Tuesday, June 30, 2009

It was a dark and stormy night when the 2009 Bulwer Lytton awards were announced

It was David McKenzie of Federal Way, Washington, who penned this year's winning entry in the Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest, that annual extravaganza that looks for clever, but awful (in a clever way) renditions of prose that will make you say, "Wha???" but then go on to inspire you to write a really stinky opening sentence for today's blog post.Snoopy

Way back in 1830, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton penned the immortal opening to his novel Paul Duncan:

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

Sponsored since 1982 by the English Department at San Jose State, the competition looks for the "opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels." Entries are in fact limited to a single sentence, and competition administrators admonish entrants to try to keep their concoctions below a 60-word limit.

Ready to read the winning entry?

Folks say that if you listen real close at the height of the full moon, when the wind is blowin' off Nantucket Sound from the nor' east and the dogs are howlin' for no earthly reason, you can hear the awful screams of the crew of the "Ellie May," a sturdy whaler Captained by John McTavish; for it was on just such a night when the rum was flowin' and, Davey Jones be damned, big John brought his men on deck for the first of several screaming contests.

Click for more information, or to read winners in some of the 2009 contest's subcategory genres (e.g., Adventure, Detective, but so far, no category for Appellate Briefs).


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June 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 29, 2009

More on the private sector apprenticeships to make-up for lack of adequate law school training

We'd previously reported here that a few BigLaw firms were slashing new associate pay and instead offering them a one to two year apprenticeship to teach new grads what the law schools are apparently not.  At a time when job security for legal writing professors, clinicians and librarians is coming under attack from within the legal academy (related story here), some employers are saying loud and clear that law schools are not doing an adequate job teaching students how to actually practice law.  The price of a legal education keeps increasing while the financial value of that degree - both to the graduates themselves and employers - is declining - certainly in the short term.  Nevertheless, the ABA keeps approving more new law schools (follow up story here).  

Interestingly, in a non-scientific poll, Above The Law asked its readers what they think of the salary cut in exchange for post-graduate training and a whopping 70% said they liked it (or at least liked it better than a deferral).

And in a password protected article in the National Law Journal, there's a report that more firms are jumping on the apprenticeship bandwagon.  Here's an excerpt courtesy of ATL:

[Ford & Harrison and Dallas' Strasburger & Price] are putting new recruits through additional apprenticeship programs that they say will better train their attorneys for life at a law firm and for handling clients. Think of it as the equivalent of a medical residency, only with suits instead of scrubs.

The latest -- and so far largest -- firm to move to an apprenticeship model, 659-lawyer Howrey, announced its program last week. Starting next year, first-years at the firm will get a pay cut -- from $160,000 to $100,000 in base pay plus a $25,000 bonus to pay down law school loans -- and they'll spend a good portion of their time attending classes with partners and shadowing them on client matters. The apprenticeship period will last two years.

While this hardly makes a sustained trend, change is certainly afoot in the private sector as firms look to adjust the salary of new law graduates to a level more commensurate with their skills as well as find a means to supplement the skills training that they feel law schools are failing to provide.  One would hope that employers (read:  large donors) would put pressure on law schools to place more emphasis on skills training but that may be naive thinking on my part.

The current economic circumstances coupled with renewed interest in skills training generated by such studies as the Carnegie Report and Best Practices for Legal Education, make me believe that there are major opportunities here for skills faculty if we take the initiative.  

I am the scholarship dude.


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June 29, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Did a State University Barter Jobs for Law School Grads in Exchange for Law School Admission of Under-Qualified, Politically Connected Students?

This isn't strictly about legal writing but it is of great interest to legal writing professors and other professors who work in state schools. All law schools should consider admission factors other than a student's grades or LSAT scores when deciding whether to admit a particular student. But the University of Illinois College of Law is involved now in a scandal about having considered political pressure to admit students who were not otherwise qualified.  The law school reportedly did so in exchange for offers of employment for other students.  Click here to read more in a new post on the Law Librarian Blog.  That post asks "Did the University of Illinois Barter Jobs for Law School Grads in Exchange for Law School Admission of Under-Qualified, Politically Connected Students?"  The answer?  Yes.

Hat tip to Joe Hodnicki.


June 29, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Scalia, Garner Discuss Legal Writing at Texas State Bar Meeting

Picture 125 Picture 133 Law.com picked up a story from aTexas Lawyer Blog (Called "Tex Parte") about a talk that U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia and legal writing expert Bryan Garner gave in Garner's home state of Texas at the annual meeting of its state bar.   Among the writing tips Scalia shared was to limit the use of italics. He said that legal writing with lots of italics tends to read “like a high school girl’s diary.”  Click here to read more from Tex Parte.

The photos here are not from the event in Texas but from last year's Scribes luncheon during the ABA Annual Meeting in New York.  We still do not have any details about this year's Scribes luncheon, except that it will be in Chicago on the Saturday of the ABA Annual Meeting.


June 29, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Photos from the 10th Anniversary Burton Awards for Legal Writing Excellence

Burtonawards 032 Burtonawards 038
The Burton Awards were given out on Monday, June 15th, at a grand event at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.  This is a major national event in the legal writing community.

This year's event also marked the 10th anniversary of these now extremely prestigious awards that recognize excellence in legal writing (and its teaching).
Burtonawards 055 Burtonawards 056 We previously posted a video here on this blog of the award presentation for Outstanding Contribution to Legal Writing Education to Professor Richard K. Neumann, Jr., of Hofstra Law School.  Click here to see that video.  Professor Anne Kringel of the University of Pennsylvania Law School gave a touching introduction of Richard before the presentation of his his award.  

We are now able to share with you these additional photos from that evening, courtesy of our good friend Ralph Brill of Chicago Kent College of Law. 

Click on any photo to enlarge it.
Burtonawards 034 Burtonawards 064 In these pictures, Virginia Wise of Harvard Law School bestows the Book of the Year in Law Award to Justice Antonin Scalia and Bryan A. Garner.  They then held an interview with Bill Press, a radio host, on how they came to write the book, and the writing process.
Other awards were bestowed on Hon. Judith S. Kaye, Chief Judge, New York Court of Appeals (retired) for Lifetime Reform in Law; Chairman Sheila C. Bair, FDIC, Regulatory Innovation; David E. Kelley, Lifetime Writing in Law and Entertainment; and individual awards for outstanding writing to individual lawyers, general counsel, and law students.  Students Burtonawards 067 Burtonawards 068 from the following schools received the awards:  Columbia, Cornell, Creighton, George Mason, Georgetown, Seattle, Stetson, Temple, Oklahoma, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Vanderbilt.
Burtonawards 069 Burtonawards 077 In the other pictures you can see some of the notable legal writing personalities who attended the dinner and ceremony, including Nancy Schultz, Grace Tonner, Amy Sloan, Eric Easton, ALWD Citation Goddess Darby Dickerson, Karin Mika, and Lyn Goering.
Hat tip to Ralph Brill!


June 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Scholarship alert: "Practitioners Beware: Under Amended TRAP 47, "Unpublished" Memorandum Opinions in Civil Cases are Binding and Research on Westlaw and Lexis is a Necessity"


This article comes to us from our good buddy Professor Andrew Solomon at South Texas College of Law.  Practitioners Beware: Under Amended TRAP 47, "Unpublished" Memorandum Opinions in Civil Cases are Binding and Research on Westlaw and Lexis is a Necessity can be found at 40 St. Mary's L.J. 693-749 (2009).  Here's an excerpt from the abstract:

Despite this clear guidance, the amendment failed to address three significant issues related to the issuance, publication and availability, and precedential value of memorandum opinions in civil cases: (1) The issuance question: Would memorandum opinions under the new rule be issued in the same types of cases as unpublished opinions under the old rule?


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June 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A survey of university "Netiquette" policies relating to classroom laptop use

The Chronicle of Higher Ed has compiled a helpful survey of university policies regarding student laptop use in the classroom.  While the policies described may not necessarily reflect the prevailing practice at most schools, the ones included (as well as the reader comments) emphasize either limits on laptop use or an outright ban.  

As the article points out, other schools focus instead on helping professors make better use of laptops as teaching tools. 

I am the scholarship dude.


June 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Foolish or not, consistency is what winds the clock of "word nerds"

Although I teach legal writing, I've never considered the course to be much about the technical aspects of writing rather than teaching students to "think in ink."  As clear writing guru William Zinnser has said:  "Fuzzy writing is almost always the result of fuzzy thinking." Amen, brother. 

When it comes to the technical rules of grammar, syntax and the like - I'm as "po-mo" as a Quentin Tarrantino film:  As long as it works, who cares whether it adheres to archaic rules laid down by a bunch of long-dead white guys?.

Alas, I have suffered greatly for my beliefs.  "Hunted, despised . . . .living like an animal" while my colleagues take comfort in the so-called "rules" of good writing as a bulwark against their own existential crisis.

Uh, where was I?  Oh, yeah . . . . here's a good article from the Chronicle of Higher Ed discussing the challenges of working in an academic PR office at a time when language is rapidly evolving.  The article also includes a helpful list of common style and usage conventions.  Here's an excerpt:

While most of us recognize that there is no single, right way of writing something, it's nonetheless important that you reach a consensus in your PR office about how to treat common grammatical and punctuation questions, and then execute that consensus faithfully. To denote time, for example, should you use "a.m. and p.m.," "AM and PM," or "am and pm"? Should acronyms include periods (C.A.G.S., for certificate of advanced graduate studies) or not (CAGS)? Make your choice, then be consistent.

. . . . .

It's more than a matter of consistency. Much of it has to do with meaning and emphasis. It bothers us to see writing that is unclear or otherwise does not meet our high standards. Seemingly minor mistakes add up, especially when they appear over and over again, and as an institution of higher learning, inconsistencies reveal an inattention to detail and standards that can accrue to the detriment of your institution's academic reputation, consciously or otherwise.

(Ed note:  The author's emphasis on the adherence to "dead white-guy" rules in order to enhance the writer's ethos is something I agree with - insofar as it contributes to an effective end product).

Here's the rest of the article.  Enjoy!

I am the scholarship dude.


June 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

The changing methods and definitions of cheating

While I was off the grid last week, my former Dean Joseph Harbaugh sent me this interesting story from USA Today describing how high school students are using cellphones to cheat.

Here's an excerpt:

One-fourth of teens' cellphone text messages are sent during class, a new survey finds, despite widespread classroom bans on cellphones at school. The survey of 1,013 teens — 84% of whom have cellphones — also shows that a significant number have stored information on a cellphone to look at during a test or have texted friends about answers. More than half of all students say people at their school have done the same.

Law schools will be seeing those students beginning in about 5-6 years.  You can read the rest of the story here.

Apparently in response to this article, the Chronicle of Higher Ed has published some blog musings by one of its contributors suggesting that in light of the above data, academics may need to re-think their definition of "cheating." 

Don’t we see here a prime example not of the decay of personal integrity but instead the healthy spread of ‘participatory culture’?” [CHE's blogger] wrote. “In the digital age, intelligence is a collective thing, the individual now not a repository of knowledge but a dynamic component of it. We have entered a new realm, and if the definition of knowledge has changed, then so must the definition of cheating. Right?”

Check out the comments following this post.  This one is representative: 

Wrong!  Testing is a legitimate form of assessment. If you can just get the answers off a fellow student, how much do you really know? I hope my surgeon doesn’t have to interrupt my surgery to text a colleague to find out what he should have learned in medical school.

What do you think, America?  Please leave your comments below.

I am the scholarship dude.




June 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The "Top 10" most ridiculous lawsuits ever filed

Who doesn't like a "Top 10" list?  And with this one, you might even be able to find some good hypothetical research and writing problem material (in fact, I've used a problem based on # 8 for years - whether an online publisher of bomb-making plans can be held civilly liable for the death of a child killed while following the plans and # 10 sounds wicked interesting for anyone who likes John Cage and/or intellectual property).

The list is courtesy of the London Independent with a most appreciative hat tip to the Legal Blog Watch for hipping us to the story:

1.  Beers 'n Babes

2.  When all else fails, sue yourself

3.  The $65m pants

4.  Batman sues Batman

5.  The playboy pensioner

6.  Hit and sue

7.  You're too famous!

8.  Natural born suers

9.  Give me my kidney back!

10. The sound of silence    

I am the scholarship dude.


June 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Legal OnRamp founder offers advice for fixing broken legal education system

Paul Lippe, the founder of the lawyer-social networking site Legal OnRamp, offers some advice on how law schools can do a much better job preparing students for the practice of law.  And guess what?  Adding more skills training into the curriculum is among the top suggestions.

Here are the rest courtesy of the online ABA Journal:

• Accelerate the curriculum and include: 1 year of case method (only); 1 year of clinical training of legal training

• Add more practice-oriented teaching.

• Be smarter about using technology to connect students to practitioners and clients.

• Move back from constituent-centered management to mission-centered management of the school.

Read more of Mr. Lippe commentary here.  I am the scholarship dude.


June 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Debt relief for our students is on the way

Courtesy of the College Cost Reduction & Access Act.  The online ABA Journal breaks it down this way:

On the public interest side, loan forgiveness works like this: After making loan payments for 10 years  on government-backed loans, the government will forgive the loan balance for qualifying borrowers.
Then there's income-based repayment, in which monthly loan payments are capped at an amount relative to the borrower's income. After 25 years, the federal government will forgive any remaining loan debt, the NLJ notes. The income-based option wouldn't likely work for those landing $100,000-plus jobs out of law school. But those who are in the $60,000 pay range, but have more than $100,000 in debt, may be a good fit for the option.

The downside?  (Isn't there always a downside?):

"The program is complicated enough that it is difficult for students to understand on their own,"      Heather Jarvis, a senior program manager at Equal Justice Works, told the NLJ. "As of right now, hardly anyone has a clue about this legislation, and in my mind it's the biggest thing to hit public service in a decade."

Read the ABA Journal's coverage here and a more detailed analysis here courtesy of the National Law Journal

I am the scholarship dude.


June 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Attention legal researchers - Lexis to offer June 30 webinar on how Headnotes work

This is a webinar for law school faculty taking place on June 30.  It's entitled "Search by Topic or Headnote" and I think it's free but can't tell for sure from the link I received.

E-registration is required and you can sign up here.

I am the scholarship dude.


June 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

More critiques of Judge Sotomayor's writing style

We had previously reported on some early critiques of the Supreme Court nominee's writing style here.  The National Law Journal has gathered reactions from several more factions here.  This is an excerpt:

Stephanie Mencimer in Mother Jones magazine panned Sotomayor's writing style as "an impenetrable legal opus." In The New York Times, Adam Liptak was a shade more diplomatic when he wrote that her opinions are "not always a pleasure to read." Liptak also asserted that her opinions "reveal no larger vision, seldom appeal to history and consistently avoid quotable language."

Indiana University Maurer School of Law -- Bloomington professor William Popkin, author of a 2007 book on the evolution of judicial opinion writing, took a look at some of Sotomayor's decisions at the request of The National Law Journal. His verdict: "Her approach is to touch every base with a legalistic and analytical style. This way of writing will not bring along converts from either the public or the broader legal profession, outside of the area of specialty with which the case deals. Nor will it stand up to [Antonin] Scalia, as [John Paul] Stevens or [Stephen] Breyer do."

Former federal trial judge Paul Cassell said he does not think Sotomayor's methodical approach gives "exceptional guidance" to lower court judges. "Someone with a better style, who can cut through the morass and see the key issue, might offer clearer guidance." Cassell, now a law professor at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, said he has reviewed Sotomayor's decisions and didn't see "any flashes of light or touches of brilliance."

Read the rest of NLJ's coverage here.

I am the scholarship dude.


June 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Some universities start a valet parking service for students (and faculty)

File this under "you gotta be kidding me!"  But yes, friends, it's true - some universities have started to offer a valet service to assist students, faculty and visitors who are either having trouble finding a parking spot or are just running late for class.  According to the website of  the University of Southern California:

Running late to class? Late for a meeting? Can’t find parking? Don’t stress!
USCTransportation now offers DAILY valet parking services.

As Robin Leach might say, "but the luxurious pampering doesn't stop there for those students lucky enough to be attending Florida International University" because they even offer a car wash and wax service so you can step into a sparkling new ride once classes are over.

"Champagne wishes and caviar dreams" indeed.

Whatever happened to getting to campus early enough to find a parking space?  And how long before this trend hits law school campuses?

Hat tip to Inside Higher Ed.

I am the scholarship dude.


June 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Five ways attorneys can make use of a Kindle in practice

Kindle (and similar devices) will likely be coming to law school classrooms soon (it would be presumptuous to say this is a "definite" since trying to predict which technologies the legal academy will wholesale embrace is foolhardy).   Here's a brief article about how lawyers can make use of the devices now courtesy of the Legal Blog Watch:

Thankfully, Justin Rebello of the Wisconsin Law Journal gives you five ways that you can use the Kindle for your law office. First, the Kindle can be used to read deposition transcripts and make notes on the screen via an online content manager. Second, lawyers can load documents onto the Kindle using a digital text self-publishing tool and take them home for review. Third, the Kindle's digital text platform allows attorneys to upload, format and sell books at the Kindle Store -- which can help you to establish yourself as an expert or attract clients through education-based marketing. Fourth, the Kindle lets you catch up on blogs while you're out of the office because you can download the blog content to the Kindle for review. And finally, while the Kindle isn't cheap -- $359 for the current version and $489 for the next upgrade -- in the long run, you can save money on printing costs by converting Web versions of magazines and newspapers for the Kindle.

Hat tip to Above the Law for, um, tipping us off.

I am the scholarship dude.


June 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

More on the Firing of DePaul's Law Dean

We posted previously on the unbelievably stupid decision by DePaul University´s Provost to fire DePaul Law School Dean Glen Weissenberger.  Click here and here to read our previous posts on that.

DePaul University announced that Illinois Appellate Court Justice Warren Wolfson would be the interim dean, starting August 15.  Click here to read our post about that.

Brian Leiter writes in his blog today that in his twenty years of legal education experience that he has never seen any law school treated as badly by its central university administration as has DePaul. Leiter advised Justice Wolfson to do a bit of housekeeping as Dean and then resign and encourage DePaul to reinstate Dean Weissenberger.  If he doesn't do that, Professor Leiter suspects he would spend most of next year bidding farewell to members of the DePaul faculty.  Click here to read more.


June 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Change is here: BigLaw slashes salaries and offers new associates "apprenticeships" to supplement inadequate law school training

This is a very positive and inevitable move.  You don't really need to be Peter Lynch to know that paying new law grads $160K to start is not a sustainable business model.  In light of that, Washington D.C.'s Howrey has decided to significantly cut the pay of new associates to $100K and will place them in an "apprenticeship program" for their first two years at the firm.

As the firm memo, obtained by Above the Law, states:

Participants in Howrey's Tier 1 Program will spend only one-third of their time during the first year on client billable work to permit them to devote the remainder of their time to pro bono representations and a wide range of training programs, including the firm's signature professional development experience - the Howrey Academies. In Year One, associates will work with Howrey's full-time, in-house writing instructor, be assigned to trial teams, and take advantage of other programs offered by Howrey's award-winning professional development team. They will dedicate approximately one-third of their time to pro bono and public interest matters, which will afford them the opportunity to develop the advocacy skills and in court experience that are central to Howrey's practice. The emphasis on training will continue into Year Two, with client secondments, judicial externships, and other advanced development opportunities added to the curriculum. Billable hours in the second year will be capped at roughly half of total hours.

Read the rest of ATL's coverage of this groundbreaking story here.

ABA and law deans take note:  The market is demanding, nay, issuing a blood-curdling scream, that employers must supplement the skills training of new grads because law schools aren't presently doing an adequate job.  

Legal writing profs - opportunity is knocking. 

I am the scholarship dude.


June 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

First law grad from online law school admitted to Massachusetts bar

A student who graduated from the unaccredited Concord Law School, which is an online law school, recently won the right to be admitted to the Massachusetts bar after successfully challenging that rule that required a degree from an ABA accredited law school.

The student, 57 year old Ross Mitchell, said he made the decision to attend Concord due to cost - $38K versus $100K (at least) for a brick and mortar education. Mitchell is also a member of the California bar which doesn't require applicants to have graduated from an ABA accredited school.

The Boston Herald is reporting the story here but a big 'ol hat tip to our good buddies at Above the Law for pointing us to it.

What, if anything, does this suggest about the future of legal education and/or the pressure on certain law schools to deliver a cost effective "product?"

I am the scholarship dude.


June 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

What's worse than an "F"? Canadian university comes up with an answer

The Chronicle of Higher Ed is reporting that good 'ol Simon Fraser U. in British Columbia (aka "Beautiful B.C.") has approved a new grade called "FD" which stands for "failure for academic dishonesty."  The new grade is intended to serve as a veritable "Scarlet Letter" for those caught cheating and will remain on a student's transcript for two years after they are dismissed at which point it will convert to a plain old "F." 

Tell us, America, what you think of this idea from our good neighbors to the north.  Please feel free to leave your comments below.

I am the scholarship dude.


June 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)