Friday, May 16, 2014
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
Job Market for Law Grads Improves (Slightly) for Third Year; Class of 2013 was Largest in History of Legal Education
A new article in the National Jurist magazine reports that the job market for recent law graduates is slowly improving, marking the third straight year of higher employment statistics. The article reports that 57 percent of the class of 2013 found long-term, full-time positions that require bar passage within nine months of graduation. Only 56.2 percent found similar jobs in 2012 and 54.9 percent in 2011.
The article notes that the class of 2013 was the largest in the history of legal education, with 46,776 matriculants. (The class of 2014 will be 4,000 smaller than that.)
The job placement numbers, even improving for a third year, are not where they should be and law graduates who cannot find full-time employment have a difficult time repaying student loans from college and law school. Law schools across the country have seen smaller numbers of applicants.
Despite the numbers of unemployed and underemployed lawyers, many clients remain in poor and underserved communities. Victims of housing discrimination, domestic violence victims, veterans seeking help obtaining benefits, and persons seeking help with political asylum applications are among the groups still looking for lawyers to help prepare their cases.
The ninth Global Legal Skills Conference will be held in Italy at the University of Verona Faculty of Law from May 21-23, 2014.
GLS-9 is co-sponsored by several leading international bar associations and professional organizations, including:
- American Bar Association Section of International Law
- International Bar Association
- Law Society of England and Wales (International Committee)
- Scribes--The American Society of Legal Writers
- Teaching International Law Committee of the American Branch of the International Law Association.
More than 150 speakers and presenters from over 30 countries are expected at the conference. Click here for more information including speakers, panel topics, hotel, and registration information.
The conference was previously held in Chicago (at The John Marshall Law School, where the conference was founded), Washington D.C. (at Georgetown University Law Center), Monterrey Mexico (at the Facultad Libre de Derecho de Monterrey), and in Costa Rica (at the University of Costa Rica Faculty of Law). This year marks the first time that the conference is being held in Europe.
The links below include two travel blogs about Verona as well as photographs from the last GLS conference in San Jose, Costa Rica.
Mark E. Wojcik, GLS-9 Conference Co-Chair
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Friday, April 18, 2014
The ninth Global Legal Skills Conference will be held May 21-23, 2014 at the University of Verona Faculty of Law in Verona, Italy. More than 140 participants are expected from around the world. Here is a link to the draft conference schedule.
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Lawyers are often told that the word shall is prescriptive, meaning that something is required. But as NKU Chase Professor Phillip Sparks pointed out in a recent Kentucky Bench and Bar column, shall can actually have several meanings and may be more confusing than helpful. Sparkes points out that England, Scotland, Australia, and New Zealand have largely eliminated shall from legal writing. Often the simple present tense will suffice: in a definition, instead of "the chief executive officer shall mean . . . ," the drafter can write, " The chief executive officer means . . . " Sparkes concludes, "Shall is disappearing from standard English. Let's not rescue it for legal English, shall we?" Read the full column at page 26 of the March 2014 Bench and Bar Magazine.
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly of the Northern District of Illinois recently advised lawyers to winnow their arguments down to the most effective ones. His article in the winter issue of Litigation quotes Judge Richard Prosser to caution against a "frivolous scattershot" approach to briefing. Kennelly explains that a litigant has the judge's attention only briefly and should make the most of that time. Moreover, due to page or word limits, "weak arguments physically drive out better arguments." Kennelly's other advice on brief writing includes leaving out hyperbole and not making an argument that you are unwilling or unable to develop.
Saturday, April 12, 2014
In a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article titled "Bad Writing and Bad Thinking," author Rachel Toor argues that some problems with students’ writing arise from their belief that they must write like others in their fields—even when that writing is clumsy. Instead, Toor says, students should follow George Orwell’s and Strunk and White’s advice about thinking and writing clearly. She adds, “Call me simple-minded, call me anti-intellectual, but I believe that most poor scholarly writing is a result of bad habits, of learning tricks of the academic trade as a way to try to fit in. And it's a result of lazy thinking.” Law students’ exposure turgid judicial opinions may explain some of the problems they face in learning legal writing.
Hat tip: Faisal Kutty
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Southern California lawyer William Domnarski raises some provocative points about legal writing in his new book, Swimming in Deep Water: Lawyers, Judges, and Our Troubled Legal Profession, published by the ABA. In an essay titled Lawyers Writing, Domnarski argues that legal writing is not a separate genre, but that good legal writing is just good writing, a point he says law schools don’t acknowledge. But legal writing professors may be closer to his view than he realizes. For years, I have quoted to my students Justice Scalia’s statement (which Domnarski references) that legal writing doesn’t exist as a separate genre. I point out that good legal writing has much in common with any good expository writing. But I also alert the students that they need to be attuned to legal terminology. No, I don’t mean they should start using legalese like aforesaid, which Domnarski rightly condemns. Instead I mean that students must understand and correctly use terms like battery and strict scrutiny.
I find more to disagree with in another essay, Legal Writing Instruction Misunderstood. There Domnarski argues that legal writing professors should teach grammar and usage, not legal analysis: “Language skills taught in legal writing classes have nothing to do with legal reasoning or knowledge of the law.” On that point Domnarski is wrong. Our AALS section is named “The AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research” because experts in the field recognize the connection between legal reasoning and legal writing. Domnarski himself seems to acknowledge this when he writes in the same essay, “What the lawyer writes is determined by the facts and the law, both of which the lawyer has almost no control over. Presenting whatever best commends an argument is the challenge for the lawyer in his writing.” In short, legal analysis is an integral part of legal writing.
Domnarski also bluntly advises, “Burn anything that Bryan Garner has written,” on the ground that Garner “perpetuates the idea that legal writing is somehow special.” I don’t think that’s Garner’s purpose, and I recognize his important contributions to the field. His Redbook on legal style is an invaluable reference on, among other things, English usage—which Domnarski agrees lawyers need to brush up on.
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
In his latest ABA Journal column, Bryan Garner urges legal writers to ax certain words from their writing. He explains that and/or is not a word, and that you can write perfectly well without it. He also lists the stuffy legalese words herein, pursuant to, whereas, witnesseth, same when it means it, and said when it's "a fancy-pants substitute for the." See Garner's April column for his complete list of words and explanations of why you should eliminate them.