Tuesday, July 31, 2007

bad writing awards: this year's Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest results

And the winner is . . .

"Gerald began--but was interrupted by a piercing whistle which cost him ten percent of his hearing permanently, as it did everyone else in a ten-mile radius of the eruption, not that it mattered much because for them "permanently" meant the next ten minutes or so until buried by searing lava or suffocated by choking ash--to pee."
Jim Gleeson
Madison, WI

* * *

It might be a fun exercise to have your students read some of the winners and then discuss WHY they are bad--what norms or expectations do they violate or ignore? Then analogize that to critiquing their own writing.


July 31, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 30, 2007

first day of classes coming up . . .

My first day of class is just 3 weeks away, so I'm starting to think about what to say to that room of 20 eager 1-L's.  The legal writing listserv is always a source of great ideas, but I'd like to hear from any practitioners out there:

What do you think that I should tell that room full of impressionable students--about writing, about ethics, about the practice of law?

Please comment and let me know.  Thanks!


July 30, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

article on law review selection

Julie Oseid and Leah Christenson (St. Thomas) have just completed an article describing an empirical study on article selection in U.S. law reviews.  It contains comments from the editors at different law reviews (from top 15 schools through fourth tier schools and specialty journals).

The number one complaint of law review editors: "the poor quality of

The article is available at http: ssrn.com/author=530154, or those interested can access the paper through the Abstract ID of 1002640.


July 28, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

adjunct positions in San Francisco -- this fall

The announcement below is from Professor Deborah Mostaghel.  If you are a lawyer in San Francisco interested in teaching legal writing, or know someone who is, this may be a good opportunity:

"Golden Gate University School of Law in downtown San Francisco is looking for adjuncts to teach the first-year Legal Writing and Research course.  Sections meet once a week on Fridays from 10:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. or from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

"The fall course is two credits, and the spring course is one credit.  Both semesters focus on research and analysis in predictive memos.  Salary is $1,800 per credit.  Adjuncts may teach one or two sections.

"Applicants should have three years of practice experience and be good legal writers.  Teaching experience is a plus but not required.

"Please contact Debbie Mostaghel at 415-369-5337 or email dmostaghel@ggu.edu as soon as possible.

"The school anticipates paying an annual academic year base salary in the range:  adjunct appointment paying less than $10,000  (Salary is $1,800 per credit.  Adjuncts can teach one or more sections.)"


July 28, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Global Legal Skills III Conference

Mark Wojcik (John Marshall, Chicago) shares information about the third Global Legal Skills conference:

The Global Legal Skills III Conference will be held next year in Monterrey, Mexico. 

First: the conference will be three days (starting on the afternoon of Thursday, February 28, 2008 and ending on the afternoon of Saturday, March 1, 2008) to allow people a more comfortable schedule and a chance to enjoy the city before returning home.  Of course there is also more time for networking and presentations.

Second: the conference website is up, with preliminary information about the conference and how to submit proposals (by October 10, 2007) for presentations.  Go to the website for the host law school in Mexico www.fldm.edu.mx and then click on the conference symbol in the right hand column.  Of course, we will be adding more information to that website.


July 26, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Applied Legal Storytelling conference

On the legal writing listserve, Professor Dave Thomson, from the University of Denver, reported:

"Co-sponsored by the Legal Writing Institute and City University of London’s Inns of Court Law School, Once Upon a Legal Time – Developing the Skills of Storytelling in Law, brought together over 70 legal educators from 10 different countries, including Australia and Africa.  Panel discussion topics ranged from storytelling in briefs, and jury instructions, and citation, and judicial opinions, and in the clinic, to the formation of Narratives to – yes, Harry Potter.

"The conference ended with a seated dinner in the Old Hall of Lincoln’s Inn, one of the four original Inns of Court, built in 1490.  Ben Johnson called the Inns of Court 'the noblest nurseries of humanity and liberty in the Kingdom.'  Afterwards, many in the group walked to a local bookstore, where, at midnight, we purchased copies of the British version of 'The Deathly Hallows.'  Last night, on the loooong flight home, I noticed many folks reading it by the sepulchral overhead light.

"Kudos go out to Steve Johansen, Ruth Anne Robbins, and Brian Foley on this side of the pond, and Robert McPeake and Erika Rackley (and several terrific administrative support folks) on the other.  It was a terrific conference, with many mind-expanding sessions, and great fun to be in London."

And Professor Ken Chestek, at the University of Indiana, added:

Old_hall1 "My favorite part of the conference may have been the Friday night dinner at the Old Hall at Lincoln’s Inn that David described. The room itself is spectacular. It was the original courtroom, and the bench from which the judges presided is still there, towering ten feet over the floor where the barristers once stood. As David’s picture shows, the walls are paneled in dark wood; portraits of some of the judges who presided there over the centuries adorn the walls. Just before dinner was served, one of the British conference planners, Erika Rackley, stood up and read, in her charming British accent, the first few paragraphs of the novel Bleak House, by Charles Dickens. When she finished, she closed the book and said, 'Dickens has just described the place where you are sitting right now.' Indeed the book opens at the Court of Chancery at Lincoln’s Inn, which was the room we were sitting in. And it occurred to me that Charles Dickens himself had been in that very room."

Professor Ruth-Anne Robbins, at Rutgers-Camden, also pointed out that the Applied Legal Storytelling conference has a blog with pictures.


July 25, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

essential writing strategies

In the book "Writing Tools:  50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer," author Roy Peter Clark suggests that writers "draft a mission statement for your work."  I think that I'll try that with my 1-L's this fall:  jot their writing purpose on a post-it and place it on their computer screens to remind them of their writing task.  They could even write mini-statements for the subsections of their memo. 

Clark also suggests that mission statements can reflect what the writer wants to learn or try in the writing of the piece, as well as the purpose of the piece in an audience-oriented sense.


July 24, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

HP & legal language

Trying to connect this morning's Harry Potter craze with this blog's focus on legal writing may be a far stretch, but exercising some kind of blog author's prerogative, I've decided to share here a couple of paragraphs from a book chapter I've drafted.  The first line below should give you the gist of the chapter's topic.   

"There is another aspect of Anglo Saxon law that the Harry Potter books call to mind, and maybe it also is not a coincidence. Among the legal remedies imposed by Anglo Saxon tribunals were wergilds and bots. Wergilds (also spelled wergelds and wergylds) were monetary compensation to relatives of homicide victims. The wergild correlated with the status of the victim, increasing along with the status of the deceased. Bots sometimes referred to compensation generally. But bots more specifically were money awards given by the defendant to a harmed person, calculated to compensate for the person’s physical or intangible injuries.* As one scholar explains it, 'the "wergild" was the sum paid to the kin of a slain man and varied in its rate with the victim’s social status; the "bot" was the sum paid to the injured man himself and varied with the parts of his body outraged and the kind of property damaged.'**

"Now, bots surely brings to mind 'Botts,' as in Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans. In the Harry Potter books, these jelly beans come in a wide variety of flavors, including some very odd ones, like spaghetti and pepper. And then there are the truly gross Bertie Botts jelly bean flavors, like earwax, booger, and vomit. Parts of the body outraged, indeed!"

*See J. Laurence Laughlin, The Anglo-Saxon Legal Procedure 278-280, in Essays in Anglo-Saxon Law (Little, Brown & Co. 1876).

**See G.O. Sayles, The Medieval Foundations of England 122 (U. Penn. Press 1950).



July 21, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

recommended reading: Orwell & legal writing

With apologies for the delay, here is a fascinating article recently published by Professor Judy Fischer, on Why George Orwell's Ideas About Language Still Matter for Lawyers, 68 Montana Law Review 129 (2007). Judy connects the lessons of 1984 and Orwell’s other works to the written work lawyers do every day. And she shows us how legal writing professors who insist their students use plain English are actually continuing Orwell’s efforts against dystopia.


July 19, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

teach legal writing in Albany

Professor Pam Amstrong sends this announcement:

Albany Law School invites applications for the position of Assistant Lawyering Professor for the 2008-2009 academic year. Currently, there are two open positions to teach Introduction to Lawyering. Lawyering faculty at Albany Law School enjoy the benefits and privileges extended to all faculty. Although not "tenure-track," lawyering faculty positions may become renewable long-term contract positions upon review after three years of continuing successful performance.

Professors in the Lawyering Program teach a first-year course integrating legal research, writing, analysis, and lawyering skills, including: interviewing; client counseling; fact investigating; drafting; negotiating; and appellate advocacy. Each professor is responsible for two sections of Introduction to Lawyering that will have 17-18 students each. The Lawyering Program is a coordinated program and is currently comprised of 7 professors.

Applicants must have a J.D., excellent academic record, demonstrated legal research and writing ability, prior teaching, clerkship and/or practice experience, and the ability to work within a coordinated program structure. Compensation for the position is competitive and includes full benefits.

Albany Law School is a small, independent private school in New York State's capital. Established in 1851, it is the oldest independent law school in the nation and the oldest law school in New York. The student-faculty ratio is 14 to 1, and the school offers students an innovative, rigorous curriculum taught by a committed faculty. With 48% of the entering class from out of state, the school has a growing national reputation as a small, selective institution committed to academic excellence. You can learn more about the school by visiting our website: www.albanylaw.edu

To apply, please send a cover letter, resume, including names and contact information for at least three references, a writing sample, or legal research and writing, or lawyering teaching materials to: Faculty Recruitment Committee, c/o Barbara Jordan-Smith, Dean's Office, Albany Law School, 80 New Scotland Avenue, Albany, NY 12208-3494. Email: bjord@albanylaw.edu.

If you have any questions, please contact Debbie Mann at: dmann@albanylaw.edu

1. The position advertised:
__ a. is tenure-track.
_X_ b. can lead to renewable long-term contracts.
__ c. has neither of these forms of job security.
(This position may lead to successive five-year contracts and complies with Section 405C.)

2. The person hired will be permitted to vote in faculty meetings.
_X_ a. true
__ b. not true
(The professor will be permitted to vote on all matters except hiring, promotion, and tenure of tenure-track faculty.)

3. The school anticipates paying an annual academic year base salary in the ranges checked below:
___a. $95,000 or more
_X_ b. $85,000 to $94,999 (salary commensurate with experience)
_X_ c. $75,000 to $84,999 (salary commensurate with experience)
_X_ d. $65,000 to $74,999 (salary commensurate with experience)
___e. $55,000 to $64,999
___f. $45,000 to $54,999
___g. $35,000 to $44,999
___h. Less than $35,000

4. The person hired will teach two sections of Introduction to Lawyering each semester, to the total number of students (combining both sections) in the range checked below:
___a. less than 30
_X_ b. 30 to 44
___c. 45 to 59
___d. more than 59
(Most sections contain fewer than twenty students.)


July 18, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

a hand-out on hobgoblins

Fischer Judy Fischer at the University of Louisville has written a bar journal article that would make a helpful handout for 1L legal writing students, perhaps sometime toward the end of the first semester: Dismiss Those Sixth-Grade Hobgoblins, 69 Kentucky Bench & Bar (May 2007).  As Judy says in her abstract:

"Legal writers may have internalized false rules about writing. For example, they may believe the myths that a sentence cannot begin with a conjunction, that it is incorrect to split a compound verb or an infinitive, that a word should not be repeated in the same sentence or paragraph, and that one-sentence paragraphs are always incorrect. Writers should dismiss these hobgoblins when they are obstacles to writing clear, idiomatic English."


July 17, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 16, 2007

but is it dicta?

All law professors who teach first year students teach the skill of legal reading.  We show students the basics, like how to tell the facts from the procedure.  And they gradually learn to read the nuances, too, such as when a judge is communicating with a wider audience than just the litigants and for purposes other than deciding the immediate dispute in front of the court.  The United States Supreme Court's recently-completed term should provide students with a lot of material with which to practice the latter.


July 16, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Is that even a word?

Whether you're critiquing a student's paper, reading the opposition's brief, or listening to the evening news, at some point you're going to wonder: "Is that really a word?"  One place to look for the answer is at the Word Spy website, where "lexpionage" is practiced.  The site spies on our language and reports on the newest words that are used at least enough to be considered real words.


July 14, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 13, 2007


"It takes me about twenty drafts to sound spontaneous."

- John Kenneth Galbraith

hat tip: Professor Jill Ramsfield


July 13, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

recommended reading -- on recommended writing

Sarah Ricks, at Rutgers-Camden, and Jane Istvan, at the City of Philadelphia Law Department, have written an article on Effective Brief Writing Despite High Volume Practice: Ten Misconceptions that Result in Bad Briefs, 38 University of Toledo Law Review 1113 (2007). You can download the full text gratis by clicking here, scrolling down, and then clicking again.

As they explain in their abstract, "[t]his article can help lawyers (and law students) avoid ten of the most common ways to write a bad brief.

"There is an art to writing effective briefs and each brief is different. But many ineffective briefs contain the same mistakes, regardless of the brief's subject matter or the brief's intended judicial audience. Many recurring brief writing errors may be caused by the demands of a high volume law practice, which allow little time for the brief writer to achieve the critical distance from the document necessary to edit and revise effectively.

"Lawyers can avoid committing many common brief writing errors if they are more able to put themselves in the place of their intended readers, the busy judge and the often inexperienced law clerk. Understanding recurring brief writing misconceptions and errors can assist lawyers in assessing the effectiveness of a brief from the perspective of the intended reader."


July 13, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

symposium on legal rhetoric and language

060228wcl_exterior_fall_05dscf005 Terry Phelps, at American University in Washington, D.C., has announced a symposium on How Legal Rhetoric Shapes the Law, to take place on Friday, November 2, 2007.

As Terry reports, the symposium "is designed to do two things: first, to have an interesting symposium on the power of legal language and second, to celebrate some of the wonderful scholarship that legal writing professionals have been doing. The conference will begin with a keynote by James Boyd White entitled When Language Meets the Mind: Three Questions. That talk will be followed by three panels on Metaphor, Narrative, and Archetypes." If you are doing work in any of these areas and would like to be on a panel, let Terry know at tphelps@wcl.american.edu.

Also, you can register for the symposium, which is free of charge, at www.wcl.american.edu/SECLE.


July 12, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

quotable: Prosser on Teaching

"I think teaching is rather like herding sheep.  You run around behind the students and bark at their heels, and head off the ones that start for the hilltops, and after a while, if you create enough commotion, they move down the valley and arrive at a destination without ever knowing how they got there.  Of course whether it's the right destination is another question, and there is always somebody who wants to argue about that."

Prosser, Lighthouse No Good, 1 Journal of Legal Education 257, 264-65 (1948).


July 10, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 9, 2007

recommended reading -- post 1L legal writing

Kchestek Ken Chestek, at Indiana University in Indianapolis, has written an article updating us on MacCrate (in)Action: The Case for Enhancing the Upper-Level Writing Requirement in Law Schools. (Click on the title here, then scroll down, and you'll see where to click to upload the full text gratis.)

As Ken explains in his abstract:

"In 2001, the American Bar Association amended the Standards for Accreditation of Law Schools to require, for the first time, a 'rigorous writing experience after the first year.' During the summer of 2004 the author conducted a nationwide survey to determine how law schools responded to this change. The author found that most schools did little more than to require students to take at least one course which was evaluated by means of an academic paper rather than an examination. The author concludes that this is probably not the response the ABA had hoped for, but suggests that a 2005 amendment to the Standards, which now require 'writing in a legal context', holds more promise for encouraging law schools to focus more on practical legal writing skills. "

The 2007 ALWD-LWI Survey, in its "hot topics" section this year, included questions on what law schools are doing about this new ABA requirement. That information was collected just this spring, adding to the helpful context and findings that Ken's article provides.


July 9, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, July 7, 2007

ALWD-LWI survey results in

Now available are the results of the 2007 survey by the Association of Legal Writing Directors and the Legal Writing Institute.  Over 92 % of all ABA accredited law schools responded to the survey, so this is solid data.  In addition to salaries and other terms of employment for legal writing professors, the survey results include information on staffing models for first-year legal writing programs, curricular choices, upper-level writing courses, technology use, non-lawyer writing specialists, and teaching assistants.  Data from the past three years are reported next to this year's data, so trends are easily discernible.  Survey results going back to 1999 are also available. 


July 7, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

legal levity

It's summer. The air is heavy and hot.

If you need to lighten up a little, here are some sites with legal humor:




Please note that there is plenty of humor gratis at those sites; this is not an endorsement of any items being sold there.

hat tip: Lawrence E. Savell


July 5, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)