Thursday, January 31, 2008

legal writing podcasts from Suffolk

Early_podcastsThe Legal Practice Skills Faculty at Suffolk University Law School has just launched a weekly legal writing tip podcast series, publicly available on iTunes U.  Subscribers can automatically download these podcasts when new content becomes available and listen to them anywhere or anytime.
hat tip: Kathleen Elliott Vinson

January 31, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

position at Howard University School of Law


Legal Writing Instructor

Howard University School of Law seeks applicants for the position of Legal Reasoning, Research, and Writing (LRRW) Instructor, commencing in August 2007. Howard instructors become part of a long tradition of academic excellence and social justice.


Legal Writing Instructors teach one section of LRRW I and one section of LRRW II. LRRW I is a full-year course worth two credits per semester.

In LRRW, first-year students learn the basics of analysis, research, predictive and persuasive writing, and oral argument. Class size for each LRRW section is usually around 30 students. The instructors and the director generally cooperate to formulate a common syllabus and common writing problems for all LRRW sections.

In both the Fall and Spring, instructors teach one section of LRRW II, a one-semester course worth two credits. In LRRW II, second-year students further hone the skills learned in LRRW by working on a relatively sophisticated appellate problem. Class size for each LRRW II section is usually around 15 students. Instructors have substantial freedom to design their own syllabi and their own appellate problems for LRRW II.

Legal Writing Instructors are integrated into the life of the law school. They serve on faculty committees and vote at faculty meetings on all matters except appointments and tenure.

Legal Writing Instructors receive renewable contracts of one to three years. Due to a university rule, instructors may not continue at Howard longer than seven years. The current salary is $58,710.


Howard seeks individuals who are, or have the potential to be, excellent legal writing teachers. Applicants should have superior legal writing skills and academic records (including a J.D. or its equivalent).

Teaching experience, scholarship, and practice experience as a lawyer are viewed favorably.


The application period will be open until any positions are filled.

Applicants should email a cover letter and resume to:

Professor e. christi cunningham

Legal Writing Director

Howard University School of Law

Howard University is committed to justice and equality. As an Equal Opportunity Employer, Howard encourages applications from women, minorities, and members of all historically disadvantaged groups.


Which of the following best describes the position you wish to advertise?

Position is tenure-track:  No

May lead to successive long-term contracts of five or more years: No

May lead only to successive short-term contracts of one to four years: Yes

Has an upper-limit on the number of years a teacher may be appointed: Yes

Will the person hired be permitted to vote in faculty meetings?  Yes (on all matters except appointments and tenure)

The school anticipates paying an annual academic year base salary in the range: (A base salary does NOT include stipends for coaching moot court teams, teaching other courses, or teaching in summer school; nor does a base salary include conference travel or other professional development funds.)

$50,000 to $59,999

The person hired will teach legal writing each semester to a total number of students in the range:

46 to 50


January 31, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

forget the article--what's the title?

Eyes_of_bette As writers, we want to be read. To reach our audiences, we need to be published (or perhaps, just blog, but that's another thread). Both of these considerations drive an author's selection of a title for the work.

A recent study by Julie Oseid and Leah Christensen shows that when law review student editors are deciding what to publish, the "catchiness" of an article's title is more attractive to third- and fourth-tier law reviews than to their higher-tier cohorts.

One of my faculty colleagues, a former editor-in-chief of a top tier review, told me that the buzz he's hearing these days is that when it comes to titles, "short is the new long."

One of the things I like about longer titles is that they give me a sense of what's inside. I don't know what to make of a title like this one: Unlaw, published at 55 Buff. L. Rev. 841 (2007).

My favorite law review article title of all time was fine with the editors of the Columbia Law Review--but that was back in 1990. The title? She's Got Bette Davis['s] Eyes: Assessing the Nonconsensual Removal of Cadaver Organs under the Takings and Due Process Clauses, published at 90 Colum. L. Rev. 528 (1990).


January 30, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

writing conference at Howard

Send in a paper and mark your calendar for an interesting conference scheduled for this spring in DC, the Writing and Legal Writing Teachers, Instructors, and Professors of Color and/or Progressive Orientation Conference (which assigns itself the acronym WLWTIPCPOC). To be held at Howard University on May 17-18, 2008, the conference is geared to a diverse and large cross-section of the teaching academy, “any person who has an interest in and concern for teaching writing at any of its levels and in any of its forms, from early childhood to graduate and professional programs.  The conference is particularly designed to bring together writing teachers of color, writing teachers who are progressively oriented, and writing teachers who teach a significant number of students of color.”

The conference theme is “From Grammar School to Graduate and Law School: Building to Bridge the Achievement Gap.” Organizers invite proposals for presentations on the following topics:

                   Teaching writing to students of color

                   Writing and social change and engineering

                   Building coalitions among faculty: grammar to graduate/professional schools

                   Literacy in immigrant communities

                   Literacy in urban communities

If you are interesting in presenting a paper on one of these topics, or if you would like to propose a panel topic, present a work in progress, comment on a work in progress, contact Professor e. christi cunningham. The deadline is March 1, 2008.


January 30, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Global Legal Skills Conference III - Monterrey Mexico

It is snowing in Chicago, so my thoughts have turned toward next month's legal writing and skills conference in Monterrey Mexico. If you are interested in attending the conference, look for details at


January 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New York Workshop in February for Academic Support Professionals (and their Friends)

Professors Kris Franklin (New York Law School) and Linda Feldman (Brooklyn Law School) announced on the Legal Writing List that they are organizing a full-day New York Area Academic Support workshop at New York Law School on Friday, February 22, 2008. They expect only a small gathering of academic support professionals and other colleagues. Although the gathering may be small in numbers of attendees, it promises to be rich in content. Contact them directly for more information.

Prof. Kris Franklin
Director, Academic Skills Program
New York Law School
47 Worth Street
New York, NY
(212) 431-2353

Linda Feldman
Director of Educational Services
Brooklyn Law School
250 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11231
(718) 780 7929


January 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Lack of Remorse or Explanation for Law School Plagiarism Keeps Student from Being Admitted to the Bar

It seems that a second year law student in Georgia didn't need to spend his third year in law school after all. The Georgia Supreme Court recently affirmed the determination of a hearing board that plagiarism committed by the student in an advanced Torts class (when he was a second year student) was enough to keep him from becoming a lawyer.

Hat tip: I learned about the case from a posting on the Legal Profession Blog, where it was posted by Michael S. Frisch, Ethics Counsel for the Georgetown Law Center.

The Georgia Supreme Court opinion focused on the student's failure to acknowledge to take any personal responsibility for the plagiarism:

A majority of the Board told White directly or by clear implication that
they did not believe his account of how and why he had submitted a paper at the
end of his second year of law school that was a virtually verbatim reproduction
of sections of five previously published sources, none of which was cited in the
paper. The Board gave White multiple opportunities to provide a fuller and
more convincing explanation for his conduct, but he declined to do so. The
Board voted tentatively to deny White certification of fitness to practice law.
White requested a formal hearing, and a hearing officer was appointed to
review the matter. At the hearing, White again failed to offer any credible
explanation for his plagiarism. Despite the overwhelming evidence to the
contrary, White was either unwilling or unable to admit that he deliberately took
sections of five previously published works, typed them word-for-word into his
computer, made minute changes in citations and wording, and then printed out
the resulting 35-page paper with 211 footnotes and submitted it to his professor
as his own work.

The hearing officer submitted a written report and recommendation to the
Board. The hearing officer specifically found that White’s explanation of the
plagiarism incident was not credible, that he had not yet accepted full
responsibility for his actions, and that he did not currently possess the character
and fitness required of a prospective member of the State Bar. The hearing
officer recommended final denial of White’s application for certification of
fitness to practice law, and the Board adopted White’s recommendation.

And the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the denial of his admission to the bar.

Print out a copy of the full opinion for your students (or better yet, make it a research exercises). It could very well be one of the most powerful handouts they will ever receive on plagiarism.

Posted by Mark E. Wojcik, filling in for Sue Liemer

January 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Resources for Statutory Construction

The Statutory Construction Blog has updated its list of resources on statutory construction. You might find some of these resources to be quite helpful when teaching students about statutes.

Mark E. Wojcik, filling in for Sue Liemer


January 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Writing Assignment Idea (for Advanced Writing Classes)

Professor Ellen S. Podgor, who is the Associate Dean for Faculty Development & Distance Education at Stetson University College of Law, posted on the Law School Innovation Blog about her experience in having students write amicus briefs for pending U.S. Supreme Court cases. (The briefs were a class project, not to be filed with the U.S. Supreme Court.) Read more about her experience.

The idea of having students do amicus briefs for pending cases could also be done with other state and federal appellate courts. There are lots of possibilities here for advanced writing classes.

Mark E. Wojcik, filling in for Sue Liemer

January 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 28, 2008

how much did your school want you?

OK, when a law school somewhere recruits a legal writing prof and pays for that prof's pricey living quarters, then we will have arrived!! 


January 28, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

British and U.S. Legal Systems and several other sources are reporting on a program held last Thursday at Georgetown University Law Center with Baroness Brenda Hale, the first female Law Lord in the British House of Lords, and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.  Here is an audio link to the program, which includes some interesting perspectives on their experiences and on deciding cases.

This event was sponsored by the Supreme Court Fellows Program Alumni Association and the Georgetown Law Supreme Court Institute. 


January 28, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 25, 2008

lessons from practice

A recent post at the (new) legal writer describes the author's experiences in proofreading and finalizing a brief to a federal court of appeals. An experienced appellate advocate, he details the painstaking steps he followed to detect and correct the tiny errors that were lurking in the brief. He found 71. And this is someone who cares enough about careful writing to regularly blog on the topic. Because he cares, he took the time to comb his brief with the precise goal of catching these glitches.

Law students often ask us for models that they can follow. Such models can be more than sample documents; they can be models of thoughtful professionalism. Offer them this example.


January 25, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

job opening at Chapman

Chapman University School of Law invites applications for a full-time, non-tenure track position in the Legal Research and Writing program for the 2008-2009 academic year. The initial appointment is for a one-year Instructor rank contract (based on a ten-month term), beginning in August 2008.  After the initial term, the teacher is eligible for reappointment and long-term renewal. The first-year program is a required, two-semester course (3 credits in the fall; 2 credits in the spring), integrating the writing and legal research components.   

Applicants should be admitted to at least one state bar, preferably California. Prior teaching experience is desirable, although not required. Final candidates must submit to a background check. To apply, send a letter of application, resume, writing sample, and names and phone numbers of three references to
Ms. Barbara Babcock, Executive Assistant to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Chapman University School of Law, One University Drive, Orange, CA 92866.


January 25, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Billable Hours and Legal Writing

An article in this morning's New York Times describes how some law firms are trying to get away from the billable hour and how all law firms are (or at least should be) trying to improve the lives of their associates and partners.  [The article is by Lisa Belkin, Who's Cuddly Now? Law Firms -- Abandoning Billable Hours May Help Slow the Treadmill, N.Y. Times, Jan. 24, 2008, at E1.]

The article states that in the 1960s and 1970s, law firms required between 1,600 and 1,800 billable hours a year (about 34 hours a week).  But today that requirement has risen to 2,000 to 2,200 billable hours a year (about 42 billable hours each week, which would usually take more than 60 hours a week).

Not mentioned in the article is how the increase in billable hours produced a decrease in the amount of time that associates had for honing their legal writing skills.  Partners and other associates -- who in past years may have had time to coach new associates on their writing skills -- no longer have the time to devote to non-billable matters.  Meanwhile, pressure by clients to keep bills in line means that there may be less time devoted to such fundamental matters as editing, revising, and even proofreading in some cases.

I applaud those firms that are looking for ways to help new associates improve their legal writing (and research) skills, and to improve the quality of life for all lawyers and their families. 

(mew) Mark E. Wojcik, The John Marshall Law School-Chicago   

January 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Westlaw DOES Have a Sense of Humor!

Westlaw does its part to prevent the abuse of stress toys.  Enjoy.


January 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Golden Pen Award

Eighth Golden Pen Award

Julie M. Spanbauer, Chair, LWI Awards Committee and Professor, The John Marshall Law School, Chicago

The Honorable Ruggero J. Aldisert, Senior Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, was the recipient of the eighth Golden Pen Award, which was conferred by the Legal Writing Institute on January 3, 2008, at the Association of American Law Schools Annual Meeting in New York.  Lisa Aldisert accepted the award on behalf of her father, who was unable to travel to New York due to concerns about his health.

Judge Aldisert was honored for contributions in his capacity as judge, educator, and writer. As an author, Judge Aldisert has promoted the use of clear language in the following popular and influential books addressing legal writing issues:

·         Winning on Appeal: Better Briefs and Oral Argument (NITA 2nd ed. 2003);

·         Logic for Lawyers: A Guide to Clear Legal Thinking (NITA 3rd ed. 1997); and

·         The Judicial Process: Text, Materials and Cases (2nd ed. West 1996).


During a long and distinguished career on the bench, Judge Aldisert has promoted the use of clear language in the many opinions he has written.  For more than 20 years, Judge Aldisert contributed to the education of numerous law students in his capacity as an adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.


For all of these reasons, Judge Aldisert was chosen to receive the eighth Golden Pen Award.

Further information about the Legal Writing Institute and its Golden Pen Award is available at  Information about the memberships (which are free!) is also available on the website.

Background about the Legal Writing Institute

The Legal Writing Institute is a nonprofit corporation founded in 1984 by the University of Puget Sound School of Law – now Seattle University School of Law. The Institute’s purpose is to exchange ideas about legal writing and to provide a forum for research and scholarship about legal writing and legal analysis. The Institute is currently housed at Mercer University School of Law in Macon, Georgia.

The Institute promotes new activities through a newsletter, published twice a year; a scholarly journal, published about once a year; and a national conference that has been held every other year since 1984.

The Institute has close to 2000 members representing all the ABA-accredited law schools in the United States. The Institute also has members from other countries, as well as from English departments, independent research-and-consulting organizations, and the practicing bar. Anyone who is interested in legal writing or the teaching of legal writing may join the Institute.

Hat tip to Julie Spanbauer of The John Marshall Law School-Chicago.  So, who wants to share their pictures of this event?


January 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Researching Foreign Law

Mary Rumsey has updated her Basic Guide to Researching Foreign Law.  She is the Foreign, Comparative & International Law Librarian at the University of Minnesota.  She has a B.A. degree from the University of Wisconsin, a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School, and a master's degree in library and information science from Dominican University.    

Basic Guide to Researching Foreign Law  by Mary Rumsey

January 21, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Legal Research - The Movie

A silent movie about legal research, made last year (apparently by the students using the Stanford Law Library).  Enjoy.


January 21, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

remembering Dr. King

Martinlutherking2Our colleagues at the Law Librarian Blog have assembled a thoughtful collection of items commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, including YouTube videos of the historic and inspirational "I Have a Dream" and "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speeches. Read, watch, and think.


January 21, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

clear, persuasive writing earns inmate SCOTUS review

Most lawyers—even most appellate lawyers—never get the chance to take a case to the United States Supreme Court. A South Carolina inmate, however, has succeeded, writing a persuasive and cogent petition for writ of certiorari. The Court granted the writ prepared by Keith Burgess and has placed his case on its docket for argument this term.

Burgess’s newly appointed counsel is proud of his client, according to a recent news story:

"He has accomplished what tens of thousands of attorneys across the country have not been able to," said Stanford Law School professor Jeffrey L. Fisher, who now represents Burgess. "I told him he should really be proud of himself."

The case is Burgess v. United States, No. 06-11429. To view the petition for writ of cert, click Download Brief_01-21-08_115934.pdf .


January 21, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)