Thursday, August 29, 2013
If the premise of a novel revolves around an unusual legal problem created by a particular statute, is it legal writing? It's writing, and it's about a legal topic. And it's almost Labor Day weekend, and you may be looking for something to read at the beach or at the lake. So you could say you're reading legal writing if you get ahold of a copy of Year Zero by Rob Reid. If you are not into SciFi, don't be scared off. This book is like the early Harry Potter books in tone, only with a variety of quirky space aliens instead of wizards. It also has both a lot of references to popular music from the decade right after 1977 and quite a few footnotes.
Inside Higher Ed has released the results of a new Survey on Faculty Attitudes on Technology, which notes a healthy amount of skepticism about online learning. There's also a free webinar on Sept. 12 to discuss the results.
I'm currently a student in my first Coursera MOOC, and I've been taking notes on the experience so that I can share them here.
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
From Daily Writing Tips comes this useful list of 50 plain-language substitutions for wordy phrases.
Monday, August 26, 2013
Friday, August 23, 2013
As you plan your fall semester, remember to include the Central States Legal Writing Conference. The University of Kansas School of Law will host the Conference on Friday and Saturday, September 27-28, 2013. You can register on the conference website, where you will also find information about travel, accommodations, and scheduling.
KU will host an ALWD Scholars’ Forum in connection with the conference, at noon on Friday, September 27. This is a terrific opportunity to present and discuss an idea you are currently considering turning into an article, receive critiques on an article you are currently drafting, or have a draft paper peer reviewed. Suzanne Rowe of the University of Oregon, Michael Murray of Valparaiso University Law School, and Virginia Harper Ho of KU will be among those facilitating the forum. You can register for the Forum on the conference website. Participation is limited and participants will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, so register soon!
While the regular conference presentations slots are full, the organizers are still accepting 5-minute “Take-Away” presentations for the conference. Toward the end of the second day of the conference, presenters will have 5 minutes to explain a teaching technique or idea. By the end of that session, participants and attendees will have a number of great ideas they can immediately implement in the classroom. To make a “Take-Away” presentation you must submit a participation form, also located on the conference website.
hat tip: Pam Keller
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Texas Tech University School of Law seeks applicants for an opening in its highly ranked Legal Practice Program, starting in Fall 2014. The successful applicant will join a program that, fully staffed, comprises five full-time LP Professors, an adjunct professor, a writing specialist, and the tenured director.
The Legal Practice Program offers a six-credit, two-semester course (Legal Practice I and II) that integrates research, writing, client interviewing and counseling, oral advocacy, and an extensive ADR component. While program faculty generally work from a common syllabus and core assignments, each full-time LP Professor is responsible for selecting texts, drafting his/her own fact patterns and exercises, and designing his/her class. In addition, each LP Professor is assigned one student tutor per section to help with providing additional workshops, grading of research exercises, etc. LP Professors may also have the opportunity to teach other courses for additional compensation. They enjoy the same access to travel, research assistant funding, and summer teaching and research grants as do all faculty members.
The Program seeks applicants with a J.D., prior teaching and/or practice experience, demonstrated writing ability, strong academic credentials, the ability to work well within a coordinated program structure, and an interest in being involved in regional and national legal writing activities. Texas Tech is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all in every aspect of its operations and encourages applications from all qualified persons.
Texas Tech University, with 30,000+ students, is located in Lubbock, Texas, a city of 220,000 located in the high plains of West Texas. The law school has almost 700 students and ~34 full-time faculty members. Lubbock enjoys a low cost of living with very affordable housing and offers easy access to other parts of the country via three major airlines that offer daily flights.
For more information about this position, please contact Professor Nancy Soonpaa, LP Program Director, at email@example.com or 806/742-3990, ext. 357. To apply for the position, please send application materials to Professor John Watts, Chair of the Personnel Committee.
To apply for this position, please send a cover letter, a resume, the names and contact information for 3 references, and a writing sample. Our mailing address is 1802 Hartford Avenue, Lubbock, TX, 79409. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis and will be accepted until the position is filled. We will also interview applicants at the AALS hiring conference in October.
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 to successive presumptively renewable contracts that can be terminated only for cause.
__ 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): 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.
Additional information about the extent of the professor’s voting rights: can vote on all matters except tenure-track hiring, promotion, and tenure.
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 (depending on qualifications)
__ b. $80,000 to $89,999 (depending on qualifications)
__ 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
Additional information about base salary or other compensation: All professors are eligible to teach or research in the summer for an additional $9000 in compensation.
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: Depending on curricular needs, LP Professors may be able to teach during the school year or summer for additional compensation.
Northwestern is hosting an interesting conference on law teaching next summer, built around the book What the Best Law Teachers Do. Here is the rundown for those who want to save the date:
Please save the date for the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning's Summer Conference hosted by Northwestern University School of Law, "What the Best Law Teachers Do," June 25 - 27, 2014, in Chicago.
Published by Harvard University Press and currently sweeping the legal blogs, What the Best Law Teachers Do introduces readers to twenty-six professors from law schools across the United States, featuring close-to-the ground accounts of exceptional educators in action. Join us to interact with these instructors and learn more about their passion and creativity in the classroom and beyond.
Confirmed presenters at this conference include Rory Bahadur (Washburn University School of Law), Cary Bricker (University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law), Roberto Corrada, (University of Denver, Sturm College of Law), Meredith Duncan (University of Houston Law Center), Paula Franzese (Seton Hall University School of Law), Heather Gerken (Yale Law School), Nancy Knauer (Temple University, James E. Beasely School of Law), Andy Leipold (University of Illinois College of Law), Julie Nice (University of San Francisco School of Law), Ruthann Robson (CUNY School of Law), Tina Stark (retired, formerly Boston University School of Law), and Andy Taslitz (American University Washington College of Law).
The co-authors of What the Best Law Teachers Do, Sophie Sparrow, Gerry Hess, and Michael Hunter Schwartz, will provide a framework for the presentations and a global sense of the takeaway lessons from their study.
Presenters teach a wide variety of courses across the curriculum including administrative law, civil procedure, clinics, constitutional law, criminal law, criminal procedure, election law, family law, labor law, legal writing, pretrial advocacy, professional responsibility, property, sexuality and the law, torts, transactional drafting, and trial advocacy.
Please mark your calendars for June 2014.
hat tip: Sandra Simpson
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
OK, this cries out for a parady video using the Korean Pop Hit Song Pagagnam Style. But not from us. OSCOLA Style is the Oxford University Standard for Citation of Legal Authorities (OSCOLA), a legal citation method used in the United Kingdom. it was first developed by Peter BIrks of the University of Oxford Faculty of Law and is now reportedly used by most law schools and many legal publishers in the United Kingdom. You can read more about it by clicking here. And if you need to see Psy's Pagagnam Style Video -- which has an astounding 1.7 TRILLION views on YouTube -- click here.
For examples of language we can expect from our students in four years, check Ben Yagoda's Chronicle of Higher Education blog. He explains that this year's college freshmen use however as a conjunction, and when they start a sentence with and or but, they follow the word with a comma. They view colons and semi-colons as interchangeable. And for them, "Whether to write 'its' and 'your,' on the one hand, or 'it’s' and 'you’re,' on the other, depends on the way you feel at that particular moment."
hat tip: Allison Ortlieb
Monday, August 19, 2013
Sue Provenzano, at Northwestern Law School, has been awarded a promotion from Senior Lecturer to Professor of Practice. In addition to legal writing, Sue teaches employment law and appellate advocacy. In her Dean's words, Sue "receives rave reviews from students." She has received multiple teaching awards and served on a number of faculty committees. Outside of Northwestern, Sue is a regular presenter at various conferences and has authored articles in Perspectives and elsewhere. She is under contract with Aspen to co-author a text on advanced appellate advocacy. Additionally, this blogger was lucky enough to have had Sue as her first year legal writing professor. Sue's mentorship to many in this field has been invaluable.
Hat tip, Margaret Hannon
Sunday, August 18, 2013
Just today, I caught a continuation of a conversation between PBS interview Bill Moyer and social activist (and professor) Marshall Ganz. You can see it here. The comments about the power of narrative and the importance of specific details -- when you set out to change the world -- echo what we frequently say in legal writing class.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Earlier this year, the Onion ran an amusing mock report of violence among followers of The Associated Press Stylebook, The Chicago Manual Of Style, and the MLA Handbook. The punchline: "[A]n innocent 35-year-old passerby who found himself caught up in a long-winded dispute over use of the serial, or Oxford, comma ha[s] died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound."
Hat tip: Christopher Wren
Monday, August 12, 2013
A recent book offers some good hints for enlivening prose. Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch: Let Verbs Power Your Writing, by Constance Hale, urges writers to use strong verbs. It also covers other topics, including the subjunctive mood and baseless grammar “rules,” like the canard about not ending a sentence with a preposition. The book is written for a general audience, and I find its tone a little too breezy for use as a textbook, so I wouldn’t assign it to my legal writing students. But professors can get some good ideas from it, and I may recommend it to a few students as supplemental reading.
Hale is a writer and critic who says she’s been compared to “E.B. White on acid."
Sunday, August 11, 2013
Awards Presented at the Scribes Luncheon in San Francisco: Chase College of Law, South Texas College of Law, and Elon University Win the Brief-Writing Awards
Scribes -- The American Society of Legal Writers -- held its annual luncheon and awards presentation during the annual meeting of the American Bar Association.
The 2013 Brief-Writing Awards were given to the following persons:
- First Place: Ashley Brucato and Nathan Lennon (students at Northern Kentucky University Salmon P. Chase College of Law)
- Second Place: Katherine Harrington and Michael Hodge (students at South Texas College of Law)
- Third Place: Sarah Boshears and Grant Buckner (students at Elon University School of Law)
Scribes presented a Legal-Publisher Award to Carolina Academic Press for its longstanding service to the legal writing community. As you may know, it published Plain English for Lawyers by Richard Wydick and has sold at least 800,000 copies (and probably more than a million copies, but records don't go back far enough). It also publishes many other legal writing and legal research titles. Keith Sipe, the publisher, accepted the award.
The prestigious Scribes Book Awards went to two books:
- First Place: John Fabian Witt, for Lincoln's Code: The Laws of War in American History
- Second Place: Allan A. Ryan, Yamashita's Ghost: War Crimes, MacArthur's Justice, and Command Accountability
Robert Brun, Q.C., President of the Canadian Bar Association, was a special guest at the luncheon and shared his thoughts on legal writing and the need to communicate clearly with clients.
The luncheon speaker was Judge William A. Fletcher of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Photos (which we'll probably have at some point) were taken by Professor Kim Holst of Arizona State University, incoming Chair of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research. Attendees included legal writing professors, deans, lawyers, and law students from across the United States.
Mark E. Wojcik, Treasurer, Scribes
If you didn't get to go to London for the Legal Writing Institute's Storytelling Conference, here's another opportunity. The American Bar Association Section of International Law will host a one-day International Legal Education Summit in London, England on Saturday, October 29, 2013.
Registration will be FREE but space is limited. (Please register ONLY if you are sure you can go.) The International Legal Education Summit is designed to foster innovative exchanges and networking. There will be special programming for students and new lawyers, small group information and innovation exchanges for educators and lawyers, and plenary session roundtables on the changing aspects of international legal practice and the future of international legal education. One of the breakout sessions is expected to focus on legal writing and skills education.
Programs will be held at the University of Law in Moorgate (City of London). The registration link is included in the flier. Download London Education Summit 2013
P.S. The next Global Legal Skills Conference will be held in Verona, Italy from May 21-23, 2014 at the University of Verona Law School.
Friday, August 9, 2013
Judge Gregory Orme of Utah recently published a review of a new book, The Seven Deadly Sins of Legal Writing, by Theodore Blumberg. The sins are “passivity, abstraction, adverbiage, verbosity, redundancy, footnotes, and negativity.” The “sin” of abstraction drew my attention because it’s a problem I notice increasingly in student writing. As an example of abstraction, Orme quotes Blumberg's reference to a statute that mentions “certain actions against the State.” Blumberg sensibly suggests naming the particular actions.
While Judge Orme sees the phrase “deadly sins” as hyperbole, he agrees with most of Blumberg’s list and likes the 34-page book, especially for its price of $7.95. For Orme's review, see page 41 of the May/June 2013 Utah Bar Journal.
Thursday, August 8, 2013
What's the difference between an accurate treatise on an area of law and a treatise that becomes the definitive source in its area? It may well be the writing, as Attorney Corey Field suggests in "Melville Nimmer the Writer: A Review of the 1963 First Edition of 'Nimmer on Copyright' on the Occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of its Publication".
As Field explains, "2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of the leading treatise on copyright law, 'Nimmer on Copyright.' In honor of the 50th Anniversary, The Journal of The Copyright Society of the U.S.A. published a commemorative issue with essays marking the anniversary. This essay looks at the original 1963 First Edition of 'Nimmer on Copyright,' and reviews it not based on changes in copyright law in the period 1963 to 2013, but as an examination of the legal writing style of Melville Nimmer, the original author of the treatise. The approach of the paper is to examine how the writing style itself, in addition to the research and scholarship, established 'Nimmer on Copyright' as a paragon of legal scholarship that has endured for 50 years."
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Some time ago, a very astute observation was made over on Prism Legal. As your law school spruces up for the new school year, take a look at the writing that is posted on the walls outside or inside the building. What is it communicating to the new students about the writing of lawyers?
hat tip: Mark Burge
Monday, August 5, 2013
Looking for a good legal novel to read or recommend to students? The ABA Journal has just published a list of the twenty-five greatest law novels of all time. The top three books on the list are To Kill a Mockingbird, Crime and Punishment, and Bleak House. Tied for twenty-fifth place are Old Filth, by Jane Gardam, and The Ox-Bow Incident, by Walter van Tilburg Clark. Check the journal’s website for the full list, the names of the judges, and a lively reader discussion about the judges' choices.