Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Should the Legal Writing Institute formalize what was known as the Pink Ink Caucus? That was the group of LGBT legal writing professors and allies. It met a couple of times (but not recently). Should LWI bring it back and foramlize it into an LWI committee?
Friday, November 7, 2014
“Legal educators don’t need empirical research to tell them what they already know—students coming to law school are ill prepared for the academic rigors of law study.” So begins an article recently posted by Jennifer Cooper of Seattle University. Cooper writes that in addressing this problem, law professors can benefit from undergraduate research showing that “retrieval [encoding and retrieving information from memory], self-testing, and periodic review are highly correlated with academic success.” To apply these concepts in law schools, Cooper recommends that professors calendar specific study steps, model case reading and synthesis in class, use practice questions and quizzes, and modeling effective use of course outlines.
Thursday, November 6, 2014
This is a temporary glitch that I suppose will eventually work itself out, but in the meantime it is best to be aware of a small issue with the feature called "Westlaw Copy With Reference." In case you don't know it, that feature allows you to copy a block of text from a case with the reference. You can put the reference in Bluebook format or in ALWD format. And hey, since my students figured out how to do that I can spend a little less time teaching citation format. It works quite well and is just one of those amazing things I wish we had back when I was in law school. Perfect citation format every time.
But here's the issue. The current Westlaw Copy with Reference (ALWD) seems to still be set for the Fourth edition of the ALWD Guide to Legal Citation rather than the current, can't-tell-it-apart-from-the-Bluebook-anymore Fifth edition. This means that a citation to an Illinois Appellate Court case will come out like this:
Doe v. Dilling, 861 N.E.2d 1052, 1066 (Ill. App. 1st Dist. 2006) aff'd, 888 N.E.2d 24 (Ill. 2008).
Rather than this:
Doe v. Dilling, 861 N.E.2d 1052, 1066 (Ill. App. Ct. 2006) aff'd, 888 N.E.2d 24 (Ill. 2008).
Of course it was more useful to practitioners and scholars to know the district, but that's not the format now for either Bluebook or ALWD. And yes, I remember to good ole days when all you needed was "Ill. App." rather than "Ill. App. Ct." (because back then everyone realized it was a court.
Is this a big deal? Obviously not.
Am I trying to avoid grading papers? Obviously yes.
But in the meantime, Westlaw powers that be should be alerted to the discrepancy in the new edition of ALWD and it's rather fabulous copy with ALWD reference function.
Tuesday, November 4, 2014
If you're going to Washington D.C. this January for the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools, plan an extra day to stop by the Library of Congress which will have a special exhibit on the Magna Carta.
The year 2015 will mark the 800th anniversary of the 1215 Magna Carta, the first document to limit the power of the King and to uphold the rights of the individual.
An exhibit called "Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor" will open at the Library of Congress on November 6, 2014 and continue to January 19, 2015. It features the "Lincoln Cathedral" copy of the Magna Carta, which is being loaned by Lincoln Cathedral in England (pictured here).
Thursday, October 30, 2014
Many readers of this blog have visited the Law Library of Congress (or at least its rather fabulous website).
While we've all been somewhat distracted with upcoming gala celebrations of the 800th Anniversary of Magna Carta, the Law Library of Congress has been undergoing a facelift of sorts with new construction in the Reading Room. You can click here to visit the Law Library of Congress Blog to have a look at the "before" pictures of the Law Library Reading Room. This is a major overhaul and we look forward to seeing the final results! And yes, we're still super-excited about the Magna Carta events at the Law Library of Congress while all of this construction goes on.
Friday, October 24, 2014
Susan Wawrose of Dayton recently published a paper about what legal employers want in new law graduates. She conducted focus groups of selected Dayton-area lawyers and found that they expect new graduates to exemplify professionalism, have strong research skills, and be effective legal writers. As writers, the new lawyers should consider their audience, write succinctly, and organize effectively, using IRAC. As a result of her research, Wawrose has added more varied assignments—including oral and email responses—to her legal writing course.
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Florida International University College of Law, a public law school located in Miami, Florida, seeks applicants for entry-level or lateral appointments for the position of Lecturer in Legal Skills and Values. The start date for the position is August 2015.
The College of Law’s Legal Skills and Values program consists of two required courses in the first year of law school, and an additional required course by the end of a student’s fourth semester. We are seeking dedicated legal writing and skills teachers to teach legal research, analysis, and written and oral communication skills, all with a heavy emphasis on professionalism, to students in the first-year courses.
Lateral candidates should show a demonstrated record of teaching excellence. Entry-level candidates should show commitment to excellence in teaching and significant potential as law teachers. Relevant experience from legal practice is an asset.
This is a full-time faculty appointment, with an initial one-year term, with the possibility of a three-year term and then successive five-year terms. Anticipated salary is between $60,000 and $80,000, depending upon experience.
Qualified candidates should send a cover letter, curriculum vitae, and three references. The Appointments Committee may request additional material such as teaching evaluations and letters of recommendation. Review will begin immediately and continue until the position or positions are filled.
Please submit applications electronically to Professor Noah Weisbord - Chair, Faculty Appointments Committee at: Facultycareers.fiu.edu. When applying please reference Job Opening ID 508683.
Hat tip to Marci Rosenthal
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Job Opening: Library Technician (Collections)The Law Technician for Inventory and Physical Controls is supervised by the Chief, Collection Services Division, Law Library of Congress. The incumbent ensures accountability of receipts by timely check-in of each serial or monographic piece received directly in the Law Library within a prescribed number of days following receipt. Records are created in the Integrated Library System (ILS) at point of check-in, as needed, to expedite processing. This position is located Collection Services Division, Global Legal Collection Directorate, Law Library of Congress. The position description number for this position is 64208. The salary range indicated reflects the locality pay adjustments for the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan area. The incumbent of this position will work a flextime work schedule. This is a non-supervisory, bargaining unit position. Relocation expenses will not be authorized for the person(s) selected under this vacancy announcement.
GS-07 - Law Library- $42,631.00- $55,421.00
Opening Date: 21-OCT-14
Closing Date: 04-NOV-14
Availability: Open to all
University of Detroit Mercy School of Law
Dual Degree Comparative Legal Writing & Research
Tenure or Tenure-Track Faculty Member
The University of Detroit Mercy School of Law seeks applicants for a tenure or tenure-track faculty position to teach Comparative Legal Writing and Research in itsCanadian & American Dual JD Program, commencing July 2015.
About the Position
The successful candidate will play a key part in the students’ introduction to the Dual JD Degree Program and will teach one section of the year-long, nine-credit hour Comparative Legal Research and Writing course. Typically, each section consists of approximately 30 students and is supported by at least one Teaching Assistant.
About UDM Law
The School of Law is located at the Riverfront Campus in Downtown Detroit and is within walking distance of federal, state, and municipal courts, the region’s largest law firms, and major corporations, including General Motors, Quicken Loans, and Comerica Bank. The School is also uniquely situated two blocks from the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, an international border crossing that links Detroit, Michigan with Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
About the Dual JD Program
The close proximity to Canada has allowed UDM Law to partner with the Faculty of Law at the University of Windsor (Canada) to create a Dual JD Program that is the only program of its kind in the country. Students are concurrently enrolled at both UDM and University of Windsor and attend classes that are fully integrated and wholly comparative, and taught by faculty at both institutions. (Typically, the commute between the Detroit and Windsor law school campuses is about 20 minutes.) Upon successful completion of the three-year program, students earn both an ABA-accredited JD and an accredited Canadian JD, and are eligible to sit for the bar examinations in both jurisdictions. (Completing the two degrees would require either six years of study if done independently or four years if attending other dual programs.)
About the Comparative Legal Research & Writing Course
The course is a comprehensive comparative research, writing, and analysis course that is specifically designed for the Dual JD Program. Students learn the similarities and differences between the American and Canadian legal systems, including governmental structure, court structure, jurisdiction, procedure, and ethics. Students also learn fundamental lawyering skills and explore the research, writing, and citation protocols in each country. The course is structured so that for every major American assignment, there is a comparative Canadian assignment. The highlight of the course involves student participation in both an American and Canadian moot court experience.
Downtown Detroit offers a dynamic variety of cultural, entertainment, and sporting attractions that are easily accessible from the Law School, including the Detroit Institute of Arts (housing a world-class art collection), the Detroit Symphony, the Detroit Opera House, the Detroit Zoo, the Henry Ford Museum, Eastern Market (historic farmer’s market), and major league sports teams.
About University of Detroit Mercy
The University of Detroit Mercy is an independent Catholic institution of higher education sponsored by the Religious Sisters of Mercy and Society of Jesus. The university seeks qualified candidates who will contribute to the University's urban mission, commitment to diversity, and tradition of scholarly excellence. The University of Detroit Mercy is an Equal Opportunity Affirmative Action Employer with a diverse faculty and student body and welcomes persons of all backgrounds.
Candidates must have a law degree from an accredited U.S. or Canadian law school, strong academic background, superior writing and communication skills, and a record or the promise of excellence and high scholarly achievement. Preference will be given to candidates with law degrees, practice experience or significant exposure in both jurisdictions.
Applicants should send a curriculum vitae, a cover letter describing the applicant’s qualifications for the position, and details of at least three references to Professor Gary Maveal, Chair of Faculty Recruitment, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, 651 E. Jefferson, Detroit, MI 48226. Email applications may be sent to email@example.com. Review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled.
Hat tip to Julie St John
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Monday, October 20, 2014
As we noted in another post earlier this month, a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article is bluntly titled “Why Academics Stink at Writing.” Steven Pinker, a Harvard psychology professor and author of The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, indicts much academic writing as "academese": “turgid, soggy, wooden, bloated, clumsy, obscure, unpleasant to read, and impossible to understand.” Among academics’ offenses are “shudder quotes,” quotation marks that apologize for a term, as in “But this is not the ‘take-home message.’” The quotes suggest that although the writer couldn’t think of a better way to make the point, he or she is nevertheless a serious scholar. Pinker says there are several legitimate uses for quotation marks, but “[s]queamishness about one’s own choice of words is not among them.”
Another offense is metadiscourse, “verbiage about verbiage.” Example: “The previous section analyzed the source of word sounds. This section raises the question of word meanings.” Pinker suggests writing instead, “Now that we have explored the source of word sounds, we arrive at the puzzle of word meanings.” In formal legal writing, I would avoid using “we,” perhaps writing instead, “Word sounds lead to the puzzle of word meanings.”
Legal writing professors are ahead of the curve on this: we have been steering our students away from academese and legalese for decades now. Pinker’s article serves as a reminder of particular aspects of the clear, uncluttered writing style we promote.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Through an agreement with the Library of Congress, the publisher William S. Hein & Co., Inc. has generously allowed the Law Library of Congress to offer free online access to historical U.S. legal materials from HeinOnline. These titles are available through the Library’s web portal, Guide to Law Online: U.S. Federal, and include:
United States Code 1925-1988 (includes content up to 1993)
From Guide to Law Online: United States Law
United States Reports v. 1-542 (1754-2004)
From Guide to Law Online: United States Judiciary
Code of Federal Regulations (1938-1995)
From Guide to Law Online: Executive
Federal Register v. 1-58 (1936-1993)
From Guide to Law Online: Executive
For more details read the announcement on the Law Library of Congress blog, In Custodia Legis, at http://blogs.loc.gov/law/2014/10/free-public-access-to-federal-materials-on-guide-to-law-online/.
Hat tip Law Library of Congress
Friday, October 10, 2014
Pictured here are: Linda L. Berger, the Family Foundation Professor of Law at the Univeristy of Nevada at Las Vegas, who is the current President of the Legal Writing Institute (LWI);
Mary-Beth Moylan of the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, who is the current President of the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD); and Olympia Duhart of Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center, who is Co-President of the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT).
Hat tip to Suzanne Rowe, official cheerleader of the legal writing community.
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Two new articles, both by University of Wyoming law professors, identify ties between legal writing scholarship and other subject areas. Kenneth Chestek’s The Life of the Law Has Not Been Logic: It Has Been Story echoes an Oliver Wendell Homes quote, which ended, “It has been experience.” Chestek (pictured at left) posits a world in which a computer decides Supreme Court cases by formula. He thus illustrates that formulas alone won’t work—“narrative reasoning” is important. He explains that “recent work in cognitive science and narrative theory” can underpin the work of the legal writing professors as they explore how lawyers persuade.
Michael R. Smith (pictured at right) cites sociological insights that can inform legal writing scholarship. In The Sociological and Cognitive Dimensions of Policy-Based Persuasion, Smith states that “social science scholarship offers many insights into human behavior that can assist legal advocates in improving the persuasiveness of their policy arguments.”
Saturday, October 4, 2014
Bryan Garner's latest article in the ABA Journal is titled Ten Tips for Better Legal Writing. Some of his tips are especially appropriate for law students, who could appropriately paste "Don't rely exclusively on computer research" on the wall by their work space. That would serve as a reminder that unfocused computer searches are like a box of chocolates--you never know what you're going to get. Garner also advises legal writers to be neither too tentative nor too cocksure in their conclusions, both of which are hazards for beginning law students. And Garner's tenth tip would improve the professionalism of many a student paper: "Proofread one more time than you think necessary."
Friday, October 3, 2014
An article by Professor Steven Pinker in the October 3, 2014 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education laments the unfortunate state of academic writing. Not legal writing (as readers of this blog would know), but academic writing in general. He notes that outside the academy bad writing is seen as a deliberate choice, and that some scholars may "spout obscure verbiage to hide the fact that they have nothing to say." Although he does not deny that having nothing to say may be true for some professors, others simply have writing that stinks.
His essay on this is worth reading, including its observations on metadiscourse, professional narcissism, abstraction, hedging, and the "Curse of Knowledge." He also notes, for example, that "Few graduate programs teach writing. Few academic jounals stipulate clarity among their criteria for acceptance, and few reviewers and editors enforce it."
Professor Pinker, a psychology professor at Harvard, is also the author of The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, published by Viking Press.
In concluding his essay, Professor Pinker admonishes that: "Our indifference to how we share the fruits of our intellectual labors is a betrayal of our calling to enhance the spread of knowledge. In writing badly, we are wasting each other's time, sowing confusion and error, and turing our profession into a laughingstock."
Professor Pinker, I think you'll find a lot of agreement from readers of our blog.
The October 3, 2014 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education reminds us that the number of law school applicants has plummeted 45 percent from 2004 to 2014, citing preliminary figures from the American Bar Association. The Chronicle states that law schools were reaching deeper into the applicant pool and that bar pass rates were taking a hit.
Some schools have shown particularly large enrollment drops. Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, notes the article, went from 422 entering students in 2010 to only 242 students in 2014. That's a drop of 43 percent. See Katherine Mangan, Struggling Law School May Be a Canary in the Coal Mine, Chronicle of Higher Education, Oct. 3, 2014, at A8. Another school cited in the aritcle is Thomas Cooley, which saw a drop of 41 percent in its enrollment. Citing a report from the National Jurist, the Chronicle reports that Thomas Cooley had 3,931 enrollments in 2010 but only 2,334 in 2013.
The number of ABA-accredited law schools has grown in the past 15 years, growing from 182 schools in 1999 to 204 today (three of which are provisionally accredited).
Monday, September 29, 2014
Phillip Sparkes offers some good advice about paragraphing his recent article, Thinking in Paragraphs. He explains that we see paragraphs more than we hear them. Concerning length, he states, "A good paragraph is as long as it needs to be." The requirements of unity and coherence necessarily limit length, though, and as reading habits change, "it is probably a good idea to keep paragraphs short." For more helpful advice, see the full article at page 30 of the September 2014 Kentucky Bench and Bar Magazine.
Monday, September 22, 2014
Stetson's Kirsten Davis recently published an article arguing that the traditional legal memorandum is not dead. While some lawyers may read a memo on a computer screen instead of on paper, Davis argues that on-screen reading does not change the essential nature of the objective memo, which "facilitate[s] deliberative decision making." Today's memo might include more visual cues because it may be read on a screen, but it can still encourage depth of analysis and avoid the shortcomings of more superficial forms of communication.
Friday, September 19, 2014
Professors Philip B. Stark and Richard Freishtat of Berkeley have posted a new article pointing out flaws in the use of student evaluations of professors. Among their criticisms, they point out biases in the ratings and argue that students are not qualified to evaluate such matters as instructor effectiveness. They also identify flaws with the statistical methods applied to the ratings. For example, if two students rank Professor Smith at 3 and 7 on a 10-point scale, and two other students each rank Professor Jones at 5, both professors have a 5 average. But can those averages be equated? Stark and Freishtat say no, and they argue that “averages of rating scores should not even be calculated, much less compared across instructors, courses, or departments.” Instead, other kinds of evidence should be used along with student ratings “to provide more meaningful and reliable formative and summative assessments of teaching.”
Hat tip: Bruce Ching