Thursday, June 27, 2013
The presentations and discussions at the ALWD Innovative Teaching Workshop in Milwaukee yesterday afternoon were, in the words of one participant, "amazing! Everyone has great ideas to share and we're building exciting new classes and courses together."The teaching workshops were the brain child of Kristen Dauphinais. This year's committee includes Pamela Keller, Olympia Duhart, Michael Sackey, Jessica Clark, Sue Chessler, Bernadette Gargano, and Philip Kaplan. Cara Cunningham presented the plenary session, giving us immediately helpful ideas on how to apply in practical ways what we already know about learning theories. And of course, Cara modeled excellently what she was teaching.Pictured above is one of the small group break-out sessions during the workshop (hat tip & photo credit: Suzanne Rowe).(spl)
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Legal writing directors, co-ordinators, and professors of all stripes are converging on Marquette University's law school for the start of the bi-ennial ALWD conference today. The ALWD Innovative Teaching Workshop takes place this afternoon, as does ALWD's Board of Directors meeting. Then a hearty reception officially launches the conference this evening.
Our legal writing colleagues will give over sixty presentations throughout the day on Thursday and Friday. At tomorrow's plenary lunch, we'll get an update on what's brewing with the ABA Standards. Then for dinner, everyone gets to unwind at an actual brewery, take the tour, enjoy a fish fry, and dance to a polka band. (Hey, we're in Milwaukee.)
At the plenary lunch on Friday, the keynote speaker is Dean Kent Syverud. You may remember him as the author of The Caste System and Best Practices in Legal Education, an article cited frequently in legal writing scholarship. The conference ends on Friday evening with an ice cream social (although a highly reliable source tells us it's actually custard, Kopp's custard). Then it's off to Summerfest, and it just so happens that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are the headliners Friday evening.
hat tip: Mary Beth Beazley
Monday, June 24, 2013
Sunday, June 23, 2013
I've sometimes quipped that after a couple of decades teaching legal writing, surely through life experience I've earned the equivalent of a Masters degree in Pyschology. So it makes sense that legal writing professors might be interested in the Psychology and Lawyering Conference now being organized. The conference will be held February 21-22, 2014, at UNLV. Proposals are due by July 15th, and you can find more information here.
Friday, June 21, 2013
As more students enter law school without enough previous rigorous writing experience, there's a new book that may be helpful for them. Laura Graham and Miki Felsenburg have written The Pre-writing Handbook for Law Students (Carolina Academic Press 2013). The book includes advice and exercises for understanding a client's story, understanding the assignment, creating a research plan, starting to analyze while researching, carefully reading relevant authorities, moving from reading to analysis and on to writing, and analyzing issues.
Thursday, June 20, 2013
I often wonder whether the decrease in writing skills is the result of the younger generation of lawyers being hooked on the Internet, familiar only with quick reads and the use of abbreviations in communications.
Most judges and partners are old school. Do not give us a written product filled with typos and grammatical errors, or something that reads like an email. Even if you gave me a sound, well-thought-out product, I won’t trust it because you gave me sloppy work.
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Michael Higdon has written a very helpful article for law students: The Legal Reader: An Expose, 43 New Mexico L. Rev. 77 (2013). (My apology for lacking the accent for "expo-zay" in this blog platform.) I'm still weighing just when in the first semester of law school to recommend it to our new 1Ls, but I'm sending it to our rising 2Ls today. You can also access it here at SSRN, although the date suggests that's not the final edited version.
Monday, June 17, 2013
We all do it from time to time. C'mon, you're probably doing it right now, procrastinating by reading this blog. Two recent articles shed some useful light on why we procrastinate and how to help ourselves move on, to more productive activities. (But do come back to the blog from time to time.)
First, a short article by Meehan Rasch addresses "Understanding the Procrastination Cycle". The abstract tell us: "Procrastination is one of the enduring challenges of human existence, as well as one of the chief problems with which law students struggle. Understanding the cycle of procrastination can help law professors and advisors more constructively address students’ issues in this area — not to mention our own."
Once you've done a reality check via the short article, you're ready for more detailed information in a longer, but just as accessible, article written David and Meehan Rasch: "Overcoming Writer's Block and Procrastination for Attorneys, Law Students, and Law Professors". And here's the abstract:
is a particularly writing-heavy profession. However, lawyers, law students, and
law professors often struggle with initiating, sustaining, and completing legal
writing projects. Even the most competent legal professionals experience
periods in which the written word just does not flow freely. This article
provides a guide for legal writers who are seeking to understand and resolve
writing blocks, procrastination, and other common writing productivity
"While much of the advice presented applies broadly, lawyers, law students, and law professors each have their own unique writing challenges. This article highlights some of the complexities of the writing process, offers an overview of common writing productivity issues, and provides a series of tools for improving legal writing productivity. Whatever kind of legal writer you are, we hope this article will help point to issues at the heart of your own writing challenges and will help you identify how best to make productive changes."
Sunday, June 16, 2013
Saturday, June 15, 2013
Earlier this week, we posted about Sherri Lee Keene's important article on the role of legal writing in solving legal education's problems. She has a shorter, excellent piece on the same topic in the National Law Journal. This version is the perfect length to circulate to your faculty or dean. From the article:
Engaging in legal writing has many learning benefits. The act of writing affords the writer an opportunity to think through a legal problem, engage deeply with the law and facts, and expand her knowledge of the law and practice. By analyzing legal problems and developing her ideas through the writing process, a student better understands the substantive law and procedure relevant to an assignment. In discussions with the professor on writing assignments and from feedback received, a student learns to make professional decisions and gains confidence about the prospect of practicing law. Work on writing assignments offers a student an opportunity to apply her knowledge of the law in a practical context, with the benefit of expert guidance.
Even though many practitioners share these positive legal writing experiences, a disconnect exists between the vast potential for learning from writing and the limited role of practical legal writing in legal education. It is often seen through a narrow lens as an isolated skill to be learned in designated courses. Yet writing can provide a wealth of learning opportunities, the benefits of which can be realized by the student throughout law school and later in practice. As law schools ponder how they might better prepare students to meet the increasing demands of legal practice, they need to go back to basics and consider the greater role that practical legal writing should play in building practice competence.
Friday, June 14, 2013
Sarah Ricks of Rutgers-Camden was recently recognized for her outstanding teaching of the practical side of lawyering. Even before the current emphasis on skills training, her course Current Issues in Civil Rights Litigation engaged students through simulated legal problems. This past year, Ricks taught the course at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law and received rave reviews. As a press release from Rutgers explained, “The entire design of the course is based around engaging students beyond the traditional realm of learning doctrine. [Ricks] brought in guest speakers, provided examples about doctrine and practice from her own career, and wove in many lessons on practical aspects of being a litigator. She also encouraged debate and discussion that solicited conflicting opinions on many topics.”
Hat tip: Lisa McElroy
We're about two weeks out from the end of Google Reader. I've been a loyal Reader user for several years now, but it's time to admit I need to commit to a replacement. It seems like most people I talk to have switched to Feedly. I imported my Google Reader feeds to Feedly (this was a very easy transitional step) but I've still been doing most of my reading through Reader. Anyone made the switch and have any tips for transitioning to Feedly or any other blog-reader recommendations?
Thursday, June 13, 2013
The John Marshall Law School in Chicago has announced that its Director of Lawyering Skills, Anthony Niedwiecki, has been named Associate Dean for Skills, Experiential Learning, and Assessment. He will oversee the school’s programs in those areas. These are topics in which he has presented and written extensively. Professor Niedwiecki is also currently the President of the Association of Legal Writing Directors.
hat tip: Professor Mary Nagel, The John Marshall Law School
(njs and mew)
Stephanie Willbanks at Vermont Law School has written an article worthy of your summer reading time: "What's in a Name? Would a Rose by Any Other Name Really Smell as Sweet?"
Here's her abstract for the article:
"What do William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll, and Robert Frost have in common? All are common sources for law review article titles. This compendium of titles will not necessarily help you decide on the title for your next article, but it will at least provide amusement and help you delay until another day that which you ought to be doing today. As one would expect, the works of William Shakespeare provide a myriad of titles and phrases well suited to law review article titles. So do the works of Charles Dickens. Somewhat surprisingly Hamlet is more popular than Macbeth and A Tale of Two Cities more popular than Bleak House. There are far fewer references to James Bond and Dr. Seuss than you might imagine."
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
This All Things Considered piece about what kids are reading these days paints a pretty bleak picture. It quotes Eric Stickney, the educational research director for Renaissance Learning, who says, ""The complexity of texts [high school] students are being assigned to read has declined by about three grade levels over the past 100 years. A century ago, students were being assigned books with the complexity of around the ninth- or 10th-grade level. But in 2012, the average was around the sixth-grade level."
It's an interesting read (or listen), especially as I'm starting to prepare materials for my incoming class of 1Ls. But it's also worth reading the comments, which raise some interesting counterpoints about "reading levels" and what does and should constitute "classics" when it comes to high school reading.
The Third Annual Western Regional Legal Writing Conference will take place on August 9-10, 2013 at Whittier Law School. The theme of the conference is "Lead the Change," and Richard Neumann is the keynote speaker. More information about the program and travel accommodations is available on the conference website.
h/t Andrea Funk
George D. Gopen, emeritus professor of the Practice of Rhetoric at Duke, recently advised legal writers that they must “control agency” in their writing: that is, their prose should usually identify an actor. Lawyers who choose abstract nouns and the passive voice produce vague prose that simply doesn’t explain who did what. It’s not enough to write sentences that only some readers may understand with effort. Instead, the prose should be “highly likely to lead most readers to perceive your thought.” See Gopen’s companion articles in the winter and spring 2013 issues of Litigation for some good examples that illustrate his point.
Gopen is the 2011 recipient of the Legal Writing Institute’s Golden Pen Award for his contributions to the field of legal writing.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
As the heat builds in the southern U.S., a trip to our northern climes is looking good. You too could be joining legal writing professors and directors from around the U.S. just two weeks from now at Marquette University in Milwaukee for the bi-ennial ALWD conference. It's not too late for you to join us. You can see the full program and register for the conference here.