Saturday, December 22, 2012
D.A. Jeremy Telman, Associate Dean of Faculty Development and an Professor at Valparaiso University School of Law has been doing a series of posts over on the Contracts Prof Blog. We think that some of these posts on curricular reform might be of interest readers of the Legal Writing Prof blog. You can find the first post in the series by clicking here. The series includes some thoughtful commentary on subjects such as the cost of providing skills education.
Michael B. Hyman, a judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County and Vice President of Scribes--The American Society of Legal Writers, has been named as a Justice on the Illinois Appellate Court. His installation ceremony will be on Tuesday, January 8, 2013.
Friday, December 21, 2012
Like many other professors, I have my students turn in their papers electronically. The email allows me to see that the students have submitted their papers on time. I can see if they have used the grammar and style checking programs on their computers. I can print out multiple copies if I need to (such as for in-class editing exercises).
And for the last two semesters, I've added something new -- the "email cover memo."
Instead of an email saying something like "here's my paper, prof," I have students do an "email cover memo" to summarize the findings of their legal memo. Having done it now for two semesters, I can say that it the results have been good. It gives the students another writing opportunity. It allows them to share information about their research that they might not include in the memorandum itself. And it gives them an idea of how lawyers and others working in a law firm might actually communicate.
I'm sure that many visitors to this blog must have tried something along these lines. Would you mind sharing your experiences in the comments below?
Just in time for the holidays, the ABA Journal has posted a roundup of favorite legal words from some notable lawyers and bloggers. The responses ranged from "amicus brief" to "res judicata." What's your favorite legal word (or phrase)? This time of the year, mine is anything other than "office memo."
Hat tip: ABA Journal
Thursday, December 20, 2012
The Lawyering Process faculty at UNLV is also eagerly anticipating Terry Segilmann of Drexel's arrival as a visitor this spring.
A recent Southern District of New York opinion confirmed that a court can take judicial notice of Santa Claus. In a copyright suit over a screenplay written by actress Emma Thompson, the court cited a previous court’s judicial notice that “’Santa Claus is a legendary Christmas figure’ based on ‘Sint Nikolaas.’” The court then took judicial notice of facts about nineteenth-century art critic John Ruskin and held that Thompson could proceed with her film about Ruskin’s involvement in a love triangle. The case, which is not yet officially published, is Effie Film, LLC v. Pomerance.
If law school admissions offices told potential law students that lawyers write for a living, likely few would complete the application process. It falls to us 1L legal writing professors to break that news to law students. But as Linda Edwards explains in her excellent textbook (Legal Writing: Process, Analysis, and Organization), the average lawyer writes more in a lifetime than the average novelist. It may help students and practicing lawyers alike to wrap their heads around this core characteristic of a legal career by reading what Wayne Scheiss has to say on the topic here.
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
University of Louisville seeks distinguished visitor or visiting assistant professor of legal writing
The University of Louisville's Louis D. Brandeis School of Law seeks to hire a legal writing professor to fill the Ralph S. Petrilli Distinguished Visiting Professorship for the year 2013-14. A visiting assistant professor position may also be available. Persons filling either position will be primarily responsible for teaching in the law school’s year-long first year Basic Legal Skills program. The salary for the Distinguished Professorship is negotiable; the salary for the visiting assistant professorship is $56,000.
The University of Louisville is located in Louisville, Kentucky. Louisville is a city of 1.3 million with vibrant arts, educational, medical, and business communities, and was recently named Lonely Planet’s Top US Travel Destination for 2013. Information about the law school is available at the school’s website at http://www.law.louisville.edu/. For further information about the school, or to apply, please contact Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Timothy S. Hall, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (502) 852.6830.
The University of Louisville is an equal opportunity institution and does not discriminate against persons on the basis of race, age, religion, sex, disability, color, sexual orientation, national origin or veteran status. Applications from individuals who will contribute to the diversity of our law school are welcomed.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
For people thinking about attending law school, click here for a short video on the subject of "Are There Too Many Lawyers?"
Ian Gallacher at Syracuse posted a great forthcoming piece on the possiblity that machines may soon write many of the documents that lawyers have traditionally produced. The article, Do Robomemos Dream of Electric Nouns?: A Search for the Soul of Legal Writing, argues that machines lack a critical human trait that is vital to quality legal writing -- empathy. From the abstract:
This essay considers the possibility that computers might soon be capable of writing many of the documents lawyers typically write, and considers what qualities of writing are uniquely human and whether those qualities are sufficient to render human written work superior to computer generated work.
After noting that despite the claims of rhetoricians and narrative theorists, not all legal writing is persuasive writing, and that it is in the non-persuasive area of prosaic, functional documents that computer generated documents might gain a bridgehead into the legal market, the essay tracks the development of computer-generated written work, particularly in the areas of sports journalism and corporate reporting. The essay notes that the templates developed to generate these documents can be customized to produce the tone desired by the customer, meaning that both rhetoric and narrative have been captured and transformed into tools that can be manipulated by computer programmers. This in turn means that computer generated documents will not be devoid of rhetorical or narrative interest, making the programs that develop them potentially appealing for lawyers even if they seek to use them to draft persuasive as well as more functional documents.
What these programs will lack, however, is empathy -- the ability to anticipate what information a reader will need from a document, and when the reader will need it, and to draft a document that meets the reader's needs and expectations. An empathetic human writer knows when to follow and when to break the genre expectations of a document and can send powerfully persuasive messages to a reader by use of that knowledge.
The essay concludes that empathy is a crucial, and uniquely human, aspect of persuasive writing and that an empathetically-aware written document should be superior to a technically accurate but non-empathetic computer generated document.
Monday, December 17, 2012
Author Jay Heinrichs has written an informative piece about how word choice can help prevent future mass shootings. Among his suggestions: instead of calling the shootings a tragedy--which implies that they were inevitable--call them a massacre; and when the Second Amendment is discussed, mention that it calls for a "well-regulated malitia," which has nothing to do with shooting children.
I discussed similar issues of word choice in my article about George Orwell's relevance to legal writing. And I've noticed how gun-control opponents use language to their advantage when they say, "Guns don't kill people--people do." That piece of linguistic legerdemain ignores English syntax. A drinker could say,"The bartender made me drunk" (focusing on a person) or"the Scotch made me drunk" (focusing on the immediate cause). Both are true. Of course guns kill people--a fact that was all too vividly demonstrated at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
hat tip: Lisa McElroy
In response to the Newtown shootings, Supreme Court expert Lisa McElroy has written a moving piece in the Huffington Post. McElroy, who teaches legal writing at at Drexel University, argues that the nation’s gun control policy must change in order to prevent further mass shootings—and that a key place to start is with future nominations to the Supreme Court.
Hat tip: Ralph Brill