Friday, September 28, 2012
The ABA Journal announced in its October issue that Jim McElhaney, longtime author of the Journal’s Litigation column, is retiring from that post. He goes out with a flourish on the magazine’s cover and in a feature article about his career, first in the JAG Corps and later as a professor, lecturer, editor, and writer.
McEhlaney believed lawyers must be good storytellers. “Stories grab us in a way no list of facts could ever do. So why would you make your story difficult to follow?”
I’ve mentioned several of McElhaney’s columns on this blog; many of his gems are especially relevant to legal writing. Readers may be interested in the journal’s story with its photos of McElhaney and his wife enjoying their New Mexico home.
Some of parting words of McElhaney’s wisdom from the article seem appropriate here:
I want everything I express to do so cleanly, clearly and simply. Law schools teach you to talk funny, and lawyers want to sound “special” coming out of the law school environment. I was so happy to spend my academic life talking like a normal person.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
Many writers (and speakers) have the unfortunate habit of using "literally" when their reference in fact is figurative. ("In sentencing the defendant, the judge literally threw the book at him.") A recent post on The Lawyerist blog discusses and illustrates this problem, along with writers' problems with other "crutch words" or "comfort words," or as some call them, "weasel words" (e.g., actually, basically, clearly, very). It's a good post to share with your students.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
The Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had too large an entering class. The Wall Street Journal reports today that the school ended up offering some students as much as $20,000 to defer their admissions for a year.
The most common comment I received dealt with organization and clarity of court filings. [L]ong, rambling briefs are ineffective. . . . . [M]ore often than not, a longer brief is confusing for the reader and less effective because the writer fails to clarify and hone the issues facing the court. . . .
In addition to advocating for clear and concise writing, many judges and clerks reiterated the importance of proofreading. It's a basic housekeeping skill for writers . . . .
Grant’s short article appeared in the August issue of the Journal of the Kansas Bar Association.
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
The William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas is accepting applications for a position in the Lawyering Process Program. Applicants will be considered at the contract, tenure-track or tenured professor level. Salary will be competitive, based on experience. Tenure-track candidates should have a substantial record of publication.
Responsibilities include teaching in a three-semester program that enjoys faculty support, carries nine credit hours and is fully graded. Lawyering Process Professors have the opportunity to create upper-division legal writing classes in their area of special interest. The Lawyering Process website will provide more information about the program.
Applicants should submit a letter of interest, along with a detailed resume, three professional references, and copies of any published works to Professor Ruben J. Garcia, Chair, Appointments Committee, UNLV, William S. Boyd School of Law, 4505 S. Maryland Parkway, Box 451003, Las Vegas, NV 89154-1003, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. The professor hired will be permitted to vote in faculty meetings.
3. The school anticipates paying an annual academic year minimum base salary in the range of $80,000-$89,999, but the salary would be greater depending on experience. Base salary does not include conference travel or other professional development funds.
4. The number of students enrolled in each semester of the courses taught by the Lawyering Process Professor will be 31-36. Tenure and tenure-track professors teach a three course load, which means that for one semester, the faculty-student ratio will be around 1-18.
Monday, September 24, 2012
Today is National Punctuation Day--read more about it here. I wish the site's discussion of the colon explained that an introductory passage ending with one must be grammatically complete. (See Anne Enquist and Laurel Currie Oates, Just Writing 234 (Wolters Kluwer 2009)). But I quibble. It's still an interesting site.
hat tip: Chris Wren