Thursday, November 29, 2007

"a slubby mass of words"

In a recently decided case, the Ninth Circuit dismissed an appeal due to deficiencies in the brief, including failure to include the applicable standard of review, a table of contents or authorities, or citations to authority.  In addition, it "[made] virtually no legal arguments."

The court also cites an earlier Ninth Circuit opinion: "'In order to give fair consideration to those who call upon us for justice, we must insist that parties not clog the system by presenting us with a slubby mass of words rather than a true brief.' N/S Corp. v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 127 F.3d 1145, 1146 (9th Cir. 1997)."

hat tip:  Greg May (blog editor, The California Blog of Appeal)


November 29, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

funny t-shirt and legal writing lesson

OK, this t-shirt is just too funny--plus, you could use it for a legal writing lesson on assumptions, word choice, connotation, etc.:

If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.



November 29, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

editing tips

Professor Ariana Levinson at the University of Louisville continues her column on Effective Legal Writing for the Kentucky Bench & Bar publication with a piece on Editing Tips for the Busy Attorney, in the November issue.  It could be a helpful classroom handout for a legal writing course, too. 


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

moot court blog

Professor Kent Streseman at Chicago-Kent has re-instituted his Mootness blog, on which he reports the results of moot court competitions around the United States.  He welcomes information about competition results for posting, as well as other ideas for content.

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


Professor Laurie Kadoch, currently at Vermont Law School, has been appointed Associate Professor of Law and Director of the Legal Skills & Values Program at Florida International University College of Law.  She will start in this tenure-track appointment in January.  Now that's climate change!

hat tip:  Professor Scott Fruehwald, Hofstra University

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

oral argument tips

Somehow law students tend to forget that their professors ever practiced law.  The professor can give some good advice repeatedly, but bring into class a currently practicing lawyer or sitting judge, who says the same thing, and the students act as if never-before-heard pearls of wisdom have been bestowed upon them.  To deliver some of that sagacity to your students electronically, you could steer them to a judge's recent advice on the top ten pitfalls to avoid in the courtroom


November 27, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

the price of smelling fresh-baked bread

Freshbread Find the answer to that question and more by reading this transcript from the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning and Research Section Annual Meeting: Developing the 5th MacCrate Skill--The Art of Storytelling, and featuring Thomas M. McDonnell, Section Chair; Susan H. Kosse, Program Chair & moderator; Philip Meyer, Joel ben Izzy, Steven H. Hobbs and Linda Gorham, speakers, published at 26 Pace L. Rev. 501 (2006). If you are a subscriber to Lexis [L] or Westlaw [W], click the links to access the stories.


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

even the Mayflower Compact

Images An excellent source for historic legal materials is Yale Law School's Avalon Project.  It's where you'll find the full text, for example, of what the Pilgrims said in the Mayflower Compact as they began creating laws for themselves in the New World -- in case you get curious as you contemplate such things while chopping up stuffing ingredients this evening.

(Inexplicably, the farm scene on the Avalon Project's Mayflower Compact site depicts Sturbridge Village, in central Massachusetts, which focuses on life in the early 1800's.)


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

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

stuck in the middle ...

Too busy at work to get in the Thanksgiving holiday mood?  Perhaps you need to see the legal writing professors' video accessible via a link at the bottom of the screen at  If you're viewing this in the office, you may want to turn the volume on your computer down before clicking on it.

hat tip:  Professor Judy Stinson, Arizona State University


November 20, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 19, 2007

federal rules changes

Of importance for all legal writers and teachers of legal writers, over on the AbsTracked blog, you can read about the upcoming changes to the federal court rules.

hat tip:  Prof. Diane Murley


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

Saturday, November 17, 2007

job openings at American University, California Western, and University of Washington

American University’s Washington College of Law seeks applications for a full-time Academic Support and Legal Writing Position for Academic Year 2008-2009. The initial appointment is for two 12-month contracts, after which the person hired will be eligible for a 3-year contract, followed by a 5-year contract. The person hired will spend approximately half the time developing, administering, and teaching the Academic Support Program, and the other half teaching legal research and writing in the two-credit, two-semester Legal Rhetoric Program.

Send applications to Professor Teresa Godwin Phelps, Director - Legal Rhetoric Program, American University, Washington College of Law, 4801 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC, 20016.

California Western School of Law, in San Diego, invites application for a full-time legal writing position to begin August 2008 in its directorless, three-semester legal skills program. The initial appointment is for a two-year, renewable contract. Beginning in the Fall 2008, the school will phase in an six-unit, second-year course that will combine Professional Responsibility, Legal Research and Writing, Skills Training, Problem Solving, Preventive Law, and Career Satisfaction. 

To apply for the position, mail a cover letter, résumé, law school transcript, names and contact information for three references, and a writing sample to Prof. Bobbie Thyfault, California Western School of Law, 225 Cedar Street, San Diego, CA 92101. While you may e-mail Prof. Thyfault for more information, do not submit applications by e-mail. The deadline to apply is January 15, 2008.

The University of Washington School of Law seeks applications for the position of full-time Lecturer (a contract position) beginning September 15, 2008. The initial appointment is for two years and is renewable.

You may apply via mail or e-mail, no later than January 15, 2008. Mail written applications, including a letter of intent, resume, and the names and addresses of references (or letters of reference) to Prof. Roland Hjorth, Chair, Initial Appointments Committee, University of Washington School of Law, William H. Gates Hall, Box 353020, Seattle, WA 98195-3020. Send e-mail applications to Assoc. Dean Lea Vaughn, University of Washington School of Law.


November 17, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Sandra Day O'Connor at Texas Tech School of Law

Today, former Supreme  Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor spoke at Texas Tech University School of Law for the inaugural lecture of the Sandra Day O'Connor Distinguished Lecture Series.

Justice O'Connor, speaking to a filled-to-capacity lecture bowl of law students, told them of the process of accepting a case for review, preparing for hearing arguments, and deciding the case.  While she did not minimize the importance of conferring with her fellow justices, she said, "The real discussion takes place in writing."  The written medium, she believes, is the best way to see and understand another's reasoning.

At lunch we discussed the challenge that law students face in developing their writing skills--a challenge that she believes stems from the lack of sufficient writing experiences in their pre-law-school education.  Today's law students, she said, just haven't written enough.


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

ranking by student-relevant criteria

While we're on the subject of ranking . . . . Most readers of this blog are familiar with the categories used by U.S. News & World Reports to rank law schools. But are these categories relevant to students who use the rankings to find the ideal law school for them? National Jurist/Prelaw recently surveyed students to find out what criteria they deemed the most important. Significantly, several of the categories central to the U.S. News rankings were not so important to students. Students' top five criteria were the quality of teaching; bar passage rate; placement at 9 months after graduation; availability of practical skills training; and faculty-student relations.

hat tip: TaxProf Blog


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

most-cited authors in the field of legal writing?

Brian Leiter has just released his latest collection of data, listing the authors most cited in eighteen specialty areas in the period 2000-2007, including subjects such as business law, civil procedure, criminal law & procedure, evidence, tax. Noticeably absent from his list of academic topics is legal writing.

As Professors Linda Edwards and Terrill Pollman have shown,* the scholarship produced by legal writing professionals is remarkably diverse. While some in the field have published primarily (or exclusively) in doctrinal areas, the growing body of scholarship devoted to legal writing topics deserves mention--and attention. And with that growth comes the opportunity to cite, in our own scholarly writing, the significant and influential works of our colleagues.

To that end, we invite you to determine who are the most-cited authors in legal writing. We'll post the results.

*See Terrill Pollman & Linda H. Edwards, Scholarship by Legal Writing Professors: New Voices in the Legal Academy, 11 Leg. Writing 3 (2005).


November 16, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

teaching drafting


Emory University's Center for Transactional Law and Practice will be holding its first ever conference, on Teaching Drafting and Transactional Skills: The Basics and Beyond, in Atlanta on May 30 & 31, 2008.  Click on the conference title in the previous sentence for more information, including how you can submit a proposal to speak at the conference.

hat tip:  Professor Lyn Goering, Washburn University


November 15, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

congratulations Mel!

Weresh Drake University Law School has promoted Professor Melissa Weresh (standing in photo) to serve as its new Director of Legal Writing.   Mel has been teaching legal writing at Drake for ten years, the last seven as the program's Assistant Director.  You can see a summary of one her scholarship projects in her academic poster, to be presented at the AALS annual meeting in New York City in January.  Congratulations to Mel and Drake both!


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

nominations sought for AALS Section award

From Professor Rachel Croskery-Robert, Secretary of the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research:

"The AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research is now accepting nominations for the Section Award to be given at our section lunch at the AALS Annual Meeting in New York this January. The award is made periodically to an individual who has made a significant lifetime contribution to the field of legal writing and research. Last year's winner was Anne Enquist. She joins the following past winners: Ralph Brill, Mary Lawrence, Helene Shapo, Laurel Oates, Marjorie Rombauer, Marilyn Walter, and Terri LeClercq.

"Please submit nominations to Susan Hanley Duncan, the Chair of the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research and Chair of the Awards Committee, at"


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

Monday, November 12, 2007

tenure-track opening

From Professor Lawrence Rosenthal:

"Northern Kentucky University - Salmon P. Chase College of Law is looking to hire a full-time, tenure-track Legal Writing Professor. The successful candidate will be required to teach legal writing to approximately forty students each semester. During the first semester, the course will focus on objective writing; during the second semester, the course will focus on persuasive writing and oral advocacy. The candidate will not be required to teach legal research.

"The successful candidate will also be expected to publish and serve on various faculty committees. We are looking for candidates with excellent academic credentials and who are committed to teaching legal writing. While prior teaching experience will be looked upon favorably, it is not a requirement for the position.

"Chase is located in Highland Heights, Kentucky, which is approximately six miles southeast of downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area is an enjoyable place to live, and the area offers an affordable cost of living.

"Applicants should submit a letter of interest and resume to Professor Sharlene Lassiter, Chair - Faculty Recruitment Committee, NKU-Salmon P. Chase College of Law, Nunn Hall Room 528, Highland Heights, KY 41099.  PLEASE ALSO SEND YOUR LETTER AND RESUME VIA EMAIL TO

"Applications should be received by November 28, 2007.

"1. The position advertised: is a tenure-track appointment.
2. The professor hired: will be permitted to vote in faculty meetings.
3. The school anticipates paying an annual academic year base salary:  $70,000 to $80,000.
4. The number of students enrolled in each semester of the courses taught will be: 36 - 45

"Northern Kentucky University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer. Women and minorities are encouraged to apply."


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

Sunday, November 11, 2007

graphic thesaurus

Word lovers (or those seeking distraction from grading memos) will enjoy watching and manipulating the graphic displays of an online thesaurus, Visuwords. Visuwords is built from Princeton University’s WordNet, an opensource database built by students and language researchers at that school. Visuwords visually graphs and color-codes nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives, as it simultaneously shows the relationships of various forms.

Hat tip: The (New) Legal Writer blog


November 11, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Milani legal writing competition

Mercer's School of Law and the ABA host an annual writing competition in honor of Mercer’s former legal writing professor, Adam Milani.  It is one of the few competitions for student-written briefs – not academic papers -- which means many students have papers already written for classes that they could submit.   The prizes can be as high as $1,000.

This year the list of permissible topics has been expanded.  Professors involved in any law school course in which court briefs are written might consider using one of these topics for an assignment:

-disability law;

-the Civil Rights Act of 1964;

-Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972;

-Age Discrimination in Employment Act;

-Family and Medical Leave Act;

-a state statute or municipal ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. 

The deadline for submission is June 1.  Further details are posted on the Mercer website at:

hat tip:  Professor Linda Edwards


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