Friday, October 12, 2012
Almost a decade ago I recommended that LWI members should be proud of the Diamonds on the Soles of Our Shoes. I meant, of course, that we have much to offer our faculty and students.
I am offering a new type of diamond: after 10 years, I've completed a graphic novel for inmates. Yep. Prison Grievances: when to write, how to write. It's 5th-grade reading level. The pro bono hero teaches inmates to avoid frivolous grievances; a workbook at the end helps inmates overcome the technicalities of the Prison Litigation Reform Act so they can, perhaps, take their grievances into courts. I'd like to send a copy of this educational, much-needed graphic novel into the library of each federal and state prison. Will you please take a look at the project and funding suggestions?
Click here for more information or to donate to the project.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
The Appellate Record Blog has a great piece on the best fonts for briefs. Unfortunately for those of us who use Times New Roman, it appears that the font has fallen out of favor with at least one appellate court. From the court:
Typographic decisions should be made for a purpose. The Times of London chose the typeface Times New Roman to serve an audience looking for a quick read. Lawyers don’t want their audience to read fast and throw the document away; they want to maximize retention. Achieving that goal re- quires a different approach--different typefaces, different column widths, dif- ferent writing conventions. Briefs are like books rather than newspapers. The most important piece of advice we can offer is this: read some good books and try to make your briefs more like them.
The Appellate Record goes on to suggest a few good book fonts, including Century Schoolbook and Book Antuiqua.
Here's another guest post from Kristen Murray at Temple University:
The New York Times Opinionator Blog has an interesting piece called Escaping One’s Own Shadow, in which writer Michael Erard discusses “structural priming,” through which “your brain’s activity in one part of the day shapes it in another, especially when it comes to creating sentences.” The piece offers advice about writing across different contexts, genres, and styles:
"Each time you sit down to write, you should cleanse your linguistic palate by reading some things that are vastly unlike what you’ve been writing. I like to page through Virginia Tufte’s 'Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style,' which is a catalog of the flexibility of the English sentence. As a warm-up activity, you might try actively imitating a writing style different from your own. It’s hard to do and highly unpriming.
"Also, it’s imperative that you shut off the Web and don’t look at e-mail while you’re writing. Each time you look at Facebook or Twitter, you get primed with another kind of language, whether it’s your friends’ or your own. But maybe you want to write like you tweet. In that case, prime away."
I’m now thinking about how the concept of priming affects my own writing (articles, emails, tweets, blog posts, and so on) and how I might introduce the concept to my students. (Credit to my colleague Ellie Margolis, who passed the link along to me.)
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Two articles in the October National Jurist discuss the increasing focus on practical training in law schools. In Too Esoteric?, author Bruce Buckley quotes last year’s speech by Chief Justice John Roberts, who criticized academic legal scholarship as too theoretical and unhelpful to the bar. Buckley writes that, with many law graduates unprepared to practice law, some schools are reacting by adding more practical training, including clinical courses. In a separate article, Meltdown in St. Louis, author Jack Crittenden recounts a dispute that arose at St. Louis University School of Law when the university president, Rev. Lawrence Biondi, indicated in August that the law school would emphasize scholarship less and move toward a more practical training approach. Dean Annette Clark resigned over that decision, and St. Louis trial lawyer Thomas Keefe assumed the interim deanship, presumably to move the school in a more practical direction.
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Acronyms often cause difficulties in legal writing, especially when they are overused. So wrote Mark Cooney in the July Michigan Bar Journal. Acronyms and initialisms, Cooney wrote, are difficult for readers to keep straight. His example of an acronym-laden paragraph from Constellation Power Source, Inc. v Select Energy, Inc. is nearly incomprehensible. Cooney concluded, “Courts and commentators have debunked the notion that readers appreciate acronyms and that there’s no way to avoid them.”
Monday, October 8, 2012
The fourth biennial Applied Legal Storytelling Conference will take place July 22-24, 2013, at Gray’s Inn, and at Inn of Court at City Law School, which is part of City University, London, UK. This Inn of Court is located in Central London, in the Holborn district.
This conference will bring together academics, judges, and practitioners to explore the role of narrative in legal practice and to discuss curricular strategies that will prepare students to use story and narrative as they enter the practice of law. The conference organizers welcome and encourage presentations across the lawyering and doctrinal curriculum. To understand how large and diverse a topic “legal storytelling” is, you can view the program from the previous conference here.
The conference will include 50-minute and
25-minute time slots. Roundtable presentation proposals are also welcome. The
deadline for submissions is December 14, 2012. Submissions should be sent electronically to Jovana
Anderson, Lewis & Clark Law School, firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can feel free to contact the conference planning committee with any questions you may have:
Steve Johansen , email@example.com
Robert McPeake, R.J.Mcpeake@city.ac.uk
Brian J. Foley firstname.lastname@example.org
Ruth Anne Robbins email@example.com
Stefan H. Krieger Stefan.H.Krieger@hofstra.edu
Erika Rackley firstname.lastname@example.org
A new website provides a fairly comprehensive listing of award programs for the legal profession. The site is intended to encourage more lawyers and law firms to participate in the various award programs and to encourage even greater perfection in the practice of law. Through the new website, lawyers can match skills and accomplishments with the awards that might be available.
The "Featured Award of the Month" right now is The Burton Awards, a non-profit program founded by the Burton Foundation, rewarding excellence in the legal profession. The Burton Awards recognizes major achievements in law, ranging from literary awards to the greatest reform in law, from regulatory excellence to publishing awards, and from recognition for public service to public interest. Regular readers of this Legal Writing Prof Blog know that the Burton Awards are given at the gala event held at the Library of Congress. (The last award presentation even included a performance by Bernadette Peters!)
Other legal writing awards on the website include the Scribes Award (given by Scribes - The American Society of Legal Writers), the Thomas Blackwell Award (given jointly by the Association of Legal Writing Directors and the Legal Writing Institute), and the ClearMark Awards given by the Center for Plain Language.
The new website features several dozen programs in fourteen categories, including: civil rights, education, e-lawyering, environmental, family law, general, legal writing, legal aid, advocacy, marketing, media, pro bono, and women in law. The site is organized by profit or non-profit awards, features a program of the month, and offers advertising opportunities for programs, logo services, and in-depth descriptions.
Hat tip to Michelle Rayzman
Sunday, October 7, 2012
Kristen Murray at Temple University sends this post as a guest blogger (and we're hoping she'll become a regular here):Professor David Becker of Washington University has a piece posted on SSRN entitled To Tweet or Not to Tweet, That is the Question. Here is the abstract:
"Twitter and tweets are now the rage among people in the world of sports, entertainment, media, government, and lately academia as well. They have even entered the world of law schools and law professors. This essay examines how twitter and tweets are being used by law teachers and whether it is wise to tweet at all. More specifically, this essay critically examines the risks and dangers inherent in twitter use and, further, whether it is the most effective, efficient, and desirable form of pedagogic communication between law teachers and their students."
Professor Becker concludes that the answer is “not to tweet,” at least for individual law professors; he is less concerned about institutional twitter accounts.
We started a twitter account for the Temple LRW Program (@TempleLRW) this year, as a way of interacting with current students, alumni, and the larger legal writing community. I can see (and have seen!) successful use of twitter by individual law professors as well. What about you? Do you tweet? Should we tweet?