Sunday, February 8, 2015

Law Library of Congress Outreach Program Shares Some Secrets on How to Conduct Free Legal Research Online

Barbara Bavis LLOC Established in 1832 as a separate department of the Library of Congress, the Law Library of Congress is the largest law library in the world with more than 2.84 million volumes and a global legal research center staffed by foreign law experts who help provide reference assistance by phone, in person, or through the library's oh-so-fantastic "Ask a Librarian" service.

The Law Library of Congress does outreach programs on its collections and how to use them in Washington D.C. and through its website.  The latest presentation was made in Houston at the midyear meeting of the American Bar Association. Senior Legal Reference Specialist Barbara Bavis gave the informative and authoritative presentation on the latest developments, including the Global Legal Research Center, the "Guide to Law Online," the In Custodia Legis Blog, and the new website for Congressional materials Congress.gov which replaced Thomas.

I'm pictured here with Ms. Bavis. I have the honor of serving on the Advisory Commission to the American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Law Library of Congress. I get to learn about many of the things happening at the Law Library of Congress as well as its outreach efforts, including the latest traveling exhibits to commemorate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta.  The Law Library of Congress is a national treasure to be discovered and appreciated.

(mew)

February 8, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 6, 2015

Writing a brief's summary of the argument

As students write briefs this spring, they may be interested in my recent article about the summary of the argument section. Titled "Summing It Up with Panache," the article examines commentary on the subject and then analyzes summaries of the argument from selected Supreme Court briefs, many by well-known advocates. It presents data on the summaries’ average length, use of citations, and structure, and then discusses examples of selected summaries' openings and closings.

(jdf)

February 6, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Ban laptops in the classroom?

A recent article by Suffolk's Steven Eisenstadt analyzes results of a Princeton-UCLA study about use Seisenstatof laptops in the calssroom. That study showed that even when students were denied Internet access, and thus could not play games or surf the net, students who took notes by hand understood and retained more than those who used laptops. Eisenstadt argues that law professors should rethink the common practice of allowing free use of laptops in the classroom and allow their use only for specific educational purposes.

hat tip: Ralph Brill

(jdf)

February 5, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 2, 2015

Word choice in persuasive writing

Bryan Garner’s column in the February ABA Journal stresses a point helpful for student brief writers: that word choice is important in persuasive writing. Thus a lawyer representing the Bank of America before an American jury would be wise to use the bank’s full name instead of shortening it to the sterile “BofA.” And it’s better to use parties’ names instead of referring to them as “Plaintiff,” “Defendant,” or “Appellant.” Even if you want to dehumanize a defendant in a criminal case, use the name instead of the legal role: “Bad facts will stick to a name,” Garner writes.

(jdf)

February 2, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Six AALS Chairs and an Exit Strategy

AALS ChairsDavid Austin of California Western School of Law in San Diego--recognized as one of the official photographers of legal writing--took this picture of past, present, and future Chairs of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research.  Can you name them?  The photo was taken at the 2015 Blackwell and Golden Pen Award Presentation in Washington D.C.

They are former Section Chair Mark E. Wojcik (The John Marshall Law School in Chicago), Chair -Elect Bob Brain (Loyola Law School in Los Angeles), Immediate Past Chair Kimberly Holst (Arizona State University Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law), Past Chair Judy Rosenbaum (Northwestern University School of Law), Past Chair Suzanne Rowe (University of Oregon School of Law), and the current Section Chair Jennifer Murphy Romig (Emory University School of Law in Atlanta, Georgia).

(mew, one of the former chairs!)

(Photo courtesy of David Austin)

January 31, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Call for Presenters: Global Legal Skills Conference

The Global Legal Skills conference, in its 10th year, will be held in Chicago, the city of its origin. The Conference began in Chicago at The John Marshall Law School, where it was held three times. It has also traveled to Mexico (twice), to Costa Rica (twice), to Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., and most recently to the University of Verona Faculty of Law in Verona, Italy.

This year’s conference (GLS 10) will be held at The John Marshall Law School for the first two days and will be hosted at Northwestern University School of Law for its final day. The two schools are within walking distance and are also served by subway line. The GLS conference is also co-sponsored this year by the Facultad Libre de Derecho de Monterrey.

This message invites proposals for presentations. Proposals should be for a 25-minute presentation (for one or two people) or an interactive group panel presentation (no more than four panelists) of 75-minutes (including audience participation).

The conference audience will include legal writing professionals, international and comparative law professors, clinical professors and others involved in skills education, law school administrators, law librarians, and ESL/EFL professors and scholars. Also attending will be faculty members teaching general law subjects with a transnational or international component. Attendees have also included judges, lawyers, court translators, and others involved in international and transnational law. Attendees come from around the world, and as many as 35 countries have been represented in past conferences.

Please submit a proposal on any aspect of Global Legal Skills, including experiential learning, distance education, comparative law, international law, course design and materials, teaching methods, and opportunities for teaching abroad and in the United States. However, because the conference focuses on legal skills for a global audience, please tailor your proposal accordingly.

The schedule for GLS 10 will allow for professional networking opportunities and development and also a chance to take in the many sites (and excellent restaurants!) Chicago has to offer. Chicago is served by two airports, O’Hare and Midway, making travel to the city easy. The timing of the conference (the week before Memorial Day weekend) is intended to allow you to spend extra time exploring Chicago and its environs at a time when the temperatures are moderate and the skies are clear.

This is a self-funded academic conference, and as in past years, presenters will be asked to pay the registration fee of $225.00. A small number of need-based scholarships will also be available, especially for participants from outside the United States. Additional tickets for family members and friends will also be available for the walking tour, law school reception, and Union League Club Gala Dinner. Chicago in the springtime is a great travel destination for families where they can enjoy Millennium Park, two world class zoos, and the amazing Museum Campus.

You may submit more than one proposal but because of high demand for speaking slots you will only be allowed to speak on one panel.

Please send program proposals to GLS10Chicago@gmail.com. You can also send a copy to Lurene Contento (Program Chair of GLS 10). Her email is 9Content@jmls.edu.

Please include “GLS 10 Proposal” in the subject line. Then, list the names and institutional affiliations of presenters, the title of your presentation, a brief summary of your presentation, the format you would prefer (25 minutes or 75 minutes), and the target audience.

The first deadline for submitting a proposal is February 12, 2015. If you submit your proposal by this date, the program committee will notify presenters of acceptance no later than March 6, so that you can make appropriate travel and hotel arrangements. You will find travel information and more conference information on our website, glsc.jmls.edu/2015. Additional proposals will be accepted through April 15 if additional speaking slots are available.

Spanish Language CLE Proposals

You may also submit proposals for CLE presentations in Spanish. A Spanish-language CLE track will include sessions for attorneys, law students, and court translators. Persons submitting proposals for presentations in Spanish may also submit a proposal in English as an exception to the single presentation rule. Proposals are sought on topics such as “Introduction to Mexican Law,” “Understanding the Amparo,” and “Latin American Corporation Law.”

Scholars’ Forum (Tues. May 19, 2015)

A one-day scholars’ forum is also planned for May 19th, the day before the GLS conference begins. Participation in this forum will be limited to 16 persons and will include special sessions on international legal research as well as the presentation of papers and works-in-progress. For more information about the Scholars’ Forum, send an email to Prof. Mark E. Wojcik at mwojcik@jmls.edu with the title of your proposed work. Registration for the scholars’ forum is at this link: http://events.jmls.edu/registration/node/677

We hope to see you in Chicago this May for the 10th anniversary of the Global Legal Skills Conference!

Thank you,

Prof. Mark E. Wojcik, Chair, Global Legal Skills Conference
Prof. Lurene Contento, Chair GLS 10 Program Committee, The John Marshall Law School

January 29, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Nominations for the Burton Awards

The Burton Awards has a page with information on how to nominate legal writing stars for the prestigious Burton Awards.  Click here to learn more.

(mew)

January 29, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Burton Awards will be on June 15, 2015

The Burton Awards for Excellence in Legal Writing is, without a doubt, the single most glamorous evening for legal writing. That's been true for years, and the 2015 award ceremony promises to continue that trend.  It will be held at 4:45 p.m. on Monday, June 15, 2015 in the Great Hall of the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress.  Awards will be given for public interest, public service, "Legends in Law," distinguished legal writing awards, outstanding journalist in law, and an award for "Outstanding Contributions to Legal Writing Education."  Entertainment will be provided that evening by Kristin Chenoweth, the Emmy and Tony Award winning superstar.  It's a black tie event and tickets can be pricey, but the value of the evening makes it all worthwhile.

(mew)

January 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New book will help struggling legal-writing students

Murray KTemple’s Kristen Murray (pictured at left) and George Washington’s Jessica Clark Clark have written a new book to help “troubleshoot” students’ way through the legal writing course. Titled The Legal Writing Companion: Problems, Solutions, and Samples, the book may be especially helpful for struggling students. Chapter titles like “I’m Intimidated by Legal Writing,” “I’m Having Trouble Getting Started,” and “I Don’t Understand Umbrella Sections” will offer reassurance for students who feel insecure about their progress. And the book’s text will provide additional guidance for writing legal memoranda beyond what is found in a traditional textbook.  

 On some topics, my advice would differ from the authors’; for example, they suggest heavy reliance on explanatory parentheticals, while I would advise fewer parentheticals and more discussion in the text. I also prefer shorter, punchier section headings than the authors suggest. But professors who choose this book can address any such concerns. The book's less-formal approach may be just what some students need to get on track with legal analysis and writing—to have what the authors call a “light bulb moment.”

 View more about the book here.

(jdf)

January 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Junior legal writing scholars workshop

Grant Mastrosimone-joeWashburn University School of Law is proud to announce the second annual Washburn Junior Legal Writing Scholars Workshop, to be held on July 24-25, 2015.  This workshop will provide a unique collaborative environment in which to receive feedback from other legal writing professors on your scholarly projects. Participants will work in small groups to give suggestions, ask questions, and offer input on the papers presented.

 The workshop organizers, Professors Joseph Mastrosimone and Emily Grant (pictured above), encourage scholarship submissions that are in any stage – idea outline, work-in-progress, or nearly complete and ready to submit.  The call is open to all junior legal writing professors (defined as anyone without tenure) whether they are full-time, part-time, or adjunct faculty and those who are seeking employment as a legal writing professor.

 There is no registration fee for the workshop.  In addition, Washburn University School of Law will provide all meals during the workshop and hotel lodging for Friday night, July 24.  The workshop will run from mid-afternoon Friday to mid-day Saturday to give participants sufficient time to travel Friday morning and Saturday evening, which should hopefully allow participants to attend the workshop without needing a second night’s hotel stay.

 If you are interested in participating in the Washburn Junior Legal Writing Scholars Workshop, please let us know by April 17, 2015, by emailing Joseph Mastrosimone at joseph.mastrosimone@washburn.edu.  In your email, please provide a short description of your scholarly work and give us your best guess as to what form it will take by the end of July (outline, early stage work-in-progress, nearly complete draft).  A maximum of eight papers will be selected to guarantee a workshop atmosphere. Those selected will be notified by May 15, and workshop submissions must be completed by July 13, 2015.

 More information about the 2015 workshop and last year’s successful workshop can be found at: http://washburnlaw.edu/legalwritingworkshop

hat tip: Joseph Mastrosimone

(jdf)

January 22, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How to improve improve bar passage

Chapman University’s Mario Mainero states that law schools can improve bar passage rates in his Mainerorecent article We Should Not Rely on Commercial Bar Reviews to Do Our Job: Why Labor-Intensive Comprehensive Bar Examination Preparation Can and Should Be a Part of the Law School Mission. Merely focusing on at-risk students is no longer sufficient, Mainero argues.  His abstract states, “In order to avoid further calamitous declines in bar passage rates, law schools will have to move from traditional academic support models to models that encourage the entire cohort of students to work together, cooperatively, and that apply extensive time and effort to ensure that all students receive the benefit of these programs.” He writes that a comprehensive program at Chapman raised bar passage rates to a level “significantly better than would be expected by some commentators, given its ranking and relative youth as a law school.”

(jdf)

January 21, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Tips on teaching law classes

RabeFor some helpful tips on teaching, check Arizona professor Suzanne Rabe's article Without a Clue: Hard-Earned Lessons in Teaching. Pitched toward adjuncts as well as full-time professors, the article offers nine tips, including "Begin and End class on Time" and "Be Formal at First." It was published in the December Arizona Attorney magazine.

Hat tip: Susan Salmon

(jdf)

January 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Lawyers are poor drafters

Most lawyers are poor drafters, writes Professor Joseph Kimble of Western Michigan University-Cooley Law Kimble 2015 School. In a recent article, Kimble identifies two key reasons for this: law schools have tended to neglect legal drafting, and lawyers often mimic the antiquated language in form books and poorly-drafted statutes. To illustrate the problem, Kimble offers a court order prepared by lawyers and judges at a recent symposium. Displaying the order and his revised version side by side, he points out, among other things, that the original has 125 words more than the revision; the original includes several legalese phrases, such as pursuant to; and the original includes unnecessary cross-references.  For his full analysis, see You Think Lawyers Are Good Drafters? in the autumn 2014 issue of The Green Bag.

(jdf)

January 13, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Lawyers and storytelling

Meyer_PhilipStorytelling is an important skill for lawyers, as Vermont legal writing professor Philip N. Meyer explains in the January ABA Journal. Although his article focuses primarily on presentations to juries, one principle can be helpful to students writing persuasive documents: effective advocates, he writes, “are adept at matching narrative themes with analytical theories, alchemically making the two appear as one.”  

Meyer has also written a related book, Storytelling for Lawyers.

(jdf)

January 8, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Improving law students' research skills

Detroit Mercy’s Patrick Meyer recently conducted a study to determine what research abilities law Meyer firms want in new law graduates.  Noting flaws in graduates’ research skills, Meyer's respondents stated, among other things, “Most summers and first years arrive at [our] law firm woefully unprepared,” “Books! They tend to waste time poking around online when they could have easily and efficiently found the answers if the used the state practice series,” and  “PLEASE teach them to be cost-aware . . . and not just dive into expensive research as if it were Google!”  

 To address these and other gaps in graduates’ research skills, Meyer proposes requiring an advanced legal research course and “taking steps to infuse research training throughout the curriculum, as the Carnegie Report recommends for lawyering skills.”  His results are reported in Law Firm Legal Research Requirements and the Legal Academy Beyond Carnegie, 35 Whittier L. Rev. 419 (2014).

(jdf)

January 6, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Mark Wojcik to Receive AALS Section Award Today for a "Significant Lifetime Contribution" to Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Reseach

Professor Mark E. Wojcik of The John Marshall Law School in Chicago will today receive the lifetime contribution award from the Association of American Law Schools Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research.  The Section Award is given to an individual who has made "a significant lifetime contribution to the field of legal writing, reasoning, and research."

Mark is known for his many contributions to the field, including spearheading international conferences, serving as a past Chair of the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Reearch, serving three terms on the Board of Directors of the Legal Writing Institute, helping to create the LWI One-Day Workshops, serving as Treasurer of Scribes--The American Society of Legal Writers, and working with the Law Library of Congress, and contributing as an editor of this blog.

Wojcik 2

Section chair Kim Holst will present the award today, Saturday, January 3, 2015, at the section luncheon at the Association of American Law School's Annual Meeting in Washington.

Congratulations, Mark!  He joins this list of past winners of this award:

  • 1993:  Marjorie Rombauer
  • 1994:  Ralph Brill
  • 1996:  Mary Lawrence
  • 2002:  Helene Shapo
  • 2003:  Laurel Oates
  • 2005:  Marilyn Walter
  • 2006:  Terri LeClercq
  • 2007:  Anne Enquist
  • 2008:  Eric Easton
  • 2009:  Richard Neumann
  • 2010:  Joe Kimble
  • 2011:  Betsy Fajans
  • 2012:  Susan Brody/Mary Barnard Ray
  • 2013:  Terrill Pollman/Jill Ramsfield
  • 2014:  Jan Levine
  • 2015:  Mark E. Wojcik

(jdf)

January 3, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 2, 2015

Golden Pen Award Presentation Tonight to Judge Michael Ponsor

Ponsor BookThe Honorable Michael A. Ponsor, Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, will receive the 2015 Golden Pen Award from the Legal Writing Institute.  The award will be presented tonight, January 2, 2015, during the 2015 AALS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.  The event will be held from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. at the Capitol Ballroom, Lobby Level, of the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. 

During tonight's event, the Thomas Blackwell Award will also be presented to Professor Helene Shapo of Northwestern Unviersity School of Law.
 
Judge Ponsor is being recognized with the Golden Pen Award for his contributions to the cause of excellent legal writing, both in his opinion writing and in his teaching as an adjunct at Western New England University School of Law and at Yale, his alma mater. Demonstrating his commitment to teaching future lawyers, Judge Ponsor has for the last 20 years taught persuasive writing and advocacy skills in an upper-level simulation course. 
 
Judge Ponsor presided over the first death penalty case in Massachusetts in 50 years, and he recently wrote a well-received novel, The Hanging Judge, about the legal and moral issues involved. The nomination of Judge Ponsor recognized him as 
[a] respected and compassionate jurist as well as an exceptional writer, teacher, and mentor. . . . He has engaged the judiciary, current and future lawyers, and the public in a much-needed dialogue about two major challenges facing the criminal justice system: the death penalty and the extremely high rates of incarceration in the United States. 
PonsorThe Legal Writing Institute's Golden Pen Award honors those who make significant contributions to advance the cause of better legal writing. These contributions may take any form, such as promoting the use of clear language in public documents, improving the quality of legal writing instruction, advocating for better writing within the legal community, outstanding scholarship or journalism about legal writing or legal topics, or exceptional writing in law practice. The award is normally given to someone who is not an active member of LWI, but active members are considered in exceptional circumstance
 
The 2015 Golden Pen will be presented during the Blackwell Award Reception, which honors the recipient of the Thomas F. Blackwell Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Legal Writing and is scheduled from 8-10 p.m. Friday, January 2, 2015, in the Capitol Ballroom, Lobby Level, Omni Shoreham Hotel.
 
The LWI Awards Committee includes Co-Chairs Lurene Contento and Susan Bay and members Anne Enquist, Myra Orlen, and Kathy Vinson.
 
Hat tips to Linda Berger, Lurene Contento, and Susan Bay
 
(mew)

January 2, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Blackwell Award Presentation Tonight to Professor Helene Shapo

Shapo, HeleneProfessor Emeritus Helene S. Shapo of Northwestern University School of Law, a previous winner of the Burton Award for legal writing education, tonight receives the Thomas F. Blackwell Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Legal Writing.  The award is presented jointly by the Legal Writing Institute (LWI) and the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD).

The Blackwell Award Reception will be held from 8-10 p.m. on Friday, January 2, 2015, during the AALS Annual Meeting in Washington D.C.  It will be held at the Capitol Ballroom, Lobby Level, at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.

The Boards of the Legal Writing Institute (LWI) and the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) jointly created this distinguished award to honor the life of Thomas Blackwell, a professor at Appalachian Law School who was murdered by a deranged student. The award commemorating Thomas Blackwell is presented annually to a person who has made an outstanding contribution to improve the field of Legal Writing by demonstrating:

  • an ability to nurture and motivate students to excellence;
  • a willingness to help other legal writing educators improve their teaching skills or their legal writing programs;
  • and an ability to create and integrate new ideas for teaching and motivating legal writing educators and students.

 Helene exemplifies these qualities and has been a pioneer in the legal writing field. As explained in her nomination letter:

[T]hroughout her 35-year career in the LRW field, she has quietly but firmly pushed for both more and more diversified course offerings and for more credits for those courses, better faculty salaries and status, and greater job security.

In just about every way possible over her incredible career, Helene has been an innovator and a leader in our field. Through her writing, speaking, service, and curriculum design, she has been a guiding light in advancing the discipline of Legal Writing, improving the way it is taught to students, and improving the status and security of Legal Writing faculty.

The previous winners of the Blackwell award are:

2014 - Jan Levine, Duquesne University School of Law

2013 - Judy Stinson, Arizona State University

2012 - Suzanne Rowe of the University of Oregon 

2011 - Carol McCrehan Parker of the University of Tennessee

2010 - Steve Johansen of Lewis & Clark

2009 - Linda Edwards of Mercer Law

2008 - Diana Pratt of Wayne State

2007 - Louis Sirico of Villanova Law School

2006 - Mary Beth Beazley of Ohio State

2005 - Ralph Brill of Chicago-Kent

2004 - Pam Lysaght of Detroit Mercy

2003 - Richard K. Neumann of Hofstra University

(mew)

January 2, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Save the Date: 2015 Burton Awards for Excellence in Legal Writing

The Burton Awards for Excellence in Legal Writing is, without a doubt, the single most glamorous evening for legal writing. That's been true for years, and next year's award ceremony promises to continue that trend.  It will be held at 4:45 p.m. on Monday, June 15, 2015 in the Great Hall of the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress.  Awards will be given for public interest, public service, "Legends in Law," distinguished legal writing awards, outstanding journalist in law, and an award for "Outstanding Contributions to Legal Writing Education."  Entertainment will be provided that evening by Kristin Chenoweth, the Emmy and Tony Award winning superstar.  It's a black tie event and tickets can be pricey, but the value of the evening makes it all worthwhile.

(mew)

December 22, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Study documents gender bias in student evaluations

A recent study reinforced previous conclusions that student evaluations are biased in favor of male instructors. Among its findings, it documented an interesting result on an item that could be objectively verified.  Two professors gave students feedback at the same time. But on a question about their promptness, the instructor students thought was a male was rated 4.35 out of 5, while the instructor they thought was a female was ranked 3.55.

Hat tip: Michael Higdon

(jdf)

December 11, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)