Tuesday, September 30, 2008

SSRN papers on legal writing

One good way to keep up with new scholarship in legal writing is to read this blog, as our "scholarship dude," Jim Levy, brings new publications to your attention. Recent examples are here (new publications on contract drafting and demand letters) and here (latest issues of J. ALWD).

Another good way to keep abreast of new writing in our field is to subscribe to the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) eJournal for legal writing (and of course, for you writers to post your articles there!).

You can view papers in the SSRN Legal Writing eJournal by visiting this link. Or you can have SSRN send the abstracts to your e-mail inbox; to subscribe, go here.


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

A Good Issue for a Legal Writing Problem

When you steal someone's identity, you're guilty of identity theft. The circuits are split, however, on whether you are still guilty of identity theft if the person whose identity you're using is an invented person. You're still guilty of fraud and other such crimes or torts, but I think there is a great issue here for a legal writing problem narrowed on the issue of identity theft. Click here for a link to the Statutory Construction Blog, which discusses the split in a number of posts.


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

Monday, September 29, 2008

an abundance of good jobs teaching legal writing

Cruising through the blogosphere tonight, I ran across this sad account by someone disappointed by reports relating how teaching fellows in legal writing aren't doing what they really want to do. And then there's the reference in that same post to that depressing article that describes the woeful experience of one legal writing instructor almost nine years ago.

True, there are a few bad jobs out there, and it's also true that at some places, legal writing faculty are not treated with respect. Fortunately, these are the exceptions and not the rule. A number of schools have made huge gains in the last few years--in status, voting rights, salary, class size, office placement, curriculum, and more.

Right now there are a lot of good jobs being advertised in legal writing, and they're available all over the country. Several are tenure-track positions. All of the following postings from this blog are recent, none older than August 1, 2008:

And check out the Employment Listings board at the Legal Writing Institute website.


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

plain language . . . success!

The Center for Plain Language, in Washington, D.C., is sponsoring an afternoon symposium on November 7, 2008, at the National Press Club. The symposium is dedicated to plain-language success stories, particularly in their effect on cost savings and other benefits. The symposium will be followed by a reception.

Scheduled speakers and topics include the following:

  • Dr. Susan Kleimann, President, Kleimann Communication, Lending documents: Bottom-line Benefits of Plain Language
  • Josiah Fiske, President, Firehouse Financial, Plain Funny: Using Simple Language and Sophisticated Humor to Change How Employees Think
  • Dr. Arthur Culbert, Senior Advisor, Missouri Foundation for Health, A Vision for a Health-Literate Missouri: Building a Statewide Health Literacy Center
  • Dr. William Smith, Executive Vice President, Academy for Educational Development, Health Literacy and Social Marketing: A Unique Partnership
  • Barb McLaughlin, Vice President, Smart Source Healthcare, Cure Patients and Profits with Clear Communications
  • Irene Itzkorn, Group Director of Simplification, Siegel+Gale, Amazingly Simple Stuff
  • Deborah Bosley, Director, Center for Humanities, Technology, and Science, UNC Charlotte, Unexpected Results: Usability and Redesign in TIAA-CREF's Minimum Distribution Letter to Participants

The Center for Plain Language will also hold a briefing on the current federal legislation requiring certain government documents to be in plain language.

Click here for more information and a registration form. Cost of the symposium alone is $100 to members and $150 to non-members of the Center for Plain Language; for both the symposium and the reception (must be a doozie!), the cost goes up to $200 for members and $250 for non-members. Get the boss to pay.

Hat tip: Joe Kimble


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

confronting adverse authority

Bonfire Kathy Stanchi (Temple) has posted her new article, Playing with Fire: The Science of Confronting Adverse Authority in Legal Advocacy, on SSRN. You can download it here:

Here's the abstract:   

For a long time, practitioners and scholars have debated whether volunteering negative information in legal advocacy is strategically advisable. Many advocates consider disclosure of information that is unfavorable to the client's case to be inconsistent with the duty of zealous advocacy, while others consider disclosure to be the surer path to victory. The advocates on both sides of this debate rely largely on legal lore to justify their beliefs about what persuades jurors and judges. Even within this vigorous debate, the growing body of scientific research on the subject of persuasion has not played a pivotal role, and in the few instances when the science is mentioned, the nuances and details of it are glossed over.

Playing with Fire changes the nature of the debate by examining in depth the social science studies about disclosure of negative information in a persuasive situation, including all their nuances and complexities. In particular, Playing with Fire is the first law journal article to look at all the major scientific studies in the contexts of law, advertising and politics that examine how an audience reacts to an advocate's voluntary disclosure of negative information. The article applies the results and underlying theories of these studies to the question of disclosure of adverse information in legal advocacy. The result is a deeper, more nuanced picture of how to deal with adverse information than has previously characterized the debate in the legal context.

Kathy recently discussed some of her findings at the Rutgers-Camden conference on legal persuasion.


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

could be an interesting fact pattern . . .

OK, I couldn't find the article in any periodical that I would even admit to reading, but stories of whether stolen pics of Jamie Lynn Spears breastfeeding her baby could result in child porn charges against the photo-seller are just irresistible to someone who looks at life as one big montage of potential fact patterns.

Statutory construction . . . IIED . . . invasion of privacy . . . theft  . . . so many possibilities!!  And was it stupid or a publicity-seeking stunt when her boyfriend dropped the memory card off at WalMart?  (Yes.  WalMart.  Could this be any better?)

This scenario would just be too fun.  And add in the serious topic of whether a photo of a mother breastfeeding could ever be considered pornographic . . . yes.  A great fact pattern could come out of this.

And for the record, I got the initial report off msn.com.  :)


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

Sunday, September 28, 2008

snip, snip, snip

BigcutsHave you ever struggled with cutting the length of a wordy memo or brief when you needed to keep all of the points? Do your students complain that your page limits are too short?

I thought so.

That's why I am pleased to recommend this post from Write to Done, which gives a lot of providing good advice to writers who want to say the same thing in fewer words cut words.

hat tip: the (new) legal writer


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

lawyers experiment with wikis

Everybody knows about Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, but not everyone has tried a (lowercase) wiki for group composition and editing. Law.com recently reported on lawyers in firms and legal departments who "have begun testing the wiki waters over the last two years."

One notable advantage of a wiki for multi-person editing is that it keeps a history of each alteration of the posted document, making it easy to track back if needed, and easy to contact the contributor who suggested the change.

Others like wikis because they help reduce the need to e-mail drafts to all concerned. Instead, those who wish to view (or edit) a draft simply go to the single collaborative document on the web.

I've begun using wikis in the last year in a couple of different contexts--(1) working with authors at two other law schools on a collaborative manuscript (fun!) and (2) letting my students do small group drafting projects in class (a positive way to engage laptop users) (also fun, as long as our Internet connection is not bogged down). So far I've been pleased with the utility of the approach. The online environment has its limitations--less-sophisticated word processing, for one--but overall, it's worked the way I expected it to.

I like this Youtube explanation of wikis for those who are new to the concept:

Wikis can be public or private. Publicly accessible wikis are typically provided to users for free. Some popular (and free) wiki spaces and software include Google Docs (here's a nice tour of that site), Wikispaces, Wetpaint, and PBwiki. [Updated to add Acrobat.com Buzzword, a Flash-based word processor that exports documents in all standard word processing formats, plus Adobe PDF]

Leave a comment if you have thoughts on using wikis in the legal writing classroom or in law practice.

hat tip: Law School Innovation blog


September 28, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Spence on "tyrant judges"

While I don't agree with all he says, Gerry Spence has posted an interesting three-part series on his blog titled "How to Survive the Tyrant Judge." Here are links to the three postings, with a representative quote from each:

Part 1   "We’re afraid of judges because they’re power-persons, which harkens back to our experiences with our first power-persons –- usually a parent."

Part 2   "The greatest attraction to the bench is simply power."

Part 3  "The need to be helped is endemic with the judge who was, himself, a child in need of help, and that need persists with the judge who is now the power-person with a parental duty to help."


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

Saturday, September 27, 2008

laptops & legal writing

This semester I asked my students not to bring laptops to legal writing class.  (I do encourage them to bring their laptops when they are having a lesson dedicated specifically to research techniques, which they can identify by the syllabus.)  It has been very refreshing to see them.  Period.  To see their eyes and facial expressions, to see if they are following the conversation or confused, even to see if they need a seventh-inning stretch.  The whole classroom atmosphere feels more relaxed.  I don't know if they feel any more relaxed than they would otherwise, but I sure feel more relaxed in the classroom than I did last year, because I'm not teaching while having the irritating feeling that I'm competing for their attention with the entire Internet. 


September 27, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

legal reasoning in both legal writing and substantive courses

A new post by Marc Blitz at Prawfsblog addresses the way legal reasoning is taught in substantive law courses. Blitz recently taught a course in legal reasoning, using Steven J. Burton's Introduction to Law and Legal Reasoning. Burton's preface claimed that in most courses, "[s]tudents are left largely to their own devices to extract worthwhile lessons about legal reasoning from examples and discussions.” Blitz wonders if that's still true and asks law professors the following:

[D]o you pause to ask how a court is analogizing or distinguishing a new set of facts to a prior case, or a hypothetical case that everyone would agree should come out a certain way – and to generalize about what makes for a strong or weak analogical argument?  And how do you diagnose what’s going wrong where students run into trouble trying to make a convincing analogical argument (either in class or in exams)?  Also, are those of you who teach substantive courses (like constitutional law or torts) familiar with the texts that your school’s Legal Writing or Legal Analysis teachers use to teach legal reasoning, and do you ever remind students of these texts in trying to get them to apply previously-learned lessons on legal reasoning in their substantive courses?  Would it make sense to ask students to keep these texts throughout law school, instead of selling them, so that they and their teachers could refer back to them in their subsequent courses (which, whatever specific area of law they are about, will also be at least in part about honing one’s skills in legal reasoning and argumentation)?

The comment window at Prawfsblog is open.


September 27, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

r-o-c-k in the law review

J0422721University of Tennessee (and formerly Oklahoma City University) law professor Alex B. Long has a new article out that examines the use of music lyrics in legal writing. In [Insert Song Lyrics Here]: The Uses and Misuses of Popular Music Lyrics In Legal Writing, Long observes that "the most common use of popular music in legal writing is to either establish a title for a piece of scholarship or to 'provide a relevant prefatory quotation' in order to establish a theme," although his article also explores "more creative ways" music references are employed--such as the 7th Circuit's reference to a song by Ludacris in U.S. v. Murphy.

The article is scheduled to be published in volume 64 of the Washington and Lee Law Review. Download it here from SSRN, and have fun guessing what song inspired each of the article's internal headings. Not sure whether I envy the law review's cite-checking staff who had to confirm each of the 275 footnote citations.

hat tip: Christine Corcos, The Law & Humanities Blog


September 27, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 26, 2008

How not to argue your case before the court.

Here's another lesson in what not to do as an attorney courtesy of Youtube.  This time, it's a 2L from  University of Miami School of Law appearing before Judge Milian of "The People's Court" to defend what appears to be a condominium dispute or perhaps a landlord-tenant matter.  No matter, this guy crashes and burns worse than a dirigible at Lakehurst, New Jersey.

Oh, the humanity of it.

I am the scholarship dude.


September 26, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Mercer to host Law & Rhetoric workshop preceding AALS meeting

Mercer University School of Law will sponsor a Law & Rhetoric Workshop, Legal Writing Through a Rhetorical Lens, on Tuesday, January 6, 2009, at the Hilton San Diego, Gaslamp Quarter. The workshop will take place immediately before the start of the AALS Annual Meeting and at a hotel right across the street from the conference hotel.

The workshop is designed to bring together a group of people with common interests in legal rhetoric for a day of conversation that will generate new ideas and strengthen existing connections between rhetorical theory and legal writing scholarship, teaching, and practice. Steven J. Mailloux, Chancellor's Professor of Rhetoric at the University of California-Irvine, will begin the discussion; the other confirmed speakers so far are listed on the attached announcement.

Registration is free, but the workshop will be limited to the first 35 registrants. You may visit the workshop webpage for more details and to register. Mercer gratefully acknowledges support from the Legal Writing Institute for this workshop. To download a brochure describing the workshop, click here: Download mercerlawrhetoricworkshop1.06.09.pdf

hat tip: Linda Berger


September 26, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

If you forget to Shepardize, don't do it in front of a national audience.

Thanks to our wonderful, Harvard bound law librarian Meg Kribble here at Nova Law School for finding this legal research gem on YouTube.  It's a clip from the O.J. Simpson trial during which Marcia Clark is caught by Judge Ito having failed to Shepardize a key statute.  After Ms. Clark advises the court that she found no cases interpreting the statute at issue, Judge Ito asks her if she "Shepardized" it.  He then points out that his Pepperdine law clerks found some cases which Ms. Clark missed.

Tsk, tsk.

A good reminder for both practitioners and students to Shepardize those citations before heading to court!

I am the scholarship dude.


September 25, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

job opening at Nova Southeastern

Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center in Fort Lauderdale-Davie, Florida, has one opening for a position in its First-Year Lawyering Skills and Values Program ("LSV"), beginning in July 2009. Appointment is at the rank of Assistant Professor of Law.  Professors in the program are eligible for promotion and renewable contracts.  After an LSV professor's fourth successful year of teaching LSV, he or she is promoted to Associate Professor of Law and is eligible for five-year renewable contracts. The current starting salary for a professor with little or no experience teaching legal writing/legal skills is in the $75,000 range, with the salary being adjusted based on experience. LSV professors may also receive benefits such as travel and professional development, professional dues, summer writing grants, sabbaticals, and research assistants. LSV professors have essentially the same rights as tenure-line professors. This includes the right to vote on all hiring, tenure, and promotion decisions.

The first-year program integrates legal theory with practice, professionalism, and technology, combining instruction in legal research, writing, and analysis with other lawyering skills, such as interviewing, counseling, and negotiating. The LSV faculty work together to develop the curriculum and materials. The fall semester focuses on teaching objective writing, research, and negotiation using state law, and it introduces the students to objective writing for transactional issues. The winter semester focuses on litigation and persuasive writing; students produce a pre-trial motion and supporting brief using federal law.  The course ends with an oral argument and a mediation.

Most LSV professors teach between 25 and 30 students in their LSV course, and most LSV professors also teach a doctrinal course. This course is chosen based on the professor's skills and the school's needs; current doctrinal needs include Property and Intellectual Property.

Candidates should have significant experience in the practice of law as well as a strong academic background. To apply, send a resumé and cover letter to Professor Eloisa C. Rodriguez-Dod, Faculty Appointments Committee Chair, Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center, 3305 College Avenue, Fort Lauderdale-Davie, Florida  33314-7721. Representatives from the law school will attend the AALS recruitment conference in November but will also interview on campus. If you will be attending the AALS recruitment conference, indicate that in your cover letter. Direct questions to Prof. Rodriguez-Dod or Anthony Niedwiecki.


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

do you have news to share?

Newsletter Share your news with others! The AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research is soliciting news items for the fall newsletter.  News items may include upcoming conferences as well as recent promotions, publications, awards, etc.  If you have news, send it to Donna Williamson by Monday, October 6.


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

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Video of the SBA Clothing Sale

What can I say? Here is a video of what I think is the University of Utah Student Bar Association Clothing Sale.



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

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Wednesday is National Punctuation Day

Let's celebrate punctuation!  The originator of National Punctuation Day, Jeff Rubin, has a very cool website; it allows you to click on a punctuation mark to learn more about it.  It also has suggestions for celebrating the day, as well as photos of incorrectly punctuated signs--fun to use in class as a teaching tool.

(See a related news article too.) 


September 23, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Valpo legal writing featured

Ruthvancevalpo In celebration of the 100,000th visitor to the Legal Writing Prof Blog not long ago, we promised to feature the visitor's legal writing program in this space. Ruth Vance of Valparaiso University School of Law was the lucky winner, and we are pleased to share the following highlights of her school's program, as well as introduce you to her faculty colleagues.

  • Curriculum

For over ten years, Valparaiso has required its students to take a writing course in each of their three years, for a total ten credit hours of legal writing and research. The first semester of the first-year curriculum concentrates on objective legal analysis through comprehensive case briefs, office memoranda, and an opinion letter. The second semester focuses on persuasive and scholarly writing. In persuasive writing, students produce a trial brief and an appellate brief; they also orally argue their appellate briefs to three-judge panels drawn from a pool of local judges, practicing attorneys, law professors, moot court society members,   and student teaching assistants. Scholarly writing is introduced with a case comment assignment.

In addition to learning how to find cases, statutes, and secondary material, students learn to use administrative law materials and looseleaf services and to find and use legislative history. Students are taught how to do print and computer research for each source simultaneously. Students demonstrate their research proficiency through a practical exam and a written final exam in addition to exercises using each source.

During the second year students choose from an array of courses, including advanced legal research, advanced appellate advocacy (civil or criminal), and drafting courses in specific substantive areas of law.

Third-year students participate in a seminar where they do in-depth research on a particular topic, produce a scholarly paper, and present it to the seminar.

  • Staffing

Clareneuchterleinvalpo_2 Susanstuartvalpo_3


Six full-time professors composed of tenured, long-term contract, and visiting faculty teach in the first year program. Permanent faculty in addition to Ruth Vance are Mark Adams, Marcia Gienapp, Clare Neuchterlein, and Susan Stuart.

This year's visitors are Peter Blum, Michael Murray, and Bruce Ching.

Valpo Law was on the forefront of granting tenure to professors who teach legal writing; the first such grant was made in 1990. Librarians team teach research. The second-year writing courses are staffed by a mixture of full-time and adjunct faculty. The third-year seminars are led by full-time faculty.

In the first-year program, student teaching assistants conduct weekly supplemental meetings with groups of about six students. Besides providing needed mentoring, the teaching assistants reinforce what is discussed in class, answer student questions, conduct individual conferences, critique student papers, and teach citation. This is in addition to the teaching, conferencing, and critiquing done by the professors. Thus, students benefit from two pairs of eyes looking at their work. All grading is done by the professors.

  • Results

Repeatedly, students and alumni report that the preparation in legal research, writing, and problem-solving that they received at Valpo Law was the key to successfully launching and sustaining their legal careers.


September 23, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)