Sunday, December 15, 2013
The faculty of the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State has voted to promote Mary Beth Beazley to full Professor of Law. (The University's Board of Trustees still must approve the promotion, so it will not be effective until 2014.) As one colleague observed on the legal writing professors' listserve, even a law school can be counted on to get something so obvious right eventually. Congratulations on this long overdue status upgrade, MB!
hat tip: Monte Smith
Thursday, December 12, 2013
The ABA Journal has a fascinating piece up that excerpts Bryan Garner's interview of the late David Foster Wallace, novelist and author of Infinite Jest. Wallace's advice goes to the heart of the issue I often face with students trained to write by academics:
Garner: A lot of lawyers say to me they’re writing for judges who themselves don’t write very well, who write a lot of jargon-laden stuff, so they think the best expressive tactic is to mimic the style of the judges for whom they are writing. Does that make sense to you?
Wallace: This gets very tricky. The same thing happens in academia. When students enter my classes, very often what I end up doing is beating out of them habits they were rewarded for in high school—many of them having to do with excessive abstraction, wordiness, overcomplication, excessive reliance on jargon, especially in literary criticism.
Somebody like a judge or a professor who is himself [whispering] a really bad writer is nevertheless usually a really good reader. And he or she will not necessarily make the number of connections you’re worried about when you worry that “if I turn in this pellucid, lapidary marvel, somehow the judge won’t like it because it’s not like the judge’s own style.”
I would say if judges are like profs, 99 percent of them will reward you for clarity, for precision, for minimizing the unnecessary effort they have to make. And it probably won’t occur to them that it would be a darned good idea to incorporate some of these principles into their own writing because some people are just dumb as writers.
So that is an argument, I think, for: Regardless of whom you’re writing for or what you think about the current debased state of the English language, .... the fact remains, particularly in the professions, that the average person you’re writing for is an acute, sensitive, attentive, sophisticated reader who will appreciate adroitness, precision, economy and clarity. Not always, but I think the vast majority of the time.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
If you're looking for a well-written blog with tips and discussion about contract drafting, look no further than Drafting Points. Written by Vincent Martorana, Counsel at Reed Smith, the blog offers thoughtful commentary on topics such as rhetorical problems in drafting, types of contract provisions, and clear drafting. The blog also highlights upcoming events and CLE's. A helpful resource for those of us who teach drafting!!
Monday, December 9, 2013
The legal writing listserv has been buzzing with praise from around the country for the December legal writing workshops. "The evolving legal writing classroom" was the topic at Arizona State, St. Louis University, Suffolk University, the University of Kentucky, and the University of Michigan. At Charleston, Drexel, Marquette, Thomas Jefferson, Touro, and Baltimore, the topic was "Preparing practice-ready students." And participants at the University of Oregon discussed "Innovation and leadership: LRW and beyond."
Attendees of various one-day workshops praised them as "really informative," "fantastic," and "a treasure trove."
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
The AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research has announced that Jan Levine of Duquesne University School of Law is the recipient of this year’s Section Award. Jan has been a tireless supporter of and advocate for the legal writing field. He has also advocated on behalf of and assisted many individual legal writing faculty members in gaining better salaries and status, both at schools where he has been a teacher and director and at other schools across the nation.
In selecting Jan as this year’s Award recipient, both the Section Award Nominating Committee and the Section Executive Committee considered the fact that Jan is also this year’s Blackwell Award winner, but concluded that the criteria for the awards are different and that others have received both the Section Award and the Blackwell Award, though not necessarily both in the same year. The Section will present its award to Jan at the Section lunch on Friday, January 3, 2014.
hat tip: Judy Rosenbaum
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
University of Kentucky Legal Writing Director Melissa Henke recently offered lawyers a helpful mnemonic to sharpen legal documents. "P.A.S.S." reminds a legal writer to determine the Purpose of a document, identify its Audience and Scope, and decide what Stance to take in writing it. As Professor Henke puts it, "these big picture questions" will help the lawyer in organizing a document, deciding how to present its arguments, and determining what writing and formatting conventions to apply. Read more about using P.A.S.S. at page 16 of the November Kentucky Bench and Bar Magazine.
Friday, November 29, 2013
Concordia University School of Law School is hiring an Assistant Director of the Legal Research and Writing Program, beginning in the 2014-15 academic year. This position is tenure track with full voting rights, and service and scholarship expectations. Concordia University is a private, non-profit university with its main campus in Portland, Oregon. In 2012, it opened its law school in Boise, Idaho.
Successful candidates will be able to 1) work collaboratively with the Director to create teaching materials related to major assignments and specific curricular goals in the first-year LRW program, 2) engage and encourage the students as they solve increasingly complex legal problems, and 3) coordinate the development of the advanced writing courses and implementation of writing across the curriculum. In addition, the successful candidate will have both practice and teaching experience.
Concordia encourages applications from all racial and ethnic backgrounds. Concordia University does not discriminate in the employment of individuals on the basis of race, religion, color, national or ethnic origin, familial status, disability, sex, gender, sexual orientation or age; Concordia University reserves the right to give preference in employment based upon religion to further the religious objective of the institution and The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
To apply, send via e-mail: a resume, letter of interest, writing sample, contact information for three professional references, and a Faculty Employee Application, to Tenielle Fordyce-Ruff, J.D., Director of the Legal Research and Writing Program, Concordia University School of Law, at firstname.lastname@example.org. The application deadline is January 17, 2014.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
LWI recently published Volume 3 of the Legal Writing Institute Monograph Series. The Volume focuses on teaching legal writing. What a tremendous resource for veterans and newcomers alike. From LWI's description:
Our goal for Volume Three is to bring together key articles related to the theory of teaching legal writing. These articles illuminate why we moved from a product orientation to a process one.We have included representative foundational articles, which remain critically important for understanding the development of legal writing as a field. The articles are presented chronologically to facilitate the reader’s understanding of the growth and development of the field. We limited ourselves to work with a focus on the theory of teaching novices, leaving many wonderful articles on other aspects, like writing across the curriculum and upper level writing, to future volumes. We hope that this volume will be helpful to anyone seeking a deeper understanding of why we do what we do.
Great holiday reading!
Friday, November 22, 2013
The John Marshall Law School in Chicago has been a leader for decades in giving its legal writing professors the same rights, responsibilities, and career paths as its other law professors. The John Marshall faculty voted this week to grant tenure to two more of our legal writing colleagues, Kim Chanbonpin and Maureen Collins, both of whom have been generous contributors to our field. Congratulations all around!
hat tip: Anthony Niedwiecki
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Many law professors, especially legal writing professors, are talented narrative writers. There is a contest with a submission date of November 30th that might be of interest to you, the Fall 2013 Story Contest of Narrative Magazine. Take a look at the link and see if you have something appropriate to submit.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Seventh Circuit Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook recently offered his advice about brief writing in the Friedman Lecture in Appellate Advocacy. He reminded lawyers that “Good exposition means not writing like a lawyer, with arcane terms, plentiful acronyms, and lots of jargon. That might work well for an audience of specialists, but it is a disaster for an audience of generalists.” And he advised against using intensifiers like “clearly”: “'Clearly' signifies that some question has just been begged. If you must say that something is clear, it usually isn't.” For more tips, check the reprinted lecture at 23 Federal Circuit Bar Journal 1 (2013).
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
The winner of the Penny Pether Award for Law and Language Scholarship is Michael Burger of Roger Williams University School of Law for his article Environmental Law/Environmental Literature. 40 Ecology L.Q. 1 (2013) . The award will be presented this Friday at the West Coast Rhetoric Scholarship Workshop at UNLV’s Boyd School of Law.
The award is named for Penny Pether, a respected member of the legal writing community who had a parricular interest in language and literature.
hat tip: Jeremy Mullem
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Monday, November 11, 2013
Randall Tietjen's discovery of previously unknown letters by Clarence Darrow led him to write In the Clutches of the Law: Clarence Darrow’s Letters. In a recent interview with Bryan Garner for the ABA Journal, Tietjen summarized Darrow’s writing style: “His mature style of writing was unpretentious. He wrote what he would call ‘simple and unadorned’ sentences.” For oral argument, Darrow believed in “a clear, forceful, eloquent and convincing style.” Today's law students would benefit from emulating the style of the master.
Friday, November 8, 2013
Once again, the Legal Writing Institute will host one-day workshops at sites around the country in early December. This year's workshops are to be held in Arizona, California, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Wisconsin.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
It's been a while since it was made, but many of you will remember a video produced at Drake Law School to help promote legal writing. The video was a project of the Media Committee of the Association of American Law Schools' Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research. In this video, a new law student uses his new skills in writing memoranda to help with the problems of daily life: how to choose a restaurant, pick the best football player, help your brother with his computer, and, well, we won't disclose the last scenario.
This is well worth a watch. Legal writing professors may want to show this video in class (or share the link to this post) as an end-of-the-semester treat on the importance of legal writing. Congratulations to Mel Weresh and her team at Drake for producing the video.
From Quo Vadis (the Rutgers Camden Law Library Blog), comes this summary of a panel discussion about How Legal Research, Writing, and Oral Communication Skills Can Help You Succeed in Your Summer Job. Each of the speakers on the panel "attributed their individual success to the skills that they acquired in their legal writing courses."
h/t Sarah Ricks