Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Details in legal writing

A recent case reinforces the need for careful attention to details in legal writing. BMS Natural Resources, Inc., v. Martin Co. Land Co. LLC, Civil Action no. 3:10-1261, 2011 WL 227646 (S.D.W. Va. Jan. 21, 2011). Because of spelling and grammatical errors, the complaint in that case was “virtually incomprehensible.” The lawyer who wrote it was surely embarrassed when the judge ordered him to correct the errors so the case could be resolved effectively.


March 30, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Book on "Classical English Rhetoric"

We note the publication of a new book that may be of interest to readers of this blog.  It is Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric, authored by Ward Farnsworth, Professor at Boston University School of Law.   Now, I haven't yet seen the book (only a promotional piece about it), but I wanted to share this discovery -- the website promoting the book includes GAMES related to the book.  As if we needed another distraction from grading!  Have fun!  Get more infomation by clicking here.


March 30, 2011 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Results from Stetson International Environmental Moot Court Competition

The Stetson International Environmental Moot Court Competition was originally started by a couple of legal writing professors (Royal Gardner and Darby Dickerson).  The competition has now been held for 15 years, and students now compete in regionals in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and South America.   
This year, the top 16 teams from nine countries were invited to the University of Maryland School of Law for the International Finals.  Roy Gardner has shared with us the following results from this year’s competition.
  • Champion, International Finals:  Law Society of Ireland, Team 1150
  • Runner-up:  University of Hawaii, William Richardson School of Law
  • Best Oralist , Final Round:  Laura Chen Allen, University of Hawaii, William S. Richardson School of Law
  • Semifinalists:
    • Hugh Wooding Law School (Trinidad)
    • University of the Philippines College of Law
  • Quarterfinalists:
    • Ateneo de Manila School of Law
    • Law Society of Ireland, Team 1143A
    • National University of Advanced Legal Studies, India
    • University of California-Hastings College of Law
  • Memorial Awards:
    • Best Memorial: Ateneo de Manila School of Law
    • Second Place Memorial: University of the Philippines College of Law
    • Third Place Memorial: National University of Advanced Legal Studies, India

 Oralist Awards, Preliminary Rounds:

  • Best OralistLance Cidre, University of California-Hastings College of Law
  • Second Best Oralist:  Vladimir F. Bedural, Ateneo de Manila School of Law
  • Third Best Oralist:  Sarelle Buckley, Law Society of Ireland, Team 1143
  • Fourth Best Oralist:  Douglas Raphael, University of Hawaii, William S. Richardson School of Law
  • Fifth Best OralistLuz Danielle O. Bolong, Ateneo de Manila School of Law
  • Sixth Best Oralist:  Tecla Duncan, Hugh Wooding Law School
  • Seventh Best Oralist:  Maeve Larkin, Law Society of Ireland, Team 1150
  • Eighth Best Oralist:  Tarun Gopalakrishnan, NALSAR University of Law
  • Ninth Best Oralist:  Jeric Alvin Ferrer Cruz, University of Philippines College of Law
  • Tenth Best Oralist:  Ajitha Pichaipillai, National University of Advanced Legal Studies, India

Hat tips to Roy Gardner and to all of the winners.




March 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New York Times cites Susan Duncan

Legal writing professor Susan Duncan of the University of Louisville was cited by the New York Times on Sunday. In an article titled "States Struggle with Minors' Sexting," author Jan Hoffman cited Duncan's Oregon Law Review article that calls for a legal response to minors' self-produced pornography.


March 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Who Won Jessup This Year?

The University of Sydney (Australia) beat Columbia Law School (USA) in an incredibly close final round of the 2011 International Rounds of the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition.  The final round was presided over by Thomas Buergenthal (former judge on the International Court of Justice), with and Dean Claudio Grossman (Dean of the American University Washington College of Law and Chair of the United Nations Committee against Torture), and Professor Mark Pieth (Professor of Criminal Law and Criminology at the University of Basel, Switzerland).

Now in its 52nd year, the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition is the world's largest moot court competition, with participants from over 500 law schools in more than 80 countries. The Competition is a simulation of a fictional dispute between countries before the International Court of Justice, the judicial organ of the United Nations. One team is allowed to participate from every eligible school. Teams prepare oral and written pleadings arguing both the applicant and respondent positions of the case.

Click here for more information about the Jessup Competition and the group that sponsors it, the International Law Students Association (ILSA).

Mark E. Wojcik, ILSA Board Member

March 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Important News for Jessup Moot Court Coaches

The 2012 Jessup Problem will involve a dispute between two states over the destruction of a cultural site of great importance and the important question of who gets to represent a state internationally in the immediate aftermath of a coup d'etat. It also involves international responsibility for the use of force by one state while taking part in a regional operation to bring about democracy.  Get more infomation about the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition by visiting the website for the group that organizes the Jessup, the International Law Students Association (ILSA). 

Mark E. Wojcik, ILSA Board Member

March 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A Reminder about the LWI Writers' Workshop

The Legal Writing Institute announced that the eighth LWI Writers’ Workshop will take place on July 11-13, 2011 at the Colorado Chautauqua at the foot of Boulder’s Flatiron Mountains.  The workshop will give up to twelve Legal Writing faculty the opportunity to spend time working on their academic writing projects and improving their scholarly skills. 

The Workshop will take place immediately after the Applied Storytelling Conference at the University of Denver Law School.  Workshop participants will leave Denver on the morning of Monday, July 11 and return to Denver on the morning of Wednesday, July 13, 2011.  All members of the Legal Writing Institute are eligible to apply for the Workshop.  You must have a scholarly writing project well underway and beyond the initial stages of performing the initial research and drafting a tentative outline. You must at least have some sort of partial draft.  You should arrive with a substantial work product.  In most cases, a scholarly writing project should result in a law review article. 

Participants make presentations on their projects to small groups of three and receive feedback.  Each session runs about ninety minutes.  They also may take part in several guided discussion groups, each on a different topic.  Participants will also have time to work on their drafts.  Facilitators for the Workshop will be Steve Johansen (Lewis & Clark), Jill Ramsfield (Hawaii), Chris Rideout (Seattle), and Lou Sirico (Villanova). 

Participants will pay approximately $300 as a registration fee plus their transportation to and from Denver.  LWI will cover transportation to and from Chautauqua, the cost of the facility, and all meals on July 11 and 12 plus breakfast on July 13.  For more information, contact Lou Sirico by email:   Sirico [at]

Hat tip to Lou Sirico


March 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Rocky Mountain Report #3

I'm not going to tell you anything about the sessions I attended.  What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.


March 26, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 25, 2011

report from Rocky Mountain #2

In the second session, I sat in on two great presentations on tips related to teaching oral argument effectively.

Deborah Borman and Dana Hill (Northwestern) talked about using improvisational theatre games to help prepare students for oral arguments.  One idea to help students become more comfortable with speaking is to use the "yes, and" game:  one student starts to tell the client's story, then the next student picks it up and continues, then the next, until the story is told. 

Bruce Ching (Valparaiso) talked about helping students to understand the impact of non-verbal persuasion by teaching them some basic concepts (body language, voice cadence and pitch) and then asking the students to find a video clip and analyze it using those concepts.  He demonstrated with YouTube clips of John McCain and then showed a student's analysis of a talk by President Obama.


March 25, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

report from Rocky Mountain

On an unusually cool and windy day in Las Vegas, the Rocky Mountain regional LRW conference started off with a full slate of sessions at 2 pm.

Susan Wawrose, Victoria VanZandt, and Sheila Miller (Dayton) spoke on using focus groups to learn what legal employers think of and want from law students and recent grads.  The trio talked about the logistics of putting together focus groups, the well-made investment of having a professional facilitator to lead the groups, the need for Institutional Review Board approval to tape the groups and use their responses, as well as some of the insights they received from the employers (including everything from analytical skills to appropriate office attire).


Next, Wendy Humphrey and DeLeith Gossett (Texas Tech) spoke on teaching "real world" professionalism and accountability to law students.  They discussed allocating a percentage of the semester grade for professionalism points (students start with full points and lost them only for behaviors such as lateness, prohibited web surfing, etc.), as well as using analogs of real-life legal documents (scheduling orders, motion for continuance, order to show cause) in the course to help students link the expectation and demonstration of professional behavior with the consequence of not doing it.




March 25, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Professional dress

This Wall Street Journal article raises some interesting issues about young women and provocative dress.  It focuses on teenagers, but some of its points may be of interest as law students prepare for oral arguments and job interviews.


March 24, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Map of Law Schools in the United States

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

in praise of checklists

The reason I love giving my students checklists is because simply putting something on a checklist makes it much less likely I will need to comment on it repeatedly on my students' papers when I critique them.  Of course checklists can be powerful learning tools for students, too, and lifesavers for busy attorneys.  Now Jennifery Romig, at Emory, has written "The Legal Writer's Checklist Manifesto",
8 J. ALWD (2011).  Here's how she explains her manifesto:

"Saving money, saving time, and saving lives: these are the accomplishments of the 'humble' checklist outlined in Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right (Metropolitan 2009). The Checklist Manifesto explores various types of checklists and their benefits for professionals working in various fields such as medicine, aviation, and construction. This book review focuses on checklists’ potential benefits for lawyers - and more specifically, for lawyers engaged in the task of legal writing. Widely available checklists provide excellent tools for new lawyers to check their work and internalize common stylistic practices of legal writing. These same checklists can also help experienced lawyers to edit their work efficiently and to notice and change bad writing habits they may have acquired. Yet the benefits of checklists extend beyond the individual writer laboring to complete an assignment. The Checklist Manifesto also explains the benefits of process-based checklists, which require members of a team simply to check in with one another at specified intervals. These process-based checklists could help teams of lawyers to work together more efficiently and produce more effective written work product. Process-based checklists also contribute to a healthy and open working dynamic in which all members of a team have robust opportunities to participate. The Checklist Manifesto makes a compelling case for the benefits of checklists in various industries. Legal writing - as one concrete embodiment of law practice itself - stands equally to gain."


March 22, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Evolved Appellate Brief

If you get the ABA Litigation magazine, take a look at The Evolved Appellate Brief by Larry A. Klein (Fall 2010, Vol. 37 No.1). The article contains advice that legal writing professors give in class and follow in their own writing.  This piece is unique because the author wrote from the perspective of a former appellate judge who has returned to private practice. He describes how and why he writes appeal briefs differently now than he did before he became an appellate judge. His main points: clarity is king, and the little techniques that help achieve clarity matter a lot.

In a similar vein, there's a helpful, short article in February's Florida Bar Journal, by Raoul Cantero, who served from 2002-08 on the Florida Supreme Court and is now practicing law.  He mentions three ways in particular to improve an appellate brief:

1. shorten the brief, by writing more concisely
2. include an introduction
3. organize the brief into sub-sections

hat tips: Mark Cooney & Ellen Saideman


March 22, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Intriguing case names

For a little mid-semester humor, check the February 2011 Texas bar Journal, where John G. Browning Browning-new  presents some interesting case names. His article, Saying it with Style, includes some aptly paired party names, like Plough v. Fields, Silver v. Gold, and Klump v. Duffus.  Another case name sounds like a roll call of “The Sopranos.” And some “in rem”  names are particularly intriguing—for example, United States v. Approximately 64,695 Pounds of Shark Fins. Another noteworthy title (not included in the article) is Roe v. Wade—which seems to present two ways to cross a river.


March 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

registration open for the Southeast Regional Legal Writing Conference

Image If you want to see these cherry blossoms in person, plan to attend the Southeast Regional Legal Writing Conference hosted by Mercer Law School on April 15-16.

The opening colloquium will focus on the relationship of critical theories to law school teaching, legal scholarship, and professional service.  Law and society scholar Prof. Martha Fineman will be the keynote speaker, followed by these distinguished panelists:
Susan L. Brody, Professor of Law, John Marshall Law School
Gregory Johnson, Director of Legal Writing & Professor of Law, Vermont Law School    
Margaret Johnson, Assistant Professor & Co-Director, Center on Applied Feminism, University of Baltimore School of Law   
Andrea McArdle, Professor & Director of Legal Writing, CUNY School of Law 
Teri McMurtry-Chubb, Director of Legal Analysis and Writing & Assistant Professor of Law, LaVerne College of Law
Teresa Godwin Phelps, Director of Legal Rhetoric & Professor of Law, American University (Washington College of Law)
Kathryn Stanchi, Professor of Law, Temple University School of Law
Saturday’s full day of concurrent sessions will include presentations on interdisciplinary and other approaches that legal writing and lawyering skills teachers are using to integrate theory and practice within their teaching, scholarship, and service. Friday morning’s program will feature small-group scholars’ workshops and forums.
Registration for the conference is free, but encouraged. Additional information is available at The conference is hosted by Mercer Law School with additional support provided by LexisNexis, Wolters-Kluwer, ALWD, Westlaw, and Carolina Academic Press.

hat tip:  Linda Barger


March 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Global Legal Skills Conference VI

A reminder:  The sixth Global Legal Skills Conference will be held at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago on May 5-7, 2011. 


March 20, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

kudos, Duquesne!

Duquense Congratulations to the legal writing faculty at Duquesne University!  As of July 1, 2011, Julia Glencer, Erin Karsman, and Tara Willke will have their ABA 405(c) positions converted to tenure-track faculty positions.  The director of the program, Jan Levine, says,"They're the finest group of teachers with whom I've ever worked."

This news was first reported at Duquesne’s highly successful Second Colonial Frontier Legal Writing Conference early this month. The theme of the conference was The Arc of Advanced Legal Writing: From Theory Through Teaching to Practice.

The conference began with a panel presentation by the three most well-known scholars of advanced legal writing: Prof. Michael Smith of U. Wyoming; Prof. Mary Ray of U. Wisconsin; and Prof. Elizabeth Fajans of Brooklyn Law School. Three professors from Dayton U. also presented a session on their surveys of Ohio practitioners, about the skills attorneys want to see in new law school graduates. Then the Duquesne legal writing professors gave a presentation about their new upper-division law firm simulation course (the development of that course was supported by a grant from the Association of Legal Writing Directors). Finally, in the closing session, a panel of three attorneys from the law firm of Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, addressed how law firms can encourage law schools to offer advanced writing courses.


March 19, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Email or E-mail?

The publishers of the AP Stylebook announced today that the the abbreviated term for electronic mail is losing a hyphen, which is described as "a relic of a simpler time when internet technology needed to be explained very carefully."  Click here for more information.  

Hat tip to Rex Wockner


March 18, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Scribes - The American Society of Legal Writers

Scribes -- the American Society of Legal Writers -- meets this weekend in San Diego, California.  The meeting is hosted by Steve Smith, Dean of the California Western School of Law, who is the new president of Scribes.  Today, three of the Scribes Superstars are in the school's moot court room presented a standing-room only seminar on legal writing.  Presenting were:

  • Richard Wydick (Professor Emeritus, University of California at Davis and author of Plain English for Lawyers, a book that has sold more than 800,000 copies).  He presented on "Specificity, Vagueness, and Ambiguity."
  • Joe Kimble (Professor at Thomas M. Cooley School of Law and the principal redrafter of the Federal Rules).  He presented "Tips on Legal Drafting."
  • Darby Dickerson (Dean of Stetson University College of Law and author of the ALWD Citation Manual).  She presented on "Professionalism and Legal Writing."
Any member of the legal profession is eligible to join Scribes as a regular, sustaining, or lifetime member.  Members must (1) have published at least one book on a legal subject, (2) authored two articles on legal subjects in a journal, magazine, or newsletter, or two decisions as a judge or administrative hearing officer, or (3) have served as an editor of a legal publication. 
Membership includes a journal, a newsletter, invitations to an annual award luncheon, and the support of an incredible organization for legal writers.  Click here for information on membership.
If you don't have that publication record yet, you can still join Scribes as an associate member.  Click here for more general information about Scribes. 

Mark E. Wojcik, Board Member, Scribes 

March 18, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)