Tuesday, November 5, 2013
It's been a while since it was made, but many of you will remember a video produced at Drake Law School to help promote legal writing. The video was a project of the Media Committee of the Association of American Law Schools' Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research. In this video, a new law student uses his new skills in writing memoranda to help with the problems of daily life: how to choose a restaurant, pick the best football player, help your brother with his computer, and, well, we won't disclose the last scenario.
This is well worth a watch. Legal writing professors may want to show this video in class (or share the link to this post) as an end-of-the-semester treat on the importance of legal writing. Congratulations to Mel Weresh and her team at Drake for producing the video.
From Quo Vadis (the Rutgers Camden Law Library Blog), comes this summary of a panel discussion about How Legal Research, Writing, and Oral Communication Skills Can Help You Succeed in Your Summer Job. Each of the speakers on the panel "attributed their individual success to the skills that they acquired in their legal writing courses."
h/t Sarah Ricks
Looking for a high-profile example of potential plagiarism to use in class? Look no further than the new accusations against Senator Rand Paul. From the Huffington Post:
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was busted in what may have been another incident of plagiarism on Monday.
As first reported by BuzzFeed, there are unmistakable similarities between an opinion piece Paul wrote for The Washington Times on drug sentencing in September, and an article written by Dan Stewart of The Week a week earlier.
The first allegations of plagiarism against Senator Paul (which he denies) involve accusations that he lifted parts of speeches from Wikipedia.
Monday, November 4, 2013
Legal writing professors who cover exam writing will want to check an article in the November National Jurist Magazine that will probably reinforce their exam tips. Author Andrew Ayers suggests, among other things, that students should read exam questions carefully and plan their answers well. Ayers also advises students to review model exam answers to determine whether particular professors want in-depth discussions of reasoning and policy.
Friday, November 1, 2013
“When Students Rate Professors, Standards Drop,” says a headline in Monday’s Wall Street Journal. In the accompanying opinion piece, English professor Lyell Asher argues that student ratings lead to relaxed standards. Asher suggests that administrators don’t want to acknowledge, let alone solve, the problem. “They’re focused on retention and graduation rates, both of which they assume might suffer if the college required more of its students.” Asher says universities should vow to do no harm and should “decouple faculty wages and job security from student opinion.”
I made the same points ten years ago in an article reporting my survey of legal writing professors. But little has changed, probably for the reasons Asher identifies.
Hat tip: Ralph Brill
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Congratulations to Mark Cooney, chair of the Cooley Law School Research & Writing Department, on the publication of his first book, Sketches on Legal Style (Carolina Academic Press 2013). It has been reviewed as a "collection of lively, offbeat short pieces explores legal style like no book you've read before. But be warned: you just might learn something while you're smiling. Through a colorful cast of characters, learn how legal writers can use plain language and careful syntax to produce clearer, stronger, and more persuasive documents."
hat tip: Eileen Kavanagh
Monday, October 28, 2013
Will computers replace lawyers? No, argues Syracuse University’s Professor Ian Gallacher. In Do RoboMemos Dream of Electric Nouns?: A Search for the Soul of Legal Writing, he concedes that templates can be created for legal documents. But such programs will lack “empathy -- the ability to anticipate what information a reader will need from a document, and when the reader will need it.” That empathy, he says, is "a crucial, and uniquely human, aspect of persuasive writing" that can't be replaced by a machine.
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Indianapolis lawyer Brandon M. Kimura recently offered lawyers advice on building a good reputation through effective legal writing. His article includes the following tips: “Apply the law to the facts” rather than just stating the law; “Do not overstate the legal or factual support for your case”; and “Do not denigrate anyone—not another attorney, a party, a nonparty, a judge, a juror, or anyone else.” View Kimura’s article at page 83 of the September 2013 For the Defense.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Technology has become an integral part of the practice of law, as illustrated by a recent case where a lawyer was ordered to use email. Although the lawyer had considered herself retired from the practice for many years, she had maintained her status as a regular member of the South Carolina bar. When emails to her proved undeliverable, the state’s Supreme Court ordered her to comply with a rule requiring lawyers to provide valid email addresses. When she did not do so, the Court suspended her license to practice law.
In reporting on this case, the Louisiana Legal Ethics site also cited a recent amendment to ABA Model Rule of Professional Responsibility 1.1, comment 8. It provides, “a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology . . . .” The Louisiana site commented, "Why there are lawyers extant in 2013 who still refuse to use email is baffling."
hat tip: JoAnne Sweeny
Monday, October 21, 2013
Thursday, October 17, 2013
Don’t overburden your reader by including a long separation between a sentence's subject and verb. So cautions George Gopen, a professor emeritus of rhetoric at Duke University. In the summer 2013 issue of Litigation, Gopen explains that readers expect a sentence’s actor and its action to be close together. A short intervening word like however will not be intrusive, but readers will stumble at a long interruption, and they may even miss its import. How long is too long? One example that Gopen finds acceptable is three words long, and I think even four or five words can work in some contexts. But if you have more words than that between a subject and verb, consider recasting the sentence.
Gopen was the 2011 winner of the Legal Writing Institute’s Golden Pen Award.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
We previously told you to save the date (Vegas, baby!) and now it's time for the Call for Proposals for the Fourteenth Annual Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference, which will be held on March 28 & 29, 2014 at the UNLV Boyd School of Law in Las Vegas, Nevada:
Presentations may be on any subject of interest to those teaching legal writing and research. Most of the available slots will be for 25-minute presentations, but there will also be a few slots available for 50-minute presentations. Each participant should limit himself or herself to one proposal so that as many people as possible can have opportunities to present.
The deadline for proposals is Friday, January 10th. To submit a presentation proposal, please send the following information to Sara Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org and Susie Salmon at email@example.com:
2. Title of presentation
3. Brief (one-paragraph) description of the presentation
4. Time needed for presentation (25 minutes or 50 minutes)
5. Technology needs for the presentation
The Program Committee will make decisions on proposals no later than Friday, January 17th to provide enough time for presenters to make travel plans. If you need a decision earlier in order to secure travel funding, please let the Program Committee know as soon as possible so they can consider your proposal on a rolling basis.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Global Legal Skills Conference
May 21-23, 2014
Call for Proposals
The Global Legal Skills Conference is the leading international gathering for persons interested in global skills education. The Conference has been held four times in the United States, twice in Mexico, and twice in Costa Rica. The next conference (“GLS-9”) will be held at the University of Verona Faculty of Law in Verona, Italy. The conference will begin in the late afternoon of Wednesday, May 21 and continue through Friday, May 23, 2014. After the conference there is an organized optional excursion on Saturday, May 24, 2014 to the city of Vicenza.
This message invites proposals for presentations, including presentations on international and comparative law. Proposals should be for a 25-minute presentation (for one or two people) or a group panel presentation (no more than four panelists) of one hour.
The conference audience will include legal writing professionals, international and comparative law professors, clinical professors, and others involved in skills education, law school administrators, law librarians, and ESL/EFL professors and scholars, and law students from Europe and the United States. Also attending will be faculty members teaching general law subjects with a transnational, comparative, or international component. Attendees have also included judges, lawyers, court translators and others involved in international, comparative, and transnational law. Attendees come from around the world and as many as 35 countries have been represented in past conferences. As the 2014 conference will be in Italy, we anticipate a fair number of attendees from E.U. countries.
Please submit a proposal on any aspect of Global Legal Skills, including experiential learning, distance education, comparative law, international law, course design and materials, teaching methods, and opportunities for teaching abroad and in the United States. Proposals may also present classic and contemporary issues of international and comparative law.
GLS-9 will have a relaxed schedule to enhance professional networking opportunities and development. In addition to the excellent opportunities for networking and professional development, the conference schedule will allow for attendees to take in the historical sites and flavor of Verona, one of the most beautiful cities in Italy famous for the love story of Romeo and Juliette. Located in northern Italy, the city of Verona has a major airport as well as convenient train transportation to Milan, Florence, Rome, Vicenza, and Venice. Other trains can take you north to Innsbruck and Munich. You can plan your trip to arrive in one city and depart from somewhere else in Europe.
This is a self-funded academic conference, and as in past years, presenters will be asked to pay the speakers’ registration fee of $225.00. Ticketed events for family members will also be available, in case your family refuses to let you go to Italy without them.
Please send program proposals to GLS9verona@gmail.com or, even better, use the conference website at www.glsverona.com. Please set out the title of your presentation, the format you would prefer (25-minutes or 1 hour), the names and institutional affiliations of co-presenters, a brief summary of your presentation, and the target audience. You may submit more than one proposal but because of high demand for speaking slots you will probably be allowed to speak on only one panel.
The first deadline for submitting a proposal is January 13, 2014. Earlier submissions are encouraged. The program committee will notify presenters of acceptance no later than January 31, 2014 so that you can make appropriate travel and hotel arrangements. We are arranging special discount rates at several different hotels in Verona.
The conference website is www.glsverona.com
Prof. Mark E. Wojcik
GLS-9 Conference Chair
The John Marshall Law School
315 S. Plymouth Court
Chicago, IL 60604 USA
Monday, October 14, 2013
A skill often introduced in first-year LRW courses is non-verbal communication. Of course a lawyer needs well-honed critical reading and precise writing skills. But a good lawyer also has to be able to "read" other people, including clients, judges, juries, bosses, and adversaries. As reported this week by the New York Times and others, it turns out that reading literary fiction teaches this skill. That's one more reason to major in English.
hat tip: Prof. Debbie Borman
Judge Diane Sykes of the Seventh Circuit offers some helpful advice for appellate practitioners in the summer 2013 issue of Litigation. Having also served on lower courts, Judge Sykes states that the quality of practice “is hit-and-miss in both court systems.” Appellate practitioners, she advises, would do well to strive for “focus, organization, clarity, and brevity in their briefs and at oral argument.” She also urges lawyers to concentrate on their best issues, because a brief with too many issues implies that the lawyer has no really good arguments. The full article contains more suggestions, including tips for oral argument.
Friday, October 11, 2013
Save the date for the 14th Annual Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference at UNLV in Las Vegas on March 28-29, 2014. A call for proposals will follow soon, and we'll post it when we have it.
Terry Pollman and the gang at UNLV put on a great conference the last time Rocky Mountain was in Vegas and this year should be no exception. Mark your calendars.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Michelle Pistone at Villanova has been doing some very interesting work on flipped classrooms in legal education. Although the classroom active learning that she advocates for is nothing new to legal writing professors, her reasons for it certainly are compelling. And her goal to create an Ideabank-like sharing mechanism for videos students can view outside of class is something legal writing professors can participate in with benefits all around.
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
The Fall 2013 issue of Legal Communication and Rhetoric: JALWD arrived in my mail today. It contains some intriguing titles by well-known legal writing scholars:
Linda Berger, A Revised View of the Judicial Hunch
Steven Johansen, Coming Attractions: An Essay on Movie Trailers and Preliminary Statements
J. Christopher Rideout, Twice-Told Tale: Plausibility and Narrative Coherence in Judicial Storytelling
Louis Sirico, Benjamin Franklin, Prayer, and the Constitutional Convention: History as Narrative
Julie Oseid, The Power of Zeal: Teddy Roosevelt’s Life and Writing
Richard Neumann, Osler, Langdell, and the Atelier: Three Tales of Creation in Professional Education
Pamela Jenoff, The Self-Assessed Writer: Harnessing Fiction-Writing Processes to Understand Ourselves as Legal Writers and Maximize Legal Writing Productivity
Stacy R. Sharp, Responding to Counterarguments: Learning from the Swing-Vote Cases
Michael Murray, The Promise of Parentheticals: An Empirical Study of the Use of Parentheticals in Federal Appellate Briefs
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Rutgers-Camden librarians have prepared a video response to a common question by first-year students: "How many cases should I cite?" As the 3-minute video explains, the real question is "How do I know when I'm finished researching?"
hat tip: Sarah Ricks
Supreme Court oral arguments by three pioneering women lawyers are the subject of an article in the latest issue of the Journal of Supreme Court History. Author Marlene Trestman found that Mabel Walker Willebrandt (pictured at left) presented 23 arguments between 1921 and 1933, Bessie Margolin presented at least 24 arguments between 1945 and 1965, and Beatrice Rosenberg presented 28 arguments between 1946 and 1971. Trestman lists all the arguments and provides interesting background about some of them.