Thursday, August 8, 2013
What's the difference between an accurate treatise on an area of law and a treatise that becomes the definitive source in its area? It may well be the writing, as Attorney Corey Field suggests in "Melville Nimmer the Writer: A Review of the 1963 First Edition of 'Nimmer on Copyright' on the Occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of its Publication".
As Field explains, "2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of the leading treatise on copyright law, 'Nimmer on Copyright.' In honor of the 50th Anniversary, The Journal of The Copyright Society of the U.S.A. published a commemorative issue with essays marking the anniversary. This essay looks at the original 1963 First Edition of 'Nimmer on Copyright,' and reviews it not based on changes in copyright law in the period 1963 to 2013, but as an examination of the legal writing style of Melville Nimmer, the original author of the treatise. The approach of the paper is to examine how the writing style itself, in addition to the research and scholarship, established 'Nimmer on Copyright' as a paragon of legal scholarship that has endured for 50 years."
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Some time ago, a very astute observation was made over on Prism Legal. As your law school spruces up for the new school year, take a look at the writing that is posted on the walls outside or inside the building. What is it communicating to the new students about the writing of lawyers?
hat tip: Mark Burge
Monday, August 5, 2013
Looking for a good legal novel to read or recommend to students? The ABA Journal has just published a list of the twenty-five greatest law novels of all time. The top three books on the list are To Kill a Mockingbird, Crime and Punishment, and Bleak House. Tied for twenty-fifth place are Old Filth, by Jane Gardam, and The Ox-Bow Incident, by Walter van Tilburg Clark. Check the journal’s website for the full list, the names of the judges, and a lively reader discussion about the judges' choices.
Legal writing professors continue to be tapped to serve as various types of deans at U.S. law schools:
This fall Meredith Aden will be the new Assistant Dean for Law Student Affairs at the University of Memphis School of Law, while also directing the school’s academic support program.
Larry Cunningham has been appointed the Associate Academic Dean of St. John's University School of Law.
And Mehmet Konar-Steenberg now serves as the Associate Dean for Faculty at William Mitchell Law School.
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Professor Tracey Banks Coan received the Joseph Branch Excellence in Teaching Award during the Wake Forest Founders’ Day Convocation.
named the Teacher of the Year at
Hofstra Law School.
At Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, Professor Gary Craig who was voted Professor of the Year by the class of 2013.
Professor Brad Desnoyer won two Missouri University awards: the Excellence in Education Award for significant contributions to students’ out-of-classroom experiences and the Gold Chalk Award for significant contributions to the education and training of graduate and professional students.
At this year’s graduation at the John Marshall Law School, Professor Joanne Hodge received the school’s Dedicated Service Award.
Berkeley Law’s Dean named Professor Trish Plunkett Hurley as the 2013 recipient of the Rutter Award for Teaching Distinction.
Professor Karen Sneddon received the Reynold Kosek Excellence in Teaching Award at Mercer Law School.
The graduating students at SUNY Buffalo Law School chose Professor Patrick Long as the Faculty Member of the Year.
Professor Jennifer Mailly received the Teaching Scholar Award from the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at the University of Connecticut.
Professor Tom Noble was selected by the students at Elon to receive the 2013 Outstanding Service to Students Award.
Professor Ruth Anne Robbins, for the second year in a row, was selected by the graduating class at Rutgers-Camden as the Lawyering Professor of the Year.
Chicago-Kent’s SBA named Professor
Streseman as the Professor of the Year, also for the second year in a row.
The University of Michigan Law School Student Senate named Professor Nancy Vettorello as the 2013 recipient of the L. Hart Wright Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Finally, at Nova Southeastern University, Professor Joe Hnylka received the Stephanie Aleong Impact Award. For this unique award, the faculty votes for a student, who then presents the award to the professor who was most influential to him or her. Note that the award is also named in memory of a legal writing colleague.
Sunday, July 28, 2013
Over at Legal Writing Editor, Joe Kimble has a nice take on the (hopefully long-settled?) debate over legalese in legal writing. The piece, You Think Anybody Likes Legalese?, makes a good point about the disconnect between what lawyers expect as readers and what they produce as writers:
Do you think anybody likes legalese? No. Nobody. Or I should say no body — not judges or lawyers or the public at large. All those groups strongly prefer plain language and find it more effective and persuasive. Besides that, they understand it better and faster, perform more accurately when they have to deal with it, and are more likely to read it in the first place. Please, purveyors and defenders of legalese, just look at the studies of your readers.
Now, I can hear the objections. “But clients expect legalese.” If they do, we should be ashamed of having conditioned them to expect it because they certainly don’t like it. “But my boss likes it the old way.” Then either try gentle persuasion or wincingly do what your boss wants, bide your time until you can decide, and know that your boss’s attitude and style are retrograde. “But most lawyers are still churning out legalese.” That’s the great disconnect: they forget as writers what they prefer as readers.
Saturday, July 27, 2013
Professor Megan Boyd (at Mercer) and Adam Lamparello (at Indiana Tech) have written an article offering Legal Writing for the "Real World": A Practical Guide to Success, 46 John Marshall Law Review (2013). The article contains real world writing advice, along with examples, to give students guidance about what to expect in law practice. It could provide some valuable context, once your students get their sea legs.
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Nancy Levit and Alan Rostron at UMKC report that they have just updated their charts about law journal submissions, expedites, and rankings from different sources for the fall 2013 submission season covering the 203 main journals of each law school.
The highlights from this round of revisions include:
1) The list of law reviews is now up from 202 to 203 with the addition of a brand new law review, and for the first time it includes a law review that accepts submissions by Twitter. (The new law review is Belmont. The Twitter-friendly law review is Case Western Reserve.)
2) The chart now includes as much information as possible about what law reviews are not accepting submissions right now, what dates they say they'll resume accepting submissions, etc.
The first chart contains information about each journal’s preferences about methods for submitting articles (e.g., e-mail, ExpressO, Scholastica, or regular mail), as well as special formatting requirements and how to request an expedited review. The second chart contains rankings information from U.S. News and World Report, as well as data from Washington & Lee’s law review website.
I manage the Temple Law LRW twitter feed, and I want to do more following this year...that is, I want to find new law, writing, and LRW-related accounts to follow. Are you on twitter? Who do you follow?
And if anyone wants to follow us, we are @TempleLRW on twitter!
Monday, July 22, 2013
Deborah Cupples and Margaret Temple-Smith, both legal writing professors at the University of Florida, have published a handy and dandy small book, Grammar, Punctuation & Style: A Quick Guide for Lawyers and Other Writers. You could literally fit in your purse or a large pocket, yet it provides a full review of American English grammar and punctuation and also includes style tips for lawyers. The authors practice what they preach, creating highly precise and concise prose. And the excellent typography adds to the legibility of this slim volume. (No grammar maven will agree with every point in such a guide, but I found only three to disagree with, a personal minimum record.) It's a good guide to keep handy and to recommend for students.
Friday, July 19, 2013
The Indiana Law Review recently published Judge Patricia Wald’s address at Indiana University’s 2012 commencement. Judge Wald, who sat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, advised the graduates, “Whatever you do, learn to write well--succinctly, clearly, and persuasively.”
Lawyers write the words that compose the laws that flood our courts with issues of interpretation and proper construction. We are told to hold with the “plain meaning” or “plain language” of the statutes, but in too many cases the meaning and the language are far from plain; the syntax is convoluted, surplusage and redundancy abound, participles dangle, and pronouns twist aimlessly in windy speech. . . . The best language conveys ideas clearly and completely. The road to legal limbo is paved with good intentions, sloppily articulated.
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Neil Dilloff (Maryland) has an interesting, timely new article (available on SSRN) out in the Stanford Law and Policy Review. From the abstract:
Over the past several years, there has been a plethora of articles by law school administrators, faculty members, legal foundations, practicing lawyers, judges, various commentators, and national, state, and city bar associations about the perceived gap between what currently is being taught in the nation's law schools and what various practicing members of the legal profession believe needs to be taught. In addition, law schools have conducted various symposia in which law school administrators, faculty, and practitioners have met and discussed ways to improve law school curricula so that what a student learns is immediately useful to the student, and to his or her employer, when the student enters the workplace.
The backdrop for the renewed attention to making legal education more practical has been the dismal job market for lawyers, which is now entering its fifth year. Law graduates are scrambling for jobs in a buyer's market. Employers are looking for applicants who have the training, legal maturity, and experience to become instant contributors to the productivity of the firm, corporation, or agency. While few employers expect recent law graduates to be able to meet job demands without some acclimation and on-the-job training, many employers no longer have the time, will, or finances to dedicate to training new lawyers. Accordingly, those law schools that are able to turn out "finished" work-ready graduates will move to the head of the pack, and their graduates will have a leg up in this uncertain job market. This Article will explore ways for law schools to accomplish this mission.
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
This afternoon, I'm digging into this survey about technology and writing from the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project. The survey asked about 2,500 middle and high school teachers about how digital technologies have affected student writing.
From the Overview:
According to teachers, students’ exposure to a broader audience for their work and more feedback from peers encourages greater student investment in what they write and in the writing process as a whole.
At the same time, these teachers give their students modest marks when it comes to writing and highlight some areas needing attention. Asked to assess their students’ performance on nine specific writing skills, teachers tended to rate their students “good” or “fair” as opposed to “excellent” or “very good.” Students received the best ratings on their ability to “effectively organize and structure writing assignments” and their ability to “understand and consider multiple viewpoints on a particular topic or issue.” Teachers gave students the lowest ratings when it comes to “navigating issues of fair use and copyright in composition” and “reading and digesting long or complicated texts.”
The Washington Post's report on the survey notes that "teachers weren’t thrilled about students using casual writing in formal assignments" (including "tech talk" and "shortening"). One survey response highlights this problem:
Texting has spilled over into so much of my students' writing that trying to decipher what they are writing has become difficult. They don't see the problem, and feel that as long as they have written something, it should be accepted no matter how it's written.
(h/t to my friend Brendon, who used technology to tweet a link to the survey to me this morning)
Monday, July 15, 2013
Christine Bartholomew, at SUNY-Buffalo, has written a very helpful article onTime: An Empirical Analysis of Law Student Time Management Deficiencies. She acknowledges LRW professors' role on the front line of teaching time managment and provides information and ideas that every law professor should find helpful. Here's her abstract:
Article begins the much needed research on law students’ time famine.
Time management complaints begin early in students’ legal education and
generally go unresolved. As a result, practicing attorneys identify time
famine as a leading cause of job dissatisfaction. To better arm
graduating students, law schools must treat time as an essential
component of practice-readiness. Unfortunately, most law schools ignore
their students’ time management concerns, despite growing calls for
greater 'skills' training in legal education.
"To date, legal scholarship has overlooked psychological research on time management. Yet, this research is an essential starting point to effective instruction. Rather than viewing time management as a singular concept, this research shows it is actually multi-dimensional, compromised of multiple time structure skills and behaviors. This more nuanced understanding of time management means each dimension can be isolated, measured, and remediated. Rather than a shotgun approach, law schools can tailor instruction to law students’ specific deficiencies.
"To help identify these deficiencies, this Article presents a psychometric study of 1Ls – the first study to ever quantify law students’ time management problems. The study identifies five specific dimensions 1Ls lack: perceived control, present orientation, structured routine, goal setting, and mechanics. Using this information, the Article offers tailored advice on incorporating skills across the curriculum to help remedy these deficiencies. By learning foundational time management skills during law school, students have at least a fighting chance of managing time famine in practice."
Pamela Keller of the University of Kansas recently reminded lawyers to pay attention to typography. In an article in the June Journal of the Kansas Bar Association, Keller stresses the importance of visual presentation, discussing points like font choice and the importance of white space. Weighing in on a topic previously discussed on this blog, Keller urges legal writers to insert one space, not two, between sentences. The two spaces, she explains, are a holdover from typewriter days.
Since I last posted on the topic, I have repented of my Luddite ways, and I now place only one space between sentences.
Saturday, July 13, 2013
"This article takes issue with the idea that the 'traditional' legal memorandum is dead. It challenges lawyers, law faculty, and law students to think more deeply about the purposes of the legal memo, its role in modern legal practice, and its readability in a mobile computing world. And it offers a view of the legal memo that draws upon not only legal practice traditions but also upon the rules of ethics, rhetorical theory, cognitive science, and on-screen readability studies."
Thursday, July 11, 2013
Now Professor Donald J. Kochan has written an analysis of conclusory, focusing on its history and use. He notes that many dictionaries do not include the word and that its definition is elusive. After presenting extensive data about courts’ use of the word, especially concerning pleading standards in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, Kochan concludes that conclusory has become “even more difficult to define than ever.”
I'll keep using it, though. I'll just be sure to define it.
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Save the dates! The next Global Legal Skills Conference will be held in Italy at the University of Verona Faculty of Law. The conference will begin with an opening reception on Wednesday, May 21, 2014 and continue with two full days of programs on May 22 and 23, 2014.
This will be the ninth time that the Global Legal Skills Conference is being held, and the first time in Europe. Previous conferences were held in Chicago, Washington DC, San Jose Costa Rica, and Monterrey Mexico. The conference began at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.
Persons traveling to Verona can fly directly into Verona (VRN) or to other airports in Milan or Venice. Train transportation to Verona is easy. Post-conference activities are being planned for Venice and Vicenza.
Mark E. Wojcik
Monday, July 8, 2013
The Green Bag's spring 2013 issue contains some old but still valid advice about writing to courts. In an address delivered in 1888, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice (and later Chief Justice) Edward M. Paxson advised lawyers, "As you grow older . . . you will learn that a clear, compact argument is the greatest aid to a Court in disposing of a case."