Thursday, September 15, 2011

Brill Chair Investiture

Brill Chair Brill, Ralph Chicago-Kent College of Law held the Brill Chair Investiture on Tuesday September 13th, honoring legal writing legend Ralph Brill.  

Chicago-Kent announced the public phase of its first campaign back in 2006 to raise $1.5 million to fund its first endowed chair.  More than 400 Chicago-Kent alumni and friends contributed $1.5 million to complete the campaign to fund the Ralph Brill Chair.  While they were waiting to hold the investiture ceremony, the school had its first Ralph Brill Distinguished Visitor, who was Terri LeClercq.  Click here to read an earlier post about that (and to see a lovely picture of Terri).

Adrian Walters will be the chair holder.  We hear that he's a lovely guy from Nottingham University in Great Britain, and that he has a terrific sense of humor, not too much different from Ralph.  And like Ralph, he's very much into students and quality teaching. 

Although Ralph didn't say a word during the ceremony, he was still the star of the show.  His mere presence ensures that Legal Writing takes the center stage.  It's awe-inspiring to watch how many people who come up to him to thank him for how he changed their lives and fought for the quality of their legal education.  Ralph, of course, fought to make sure that "his" chair didn't wind up in the hands of a traditional scholar, but went to a real teacher.  As many of you know, Ralph has been teaching for more than 50 years.  Over that time he has been a friend and mentor to so many of us.
Congratulations again Ralph and thank you for all of your support for legal writing.
Hat tip to Karin Mika

September 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

LWI One-Day Workshops

LWI The Legal Writing Institute will hold one-day workshops at various locations around the country on Friday, December 2, 2011.  The topics covered in the workshops have been expanded to include these four areas:
1.  Teaching Legal Writing (including topics such as creating problems, grading, selecting materials, conducting paper conferences, and including other assignments as part of the research and writing course).
2.  Teaching Persuasive  Writing, Appellate Advocacy, and Moot Court (including materials, practice sessions, and guidelines for moot court practices and competitions).
3.  Legal Research Update (including updates on new research methods and materials that you and your students need to know).
4.  Other Innovations (a potpourri panel that will differ at each location, where individual speakers and faculty roundtables can discuss classroom teaching innovations, scholarship opportunities, effective use of researh assistants, and other subjects of interest to legal research and writing faculty).
The workshops have been a great opportunity for legal writing faculty around the county to meet and share new ideas.  Adjunct faculty who are often unable to travel have found the sessions to be particularly valuable, but as you can see from the topics they are now designed for all legal writing faculty.  The programs have also been of interest to persons who are thinking about entering the legal writing academy as teachers. Those presenting at the workshops have found them to be a great speaking opportunity too.
The one-day workshops are a fundraiser for the Legal Writing Institute to allow it to continue its many fine and important programs.  Attendees are asked to pay a $100 registration fee.  Speakers this year will be asked to pay a $25 registration fee.  As in past years, scholarships for attendees (and speakers I suppose) will be available to persons who cannot pay the registration fee.  Law schools who host these generously donate the facilities and often also donate coffee and lunch to make the day particularly wonderful for us.

September 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The New York Times and Spell Check

The New York Times maintains a blog dedicated to its own grammar mistakes.  This week's post is about problems with spell check.  Here are a few great examples from The NYT:

“People think when they buy a house they have to gut it and make it what they want,’’ she said, speaking on condition that her name not be used because, she said, she and the neighbors have already sued each other so many times. “The average person makes due with new wallpaper and a new carpet,’’ she added, “but there’s a minority who says, let’s build a cinema.’’

Then there is Mr. Schaeffer’s more biting take, born of hard experience: “North Korea and evangelical empires have the same principal of leadership: nepotism to the nth degree. You may not get the call, but you inherit the mailing list.”

It has a tentative beard, more shadow than shag, like an awkward weigh station on the road from callow to professorial.


September 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

A denunciation of law review articles

For a searing critique of law review articles, see this post on the Constitutional Daily blog. The unnamedBooks cropped  author argues that law review articles are too long, are chosen whimsically, and have little influence in the real world. The post also ties professors' publication requirements to high law school tuition and resulting student debt burdens.

Hat tip: Cynthia Adams


September 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Jessup Moot Court Problem Released

The International Law Students Association (ILSA) has released the 2012 problem for the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition.  Click here to download the compromis.


September 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Pesky apostrophes

Around this time of year, I always discover a few students who misunderstand the apostrophe. I'm going to refer them to this website, which presents a vivid, graphic explanation of apostrophe usage.

hat tip: Kimberly Holst


September 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

New England Consortium Conference

What: a one day legal writing conference on Creating Practice-Ready Assignments and Exercises

When: December 16, 2011

Where: the University of New Hampshire School of Law, in Concord, NH

Who's invited: everyone!

Who's organizing it: the New England Consortium of Legal Writing Teachers

What's it cost: it's FREE!

To r.s.v.p. or submit a presentation proposal or presentation, click here.

hat tip:  Amy Vorenberg


September 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ten Years Ago Today . . .

World Trade Center


September 10, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Remembering a class discussion about 9/11

In my class on September 12, 2001, it didn’t seem right to plunge immediately into the scheduled subject matter. So I asked the students if they wanted to talk about the previous day’s events. One asked, “Did the attacks happen because the attackers were angry about the U.S. support of Israel?” A student who had been a soldier in the Middle East said, “That’s not the primary issue. Many are angry because of the U.S. presence in the Middle East, especially near the holy sites of Mecca and Medina.” Another said, “We ought to go into Afghanistan and send them back to the middle ages.”  The response: “That’s already been pretty much accomplished by many years of war there.” Then the question arose: “Will our country treat the attacks as crimes, or as acts of war?” We spent some time discussing the pros and cons of each approach.

The government decided, of course, to treat the attacks as acts of war. Our soldier was called up for duty. Fortunately, he later returned and graduated.

As I reflect on our discussion ten years later, I remember learning from it. And in retrospect, the students’ comments look quite insightful.


September 10, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Rational Responses to Plagiarism

Rob Jenkins has a nice piece in the Chronical of Higher Education about the pedagogical issues surrounding plagiarism enforcement.  An excerpt:

"Either you can be a teacher or you can be the plagiarism police. I choose to be a teacher. As such, part of my job involves catching the occasional plagiarist. When that happens, I chalk one up for the good guys. Otherwise, I don't worry about it. I find that I'm much happier and more productive that way. True, some students may 'get away with' cheating, for the time being, but I believe they'll get their comeuppance eventually."

The article was written, at least in part, in light of the experience of Professor Ipeirotis (NYU Business) who blogged about his dissatisfaction as a teacher serving in the plagiarism police role.  Still, I'm not sure about the cosmic-justice theory of plagiarism enforcement that Jenkins espouses, especially in legal education.  Working to detect and report unethical future lawyers, if not a duty, would seem to be at least a moral or professional requirement in law teaching.


September 8, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Good vocabulary is a basis for good writing

In a recent column in the Student Lawyer, Bryan Garner tells aspiring legal writers, “You need words at your disposal. Lots of them. Interesting words. Apt words.”  Garner is not advising students to load their writing with long words. Quite the contrary: if they have good vocabularies, they will be able to see where they can replace an arcane word with an everyday equivalent.

Garner writes that a good way to start expanding vocabulary is to “consider it a mortal sin to read past a word you don’t know.”  Note all unfamiliar words, look them up, and then use them within 48 hours.


September 8, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The (New) Legal Writer

For those of you who don't already know the site, we recommend regular visits to the (new) legal writer.  The blog is from Raymond Ward, an appellate lawyer in New Orleans who loves langauge and everything about clear communication in English.  The (new) legal writer is a website that collects resources for lawyers and other writers.  Have a look.


September 8, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Google Ngram and Legalese

Google has introduced a new research tool into the mix.  The Google NGram Viewer allows users to research the frequency with which a particular word appears in books during particular time periods. NGram Viewer creates a cool graph of the findings automatically.  Just for grins, I searched for the term "legalese" in Google's book universe from 1800 to 2008:


Interestingly, usage of the word legalese peaked sometime right after the turn of the century.  Since that time, its use has fallen off sharply.  One way to interpret the results is that they represent nothing more than a coincidence and are meaningless.  But perhaps, as some have suggested, we have begun to defeat legalese in a meaningful way.  In either case, NGram Viewer is a fun tool for people who love words.


September 7, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Legal Writing -- the journal

Legal_writing_institute_logo The Journal of the Legal Writing Institute (“Legal Writing”) is the peer-edited, scholarly publication of the Legal Writing Institute. The journal is seeking articles from other disciplines that extend the boundaries of legal writing, as well as those that seek to improve pedagogy and scholarship in the field of legal writing through interdisciplinary and empirical research.

These articles can involve a broad range of disciplines, including classical rhetoric, linguistics, composition, psychology, communication and ethics. They can also encompass a broad range of skills, including analysis, research, interpretation, drafting, storytelling, and related skills.

The journal publishes articles, research reports, empirical studies, book reviews, and critical commentary from persons interested in both the theory and the practice of legal writing, or writing issues that have application to the field of legal writing, the design of courses and curricula, and in teaching techniques for the classroom and law office. These articles should address a gap in existing literature and be based on theory and/or original research.

Manuscripts: Legal Writing welcomes the submission of unsolicited manuscripts. Send the manuscript to the Editor-in-Chief, Kristin Gerdy, as a Word attachment to Please send a copy of your article with all identifying information removed to facilitate our blind review process. Citations must comply with the ALWD Citation Manual (ISBN 0-7355-3640-6) and the journal will conform your footnotes if you follow a different system of citation.

Submissions for Volume 18 must be received by September 15, 2011.

hat tip: Kristin Gercy


September 7, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Rejecting a Citation Example from the Bluebook

The current edition of the Bluebook uses the following example to illustrate Rule 1.6(c).  If you have a current Bluebook nearby, you can find this example at the bottom of page 61:

Milnot Co. v. Richardson, 350 F. Supp. 221 (S.D. Ill. 1972) (construing Filled Milk Act § 1, 21 U.S.C. § 61 (2006)).

It's an odd example, and here's why.  A case decided in 1972 is obviously not construing a federal statute from 2006.  True, the text of the statute may be exactly the same as it was when the court looked at it 34 years ago, but it could be just as likely that the statute has since been amended (perhaps even as a legislative response to the court case that construed it).

Sooooooo . . . . .

Despite what the Bluebook says, I think I should tell my students to keep the original date of the statute when it was construed.  In a separate sentence, they can tell their readers whether the statute has been amended or whether the language is the same.


September 7, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 5, 2011

More about fonts

Garfield A new book about type styles is out: Simon Garfield’s Just My Type. An NPR review touts the book as an “engaging history” about fonts, of which the book showcases more than 200, presenting stories about people behind them. Garfield himself does not advocate a single favorite but proposes different fonts for different uses. The book is set in Sabon, which Garfield finds “one of the most readable of all book fonts.” Alas, my word processing program does not offer Sabon, so when not on this blog, I’ll just have to stumble along with Century Schoolbook—or should I switch to a sans serif font?

Hat tip: Deborah L. Borman


September 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Newsletter for the AALS Legal Writing Section

The latest issue of the newsletter for the Association of American Law Schools Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research is available here.  Download AALS-LWRR 2011-1 Newsletter.  It is 22 pages long and filled with information of interest to legal writing professors.  The editor for this issue (and the next one for that matter) is Judy Rosenbaum of Northwestern University School of Law.

If you are planning on attending the AALS Annual Meeting in Washington DC in January, be sure to register early so that you can get a ticket for the section's field trip to the Law Library of Congress.  If you click on the registration link at the AALS website, you can see how many tickets are still available.  When I last checked there were only 94 tickets left.  The event is expected to sell out.

Mark E. Wojcik, Chair, AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research

September 4, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 2, 2011

LexisNexis for iPad Expected October 15th

Law Technology News reports today that LexisNexis is planning to launch its flagship legal research service in an Apple iPad edition on Oct. 15.  Versions for iPhone and Google Android are also expected later this year.  Click here to read more from Law Technology News.


September 2, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Reminder: Legal Writing Conference at The John Marshall Law School

JMLS The Central States Regional Legal Writing Conference will be held at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago from September 17-18, 2011.  Click here to see the program.  Registration is free but you should register by September 8, 2011.  I understand that more than 150 legal writing professors are planning to attend.

Looking forward to seeing all of you there!


September 1, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

J. ALWD volume 8 is here!