Monday, December 31, 2007

Ironquill and other lawyer-poets

Quill As 2007 comes to a close, let's note one of the more unusual pieces of legal writing produced and published this year. For example, see Brian Moline & M.H. Hoeflich, Some Kansas Lawyer-Poets, 55 U. Kan. L. Rev. 971 (2007), who examine the writings of 19th-century lawyers like Charles Calhoun Dail and Eugene Ware (nicknamed "Ironquill"). The article reproduces one of Dail's poems, titled "To the Kanass [sic] Digest":
Steal not this book, for on it I rely
To prove a lie the truth, and truth a lie;
To prove that black is white, or white is black,
And what I say to-day, to-morrow take it back.
To prove the court an ass, the judge a fool,
The jury blockhead boys at school,
The law a thing we learn by rote,
And Justice never enters court.
To prove that right is wrong, and wrong is right,
And justify my client in a fight;
To read this book to save a rogue,
Then read again to d---- a lord.
To twist the law to suit the case,
To prove some law-point out of place;
And yet be plain, polite and civil,
Yet more sarcastic then the devil.
Yet in this book the court has spoken,
And its plain rules must not broken;
Or we, who think their rulings funny,
Will lose our case and client's money.

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

the welcoming committee

Professor Lisa Mazzie Hatlen from Marquette University Law School would like to remind any legal writing professionals who will be attending the AALS annual meeting for the first time this week to look for the Welcoming Committee, of the Section on Legal Writing, Research, and Reasoning.  On Thursday around noon, the Committee will have a table set up next to the registration table for the LWRR section luncheon.  You can e-mail Professor Hatlen before you go, at, and Committee members will be looking out for you.  Committee members will have pink stickers on their name badges.  Veteran legal writing people can identify newbies, to extend a welcome, by the blue stickers on their name badges. 

Welcoming Committee members include: 

Rachel Croskery-Roberts, University of Michigan;
Ellie Margolis, Temple University;
Mark Osbeck, University of Michigan;
Ed Telfeyan, University of the Pacific (McGeorge School of Law); and
Lisa Mazzie Hatlen, Marquette University.


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

your AALS dance card

For those who will be attending the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools in New York City next week, here are the major legal writing events that will take place: Section on Legal Writing, Research, & Reasoning program:
Writing Across the Curriculum,
Professional Communication and the Writing that Supports It

Friday, January 4
8:30 - 10:15 a.m.
Mercury Ballroom, Third Floor, Hilton New York

Section on Legal Writing, Research, & Resoning co-sponsored program with the
Section on Women in Legal Education and the
Section on Clinical Legal Education:
Rise of the Pink Collars: Women in the Legal Academy
Sunday, January 6
9:00 - 10:45 a.m.
Regent Parlor, Second Floor, Hilton New York

Section on Legal Writing, Research, & Reasoning luncheon:
Thursday, January 3
12:15 - 1:30 p.m.
Sutton Center, Second Floor, Hilton New York

Section on Legal Writing, Research & Reasoning business meeting:
during the Section’s luncheon

co-sponsored award reception
Legal Writing Institute and the
Association of Legal Writing Directors:
Thursday, January 3
6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Empire Ballroom East, Second Floor, Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers

hat tip: Professor Lou Sirico, Villanova University


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

Sunday, December 30, 2007

law school innovations blog

Another recently launched blog that may be of interest to readers of this blog is Law School Innovation.  This new blog seems to address big picture innovations, which could dovetail nicely with the many smaller scale innovations that many legal writing professors frequently bring to their academic institutions.
hat tip:  Professor Scott Fruehwald, Hofstra Law School

December 30, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Living Legal Scholarship

Maksymilian Del Mar, a research student at the University of Edinburgh, has written an essay entitled Living Legal Scholarship that almost anyone who has ever undertaken a serious legal scholarship project might find re-affirming. It would be good to print out and keep handy to read during those times when you are many months (perhaps years) into a scholarship project and find yourself doubting the entire enterprise. 

Here is Professor Del Mar's abstract:

"This paper offers a personal reflection on the value of legal scholarship. It is set in the context of the contemporary literature on the state of contemporary legal scholarship. The paper argues that the state of contemporary legal scholarship is too often evaluated on the exclusive basis of the style and content of legal scholarly works. The challenge that this paper seeks to meet is to provide a broader and richer platform upon which legal scholarship can and should be evaluated. That challenge is met by offering a brief account of the five responsibilities of legal scholarship (reading, writing, teaching, collegiality, and engagement). These five responsibilities are designed to provide a framework for imagining the institutional life of a legal scholar. The paper argues that it is that full life, rather than merely the scholarly output, that should necessarily be included in any assessment of the state of contemporary legal scholarship."


December 30, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

helpful advice on conducting student conferences

Desanctis_christie07_lowresMurray_kristen07_lowres Kristen Murray and Christy Desanctis, at George Washington University, have written a very helpful article on The Art of the Writing Conference: Letting Students Set the Agenda Without Ceding Control.

As they explain in their abstract:

"Student writing conferences are employed in a variety of contexts at the law school level. Though such conferences are typically most effective when students set the agenda, a professor need not cede control of the conference and become solely a passive listener. To the contrary, effective, efficient student conferencing is an art that requires forethought and active planning on the part of the professor. This article attempts to establish a 'philosophy of conferencing.' It explores theoretical basis for implementing student-driven writing conference as part of a legal writing curriculum, and then discusses ways in which law professors can adhere to these principles while also engaging in their own agenda-setting. Finally, it provides suggestions on how this concept can be executed in three law school settings: first-year legal research and writing courses; upper-level legal research and writing courses; and upper-level seminar courses in which a research paper is written."


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

analysis and non-readers

An interesting article in The New Yorker magazine, on the Twilight of the Books, suggests that as each generation of incoming students tends to read less literature, the job of law professors generally, and legal writing professors in particular, may become increasingly challenging.  The anecdotes about non-literate people trying to explain "which thing doesn't belong" in a list of items is hauntingly familiar.

hat tip:  Prof. R.J. Robertson, Southern Illinois University


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

Friday, December 28, 2007

job opening in Santa Clara

Santa Clara University School of Law has announced an opening for the Director of Legal Analysis, Research, and Writing.  To apply, submit a cover letter expressing your reasons for interest in the position, a resume, a short writing sample, a law school transcript, and the names of two references, to:
Professor Margaret Russell
Santa Clara University School of Law
500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA  94563

"This position is a full-time, non-tenure track position. The Director is eligible for renewable, multi-year employment contracts.  Santa Clara's three-semester legal writing program instructs both first-year and second-year law students. Legal writing faculty typically teach small sections (approximately 25-28 students) of both the year-long first year course of legal analysis, research, and writing, and a semester of Advocacy to second year students. Santa Clara's legal writing program introduces first-year students to case law and statutory analysis, legal research, and good writing principles through assignments involving the creation of traditional predictive and persuasive legal documents. In Advocacy, students draft a significant brief or memorandum of points and authorities and participate in an oral argument.

"The Director's position has the following responsibilities:
(a) teach, as appropriate, legal research and writing to first-year students and advocacy to second year students; (b) supervise both the first-year component and the advocacy component of the legal writing program; (c) support continued professional development of the legal writing faculty; (d) establish and implement a plan for the evaluation of legal writing faculty and report evaluations to the Dean; (e) work with the legal writing faculty to establish and implement long-term goals for the program; (f) advertise and conduct interviews for legal writing faculty as needed and make hiring and contract renewal recommendations to the Dean, (g) assist the work of the School of Law’s Academic Affairs Committee and report to the Committee on the legal writing program; and (h) provide advice to Faculty of Law and leadership to legal writing faculty on contemporary trends and directions in effective teaching of legal analysis, research and writing. The salary for this position will be competitive and based on the applicant's experience and qualifications.

"Applicants must possess the following qualifications: (1) A law degree from an ABA accredited school. (2) A strong academic record. (3) Demonstrated legal research, writing, and editing ability. (4) Demonstrated ability to lead and make decisions strategically. (5) A commitment to inclusion and diversity and a demonstrated ability to work with an increasingly diverse law school community. (6) Ability to interact and collaborate successfully with the law school faculty, including legal writing faculty, and law school staff and students. (7) Strong organizational, interpersonal, and communication skills. (8) Experience teaching legal research and writing or other similar teaching experience is required. (9) Experience directing a legal research and writing program (or directing a comparable academic program) is strongly preferred.

"job security:  1-4 years
vote in faculty meetings:  no
salary range:  90+k
# of writing students per semester:  31-35

"Santa Clara University School of Law is an equal opportunity employer interested in receiving applications from a diverse group of people, including women, persons of color, disabled persons, veterans, and members of other under-represented groups."

hat tip:  Professor Vangie Abriel


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

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Vermont consortium conference, lunch speaker

Lunch speaker Chris Jernstedt, Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences and Director of the Center for Educational Outcomes at Dartmouth College, offered an intriguing lecture on the physiological aspects of learning.

His first point was that successful learning and memorization cause permanent physical changes in the brain.  Memory can vary each time because the process of remembering is a process of construction that draws on fragments in the brain; hence, learning is a construction process that should be actively practiced.  Effective learning activities help students to construct memories and use skills.

He gave an example of a motor movement repeated 10,000 times:  the repetitions were represented not by a straight line on a graph, but by a scattering of dots that cluster ever closer and more consistently to that line.  Because the construction process is new each time, it does not come out at exactly the same place on the graph.

He then listed the potential roles of the classroom teacher to facilitate learning:  as designer of the learning experience, as demonstrator of the skill, as diagnostician of mis-steps.   (He noted that "telling" is not on the list!)

And that was just the start of his fascinating presentation . . .


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

got an opening line?

The lawyers and law professors who read this blog are interested in legal writing in particular and good writing generally, and tend to be good writers themselves.  It takes a good writer to parody bad prose well.  So perhaps some of you will be interested in submitting entries to the Bulwer-Lytton Writing Contest.  Bulwer was the author who first penned, "It was a dark and stormy night."  And this contest awards prizes to the worst potential opening lines for a novel.  This is the kind of writing you could accomplish by mulling over possibilities in your mind, say, while stuck at the airport or waiting in a long check-out line at the store.

hat tip:  Professor Laurence Gillis


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

law school best practices blog

A new Best Practices Blog, hosted by Albany Law School, has been launched, with two announced goals:

"1) to create a useful web-based source of information on current reforms in legal education arising from the publication of Roy Stuckey's Best Practices for Legal Education and the Carnegie Foundation's Educating Lawyers; and

"2) to create a place where those interested in the future of legal education can freely exchange ideas, concerns, and opinions. The blog will attempt to document and record the most recent innovations and academic experiments accompanying the legal education reform movement and stimulate dialogue between and among all sectors of the legal academy."

Doubtless there will be posts there of interest to legal writing professors and opportunities for the same to comment.

hat tip:  Prof. Mary A. Lynch


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

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Vermont Law School--New England Consortium of Legal Writing Teachers

After a warm welcome on a lovely, wintry Vermont morning, conference participants had a choice of concurrent sessions.  The session I attended was "Narrative Persuasion" with Phil Meyer (Vermont Law School), Sophie Sparrow (Franklin Pierce), and Kathleen Mangold-Spoto (Franklin Pierce). 

Professor Mangold-Spoto discussed creating mini-stories from facts and inferences, as well as using a number of real-life articles and briefs that illustrate the effective use of facts by both parties to tell their own versions of the story.  Participants then discussed Maslow's hierarchy of needs to identify where an emotional appeal is based, as well as using product advertisements in carying magazines to demonstrate shaping the emotional appeal to meet the needs of a particular audience.

Professor Meyer discussed analytical form and storytelling, including features such as plotting, what constitutes a complete story, types of stories, showing versus telling, and rhythm. 

Professor Sparrow discussed a simple visual equation to illustrate the components of story, as well as how to effectively use concrete facts. 

Other ideas included using language in a brief similar to that used by the jusge who would be reading the brief (e.g., use kinesthetic language for a kinesthetic judge and big words for a judge who uses big words); giving students a picture and asking them to create the story to go with it, then using their different stories to discuss how life experience shapes the stories we recognize and tell; and alternating between scene and summary in telling a story.


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

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

no huzzaing?

The colonial government of New Hampshire, sitting in Portsmouth, felt compelled to pass a law concerning December 25th, prohibiting "Loose Idle Persons going about the streets in Companies in a roisterous & Tumultuous manner halooing huzzaing firing guns beating drums to the great disturbance & Terror of many of the inhabitants on the evening Preceeding and evening following said Day ...."  An Act To Prevent And Punish Disorders Usually Committed On The Twenty Fifth Day Of December Commonly Called Christmas-Day, The Evening Preceeding & Following Said Day, And To Prevent Other Irregularities Committed At Other Times (Dec. 23, 1771).

Whatever you're doing this day, hope it's a good one.


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

Monday, December 24, 2007

St. John's LRW conference in 2008

One more event to mark on your 2008 calendar, as announced by Professor Jane Scott:

"St. John’s University School of Law is pleased to announce that it will host a Legal Research and Writing Conference on Friday, December 5, 2008 at the University’s Manhattan campus, near the World Financial Center.  The conference will explore how legal research and writing as taught in law school can best prepare new lawyers for practice in the workplace.  We plan to offer perspectives from judges, law firms, other legal employers, and, of course, legal writing professors.  Topics will include developments in the workplace affecting the skills expected of, and the training available to, beginning lawyers.  There will be much food for thought and ample opportunity for holiday shopping!"


December 24, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

mark calendars for LWI conference in 2010

If you're marking calendars for next year, make a note for 2010, too. The Legal Writing Institute will hold its 2010 conference from June 27th to 30th, at the Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort.

According to Professor Dan Barnett, of Boston College Law School:

"The Resort is located on three miles of pristine Southwest Florida beaches. With over 225,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor function space, a full-service event planning staff, several renowned restaurants, championship golf, a world-class spa, and a wide range of activities and amenities, the Resort seemed like an ideal setting for the first LWI Conference to be held at a non-campus site. The impressive meeting space, beach location, and affordable accommodations should entice members to not only attend the 2010 Conference but also to combine it with a family vacation, especially since the LWI special rates have been extended to before and after the conference dates."


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

proposals sought for Rocky Mountain Conference

You can still -- until January 12th -- submit a proposal to give a presentation at the Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference.  The University of Utah College of Law is hosting the conference this Spring, on March 21st and 22nd. 

CampusAs announced by Professor Bonnie Mitchell:

"The conference will be held on campus at the University Guest House and Conference Center, a collection of beautiful, late 19th century buildings completely remodeled for the 2002 Winter Olympics.  The University Guest House/Hotel (130 rooms) is a few yards from the conference facilities.  We are holding a block of rooms there ranging from double queen to deluxe suite.  The average cost for attendees is $75/night, which includes a generous continental breakfast, fitness center, free WiFi, free parking and walking access to TRAX, a 10 minute ride to the city center area.  The Marriott University Park Hotel is within walking distance to the conference site.  The rate for conference attendees is $95 for a King. 

Salt Lake International Airport is about 15 minutes from downtain and 20 minutes to the University.  Spring weather in Salt Lake typically allows you to golf in the city and ski at any of the seven resorts within 30-45 minutes from campus."


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

Thursday, December 20, 2007

please, Santa, I've been a good (g)URL

J0341441_2 All I want for Christmas is a reliable Internet. Really. This co-editor of the blog has been pulling together materials for a presentation I'm making in February on the impact of the Internet in appellate briefs and opinions. One of the mostly frequently quoted cases addressing the validity of Internet information is St. Clair v. Johnny’s Oyster & Shrimp, Inc., 76 F. Supp. 2d 773, 775 (S.D. Tex. 1999), in which District Judge Samuel Kent wrote:

Anyone can put anything on the Internet. No web-site is monitored for accuracy and nothing contained therein is under oath or even subject to independent verification absent underlying documentation. Moreover, the Court holds no illusions that hackers can adulterate the content on any web-site from any location at any time. For these reasons, any evidence procured off the Internet is adequate for almost nothing, even under the most liberal interpretation of the hearsay exception rules found in Fed. R. Civ. P. 807. Instead of relying on the voodoo information taken from the Internet, Plaintiff must hunt for hard copy back-up documentation in admissible form . . . . 

Case in point? "Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject. So you know you are getting the best possible information." Character "Michael Scott" from the t.v. satire, The Office (NBC Apr. 5, 2007). Legal writing's own Ian Gallacher (unlike Scott, a real person), while arguing the need for more “open-access” sources of law, recently had this to say about Wikipedia:

[T]he Internet’s unmediated “Wikipedia” site contains articles that have the appearance of authority, even though they could be completely inaccurate. . . . The open-access nature of the Wikipedia site means that anyone can post or edit an entry, and the sophisticated presentation software available as part of the site means that any entry, whether it be completely accurate or entirely fictitious, will look the same. Unwitting users of the site could be misled into following a theory supported by a Wikipedia entry that has no actual substance in reality. For this reason, many scholars mistrust anything that appears on the Wikipedia site and do not recognize it as a viable research source.

Ian Gallacher, Cite Unseen: How Neutral Citation and America’s Law Schools Can Cure Our Strange Devotion to Bibliographical Orthodoxy and the Constriction of Open and Equal Access to the Law, 70 Alb. L. Rev. 491, 503 n. 63 (2007). Even the Bluebook has a bias against the Internet. See The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation 153 (Columbia Law Review Ass’n et al. eds., 18th ed. 2005) (“When information is available in a traditional printed source or on a widely available commercial database, it should be cited to that source rather than to the Internet.”). So don't cite this blog, please! Unless, of course, you really, really, really like what we're writing about, and you can't find a better source.


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

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

conference on plain language jury instructions


Washburn University School of Law's Center for Excellence in Advocacy, in collaboration with Washburn's Legal Analysis, Research, and Writing Program, has announced its upcoming symposium, Writing to Win: Plain Language Jury Instructions. The symposium will begin with an opening reception on Sunday evening, April 6, with presentations planned for Monday, April 7, and Tuesday, April 8, 2008. The Honorable Carol Corrigan, Associate Justice, California Supreme Court, will be the keynote speaker for the symposium. 

hat tip: Professor Lyn Goering, Washburn University


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

only 2 days left!

No, not for free shipping of holiday gifts.  Until the extended deadline to submit your proposal for the conference on teaching legal drafting and transactional skills.  If you're interested in presenting at this conference at Emory University in May, you need to submit your proposal by this Friday, December 21, 2007, to Professor Tina Stark at

The steering committee for the conference also includes Professors Lyn Goering, George Kuney, Richard Neumann, Jr., Sue Payne, Lisa Penland, and Anne Rector.

hat tip:  Lyn Goering


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

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

what's wrong with student law review editors

"Unless the author is a famous one whose prose the editors dare not tamper with, the edited and published writing usually takes on an ‘official’ law-review style that is lacking in personality or individual idiom, overburdened with abstract phraseology, bottom-heavy with footnotes, humorless, and generally unobservant of good grammar and diction. This last fault is perhaps ineradicable, at least in the U.S., inasmuch as legally trained young men and women are called upon to be professional editors when not one in fifty has a background suitable to the task."

- Bryan A. Garner, A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage 507 (2d ed., Oxford U. Press 1995)

hat tip: Professor Wayne Schiess, University of Texas


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