Wednesday, November 18, 2009

a rule is like . . .

In a recent class, a student was confused about the difference between the rule and the rule explanation/proof, and a classmate offered this explanation:


The rule is like describing the forest, and the rule explanation is like describing the trees.


I thought that analogy worked pretty well!  Do you have other good analogies that you use in teaching?



November 18, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Scholarship alert: "Enhancing Law School Success: A Study of Goal Orientations, Academic Achievement and the Declining Self-Efficacy of our Law Students"

Christensen, Leah Not legal writing per se, but authored by legal writing prof Leah M. Christensen and found at 33 Law & Psychol. Rev 57 (2009).  From the introduction:

I have long been interested in how the most successful law students learn. For the top law students, do they innately possess superior skills or can we teach law students the skills and strategies that will contribute to their success? What motivates law students to learn? During the last two decades, psychologists have been using achievement goal theory as a framework with which to examine the relationship between achievement goals and student success. Achievement goal theory examines the goals that students pursue in an academic setting.  The current psychological research suggests that there is a correlation between achievement goal motivation (i.e., why a student wants to learn) and a student's overall success.  Dr. Carol Dweck, an expert in achievement goal theory, describes the differences in goal orientations as follows:

Individuals may strive for high grades for quite different reasons. They may seek high grades in order to prove that they are intelligent or as an index of learning or mastery of the material. In this approach, these two aims - seeking to prove one's competence versus seeking to improve one's competence - represent two qualitatively different classes of goals (performance goals vs. learning goals, respectively) and, as such, would be expected to have different patterns of behavior-cognition-affect attending their pursuit.

I am the scholarship dude.


November 18, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Yet more on the future of commercial legal research databases versus open access

This time it's the Law Librarian Blog founder and our good buddy Joe Hodnicki weighing in on the Bob Berring video.  Joe thinks that competitive forces will inevitably challenge Wexis' market share and that some of the competition will come from the open access sector:

In It's Time for Law.Gov, I suggested that legal information professionals "imagine a world where choosing to use LexisNexis and Westlaw is based primarily on their online secondary legal resources, interfaces and research tools after the duopolist market structure in the legal publishing industry has been smashed because authenticated primary legal information is available from multiple sources." This will be a world where "competition" is not defined as West vs. LexisNexis. Competition in the marketplace for legal information will be analogous to the situation the Big Three auto makers faced in the late 1970s-early 1980s when US consumers began buying Japanese (and later Korean) cars and trucks in mass instead of buying over-priced poorly engineered and assembled gas guzzlers from Detroit. 

This will be a world of consumer options defined by value-added services far beyond late 19th-early 20th century editorial contributions like headnotes and key numbers, and the shoehorning of publication formats like the legal treatise into WEXIS databases that were neither designed nor intended to accomodate them. The primary reason to buy WEXIS products will likely be the quality of the secondary legal products they offer, whether they will offer them in usable digital formats, and something legal information professionals really haven't seen in a very long time, market-based competitive pricing. The need to be innovative will be forced upon WEXIS by the marketplace because WEXIS will have lost its stranglehold on primary legal materials.

Competition may very well be defined as involving West and LexisNexis and BNA and Wolters Kluwer and probably something like "Google US Law" plus start-up companies taking advantage of the return of the "Invisible Hand." This market will eventually settle on redesigned products and services, modern, that is to say, more sophisticated methods of distribution, plus licensing options and pricing that is more beneficial to all members of the legal information community, namely, end users and those institutional providers (read law libraries) and legal publishers who are agile enough to accept the challenge.

Those of us who have been in this profession long enough to remember the advent of online legal research services can recall the early negative reaction to them and that reaction's lack of foresight. Too bad we didn't put some in a time capsule 30-plus years ago. Perhaps someone will put the Berring video in a time capsule with a note that reads, "Open in 2040." Considering the pace of change, perhaps it should read "Open in 2020."

You can read the rest of Joe's well-informed predictions here.

I am the scholarship dude.


November 17, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The 2009 "word of the year"

The envelop please . . . and the winner is:  "unfriend!"  That's according to the publisher of the New Oxford American Dictionary.  "Unfriend" is a verb meaning "to remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook. As in, 'I decided to unfriend my roommate on Facebook after we had a fight.'"

Runners up for "word of the year" include:

Intexticated:  distracted because texting on a cellphone while driving a vehicle.

Sexting:  the sending of sexually explicit texts and pictures by cellphone.

Funemployed: taking advantage of one’s newly unemployed status to have fun or pursue other interests.

Netbook:  a small, very portable laptop computer with limited memory.

Tramp stamp:  a tattoo on the lower back, usually on a woman.

See the rest of the also-rans for 2009 right here.

Hat tip to Chronicle of Higher Ed.

I am the scholarship dude.


November 17, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

For typography nerds, life can be hell

Today's NYT has a fun article entitled Mistakes in Typography Grate the Purists about spotting font faux pas all over town (and elsewhere).  For example, did you know that the font on the ship pressure gauges in the movie Titanic is Helvetica which wasn't created until 45 years after the ship sank.  Seems like someone in the prop department has some serious 'splainin' to do.

And for those who are really anal-retentive when it comes to lettering, don't even think about watching Mad Men:

It is rare to find a review of the show that does not rave about the accuracy of its early 1960s styling, yet the “Mad Men” team is woefully sloppy when it comes to typography. Mark Simonson, a graphic designer in St. Paul, Minnesota, blogs about typographic misdemeanors on his Web site,, and he once catalogued the flaws in “Mad Men.” The 1992 typeface, Lucida Handwriting, appears in an ad in the opening titles. Gill Sans, a British typeface designed in 1930 but rarely used in the United States until the 1970s, is used for office signage. A lipstick ad features one wholly appropriate 1958 font, Amazone, but two incongruous ones, 1978’s Balmoral and 1980’s Fenice. He noted lots of other clunkers too, but admits that he has spotted fewer new errors in the most recent episodes of “Mad Men.”

You can read the rest of the NYT article here.

Hat tip to Doreen McKee.

I am the scholarship dude.


November 17, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

You get what you pay for.

Academics can argue about whether free or fee-based legal data bases are better, but when the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center surveyed practicing attorneys, here's what they found:

Images  "You Get What You Pay For: 
Overall, respondents are significantly more satisfied with the characteristics of fee-based online legal research resources than they are with those of free online legal research resources.  Forty-five percent of respondents report that they are 'not very satisfied' with the ability to search multiple databases simultaneously in free online resources. More than two-thirds (69%) of respondents report being 'very satisfied' with depth of coverage, 63% with the availability of advanced search options of fee-based online resources, and 59% with the ability to search multiple databases simultaneously."

More on that study is available here.


hat tip:  Hollee Temple



November 17, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 16, 2009

A resource to help educate law students about cost-effective alternatives to Wexis

In this post from the Law Librarian Blog, Law Prof Blog founder Joe Hodnicki notes that law students can get hooked pretty easily on the free use of Westlaw and Lexis only to discover in their first jobs that the client won't pay for it.  To the rescue comes Cleveland State's law librarian extraordinaire Susan Altmeyer with this series of PowerPoint slides (follow the link) designed to give students a crash course on cost-effective alternatives to Wexis.

If you use Susan's work, please send her an acknowledgment and thank you.

I am the scholarship dude.


November 16, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

More thoughts on the Bob Berring "open access" versus pay-to-play legal research debate

Here are some more thoughts from DePaul's Mark Giangrande via the Law Librarian Blog regarding yesterday's post here regarding the Bob Berring video:

Bob Berring’s statement about Lexis and Westlaw being a better alternative to legal research than volunteer Internet sites is pretty accurate.  Both databases offer depth of resources, organization, precise search language and tools that simply can’t be matched by the Internet in its current form.  I also agree with Berring that the work performed by volunteer sites is admirable.  Nonetheless, they do not come close to the rich research experience available to Lexis and Westlaw subscribers.  If nothing else, West (and Westlaw) has a 100+ year start on gathering and organizing Anglo-American law and providing the metadata to make that law accessible.  Lexis started in 1975 but it was then and is now well capitalized to compete with West at the same level and with comparable editorial standards.  Who else is out there who can match these efforts (read through to the bottom for the answer to this question)?

You can read the rest of Mark's thoughts here.

I am the scholarship dude.


November 16, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Chicago judge takes lawyers to task for submitting brief "dripping with sarcasm"

Both Above the Law and the National Law Journal recently reported on an incident in which Illinois Judge Diane Cannon castigated two Sidley Austin lawyers for submitting a brief in connection with a motion to quash a subpoena that the judge characterized as "reprehensible" and "dripping with sarcasm."

A pdf of the offending brief can be found here.

Most others who've read it find it pretty harmless stuff.  Indeed, in a reader's poll conducted by ATL (scroll down), 89.1% of those surveyed thought the Sidley brief was "within the bounds of zealous advocacy."  So, did the judge overreact?

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

I am the scholarship dude.


November 16, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

kudos, Kristin!

Gerdy_kristin2  For four years now we've been using this blog to get the word out about the many accomplishments of legal writing professors.  Well today we have the pleasure of announcing that Kristin Gerdy, legal research and writing professor at Brigham Young University, has been accepted into the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  We have it on good authority that the audition system there is harder to ace than American Idol.  Congratulations, Kristin!

hat tip:  Ruth Anne Robbins


November 16, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Fall Newsletter of the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research

Aalslogo The Association of American Law Schools Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research has just published its Fall 2009 Newsletter. Click here to download a copy of the new Fall 2009 Newsletter.  It is 18 pages long, filled with what is probably the largest collection ever of recent news of section members.  The newsletter also has the "Legal Writing Dance Card" for anyone attending the AALS Annual Meeting in New Orleans this January.

And if you missed the Spring 2009 issue (or just want to see it again), click here to download a copy of the Spring 2009 Newsletter.


November 16, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Professor Bob Berring on whether open access will threaten Wexis legal research dominance

Our good friends over at the Law Librarian Blog have been posting for several weeks on the now famous video interview with Professor Bob Berring opining about whether open access legal research databases will supplant the commercial players, primarily Westlaw, Lexis and upstarts like Bloomberg.  In short, the answer is "no." 

Professor Berring says that neither private "volunteers" nor the government has the financial incentive nor resources to match the value added provided by the commercial companies.  It's not enough for private or public open access advocates to merely gather and make available for free thousands of cases and statutes.  What legal researchers need instead is not just the "law" but the editorial enhancements (i..e headnotes, the digest system and the like) the commercial companies provide.  And because that is such a labor-intensive and expensive addition to what is otherwise free public information (see this fascinating video that shows in real time how Westlaw creates headnotes), only private enterprise has the ability and financial wherewithal to make these enhancements.

The man makes a good point; I'm convinced.    I wonder what our own resident legal research expert and regular reader and contributor to this blog, Chris Wren, thinks.

I am the scholarship dude.


November 15, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

A great website for looking up synonyms, antonyms and definitions

Maybe many of you already use an online resource like this, but it was news to me when I stumbled across it over the weekend.  It's a website called that provides the user with a definition (although it doesn't say from which dictionary the definition is derived), a list of synonyms as well as antonyms.  Per the website's homepage: is the web's best resource for English synonyms, antonyms, and definitions. Type in a word and the synonym finder will come up with a list of synonyms. Check out the most popular online synonym searches to find the right word for any occasion. Use the antonym tool to find find antonyms and check out the definitions feature to read the definition.

An absolutely boffo website for student and teacher authors alike!

I am the scholarship dude.


November 15, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Empire State Legal Writing Conference -- call for proposals

Images  The First Annual Empire State Legal Writing Conference will be held at Hofstra University School of Law on May 14, 2010.  The planning committee invites proposals for presentations at this conference on a broad range of topics relevant to those teaching legal writing and research.  While proposals from those who have previously presented at legal writing conferences are welcome, this conference also  seeks proposals from those who have not presented before.  Feel free to contact any of the planning committee members for help developing a proposal or to see sample proposals. Proposals should be limited to one page, single-spaced, and should include:


1. title of proposed presentation;
2. brief description of proposed presentation and the teaching method for the presentation (lecture, simulation, small group exercises, etc.);

3. a two-sentence summary for the program brochure;
4. time needed for presentation -- 25 minutes or 50 minutes;
5. technology needed;
6. contact information

7. Also state whether you have previously presented at any national or regional legal writing conferences.

The deadline for submissions is December 20, 2009.  Please e-mail proposals, as a Word document attachment, to:

Amy R. Stein,  Conference Chair, Hofstra University School of Law    (516) 463-5927

Planning Committee

Robin Boyle-Laisure, St. John’s University School of Law

Ian Gallacher, Syracuse University College of Law

Tracy McGaugh, Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center

John Mollenkamp, Cornell University Law School

Amy Stein, Hofstra University School of Law

Marilyn Walter, Brooklyn Law School


hat tip:  Amy Stein


November 15, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

it takes a village

Marlow  Professor Melissa Marlow, at Southern Illinois University, has published an article for everyone involved in legal education.  She explains how It Takes A Village to Solve the Problems in Legal Education: Every Faculty Member's Role in Academic Support, which you can find now at 30 U. Ark. Little Rock L. Rev. 489 (2008).  If you teach at a law school full-time, as an adjunct part-time, or even "just" helping out judging students' oral arguments, this article will help you better understand your larger role within the village of the law school.


November 15, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 13, 2009

client-centered legal writing

Jason Cohen, at Rutgers, has written an article entitled Know Your Client: Maximizing Advocacy by Incorporating Client-Centered Principles into Legal Writing Rhetoric Practice.  Here's how he describes his shift in focus, in his abstract:

"This article seeks to slightly shift the landscape of legal writing theory, from one which primarily asks the writer to consider the audience, to one which also incorporates principles of client-centeredness which require the writer to focus equally on the client. Today, legal writing's model of persuasion communication is almost exclusively a linear theory that focuses on the dialogue between the attorney/writer and the decision-maker/judge. This model is embodied in legal writing's well-established advice that attorneys must 'know their audience.' The roots of this theory are well established: Classical and New Rhetoric Theory have consistently emphasized the audience's role in persuasive discourse.

"Clinicians, however, have developed theories of client-centered lawyering which require that the attorney uncover their client's values, goals and objectives that may go well beyond the discrete litigation at hand. Client-centeredness encourages the attorney to incorporate this information into his/her advocacy on behalf of their client. This article advocates incorporating select principles from client-centered lawyering into legal writing. The primary purpose for this application is persuasion and advocacy, not necessarily empowering the disenfranchised client.

"This article begins first by exploring current theory from legal writing scholarship which focuses on the writer's need to write for the audience. Although by now, the 'know your audience' approach is somewhat ingrained, what may not be well known is that this approach stems historically from rhetorical theories of communication. After establishing the rhetorical connection to audience, and the devices used to write for the audience, the article next explores the development of client-centered lawyering, which traditionally focuses on achieving the greatest client satisfaction, beyond merely winning the case. Inherent in this approach is the dialogue that must occur between practitioner and client. Third, the article proposes application of principles from client-centered theory to legal writing theory, suggesting a shift from relying solely on a 'know your audience' approach to now also including a 'know your client' approach. The devices that lawyers have been taught regarding audience can also be applied to knowing the client. Finally, the article concludes by examining practical examples of incorporating client-centered principles into advocacy writing."


November 13, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Happy Belated Birthday to . . . US!!!

The Legal Writing Prof Blog started November 5, 2005.  We've had more than 300,000 visitors in the past five years and more than 450,000 page views.  Most of our readers are in the United States, but we have readers all over the world (including, most recently, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Uganda, rhe Russian Federation, the Netherlands, France, India, Jamaica, and Estonia).

We thank you for your continued support and contributions to the blog.  Thank you, everyone.

Nancy, Sue, Coleen, Mark, and Jim 

November 12, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

LWI "Nuts and Bolts" Workshops on December 4 for New Writing Teachers and Adjunct Faculty Who Teach Legal Writing

LWI 25 The Legal Writing Institute is holding "Nuts and Bolts" Workshops on December 4, 2009 in Chicago (at The John Marshall Law School) and in New York Ciity (at the Manhattan Campus of St. John's University School of Law). 

Click here to download the latest version of the program, which includes the list of speakers and a printable registration form.  Download LWI New Teachers Workshop (Version 2.7)   You can also register online (see the information in the program).


November 12, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

for Veterans Day


In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army


November 11, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

chair in Law in Advocacy (corrected)

The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law is seeking nominations and applications for its Douglas Stripp Distinguished Professorship of Law in Advocacy.

For this position, candidates should have a J.D. degree (or equivalent) from an accredited law school, experience or promise in leadership and program development, a record or promise of scholarly writing that will make a meaningful contribution to the academic literature and the profession, and significant experience in teaching advocacy or as an advocate. 


The Stripp Professor will collaborate with law school and campus faculty, the legal community, and local and national advocacy organizations to develop an innovative, integrated, and interdisciplinary advocacy curriculum; organize regional and national symposia; and develop and implement programs that advance advocacy and advocacy education.  The expectation is for the Stripp Professor to build these activities into a Center for Advocacy at the law school.     

The position will be open until filled, and review of applications will begin Dec. 1st.  Nominations and applications should be sent to:


Professor David Jacks Achtenberg, Chair
Douglas Stripp Distinguished Professor Search Committee
University of Missouri - Kansas City School of Law
Kansas City, MO 64110-2499
Phone: (816) 235-2382; Fax: (816) 235-5276


hat tip: Ed Richards





November 11, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)