Saturday, February 23, 2013
A recent article discusses humor in courts’ opinions. Most of its examples strike me as contrived and un-funny. For example, one judge began his opinion about a damaged oak tree with this parody of Joyce Kilmer: "We thought that we should never see/ A suit to compensate a tree."
It probably seemed clever at the time.
The article’s author, UCLA law student Lucas K. Hori, points out the harms of judicial humor: It trivializes disputes that are significant to the litigants, it distracts readers from the legal issues, and it damages the courts’ image of neutrality. Hori argues that judges should not be prohibited from using humor. That makes sense. But they ought to consider Hori’s caveats: keep any humor brief, and never use humor to poke fun at litigants. I would add these: don’t demean the legal process, and skip the lame jokes.
If your first-year legal research and writing course doesn't have time to cover research in litigation practice aids, well, frankly, my first reaction is make time. But if that's just not possible, you could alert your students to the stacks of Student Lawyer in the lounge. In there they will find a a quick how-to piece on "Legal Research: Litigation Practice Materials", by Shawn Nevers. You could easily add it as a reading assignment or post a link to it on your course on-line platform. (Posting a link, rather than posting the entire document, should avoid copyright problems.)
Friday, February 22, 2013
For its next issue, Western State's law review is encouraging the submission of articles related to legal writing, pedagogy,
academic support, and assessment in legal education. Although this law revivew usually focuses on California legal issues, the student editors have expressed an
interest in publishing articles in these other areas as well. You can submit articles through
ExpressO, or directly to the law review at firstname.lastname@example.org
hat tip: Lori Roberts
Thursday, February 21, 2013
As spring break approaches, consider making plans to attend one of the upcoming conferences for legal writing professors:
Third Annual Capital Area Legal Writing Conference, March 1 -2.
Empire State Legal Writing Conference, April 20.
Southeastern Legal Writing Conference, April 26 - 27.
Here's a reminder about a writing competition sponsored by the American Bar Association Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section (ABA-TIPS). TIPS is celebrating its 80th Anniversary this year, so entries are asked to address any part of President Roosevelt's "New Deal," the series of economic programs implemented in 1933-36. Papers can adress any aspect of that, to afford "the greatest degree of flexibility in writing."
Papers are due April 1, 2013.
First prize is $1,500 cash and airfare and hotel to the Annual Meeting in San Francisco. (fun!)
Second prize is $500. (not bad, and you also get recognition in the section magazine)
Third prize is an honorable mention. (Still would be cool for your resume.)
Mark E. Wojcik (mew), Member of the ABA-TIPS Task Force on Outreach to Law Students
As the spring semester often focuses on persuasive writing, the LRWPROF listserv has been sharing ideas for teaching persuasion and memorable examples of persuasive writing, as well as point of view and story/narrative. A couple of examples based on currents events include the Pistorius murder case and the Manti Te'o story.
I often share with my students a couple of published cases that have stayed with me for over 20 years . . . one about the burn injuries to a young girl, one about a man and his mother, both kidnapped and the mother, murdered. The careful and sparing use of specific sensory detail in each of those cases was most effective!
Do any of our readers have an example of effective persuasive facts to share?