Saturday, April 3, 2010

national moot court rankings

Brian Koppen's Law School Advocacy Blog recently released the final moot court rankings for 2009.  I'm very proud to note that Tech placed second!  Way to go, Rob Sherwin (our advocacy director) and all our fine students!

Here is this year's Top 10; a full list of all 124 schools is also available together with the competitions that the schools won in 2009.

1. South Texas
2. Texas Tech
3. Loyola - Chicago
4. The John Marshall Law School- Chicago
5. California - Hastings
6. Seton Hall
7. Columbia
8. Chicago-Kent
9. Washington University Saint Louis
10. Michigan State


Here is a link to the rules about how schools are ranked.


And here is a chart showing the top schools for 2007, 2008, and 2009.


April 3, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 2, 2010

from legal writing to lieutenant governor?!

Sheila Simon After 12 years as a legal writing professor at Southern Illinois University, Sheila Simon has been tapped to be the Democrat's nominee for Illinois Lieutenant Governor.  Shortly after the announcement, she took off on a whirlwind tour of the state.  Sheila is known in the legal writing community for her demonstration explaining how IRAC is like lasagna.  As one colleague noted, it's maybe not so far from making lasagna to the legislative process of making sausages. 




April 2, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Writing center instructor loses lawsuit to obtain full-time legal writing job

A federal district judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by a part-time writing center instructor at U. of Iowa School of Law who claimed she was denied a full-time legal writing job due to her conservative political views.  (UI's Writing Center is staffed by a combination of graduate students, law students and other writing professionals unlike the legal writing program which uses full-time professors).   We first brought you the story of Teresa Wagner back in January, '09 when she filed her lawsuit against the UI dean.  According to the complaint, Teresa Wagner was hired as a part-time tutor at the UI Writing Center in 2006 and then applied for a full-time legal writing professor job with the law school when it became available later that year.  After completing a round of interviews and a faculty presentation, the faculty voted against her in March 2007 in favor of other candidates who had less experience, according to Ms. Wagner.

She eventually sued alleging that the school violated her first amendment rights by retaliating against her for working for conservative organizations such as the National Right to Life Committee and the Christian lobbying group the Family Research Council.  The court disagreed, siding with UI by holding that Professor Wagner was rejected instead because she didn't "adequately lay out plans for her proposed course, not because of her political leanings:"

U.S. District Court Judge Charles Wolle granted summary judgment for UI finding that '[a] reasonable person in [the dean of UI's] position would have accepted the faculty recommendation to hire other applicants, not Wagner, for the full time and adjunct positions, believing that in doing so she was not violating any person's constitutional rights.'

You can read the rest of the story here courtesy of the Iowa City Press-Citizen or an abbreviated version here courtesy of the National Law Journal.

I am the scholarship dude.



April 2, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

What neuroscience can tell us about why we read fiction

Here's an interesting story from the New York Times that asks whether there's an evolutionary reason why we read and enjoy fiction (you can probably guess that it has to do with getting our genes into the next generation).  Among the theories being posited is that our intense interest in fictional characters sharpens our ability to glean the motives and "secret thoughts" of the real people around us which, of course, aids our survival.  Another theory suggests that our interest in fictional characters helps hone our sense of altruism (which also keeps the species alive):

[F]ictional accounts help explain how altruism evolved despite our selfish genes. Fictional heroes are what he calls “altruistic punishers,” people who right wrongs even if they personally have nothing to gain. “To give us an incentive to monitor and ensure cooperation, nature endows us with a pleasing sense of outrage” at cheaters, and delight when they are punished, Mr. Flesch argues. We enjoy fiction because it is teeming with altruistic punishers: Odysseus, Don Quixote, Hamlet, Hercule Poirot.

How does the interdisciplinary study of why we enjoy fiction help lawyers and those who teach them?  I'm glad you asked.  Perhaps it will provide insight into how we can leverage certain archetypal themes which evolution has made especially appealing to us to better help persuade the decision-maker (or at the very least hold her attention longer):

Humans can comfortably keep track of three different mental states at a time, Ms. Zunshine [an English professor at U. Kentucky] said. For example, the proposition 'Peter said that Paul believed that Mary liked chocolate' is not too hard to follow. Add a fourth level, though, and it’s suddenly more difficult. And experiments have shown that at the fifth level understanding drops off by 60 percent, Ms. Zunshine said. Modernist authors like Virginia Woolf are especially challenging because she asks readers to keep up with six different mental states, or what the scholars call levels of intentionality.

Perhaps the human facility with three levels is related to the intrigues of sexual mating, Ms. Zunshine suggested. Do I think he is attracted to her or me? Whatever the root cause, Ms. Zunshine argues, people find the interaction of three minds compelling. 'If I have some ideological agenda,' she said, 'I would try to construct a narrative that involved a triangularization of minds, because that is something we find particularly satisfying.'

Interesting.  You can read the rest here.

I am the scholarship dude.


April 1, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tell your students to eat before oral argument so they don't faint

That's what happened to this 3L Duke law student who was arguing a habeas case before the 4th Circuit as part of Duke's Appellate Litigation Clinic - he fainted as a result of failing to eat a hearty breakfast.  After he recovered, however, he delivered one of the best oral arguments those present had ever heardAbove the Law reports that the student was still answering a question from the Court as he lost consciousness after falling to the floor.  Wow! Irving Younger would be proud!

The lesson for those prepping for oral argument (both students and practitioners)?  A bagel and water beforehand won't cut it.  Eat protein and try to relax:

[The student, Stephen] Rawson says he tends to faint when his blood sugar drops during a period of high adrenaline. “It’s happened a number of times before,” he said. “I knew I was supposed to eat protein for breakfast, but the hot breakfast at the hotel was highly unappealing, and I was nervous, so I just had a bagel and some water. Clearly, that wasn't sufficient.”

You can read more about the story from the Duke Law News here, Above the Law here and the online ABA Journal here.

I am the scholarship dude.


April 1, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Changes in the Next Edition of the ALWD Citation Manual

Dickerson, Darby Scribes--The American Society of Legal Writers held a legal writing seminar in early March in Chicago.  One of the speakers on that wonderful program was Darby Dickerson, Dean of Stetson University College of Law and the Citation Goddess behind the ALWD Citation Manual.  Darby disclosed that she had just finished the corrections to the Fourth Edition of the ALWD Citation Manual.   Here's a summary of ten important changes.

1.  First off -- and you might want to sit down for this one -- is that you will have a choice on how to abbreviate words.  For example, the word "Department" when used in a case citation could be abbreviated (in the next edition) as "Dept." or as "Dep't"  This means that the ALWD and Bluebook abbreviations can be exactly the same.  You will see the full choices in Appendices 3 and 5 of the next edition.  Darby said that where there is such a little thing that doesn't affect the substance of the citation, she wants to give people a choice if it will increase the number of people using the book.

2.  In case names, you will also have a choice of using "U.S." or "United States" when the United States is a party.

3.  The next edition will address the increasing number of sources based on new technology.  Ereaders, for example, don't have page numbers.  Other sources include Blogs (like this one), Twitter, Podcasts, Vodcasts, YouTube Videos, GPO Access, E-annotations for ALRs (that appear only on-line), text messages, and instant messages (not a source of law really, but they have been cited in criminal court opinions).  There will also be an update on how to cite PDFs versus HTML.

4.  There will be more information on how to cite interdisciplinary sources such as non-legal dictionaries, but also other things such as live performances, works of art, architecture, maps, and patents.  Wow.

5.  There will be a new feature called "Snapshots."  In six or seven of the rules, this new feature will show students how to go from the source to the citation.  More examples will also be on the website.

6.  There will be more examples in the Practitioner Documents.

7.  There will be a new website to support users of the book.

8.  There will be a new companion manual of citation exercises authored by my co-blog-editor Coleen Barger and Brooke Bowman (Stetson).  The practice book will be called The ALWD Companion: A Citation Practice Book. It will also be published by Aspen and will be out this summer in time for adoptions for fall.

9.  There will be a new section on Tribal citations.

10.   You will be able to make your own tabs.

There are other changes, but these seem to be the most significant.  We look forward to seeing the new edition of the ALWD Manual. 

Hat tips to ALWD and to Darby Dickerson.



March 31, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Stetson Webinar on Commenting on Student Papers

Davis, Kirsten 2 Chestek, Ken 2 Defabritiis, Sabrina Stetson University College of Law has been hosting a series of webinars for legal writing faculty. 

I've enjoyed these programs tremendously and find them both interesting and helpful. 

Today's program featured Kirsten Davis (the Director of the Legal Writing Program at Stetson, she is pictured at left) as moderator, LWI President-Elect Ken "Macro" Chestek (Indiana University School of Law at Indianapolis), and Sabrina "Flash Drive" DeFabritiis (Suffolk University Law School, pictured at right).  They shared some excellent tips on how to use macros for text commenting and the flash drives for voice commenting on papers.  There was a small technical glitch toward the end of the session but otherwise a flawless presentation. 

The program will be posted on the Stetson website for those of you who couldn't join it live.

Great job everyone!


March 31, 2010 in Food and Drink | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Even judges Google

The Second Circuit recently ruled that a federal district judge who used Google to research his hunch about an issue raised in a criminal trial did not violate the federal rules of evidence.  The defendant in the case was suspected of robbing a bank while on parole.  A surveillance video showed the suspect wearing a yellow rain hat similar to the one recovered from the defendant's landlord's garage.  The judge took the liberty of running a Google search to see whether such a hat was commonly available.  The defendant claimed that the judge's use of Google violated "Rule 605 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, which states that 'the judge presiding at the trial may not testify in that trial as a witness,' by conducting the Internet search and relying on the outcome to make his ruling."

On appeal, the Second Circuit vindicated the trial judge's impromptu factual investigation by concluding that:

[The Judge's] use of the Web was merely the electronic equivalent of what a judge in an earlier era would have done: gone to a local department store to confirm in person the "common-sense" belief that a variety of yellow rain hats, like that worn by a bank robber, can be purchased.

As 'broadband speeds increase and Internet search engines improve,' judicial use of computers is only likely to increase, the court said.

'As the cost of confirming one's intuition decreases, we would expect to see more judges doing just that,' the court held. 'More generally, with so much information at our fingertips (almost literally), we all likely confirm hunches with a brief visit to our favorite search engine that in the not-so-distant past would have gone unconfirmed.'

The government had argued that the Judge's use of Google in this circumstance was permissible under Fed R. Evid. 201 which allows courts to "take judicial notice, whether requested or not" of a fact that is "not subject to reasonable dispute in that it is either (1) generally known within the territorial jurisdiction of the trial court or (2) capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned."

You can read the Second Circuit's per curiam opinion here and more commentary from here.

I am the scholarship dude.


March 30, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tips on Responding to Negative Criticism in an Academic Environment

Sometimes I think we can worry too much about our students' happiness at the expense of our own.  Indeed, we're not much good to them as teachers unless we take care of our own mental health needs first.   One can't be a very good teacher unless one's own house is in order, so-to-speak. 

And there are plenty of reasons why teachers, especially low-status ones, can get stressed and depressed as this column from Inside Higher Ed (part of a continuing series called "Winning Tenure Without Losing Your Soul") points out: 

One of the greatest difficulties of academic life is that there is a seemingly endless stream of negative information and devaluation, while positive experiences are few and far between. By this time of the academic year, you have probably received a wide range of negativity from colleagues, students, external reviewers, publishers, granting agencies, and random haters. This is perfectly normal and, quite frankly, some of it is part of the research, teaching, and professional growth process. But that doesn't mean it feels good! While most of us can handle a certain amount of frustration, rejection and disappointment, it's the cumulative effect of this negativity that can lead to exhaustion, paralysis, and/or depression. The problem occurs when we internalize the negativity and allow rejection to impact our sense of our own intellectual capacity, self-worth, and enjoyment of our work.

So what to do about it?

  • Ask Yourself: Does This Matter?
  • If It Matters, Identify the Heart of the Problem.
  • Consider the Negative Input as Data.
  • When Overwhelmed by Negativity, Reach Out for Support.
  • Pity the Haters.
  • When You Receive Positive Feedback -- Celebrate!
  • Develop an Internal System of Affirmation and Value.

The column's author then provides a great strategy for helping professors deal with the negativity and micro-aggressions that we all experience from time to time.  Read the rest here.

I am the scholarship dude.


March 30, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Registration now open for Emory conference on transactional skills

Emory is delighted to announce that the web site for its conference - Transactional Education:  What’s Next?  - is open for registration. 


The registration fee for the conference is $179.00. It includes a pre-conference lunch, snacks, and the reception on June 4 and breakfast, lunch, and snacks on June 5.   An optional dinner for attendees on Friday evening, June 4, is an additional $40.00.  Attendees are responsible for their own hotel accommodations and travel arrangements.

After you register, we would appreciate you completing a short survey about transactional courses at your school.  The results of the survey will be available at the Conference.

Registration closes May 25, 2010. 

To register, please click here.


Special hotel rates for conference participants are available at the Emory Conference Center Hotel less than one mile from the conference site at Emory Law. Subject to availability, rates are $129 per night. Free transportation will be provided between the Emory Conference Center Hotel and Emory Law. To make a reservation, call the Emory Conference Center Hotel at 800.933.6679 and use Group ID Number 20006017399 to obtain the special conference rate.

Learn more about the Emory Conference Center Hotel by visiting their website at:

Hat tip Professor Tina Stark.

I am the scholarship dude.


March 29, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Helene Shapo Wins the Burton Award

Shapo, Helene Helene Shapo (Northwestern University School of Law) was announced as the recipient of this year’s Burton Award for Outstanding Contributions to Legal Writing Education.  The award will be given to Helene at the Burton Awards banquet in June in Washington, D.C.

Congratulations Helene! 

Hat tips to Anne Kringel, Nancy Schultz, and Grace Tonner





March 28, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)