Monday, July 31, 2006
There's an interesting example of judicial writing from Phoenix that concerns lunch:
Be sure to read the footnotes, too.
hat tip: Prof. Lisa McElroy, Southern New England School of Law
Sunday, July 30, 2006
This is the season when I finally get around to reading the article reprints that legal scholars kindly send me throughout the academic year. Today I read Marina Angel's piece published at 38 U. Akron L. Rev. 788 (2005), and entitled:
The Modern University and Its Law School: Hierarchical, Bureaucratic Structures Replace Coarchical, Collegial Ones; Women Disappear from Tenure Track and Reemerge as Caregivers: Tenure Disappears or Becomes Unrecognizable.
From the perspective of a tenured, female law professor, Prof. Angel reviews the recent and continuing shift in modern American universities from faculty-centered governance models towards more business-like corporate structures. She makes an interesting point when she suggests that the demands of legal writing professors for law schools to take off caps -- i.e., to stop limiting the number of years they can teach at a school -- fed neatly into the other forces eroding tenure at U.S. universities. After all, as she posits, if a university can get a full-time professor to work long-term without tenure, why offer tenure?
Professsor Angel does seem to suggest that legal writing professors, most of whom are women, unwittingly made it harder for women to obtain tenure at U.S. law schools. This perspective, likely unintentionally, sounds a bit like blaming the victim for the wrong-doing. Perhaps the better response would be, now that this cadre of female legal writing professors have multi-year, renewable contracts at many U.S. law schools, to figure out what it will take to continue the process of upgrading these positions until they are tenure lines jobs.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Even a cursory Internet search using the terms "legal writing" and "India" will turn up U.S. companies who specialize in outsourcing legal research and writing to India, for a much lower fee than could be offered by U.S. attorneys. These days American law students need to be prepared for the likelihood that sometime in their legal careers they will either supervise, train, work alongside, or be superceded by attorneys in India. Or perhaps some will want to move and establish their own careers there. All the more reason to hone their legal research and writing skills while still in law school.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Some excellent resources for any law school that is thinking of implementing a WAC program:
Katherine Gottschalk & Keith Hjortshoj, The Elements of Teaching Writing: A Resource for Instructors in All Disciplines (Bedford/St. Martin's 2004).
Beth Finch Hedengren, A TA's Guide to Teaching Writing in All Disciplines (Bedford/St. Martin's 2004).
Both books are full of ideas for making writing assignments do-able and grade-able in any course, without unduly burdening either the students or professors, while achieving the goals of writing-to-learn and learning-to-write in our discipline, law. And no, I don't work for the company in any way.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
According to the May 2006 issue of The Bar Examiner, the National Conference of Bar Examiners is looking at the need for and feasibility of testing legal research skills and "is at the first stage in allowing the idea of such an evaluation to germinate . . . our inquiry is expected to last through the next year."
The article indicates that the NCBE folks are working with academic law librarians to investigate the possibilities.
More and more first-year legal writing programs are including other lawyering skills -- other than basic legal research and writing -- in their syllabi. These other lawyering skills may include fact finding, client interviewing, client counseling, negotiation, mediation, oral argument, etc. A conference coming up October 20 & 21, 2006, is being billed as the "first conference to focus exclusively on teaching interviewing and counseling" in the law school context. The University of California at Los Angeles and Brigham Young University are co-sponsoring the conference, which will take place in Los Angeles.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
The schedule for the Association of American Law School's annual meeting is now available. The Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning and Research will hold its presentation session on Thursday, January 4, 2007, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. The topic will be When Worlds Collide: Exploring Inter-Relationships and Collaboration Between Clinicians and Legal Writing Teachers in Teaching and Scholarship.
The annual luncheon for the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning and Research will take place on Friday, January 5, 2007, from 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. When you register for the annual meeting, you do need to sign up and pay for this luncheon along with your registration paperwork and fee.
More information on legal writing events at AALS will be posted here as it becomes available.
The Chronicle of Higher Education discussion forum has the start of a thread on legal studies programs for undergraduates. To find it, go to the main page (www.chronicle.com), then click on the first item under Discussion Forums ("Talk online about whether legal-studies programs for undergraduates are a good idea"). Might be nice to have some law profs chime in!!
hat tip: Dr. Natalie Tarenko, Texas Tech University School of Law
Monday, July 24, 2006
On Friday afternoon July 21st, at the annual SEALS conference, three legal writing professors gave a presentation on Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) in the law school context. Professor Carol Parker (University of Tennessee) lay the foundation with an excellent summary of the learning theory behind WAC. Professor Sue Liemer (Southern Illinois University) then explained how this theory has been applied at her law school and others to implement WAC programs. And Professor Professor Susan Kosse (University of Louisville) provided information on resources for law faculties, some already available via the Legal Writing Institute's website, and some planned for the near future.
For a depressing but enlightening look at what the Internet gives voice to in shaping our 1-Ls' perception of their new experience, just type "law school sucks" into a search engine.
(note: 1Lhell, One Hell, and myriad variations abound in cyberspace.)
(njs) (I'm preparing for orientation--that's my excuse!)
Sunday, July 23, 2006
The newest law school to meet the ABA's full accreditation standards is Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, VA. At Appalachian the legal writing professors are hired onto the tenure track, with the same rights and responsibilities as all the other professors.
The website www.journalism.org has some wonderful concise tips from journalists about how to report effectively. Much of the advice applies to legal writing as well. See, for instance, the three questions to ask before starting or the importance of finding the inherent structure in a story.
Friday, July 21, 2006
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Lawyers use rhetoric, and legal writing professors teach rhetoric, but many have not formally studied the history or theories of rhetoric. To the rescue is The Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical Times to the Present (Patricia Bizzell & Bruce Herzberg, eds., 2d ed., Bedford/St. Martin's). Each chapter starts with detailed explanations and context for its time period, and then features sizeable excerpts from that time, some of which are household names and some more obscure. You will likely need a college bookstore or online source to find this book, as it's meant for college courses and scholarly reference. Although it is certainly an erudite book, it offers a veritable feast of ideas and examples.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
I don't know why the current focus on bad legal writing; must be the summer heat. Anyway, here's a thick sentence from the case of Commonwealth v. McLaughlin, 105 Mass. 460 (1870).
"INDICTMENT on the Gen. Sts. c. 161, § 80, [FNa1] and c. 168, § 8, [FNd1] averring that Thomas McLaughlin, John Flanagan, and Frank Mulvey, on November 4, 1869, at Lawrence, 'did attempt to commit an offence prohibited by law, to wit, did attempt with force and arms unlawfully, wilfully and maliciously to administer to a certain horse, of the value of four thousand dollars, of the property of John W. Porter and George E. Porter, a large quantity of a certain poison called croton oil, that being an offence prohibited by law, and in such attempt did then and there do a certain overt act towards the commission of said offence, to wit, did then and there with force and arms unlawfully, wilfully and maliciously fill and saturate a certain potato with a large quantity, to wit, sixty drops of said croton oil, a poison as aforesaid, and with the said potato so filled and saturated with the said croton oil as aforesaid in their possession, did then and there in the night-time of said day enter the stable of the said John W. Porter and George E. Porter there in said Lawrence situate, and did then and there in the night-time as aforesaid climb over and into the stall in said stable then and there occupied by said horse, with intent then and there to administer to said horse the said poison so prepared in said potato as aforesaid, by then and there giving to said horse the said potato so filled and saturated with said croton oil as aforesaid, to be then and there eaten by him the said horse, but said Flanagan, Mulvey and McLaughlin then and there did fail in the perpetration of said offence, and were intercepted and prevented in the execution of the same; against the peace of the Commonwealth,' &c."
hat tip: Professor Ursula Weigold, Cornell Law School
Monday, July 17, 2006
Sunday, July 16, 2006
A new variation on the "law and humor topic" : A New Jersey prosecutor who's also a stand-up comic.
How does this relate to legal writing, you may ask? Well, her observations on understanding audience and linguistic precision tie right in.