaching students how to write e-mail in a professional setting as high a priority as teaching students how to write a basic legal memorandum has been since the inception of legal writing programs."




July 11, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Livening up legal writing

Looking for a way to liven up legal writing? Check Arthur Plotnik’s Spunk & Bite, his answer to theSpunk - Bite tamer guide by Strunk and White. Plotnik argues that writing needs flair to attract and hold readers, and he offers lots of examples to illustrate his point. The book is written for a general audience, and some of its advice is too edgy for legal writing. But Spunk & Bite is a good prod toward crisper writing.


July 11, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Do your non-tenure-track legal writing professors have these protections?

A recent report from the AAUP makes the following recommendations for non-tenure-track faculty (as reported in the AAUP's on-line newsletter):

"Faculty members who hold contingent appointments should be afforded responsibilities and opportunities in governance similar to those of their tenured and tenure-track colleagues.

"Institutional policies should define as 'faculty' and include in governance bodies at all levels individuals whose appointments consist primarily of teaching or research activities conducted at a professional level.

"Eligibility for voting and holding office should be the same for all faculty regardless of full- or part-time status.

"All members of the faculty should be eligible to vote in all elections for college and university governance bodies on the basis of one person, one vote.

"While faculty in contingent appointments may be restricted from participating in the evaluation of tenured and tenure-track faculty, they should have the opportunity to contribute to the evaluation of contingent faculty.

"All faculty members should, in the conduct of governance activities, be explicitly protected by institutional policies from retaliation.

"Faculty holding contingent appointments should be compensated in a way that takes into consideration the full range of their appointment responsibilities, which should include service."

It would be nice if all of the above applied to all legal writing professors in the U.S.!


July 10, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

collective writing comes full circle

In a recent article on a narrow slice of IP law history, I found myself seventy-one footnotes in explaining that writing today is reverting back to being a collective process, reminiscent of Medieval or Renaissance practices. Proving my point is a new book, Inside Straight: Advice about Lawyering, In-House and Out, by Attorney Mark Herrmann. 1620507_big To create this book, Mark compiled blog posts from his regular column, Inside Straight, which appears on the Above the Law blog. After most of the reprinted posts, the book includes some of the comments that follow the posts on the blog. This approach captures the feel of the on-line conversation, in a static, printed book. It's not exactly a Renaissance copy book, but there's no solitary Romantic writer starving in a garret either. (As for the content of Mark's book, it tempts me to write Inside Legal Academia.)  


July 10, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Scribes Annual Luncheon in Chicago on August 3

Scribes_logoScribes, the American Society of Legal Writers, is the oldest professional legal writing organization in the United States.

The Scribes annual luncheon takes place this year on Friday, August 3rd, from noon to 2:00 p.m., at the Union League Club of Chicago (65 W. Jackson Boulevard).  The luncheon is held during the annual meeting of the American Bar Association (but you do not need to be attending the ABA meeting in order to attend the Scribes luncheon).

The main speaker is Seventh Circuit Justice Diane Wood.  There will be a special Lifetime-Achievement Award given to U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.  And Scribes' book award and brief-writing award will also be presented.  So it's going to be a wonderful celebration of strong legal writers.


  • $50 for Scribes members
  • $90 for a Scribes member and a guest
  • $60 for non-members
  • IF YOUR LAW SCHOOL IS AN INSTITUTIONAL MEMBER OF SCRIBES you get two free tickets to the luncheon.  (The invitation may still be on your Dean's desk!)  

To attend the luncheon, send a message to Rebecca McAlpine at Thomas Cooley Law School.  Her email is mcalpinb [at] and her telephone number is 417-371-5140, extension 4402.  Please RSVP by July 23rd.    

If you would like more information about Scribes, including information on how to join, click here.

(spl and mew)


July 9, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Job Opening in California

The University Of La Verne College Of Law is currently accepting applications for one visitor to teach Legal Analysis and Writing for the 2012-2013 academic year.  The individual filling the position will teach two sections of Introduction to Jurisprudence, a 2-credit Fall semester course that exposes first-year students to the basic principles of legal research and writing.  The visitor will also teach two sections of Legal Analysis and Writing I, a 2-credit Spring semester course that continues the process of legal writing instruction, focusing on core lawyering skills.  Salary will depend upon experience.

Send a letter of application, a resume or vitae, and the names and contact information for three references by July 13, 2012, by email ( or regular mail to Jodi Jewell, Director of Legal Analysis and Writing, University of La Verne College of Law, 320 East D Street, Ontario, CA 91764.



July 9, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

moving up!

The happy news of promotions for legal writing professors came in droves this spring:

At South Texas, Amanda Peters was promoted from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor.

The Pacific McGeorge faculty voted to give Adrienne Brungess and Gretchen Franz five year presumptively renewable contracts and the titles of Professors of Lawyering Skills. Pacific McGeorge also promoted Jeff Proske to Associate Professor of Lawyering Skills.

The Villanova faculty voted to promote Candace Centeno to the rank of Professor of Legal Writing, a position which comes with a presumptively renewable, five-year term.

The Albany faculty unanimously voted to promote Jerry Rock to Associate Lawyering Professor, also with a presumptively renewable five-year contract.
At Suffolk, the faculty voted to grant five-year contracts to the following members of the legal writing faculty: Julie Baker, Geraldine Griffin, Lisa Healy, Phil Kaplan, Rosa Kim, and Ann Santos.

David Raeker-Jordan and Amanda Smith were both recently promoted to Associate Professors of Legal Methods and received five-year, presumptively renewable contracts at Widener.

Jane Gionfriddo of Boston College has been promoted to Professor of Legal Reasoning, Research & Writing. Jane was the director at Boston College for many years, successfully transitioning the program to an autonomous model a few years ago.

Recently, the faculty committee on promotions and tenure at Emory voted to extend Karen Cooper a five year contract. Her Dean, Robert Schapiro, agreed with the committee and announced the decision at a faculty meeting, where it was met with great applause.

Kelly Feeley at Stetson has been awarded programmatic tenure and promoted to Professor of Legal Skills.

And from U. Dayton comes the news that Julie Zink has been promoted to Professor of Lawyering Skills, and Adam Todd has been promoted to Associate Professor of Lawyering Skills.

After two years as an Adjunct Professor and a Visiting Professor at Seattle, Denis Stearns has accepted their offer to join the faculty as a Professor from Practice.

Dena Sonbol and Herb Brown have been visiting professors of legal analysis and writing at Southern for the past two years. Now the university president has approved hiring Dena and Herb as regular, full-time Assistant Professors of Legal Analysis and Writing. 

And, the University of San Francisco has appointed one of their own, Eugene Kim, to a full-time position as an Assistant Professor of Legal Writing.

Kudos one and all!


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