February 15, 2013
calling all Canadian legal research and writing professors
Professor Stella Varis, at the University of Alberta, is trying to make connections with LRW professors at other Canadian universities. If that's you, please contact her. She anticipates creating and sharing a contact list of Canadian LRW professors.
calling all font geeks
If you enjoy learning about fonts and typography, here is a video for you.
hat tip: Karen Mika
February 13, 2013
Students’ preparation for higher-level thinking
If you thought legal writing students are less prepared than in the past, you may not be imagining it. Kenneth Bernstein recently posted a piece on the Washington Post blog titled A Warning to College Profs from a High School Teacher. “I have some bad news for you,” he writes. Among his points: many of his students came to high school without having had “meaningful social studies instruction” because No Child Left Behind undervalued that subject. And the students’ previous writing experience required neither deep thinking nor “proper grammar, usage, syntax, and structure.” His Advanced Placement course was expected to cover so much material that he had difficulty making time to explore it in depth. And even grading of Advanced Placement tests does not consider grammar, rhetoric, or format (such as including an introduction and conclusion). The tests are scored by a rubric, and a student who hits the points on the rubric passes.
In short, Bernstein seems to be saying that excessive reliance on formulas has replaced emphasis on deeper, independent thinking—which is just the kind of thinking students need to do in our courses.
I Love You and S.V.O.
Grammar Girl posted an article and associated podcast that would be a great jumping off point for a Valentine's Day sentence structure refresher:
Valentine’s Day is coming up, so I thought it would be a good time to say, “I love you.” Not only because I love you, but also because “I love you” is a handy little sentence for remembering the difference between a subject and an object.
The first question you should be asking is why you should care about the difference between a subject and an object. Those seem like pretty dry, boring grammar terms.
The reason they matter is that you often have to know whether you’re dealing with a subject or an object to be able to choose the right word. The difference between “who” and “whom,” “lay” and “lie,” and “sit” and “set” all come down to answering the question “Subject or object?” And all the complaints I get about people using “I” when they should use “me” and vice versa also come down to knowing a subject from an object.
After discussing the basic structure of "I love you," the article delves into trickier matters (think Yoda):
I’ve also talked about Yoda grammar before, as in Yoda from Star Wars. Yoda often uses object-verb-subject order in his sentences. For example, Yoda said, “If no mistake have you made, yet losing you are ... a different game you should play.”*
Let’s consider the simplest part: “a different game you should play.” “Play” is clearly the verb, so to find the subject, ask who is playing. It’s “you.” You should play a different game, so “you” is the subject. And what are you playing? A game. So that is the object.
February 12, 2013
Rocky Mountain LW Conference and Scholars' Workshop
News from Professor Derek Kiernan-Johnson regarding the Rocky Mountain LW Conference:
Good news! The Scholars' Workshop that will follow the Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference here in Boulder the morning of Sunday, March 24, has been approved for ALWD sponsorship. This sponsorship comes with several requirements that interested participants should be aware of, including both a February 22 and March 1 deadline. For more information please see the attached call for proposals: Download Call for Proposals ALWD Workshop at Rocky Mtn 2013.
Also, please note that an alternative event will be taking place during the same time frame that Sunday morning. My colleague Gabi Stafford will facilitate a book discussion about Louise Erdrich's recent book The Round House. More information about this exciting event is available on the conference website, here.
ABA Task Force discusses changes in legal education
The ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education met last weekend and considered sweeping changes to the law school curriculum. Among the ideas discussed was including more experiential learning—a topic that relates directly to what we legal writing professors do. The Task Force also considered more radical changes in legal education, including cutting course work to two years. If cuts come, law schools will need fewer professors, and lower-status professors--including some legal writing professors--may be the most vulnerable, a point that should concern those in our field.
February 11, 2013
Navigating the perils of law review publication agreements
Recently, a law review required me to sign a publication agreement providing, among other things, that I would indemnify the journal against even frivolous claims that were in any way connected to my article. Competing offers came with similar strings attached, and wanting to get my time-sensitive research in print, I reluctantly signed the agreement.
But a recent article titled Publish and Perish? Handling the Unreasonable Publication Agreement explains why such indemnity provisions are inappropriate. Professor Harold Lloyd of Wake Forest criticized them and other unreasonable provisions in law reviews’ agreements. As he pointed out, authors should not be required to agree to “warranties and representations beyond [their] reasonable ability to make.” He encouraged professors to use his article to buttress arguments against overreaching by law reviews.
February 10, 2013
First, you gotta love the title. Next, Ross Davies has written "Cite Club" and his abstract suggests he's really on to something:
"As the Bluebook says of itself, 'For generations . . . legal professionals have relied on The Bluebook’s unique system of citation. In a diverse and rapidly changing legal profession, The Bluebook continues to provide a systematic method by which members of the profession communicate important information about the sources and authorities upon which they rely in their work.' Generally speaking this is true and probably always will be, so long as the Bluebook keeps pace with that changing profession. One big change is the technical side of online research services: Westlaw and its competitors cannot afford to conform to the Bluebook’s system when it conflicts with the requirements of their databases for, among things, unique and recognizable abbreviations of the names of publications. And given a choice between following Bluebook form and following Westlaw form, readers and publishers are likely to follow Westlaw because that is where readers are doing more of their reading and publishers’ products are getting read. The microcosmic experiences of the Green Bag and the Journal of Law may be a sign of things to come, or even of something that has already arrived."