Friday, March 28, 2014
Thursday, March 27, 2014
More Friday Fun! Need a quick laugh? Click here for the latest Legal Writing Memes. Here's a sample:
Blame for this grading distraction goes to Jennifer Murphy Romig, Instructor of Legal Writing, Research, and Advocacy (and now add Memes too) at Emory University School of Law.
But far from being just a grading distraction, we know that some professors have used these in their legal writing classes, so DO take a look in case you find something useful for your class.
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
North Carolina attorney Stephen Feldman recently advised lawyers that to be persuasive, their writing must be clear, and to be clear, it must be purposeful. His article in the Jaunary 2014 issue of For the Defense stresses that every word and every sentence needs a purpose. As an example, he offers a 44-word sentence whose purpose is unclear:
Plaintiff’s characterizations of the financial information provided by Defendants do not change the undisputed facts that Defendants never held out the financial information as being anything other than estimates of expenses and net income for commercial property to be constructed in the future.
To fix the sentence, he divides it and includes several pauses, creating stress positions that focus attention on the key points:
Here, summary judgment is warranted based on an undisputed fact: the defendants told the plaintiff that the relevant financial information was an estimate. The plaintiff’s characterization of this fact does not change its undisputed nature.
Feldman recognizes that writing purposefully takes time. But it’s time well spent, he says, because “Clear writing makes winning more likely.”
The For the Defense version is not yet on line, but Feldman's article can be accessed at his law firm's website.
Saturday, March 22, 2014
Friday, March 21, 2014
Rhetorician George Gopen recently wrote an article titled Why the Passive Voice Should Be Used and Appreciated—Not Avoided. Gopen’s argument is that the passive “moves the furniture around” as “the feng shui of grammar.” For example, the passive voice can put information in a desired stress position. If your writing has focused on Smith, you can continue that focus with the passive voice: “Smith was convinced to cede his interest in the property by the false representations of Jones.” Banning the passive voice, Gopen says, is “perhaps the single worst idea we teach about the English language.” His article in the winter 2014 Litigation journal contains other examples of the effective passive voice.
Gopen is the 2011 recipient of Legal Writing Institute's Golden Pen Award.
Thursday, March 20, 2014
A new Tumblr account has photos of . . . yes, can it be true . . . law prof grading! The excitement! The thrills! Have a look!
Actually it seems that cats and dogs are doing more grading than professors, but you'll have to be the judge of that yourself.
Blame this distraction on Professor Emily Grant, Co-Director, Institute for Law Teaching and Learning (and now Grading too) at Washburn University School of Law. And while we're at it, blame my colleague Professor Maureen Collins at The John Marshall Law School, who is one of the contributors to this new collection of photos. Your own photographs are welcome as well -- send them to Emily Grant, if you dare.
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
In his March ABA Journal column, Bryan Garner quoted this quip by Justice Oliver Wendell Homes: "Lawyers spend a great deal of time shoveling smoke." Garner also cited nineteenth-century English barrister F.C. Moncreiff, who advised lawyers to obfuscate when they have a weak case. But Garner says that's bad advice. Of his mentor, a renowned lawyer, Garner says, "I never heard him try to confuse a court." Garner concludes, "If you want to win, you can't write a 'hide-the-ball brief' or make a 'hide-the-ball' argument. That goes nowhere. You must make clear points and hope the scales weigh in their favor."
Saturday, March 15, 2014
Junior legal writing scholars can receive critiques from experts at a workshop on July 25-26, 2014. The Washburn Junior Legal Writing Scholars Workshop will provide a collaborative environment for current and aspiring legal writing professors to receive feedback from other legal writing professors on their scholarly projects. Washburn will fund lodging for one night along with all meals during the workshop. The workshop organizers, Emily Grant and Joseph Mastrosimone, strongly encourage scholarship submissions that are in any stage – idea outline, work-in-progress, or nearly complete and ready to submit.
Proposals for are due by April 15, 2014. For more information about the workshop and how to apply for it, see http://washburnlaw.edu/facultystaff/juniorlegalwritingworkshop/.
Hat tip: Joseph Mastrosimone
Friday, March 14, 2014
In a good reminder about the importance of legal analysis, Judge Posner had some choice words for the attorneys who filed the opening brief in the case of Central States v. Lewis and Lashgari. In the opinon, which can be found here, Posner criticizes the "tiny" 118 word argument as "gaunt" and "pathetic." All the more reason to emphasize deep legal analysis to our brief-writing students this time of year!
Hat tip: Ralph Brill & ABA Journal
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Professor Elizabeth De Armond has been named as the new director of the Legal Research and Writing Program at Chicago-Kent College of Law.
Professor De Armond earned her undergraduate degree in information and computer science from Georgia Tech. She graduated magna cum laude from Notre Dame Law School, where she served as articles editor for the Notre Dame Law Review. After law school she clerked for the Honorable Cornelia G. Kennedy of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Following her clerkship, Professor De Armond practiced in Dallas, where she concentrated in real estate and lending transactions. She also represented battered women in family court on behalf of North Texas Legal Services. Professor De Armond later moved to Boston, where she earned an LL.M. from Harvard Law School.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
The magazine U.S. News and World Report ranks colleges and graduate schools, including law schools. They also rank legal writing programs and a handful of other specialities. Here's the 2014 rankings for Legal Writing. Seattle University and The John Marshall Law School of Chicago are again ranked first and second.
1 - Seattle University
2 - The John Marshall Law School--Chicago
3 - University of Nevada at Las Vegas
4 - Mercer University
4 - University of Oregon
6 - Stetson University College of Law
7 - Suffolk University College of Law
8 - Arizona State Univeristy Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law
8 - Indiana University at Indianapolis McKinney School of Law
8 - Univeristy of Arkansas at Little Rock Bowen School of Law
8 - University of Denver Sturm College of Law
12 - Duquesne Univesity
13 - Drexel University
14 - Brooklyn
14 - University of Wyoming
Professor Anne Enquist of Seattle University School of Law has been announced as the 2014 recipient of the Burton Award for Outstanding Contributions to Legal Writing Education. She will receive her award at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. on June 9, 2014, during the prestigious Burton Awards for Achievement in Legal Writing.
The Burton Awards are widely known as the most elegant evening in legal writing. The actual awards presentation is followed by a black tie dinner and outstanding entertainment. Legal writing awards are given to law firms, law students, and for contributions to legal writing education. Awards are also given for Regulatory Innovation, Public Service, Public Interest, and, in 2014, a National Award for Reform in Law.
Professor Enquist joined the LRW community in 1980. She is the co-author of five legal writing books and authored many articles in the field. She served on the Editorial Board for Legal Writing: The Journal of the Legal Writing Institute from 1994-2002 and chaired the Program Committee for the national conference of the Legal Writing Institute in 1994. She also served as a director of LWI for more than 2o years. She was described by multiple nominators as "an innovator," a "workhorse," an “outstanding teacher,” and an “established leader.”
Hat tip to Noah A. Messing
Monday, March 10, 2014
The Legal Writing Institute announced the names of eight board members just elected. They are (in alphbetical order):
- Mary Nicol Bowman, Associate Director and Associate Professor of Lawyering Skills, Seattle University School of Law
- Candace Mueller Centeno, Professor of Legal Writing, Villanova University School of Law
- Cassandra L. Hill, Associate Professor and Director of Legal Writing at TSU Thurgood Marshall School of Law
- Kimberly Holst, Clinical Professor of Law at the Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law
- Alison Julien, Professor of Legal Writing, Marquette University Law School
- Rebecca L. Scharf, Assocate Professor of Law, UNLV Boyd School of Law
- Kristen K. Tiscione, Professor of Legal Research and Writing at Georgetown University Law Center
- Mark E. Wojcik, Professor of Law at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago (hey, that's me!)
Board members serve a term of four years. It's quite a commitment. The new board members will begin their terms at the LWI Biennial Conference in Philadelphia this July.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
The Plain Language Column in The Michigan Bar Journal recently marked its thirty-year anniversary. A recent column by Joseph Kimble (pictured at right) recounts the column’s influential history, from its institution by Detroit lawyer George Hathaway to its twenty-five years under Kimble’s groundbreaking editorship. The anniversary column reiterates that empirical research shows plain English is preferred by both legal and nonlegal readers.
Monday, March 3, 2014
a request from Emily Grant at Washburn:
Tonight's procrastination [from grading]: a tumblr blog for photos of law professors grading. It is (very cleverly) called http://lawprofessorsgrading.tumblr.com/ Not much content yet, but there's a link underneath the title where you can click to submit your own photo. Or if nothing else, bookmark the link for when you're feeling sentimental and need to remember that you're part of a community of fellow graders, each with our own grading places, processes, and vices.
I'm off to round up more lead for my mechanical pencils! And then I'll start grading. I promise...
Friday, February 28, 2014
Scribes--The American Society of Legal Writers--is holding its annual Board Meeting this week at Northern Kentucky University Chase College of Law. In keeping with its tradition when meeting at various law schools around the country (such as this meeting in 2012 at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago), members of the Scribes board are presenting a legal writing seminar to students at Northern Kentucky University Chase College of Law, the host school.
Pictured here (from left to right) are:
* Professor Joseph Kimble of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, longtime editor of the "Plain Language" column of the Michigan Bar Journal, drafting confultant to the Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure of the U.S. Judicial Conference, past president of Clarity, and an officially named "Plain English Champion" by the Plain English Campaign of the United Kingdom. His books include Lifting the Fog of Legalease: Essays on Plain Language, published by Carolina Academic Press.
* Judge Mark P. Painter served as a judge on the Ohio Appellate Court and the United Nations Appeals Tribunal. In addition to authoring more than 400 published court decisions, he is the author of six books including The Legal Writer: 40 Rules for the Art of Leal Writing published by
* Scribes President Dean Darby Dickerson of Texas Tech University School of Law (author of the first four editions of the ALWD Citation Manual).
Also pictured above in in the group is Professor Lawrence Rosenthal, Professor of Legal Writing and Associate Dean for Academics at NKU Chase College of Law, who gave welcoming remarks and introduced the speakers.
Also attending Scribes Board Meeting this week are:
- Bryan A. Garner, editor of Black's Law Dictionary and more than a dozen groundbreaking books on legal writing, including Garner's Modern American Usage published by Oxford University Press, the Elements of Legal Style published by Oxford University Press, The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style published by West, and two books co-authored with U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia;
- Judge Michael B. Hyman of the Cook County Circuit Court, Past President of the Chicago Bar Association, President-Elect of Scribes, and President-Elect of the Illinois Judges Association;
- John R. Wierzbicki of Thomson Reuters, Secretary of Scribes;
- Professor Mark Wojcik of the John Marshall Law School (who serves as Treasurer of Scribes), author of Illinois Legal Research (published by Carolina Academic Press) and Introduction to Legal English published by the Internaitonal Law Institute, the first coursebook on Legal English published in the United States;
- Professor Norman E. Plate of Thomas M. Cooley Law School (who serves as the Executive Director of Scribes);
- Professor Mark Cooney (who serves as Editor of the Scribes Journal of Legal Writing);
- Professor Steven R. Smith, former Dean of California Western School of Law (and past president of Scribes);
- Professor Beth D. Cohen of Western New England University School of Law;
- Judge Kevin G. Ross of the Minnesota Court of Appeals;
- Carles D. Cole, Jr. of the New York law firm Newman Myers, Kreines, Gross, Harris P.C.;
- Ann Taylor Schwing of Best, Best & Krieger LLP in Sacramento, California, whose publications include a treatise on Open Meeting Laws;
- Raymond P. Ward of Adams and Reese LLP in New Orleans, whose blog the (new) legal writer is one of our own favorites; and
- Assistant Attorney General Christopher G. Wren of the Wisconsin Department of Justice and author of several works including The Legal Research Manual.
The writing seminar is exceptional packed with attentive students and attorneys. Professor Kimble has just urged the students to "Go Forth and Simplify." Darby Dickerson, the Scribes President, is reminding the students that their school won the Scribes Best Brief Award last year. Her presentation is on to master unbiased language in legal writing. And by far the biggest laugh line so far is one from Judge Painter, who said that there could be some reader confusion when you use a sentence such as: "The enclosed document requires your execution."
If you are not an individual member of Scribes, or if your institution is not an institutioanl member of Scribes, click here for more information on how to fix that oversight.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
The Global Legal Skills Conference in Verona Italy will include award presentations to individuals, institutions, publishers, and organizations that have advanced global legal skills education around the world. The 2014 awards follow similar awards presented at University of Costa Rica Faculty of Law during the 2012 GLS Conference in Costa Rica.
Monday, February 24, 2014
A recent change to the federal appellate rules is worth noting as law students work on briefs this spring. Where the former rule for briefs required both a statement of the case and a statement of facts, the new rule combines two in a single statement of the case, which is to include both the case’s facts and its procedural history. Fed. R. App. P. 28(a)(6). A committee note explains that the old requirement led to “confusion and redundancy.” The new rule took effect on December 1, 2013.
Thursday, February 20, 2014
The Law Society of England and Wales (International Division) and the International Bar Association (with more than 55,000 individual members around the world, and more than 200 bar association members) are among the new co-sponsors of the ninth Global Legal Skills Conference being held at the University of Verona Faculty of Law on May 21-23, 2014. Visit the conference website for more information about the conference.
Other conference sponsors include the International Law Students Assocation (ILSA) and the International Law Section of the American Bar Association. More than 150 attendees from around the world are expected at the conference.