Thursday, June 5, 2014
“Eliminate zombie nouns,” advises Bryan Garner in the May 2014 issue of the Student Lawyer. Garner refers to what many call “nominalizations,” that is, verbs changed into cumbersome noun forms. He calls them “zombie nouns” because they are “essentially both dead and deadening.” For example, “make a contribution” is less lively than “contribute,” and “have a discussion about the issues” is clunkier than “discuss the issues.” Garner urges, “To liven up the sentence, give it action.” He also advises students to minimize the passive voice, offering guidelines on how to identify it. He then provides an example heavy with zombie nouns and the passive voice, which he then revises it to make it more readable.
Monday, June 2, 2014
First-year law students struggling with citations may want to consult Suggestions for Citing Authority without Distracting the Reader, by University of Kentucky Professor Kristin Hazelwood. Two of its tips are to keep citations at the end of the sentence and to use explanatory parentheticals only for additional information, not to replace text. These and the article’s other suggestions are available at page 16 of the May 2014 issue of the Kentucky Bench and Bar Magazine.
Saturday, May 31, 2014
More than 180 persons from over 20 countries around the world participated in the ninth Global Legal Skills Conference, which was held from May 21-23, 2014 at the University of Verona Faculty of Law (Italy). The conference included presentation of GLS Awards in the following categories: (1) individuals; (2) books; and (3) institutions.
Announcement of the 2014 GLS Award Winners
- Prof. Heidi Brown, New York Law School (New York, USA), nominated and recognized for her work with students to reduce extreme fear of public speaking and increase performance in classrooms, oral arguments, and client-centered legal skills activities.
- Prof. Juli Campagna, Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University (New York, USA) and Adjunct Professor of Law, Facultad Libre de Derecho de Monterrey (Mexico), recognized for developing English Immersion Training Programs and for exceptional devotion to meeting the needs of international students around the world.
- Dean Marion Dent, ANO Pericles, (Moscow, Russian Federation), recognized for her work in higher education in Russia and for her work to bring the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition to Russia.
- Deborah B. McGregor and Cynthia M. Adams, The International Lawyer's Guide to Legal Analysis and Communication in the United States (Wolters Kluwer 2008).
- Anthony S. Winer, Mary Ann E. Archer, and Lyonette Louis-Jacques, International Law Legal Research (Carolina Academic Press 2013), a book designed to enrich international law courses by showing students how to research sources of international law, and to help law schools create stand-alone courses in international law legal research.
- BarWrite and BarWrite Press, New York, USA (Dr. Mary Campbell Gallagher), for its early and thoughtful recognition of the special bar exam preparation needs needs of lawyers and law students from other countries.
Congratulations to all of the winners. GLS Awards will be presented again next year in Chicago at the tenth Global Legal Skills Conference, which will be co-hosted by The John Marshall Law School-Chicago and the Facultad Libre de Derecho de Monterrey (Mexico).
Photo of Verona by Professor David Austin (California Western School of Law).
Thursday, May 29, 2014
A recent article by Harvard Professor Richard Lazarus shows that U.S. Supreme Court opinions aren’t as final as they may seem. New Supreme Court decisions always carry the caveat that they are subject to revision for “typographical or other formal errors” before publication in United States Reports. But sometimes it takes several years before the Court issues its “‘final’ and ‘official’ opinion.” And Justices sometimes make significant substantive changes in the interim, as in the recent cases Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), and Environmental Protection Agency v. EME Homer City Generation, L.P, 134 S. Ct. 1584 (2014). Lazarus’s article discusses what constitutes a “formal” change, whether notice of changes is or should be provided, and what problems the Court’s current process creates.
hat tip: Ralph Brill
Friday, May 23, 2014
Law students and graduates working for judges this summer will find some helpful tips on writing opinions in a recent article by Judge Samuel A. Thumma. Observations of a Rookie Appellate Judge presents Judge Thumma’s views following his first year on the Arizona Court of Appeals. He points out that writing an appellate opinion differs from writing a brief because the audience for a published opinion is broader and more diverse. He also emphasizes the importance of a “short, tight, clean introduction,” the benefits of headings, the value of omitting unimportant details, and the need to specify what relief is granted. For more tips, see the full article in the winter 2014 issue of the Judges’ Journal.
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Former Legal Writing Institute president Susan Duncan has been named to a three-year term as Dean of the University of Louisville's Louis D. Brandeis School of Law. Susan's involvement in the legal writing field has been extensive. She has also chaired the AALS Section on Legal Research, Writing and Analysis, and her scholarship includes How Judges, Practitioners, and Legal Writing Teachers Assess the Writing Skills of New Law Graduates: A Comparative Study, co-authored with David Ritchie.
Monday, May 19, 2014
On Tuesday, June 1 (during the LWI Biennial Conference), new legal writing professors have the opportunity to participate in a critiquing workshop. This workshop is based on Dan Barnett’s Triage in the Trenches, 38 U. Toledo L. Rev. 651 (2007). The workshop is split into four sessions and introduces new teachers to critiquing student work. Participants must register in advance. Click this link to register and receive materials that you'll need to read in advance.
Sunday, May 18, 2014
Christine Pedigo Bartholomew was named Professor of the Year at SUNY Buffalo Law School. She received her B.A. from San Francisco State University in 1997 and her J.D. from the University at California, Davis, in 2000. Upon graduation, Bartholomew worked in the San Francisco Bay Area as an attorney, practicing in the areas of antitrust and consumer protection. In 2004, she helped open a branch office of a Washington, D.C.-based class action boutique law firm. During her career in legal practice, Professor Bartholomew worked on several significant antitrust actions, including Rodriguez v. West Publishing Corp. She was a member of the Law School’s adjunct faculty, teaching Private Antitrust Suits, Complex Civil Litigation and Antitrust.
Hat tip to Patrick Long.
Friday, May 16, 2014
The ninth Global Legal Skills Conference is next week in Verona, Italy. The conference is organized by The John Marshall Law School in Chicago and hosted this year at the University of Verona Faculty of Law.
Registration spots are still open if you are able to join us May 21-23, 2014 in Verona. We are expecting more than 160 participants from over 30 countries around the world.
Unfortunately the field trip to Vicenza has sold out (but there is a wait list).
If you are attending the conference and want information about arriving at the airports in Verona (VRN) or Venice (VCE), click here for a post on The International Law Prof Blog and download the document linked there.
This is the largest GLS Conference ever, with experts on international legal education from around the world.
Mark E. Wojcik, Founder and Co-Chair, Global Legal Skills Conference
But not the kind you're expecting. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that an associate professor of English at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) was approved for a promotion this week by the state’s Board of Regents for Higher Education while he was in prison for a probation violation.
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
A new edition of Ross Guberman’s book on advocacy, Point Made: How to Write Like the Nation’s Top Advocates, has just arrived. The second edition adds eight new model lawyers, including Solicitor General Don Verrilli and criminal defense attorney Judy Clarke, to the first edition’s fifty. The new edition includes more examples, more commentary on specific style points, a new list of fifty power verbs, an expanded list of transitional phrases, and fifty writing challenges keyed to the book’s fifty techniques. I’ve been recommending the first edition of Point Made to my advocacy students for several years now. Its emphasis on colorful wording and a confident tone help the students achieve a vibrant persuasive writing style.
Friday, May 9, 2014
In the latest issue of the Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, Bryan Garner continues his series of interviews with judges. This time he talks with five United States Court of Appeals judges to collect some inside information about brief writing and oral argument. Here are some of the judges’ pithy quotes:
Judge (and former Chief Judge) Frank Easterbrook of the Seventh Circuit said a lawyer should know why the court has jurisdiction. He imagines having a button he could press to send a lawyer out to the street if the lawyer can’t explain the basis for appellate jurisdiction. “Because if we don’t have jurisdiction, why are we here?”
Judge Pierre Leval of the Second Circuit said the first thing he looks at in a brief is the argument headings “to get a sense of what’s involved.” Then he can read the facts in context.
Chief Judge Sandra Lynch of the First Circuit said many lawyers look “frozen” when a judge asks a question. But instead, they should think, “This is a great way that I can hit a few more balls out of the park; I can help my case.”
Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the Ninth Circuit likes briefs written in “simple, clear sentences.” And he likes “a story that flows so you can tell what it’s about and why . . . something I can follow easily.”
And Chief Judge Diane Wood of the Seventh Circuit finds it “common to see a brief that is frustrating because you have a feeling you’re on a treasure hunt. You get some idea what the lawyer is trying to say, but the lawyer isn’t presenting the point as clearly as he or she should. And it takes a while to ferret out what you think the real point is.”
For the full interviews, see Volume 15 of The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing. It’s not up on line yet, but hard copies are available.
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Stetson University College of Law recently hosted an ALWD Scholars' Forum that focused on legal writing scholarship addressing rhetoric, narrative, and storytelling subjects. Held on April 25 as part of the Southeast Regional Legal Writing Conference, the forum was a fun, relaxed, and stimulating environment where participants shared their scholarly ideas and then engaged in a discussion with experienced scholars about the theoretical possibilities, research, topic narrowing, and concept extensions for their ideas.
A special guest at the forum was experienced scholar Dr. Clarke Rountree, Professor and Chair of Communication Studies, University of Alabama, Huntsville, who gave participants feedback on rhetorical theories relevant to their projects. Dr. Rountree is widely regarded in communication studies for his work at the intersection of law and rhetoric. He is the editor-in-chief of a forthcoming University of Alabama Press monograph series on Rhetoric, Law, and the Humanities.
Dr. Kirsten Davis of Stetson organized the forum and also served as an experienced scholar. The Association of Legal Writing Directors provided a grant that funded the forum.
Pictured below are Kirsten Davis and Clarke Rountree with forum participants Sue Provenzano and Lurene Contento.
Monday, May 5, 2014
A new edition of Black’s Law Dictionary will be out this month. In his May ABA Journal column, editor Bryan Garner provides interesting background on how the new edition was prepared. His network of lawyers and scholars suggested adding terms such as chief legal officer and heuristics. Fred Shapiro of Yale, a “brilliant reference librarian,” provided historical background on numerous legal terms. And Garner assigned students who had studied Latin to scour sources for the dictionary’s most exhaustive list yet of Latin words and phrases. Garner then enlisted renowned scholars to evaluate that list. To streamline the dictionary, Garner has placed full Latin sentences in an appendix. Further examples in the article show that creating the tenth edition was a massive undertaking that will lend even more “historical depth” to “the most widely cited law book in the world.”
Thursday, May 1, 2014
The Fourth "Colonial Frontier" Legal Writing Conference — Saturday, December 6, 2014
Hosted by: The Duquesne University School of Law, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Conference Theme: Teaching the Academically Underprepared Law Student
For generations, college and law school educators have often voiced the belief that their students are not as prepared as they used to be. Although some educators may disagree about whether there really has been a change in students since the apocryphal “good old days,” there is a growing body of scholarship suggesting that 21st Century college graduates and law students lack the critical thinking skills necessary for law study and that as educators we are facing new challenges in teaching these students. See e.g. Richard Arum & Josipa Roksa, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning On College Campuses (2011); Susan Stuart & Ruth Vance, Bringing a Knife to a Gunfight: The Academically Underprepared Law Student & Legal Education Reform, 48 Val. L. Rev. 1 (forthcoming 2013), available at http://works.bepress.com/ruth_vance/1 (the theme of this conference is based on this article’s title). Scholars and other commentators have pointed to many causes for the real (and perhaps perceived) problems that new law students have coping with the demands of academic and professional training. These causes include the declining quality of pre-college schooling and a focus on standardized testing, lowered expectations at the undergraduate level, a decrease in the numbers and “quality” of incoming law students, the generational characteristics of current law students, the effects on student learning from psychological problems such as anxiety disorders, the deleterious influence of the Internet and computer technology, and more. This conference will offer attendees an opportunity to hear from others who are interested in these questions, and, hopefully, learn how to better teach current law students or change the current educational environment.
We invite proposals from educators who want to speak to these issues. The Duquesne Law Review, which has published papers from two previous Colonial Frontier conferences, plans to devote space in its Spring 2015 symposium issue to papers from the conference.
We welcome proposals for 30-minute and 50-minute presentations on these topics, by individuals or panels. Proposals for presentations should be sent as an e-mail file attachment in MS Word to Professor Jan Levine at email@example.com by June 2, 2014. He will confirm receipt of all submissions. Proposals for presentations should be 1000 to 2000 words long, and should denote the topic to be addressed, the amount of time sought for the presentation, any special technological needs for the session, the presenter’s background and institutional affiliation, and contact information. Proposals should note whether the presenter intends to submit an article to the Duquesne Law Review, based on the presentation. Proposals by co-presenters are welcome. Proposals will be reviewed by Professors Julia Glencer, Jan Levine, Ann Schiavone, and Tara Willke of the Duquesne University School of Law, and by the editorial staff of the Duquesne Law Review.
Proposals for presentations will be accepted by June 15, 2014. Full drafts of related articles will be due by September 5, 2014; within a month of that date the Duquesne Law Review will determine which of those articles it wishes to publish; and final versions of articles will be due by January 12, 2015.
The attendance fee for the conference will be $50 for non-presenters. Duquesne will provide free on-site parking to conference attendees. The conference will begin 9:00 a.m. with a welcoming breakfast and reception at the Duquesne University School of Law, followed by two hours of presentations. We will provide a catered, on-campus lunch, followed by 90 additional minutes of presentations, ending at approximately 3:00 p.m. We will then host a closing reception in the “Bridget and Alfred Pelaez Legal Writing Center,” the home of Duquesne’s LRW program.
Pittsburgh is an easy drive or short flight from many cities. To accommodate persons wishing to stay over in Pittsburgh on Friday or Saturday evenings, Duquesne will arrange for a block of discounted rooms at a downtown hotel adjacent to campus, within walking distance of the law school and downtown Pittsburgh.
hat tip: Jan Levine
Legal writing professors will find several articles of interest in a recent symposium issue of the Journal of Law and Policy. Held at Brooklyn Law School, the symposium was titled The Impact of Cognitive Bias on Persuasion and Writing Strategies. The journal issue contains an introduction by Brooklyn professors Marilyn Walter and Elizabeth Fajans along with the following articles:
Lawrence M. Solan, Four Reasons to Teach Psychology to Legal Writing Students
Michael R. Smith, The Sociological and Cognitive Dimensions of Policy-Based Persuasion
Kathryn Stanchi, What Cognitive Dissonance Tells Us About Tone in Persuasion
Daniel S. Medwed, The Good Fight: The Egocentric Bias, the Aversion to Cognitive Dissonance, and American Criminal Law
Linda L. Berger, Metaphor and Analogy: The Sun and Moon of Legal Persuasion
Bret Rappaport, A Lawyer's Hidden Persuader: Genre Bias and How it Shapes Legal Texts by Constraining Writers' Choices and Influencing Readers' Perceptions
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Reminder! Today is the last day you can register for the LWI Biennial Conference in Philadelphia for only $535. The rate goes up tomorrow.
If you make a reservation at the Philadelphia Downtown Marriott, you'll be right across the street from our Reading Terminal Market, home of America's best sandwich (among other things).
Monday, April 28, 2014
Should the English language add new words to avoid gender-biased pronouns? That suggestion keeps cropping up, as evidenced in Dennis Baron’s book Grammar and Gender, which catalogues such neologisms dating back the year 1850. Now South Dakota’s Charles Marshall Thatcher proposes to add to the list. In an article titled What Is “Eet”? A Proposal to Add a Series of Referent-Inclusive Third Person Singular Pronouns and Possessive Adjectives to the English Language for Use in Legal Drafting, Thatcher does indeed suggest the word eet, which would replace he, she, or it to refer to a person of unspecified sex. Other new pronouns would include ee, herim, hermit, and herimself. Example: “The statute applies to herim.”
Such neologisms have not caught on so far, and with good reason. They cause a reader to stumble, and some of them are, as William Safire once said, “unspeakable.” And there are more graceful ways to avoid biased pronouns, as I pointed out in my article on gender-neutral language in the federal courts. Two of the most common ones are changing a noun to the plural so a plural pronoun fits (“Lawyers should file their briefs on time”) or recasting the sentence (“Briefs should be filed on time.”)
My answer to Thatcher’s question is “Eet is not a word and should not become one.”
Thursday, April 24, 2014
The Legal Writing Institute (LWI) and the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) have announced the recipients of the 2014 LWI/ALWD/LexisNexis Scholarship Grants. A joint committee of members from LWI and ALWD evaluated the proposals and made funding recommendations, which both Boards affirmed. This year, LWI and ALWD each raised their contributions to the grant program to $7500. With LexisNexis contributing $5000, there was a total of four grants of $5000 each, for a total of $20,000.
The grant winners and names of the proposals are:
- Heather D. Baum, Character Development and Assessment: A Strategy for Promoting Success in Law School and Beyond
- Clare Keefe Coleman, Dangerous Tongues: Storytelling in Congressional Testimony
- Jane Bloom Grise, Does Critical Reading Instruction Lead to Improved Legal Writing?
- Christine Venter, Time of Day Matters in Oral Argument: How Ego Depletion and Decision Fatigue May Impact the Outcome of Cases
The committee members for LWI were Ellie Margolis, Lisa Eichorn, Terrill Pollman, and Amanda Smith, and the ALWD representatives were Greg Johnson, Jan Baker, Andrea Funk, Debby McGregor, Anna Hemingway, Joe Mastrosimone, Sara Ricks, David Thomson, and Amy Vorenberg.
Hat tips to Ellie Margolis (LWI) & Greg Johnson (ALWD), Co-Chairs of the Joint Scholarship Grants Committee