Tuesday, April 30, 2013
William Zinsser, author of the respected On Writing Well, is still going strong at 90. A recent New York Times article reports that he holds one-on-one counseling sessions for writers. The article reiterates two well known pieces of Zinsser's advice: “'Clutter is the disease of American writing,'” and “'We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon.'”
hat tip: Jean Sbarge
Monday, April 29, 2013
I think this post speaks for itself:We Were Not Equals
You can prep a dean all you want for his deposition in a lawsuit regarding a faculty firing, but sometimes he'll still answer entirely candidly. Background on the case is here.
Buffalo Law Dean Makau Mutua was asked by Jeffrey Malkan's attorney about events that occurred before Mutua was dean...
Dean: I wanted to educate myself more about the various staffing models of the programs and I asked Jeff [Malkan] to provide me with a summary of the various models used by various schools to staff their research and writing programs.
Attorney: And he complied with your request even though he technically wasn't bound to do that for you? You were equals, right?
Dean: No. We were not equals.
Attorney: You were not both --
Dean: We were not equals. This is again, you are coming back to the same problem. Jeff Malkan, you know, was a research and writing instructor. I was a professor of law.
More text of the exchange is here.
Yes, I understand precisely what the dean was saying about faculty status. But I think plenty of tenured faculty would never imagine that they were anything other than equals of their contract faculty colleagues. ABA standard 405(c) may (or may not) protect jobs, but it has nothing to say about respect.
hat tip: Mark Burge, Texas Wesleyan
Friday, April 26, 2013
Beginning an oral argument with the phrase “May it please the Court” is a well-entrenched tradition: Bryan Garner reported in the April ABA Journal that he found uses of it going back to Shakespeare’s time. When Garner asked several judges what they think of the phrase, one judge said it’s better than an informal “Hi,” another said he doesn’t care whether lawyers use it, and a third said she always notes its absence. Overall, Garner concluded, “The consensus seems to be that it won’t really help, but it certainly can’t hurt.”
When I practiced law in Los Angeles, our senior partner thought "May it please the court" was pompous, and he began his arguments, "Good morning, your honor." And he did pretty well.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
The University of Idaho College of Law invites applications for two faculty positions: a Legal Research and Writing Assistant Clinical Professor and a Director of Externship and Pro Bono Programs. More information on both positions and the application process is available on the University’s faculty hiring website.
Disclosure Form for LRW position:
1. The position advertised:
__ a. is a tenure-track appointment.
__ b. may lead to successive long-term contracts of five or more years.
_X_ c. may lead only to successive short-term contracts of one to four years.
__ d. has an upper-limit on the number of years a teacher may be appointed.
__ e. is part of a fellowship program for one or two years.
__ f. is a part-time appointment, or a year-to-year adjunct appointment.
Additional information about job security or terms of employment, any applicable
term limits, and whether the position complies with ABA Standard 405(c):
2. The professor hired:
_X_ a. will be permitted to vote in faculty meetings.
__ b. will not be permitted to vote in faculty meetings.
3. The school anticipates paying an annual academic year base salary in the range checked
below. (A base salary does not include stipends for coaching moot court teams, teaching other
courses, or teaching in summer school; nor does a base salary include conference travel or other
professional development funds.)
__ a. $90,000 or more
__ b. $80,000 to $89,999
__ c. $70,000 to $79,999
_X_ d. $60,000 to $69,999
__ e. $50,000 to $59,999
__ f. $40,000 to $49,999
__ g. $30,000 to $39,999
__ h. this is a part-time appointment paying less than $30,000
__ i. this is an adjunct appointment paying less than $10,000
4. The number of students enrolled in each semester of the courses taught by the legal research
& writing professor will be:
__ a. 30 or fewer
__ b. 31 - 35
_X_ c. 36 - 40
__ d. 41 - 45
__ e. 46 - 50
__ f. 51 - 55
__ g. 56 - 60
__ h. more than 60
Additional information about teaching load, including required or permitted
teaching outside of the legal research and writing program: Included in the position description. Faculty member may teach an additional 2 credit course.
hat tip: Jeffrey Dodge, University of Idaho College of Law, Associate Dean of Students & Administration
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
The National Jurist recently published “The Fromm Six,” a list of attributes a lawyer needs to excel. Drafted by Leonard Fromm, the late dean of students at Indiana University’s law school, the list was meant to advise aspiring lawyers about the competencies they would need to succeed. Fifth on Fromm’s list is a topic at the very core of our courses: communicating and presenting, “The ability to present compelling arguments assertively and respectfully and sell one’s ideas to others.”
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Lucy Jewel, currently an Associate Professor at John Marshall Law School in Atlanta, will be joining the faculty at the University of Tennessee School of Law this coming fall semester. In addition to teaching legal writing and other lawyering skills, she pursues scholarly interests that include the intersection of technology, rhetoric, and the law. Nice catch, Tennessee!
hat tip: Michael Higdon
Monday, April 22, 2013
It's time to make your travel reservations and register for ALWD's 2013 biennial conference. This year the conference takes place at Marquette's beautiful new law school, from June 26 - 28. In addition to the hotel option, you have the choice of staying in the Marquette dorms, just across the street from the conference and easier on the travel budget. Milwaukee is beautiful in June, and if you stay in town the night the conference ends, you can enjoy Summerfest, billed as "the world's largest music festival." In addition to flying or driving, don't forget that Milwaukee is easily accessible by train from Chicago (and most of the continent connects to Chicago by train).
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Tomorrow I'm doing a CLE program on "Plain Language for Lawyers" at the Chicago Bar Association. I'm told that 230 people have signed up for the program (and the seminar room holds only 100 people). There will be video overflow rooms and a webcast. I'm glad that this is a popular topic!
Mark E. Wojcik
Scribes -- The American Society of Legal Writers -- holds an annual book award competition. The award will be presented at the Scribes Annual Meeting, held during the American Bar Association Meeting in San Francisco, on Friday, August 9, 2013. The award is an important recognition for authors (and the publishers who love them). The deadline to submit books is May 1, 2013. Information on how to submit a book for consideration for this award can be found at the webpage for Scribes.
Mark E. Wojcik (Board Member of Scribes)
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
The Draft blog at NYT explores some writers' tendency to convert verbs to nouns and concludes that, perhaps, the practice has been unduly villified. While I disagree in part, the piece explains a concept that invariably confounds some 1Ls:
“Do you have a solve for this problem?” “Let’s all focus on the build.” “That’s the take-away from today’s seminar.” Or, to quote a song that was recently a No. 1 hit in Britain, “Would you let me see beneath your beautiful?”
If you find these sentences annoying, you are not alone. Each contains an example of nominalization: a word we are used to encountering as a verb or adjective that has been transmuted into a noun. Many of us dislike reading or hearing clusters of such nouns, and associate them with legalese, bureaucracy, corporate jive, advertising or the more hollow kinds of academic prose. Writing packed with nominalizations is commonly regarded as slovenly, obfuscatory, pretentious or merely ugly.
It is easy to decry nominalization. I don’t feel that a writer is doing me any favors when he expresses himself thus: “The successful implementation of the scheme was a validation of the exertions involved in its conception.” There are crisper ways to say this. And yes, while we’re about it, I don’t actually care for “Do you have a solve?”
Still, it is simplistic to have a blanket policy of avoiding and condemning nominalizations. Even when critics couch their antipathy in a language of clinical reasonableness, they are expressing an aesthetic judgment.
Aesthetics will always play a part in the decisions we make about how to express ourselves — and in our assessment of other people’s expression — but sometimes we need to do things that are aesthetically unpleasant in order to achieve other effects, be they polemical or diplomatic.
Sunday, April 14, 2013
Scribes -- The American Society of Legal Writers -- holds an annual Brief-Writing-Award competition. The competition began in 1996 to help identify and celebrate excellent student-written briefs. The competition covers the current school year -- September 2012 to May 2013. The award is for briefs that have already won Best Brief in a regional or national moot court competition, so it is a "Best of the Best" competition.
The winning author or authors will be recognized at the 2013 Scribes Annual Meeting, which will be held during the American Bar Association's Annual Meeting in San Francisco on Friday, August 9, 2013. Plaques will be awarded to the authors and their school.
Pictured here (at right) are award winners from 2011: In the photo Scribes Board member and Brief-Writing-Award Committee member Charles D. Cole, Jr. (a.k.a. Dewey Cole) presents the 2011 Scribes Brief-Writing Award to the University of Mississippi School of Law students Rachel Mullen and Robert Parrott
Submissions for the 2012-2013 Brief-Writing Compeition are due by April 19, 2013. Visit the Scribes website for more information about Scribes. And click here for more information about the Scribes Brief-Writing Competition.
Mark E. Wojcik (Board Member, Scribes)
Saturday, April 13, 2013
Scribes -- The American Society of Legal Writers -- will have its annual luncheon on Friday, August 9, 2013 in San Fransisco during the annual meeting of the American Bar Association. The Scribes annual luncheon traditionally includes award presentations for book authors, brief writers, and moot court briefs as well as a luncheon speaker.
Pictured here (at left) is the current Scribes President, Dean Darby Dickerson of Texas Tech University School of Law.
If you are not a member of Scribes you should consider joining as an individual member. And if your law school or court is not an institutional member, you can have them join too. And if you've been a member in the past, you're always welcome back. Membership benefits include the oh-so-fabulous Scribes Journal (seriously, it's a law review that you will pick up for leisure reading!) and the Scrivener Newsletter, as well as the chance to attend Scribes programs and to have the individual prestige of being a member of Scribes. Click here for more information about Scribes including information on how to join.
Mark E. Wojcik (Board Member of Scribes and Chair of the Scribes Membership Committee)
Friday, April 12, 2013
Congratulations are in order for our blog co-editor, Judy Fischer, who was granted tenure last year and now has been promoted to the rank of full Professor at the University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law. In addition to her many helpful blog posts here, she has written a book on Pleasing the Court: Writing Ethical & Effective Briefs, numerous practical columns for the Kentucky Bar Association journal, and scholarly articles as diverse as Abraham Lincoln as a Legal Writer and The Supreme Court and Gender Neutral Language. Judy is a highly dedicated legal writing professor, one of the folks in the trenches, working hard year after year to train law students in the skills they'll need to be good lawyers. Kudos, Judy!
Thursday, April 11, 2013
The Student Lawyer’s April issue has published Garner's Annual Parade of Law-Review Horribles, in which legal-writing legal expert Bryan Garner highlights law reviews’ blunders from the past year. His list consists of usage errors like “communication between he and his client” and is set up as a quiz so readers can test themselves. The list is “all in fun,” Garner says, pointing out that numerous error-free passages appear in law reviews every year. Still, he recommends good law-review training to give law students some basic knowledge about English usage.
Monday, April 8, 2013
Over on Above the Law, Mark Herrmann has identified a new genre of writing, which he calls "big firm mediocre." It might be more of a "style" than a "genre," but I'm sure you'll recognize it. All I could think of as I read Mark's post was how glad I am, once again, that I turned down the offer for permanent employment in BigLaw, three weeks into my 3L year.
Friday, April 5, 2013
I got some great ideas at the conference!
Debby McGregor (Indiana) offered a list of YouTube videos to illustrate specific concepts and to inspire/entice students generally.
Judith Popper and Wanda Temm (UMKC) described a week of cross-curricular skills training in the first year that draws on the content of core doctrinal classes, but presents them in the context of real life, with accident/scene investigation, expert guest speakers, etc. The program takes considerable administrative coordination and the cooperation of all the professors in one section, but also energizes the students and helps them to appreciate the context in which law is applied and the skill that go along with its application.
Suzanne Rabe (Arizona) and Terrill Pollman (UNLV) talked about those things that the LRW community *doesn't* talk about: do we cheerlead even when not merited? do we support without question? is there a party line, and how do we deal with those who think differently?
It was a good afternoon!
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
The University of Colorado Law School recently hosted the Thirteenth Annual Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference in Boulder, Colorado on March 22nd and March 23rd. Although an unexpected storm dumped about a foot of snow, that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of those who braved the weather. Participants were inspired by an opening session, led by Mary Beth Beazley, Lyn Entrikin, and Richard Neumann, concisely titled “Emerging Theories in Normative Transgression and the Etymology of Gasconadish Phenotypes, Situationally Induced Puerility, and Counter-Consonance within Scholarly Discourse Communities.” And the next morning Mimi Wesson talked about compelling storytelling in a presentation titled “Writing the Hillmon Case: An Instance of the Legal Storyteller’s Predicament.” About 100 participants from around the Rocky Mountain West, the rest of the nation, and as far away as Australia and Qatar attended.
Pictured below are CU law school engagement coordinator Amy Griffin and legal writing professors Corie Rosen Felder and Natalie Mack, conference co-chair. Chatting on a stairway are Gabrielle Stafford of CU and Mary Beth Beazley of Ohio State.
The unexpected snow
Photo credits: Karin Mika and Natalie Mack
Monday, April 1, 2013
Professor Phillip Sparkes of NKU Chase College of Law has written a helpful explanation of verb moods in the latest Kentucky Bench and Bar magazine. Of the three English verb moods—indicative, imperative, and subjunctive—the most troublesome is the subjunctive; often, writers don’t know when it's appropriate or how to construct it. But, as Sparkes points out, the subjunctive mood is useful for, among other things, expressing a situation that is hypothetical or contrary to fact: “If I were the defendant, I would settle the case.” The subjunctive verb “were” cues the reader that the writer is not actually the defendant. But Sparkes also explains that not all clauses beginning with “if” concern matters contrary to fact. For example, a verb that merely expresses uncertainty about the past needs to be in the indicative, not the subjunctive, mood. Here’s my example: “If I was at that meeting, I’ve forgotten it.” The indicative “was” cues the reader that the statement is not hypothetical or contrary to fact, but could be true.