Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Outlining for a brief's table of contents

Around this time of year, I cover the format of a brief in my first-year class.  When I explain that the brief's Table of Contents is really just an outline, I somtimes find that a few students don't understand the concept of outlining. Purdue's Online Writing Lab contains some helpful basic information for them. 


January 31, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 30, 2012

call for proposals, Second Annual Western Regional Legal Writing Conference

The University of Oregon School of Law will host the 2012 Western Regional Legal Writing Conference and ALWD Scholars' Forum/Workshop on August 10 and 11, 2012, in Eugene, Oregon, just weeks after Eugene hosts the Olympic track and field trials. In accordance with the conference theme, Olympic Gold: The Teaching, Scholarship, and Service Triathlon, conference presenters are invited to share ideas for succeeding in the triathlon of teaching, scholarship, and service.

The plenary speaker for the conference will be Judy Stinson, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Clinical Professor of Law at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.  Dean Stinson will share her ideas, gained over 18 years of teaching, writing, and serving, about how to be successful in a discipline that requires each of us to balance so many different roles.

Finally, an ALWD Scholars' Forum/Workshop will be held on August 10, 2012.  The Forum/Workshop will give up to sixteen colleagues the opportunity to present their scholarship – from the brainstorming stage to developed drafts – to other legal writing faculty for discussion and feedback.

The conference webpage will be available soon, and registration will open in April.  More information is available: Download Call for Proposals and ParticipationSecond Annual Western Regiona.

hat tip:  Megan McAlpin, University of Oregon School of Law

January 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New "Tips" Series on the Illinois Appellate Lawyer Blog

The Illinois Appellate Lawyer Blog launched a new series that it is calling "Two Tips."  The description of it is actually pretty funny (unless they really do use "Vulcan Mind Meld") and we also note that it will appear at "random times according to a strict schedule."  Here's their announcement:

Illinois Appellate Lawyer Blog announces a new series:

♪♪♪ Two Tips ♪♪♪

Two Tips, offered by legal writing and strategy experts, will suggest ways you can improve your brief writing. The tips will be in various formats – written, podcast, video, extra sensory perception, Vulcan mind meld.

Two Tips will appear at random times according to a strict schedule. If you have two tips that might interest Illinois Appellate Lawyer Blog readers and viewers, shoot me an email and we’ll make arrangements for you to appear, or write, or sing, or however you want to transmit the information.

Click here to see the first "Two Tips."

Hat tip to Steve Merican.


January 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Editing Process

Typos and errors in your legal writing are not an inevitable destiny according to Kendall Gray's recent piece in the National Law Journal.  Gray correctly notes that you can reduce your error rate by changing the process through which you edit text, observing the maxim that “there is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting.”  Here are a few of his interesting suggestions:

Slow down. When it comes to editing, fast and good are mutually exclusive. Hurrying or skimming means not editing well

Edit the first sentence of each paragraph. Crafting these first sentences perfectly and putting them in the right order lays a solid foundation for the entire brief and frames a sturdy structure for paragraphs. A judge reading on screen may not read much more than those topic sentences anyway

Give it to someone else. Famous authors such as Philip Roth and Jonathan Franzen need editors and proofreaders. Attorneys do, too. Every firm has that one fantastic proofreader, and everyone knows who that is. The very last thing before filing, counsel should give that person the brief. This stellar proofreader has not memorized the brief and probably doesn't know the case. If he or she thinks the brief is clear, then it really is. If he or she doesn't get it, then work remains to be done.

Other editing posts:

The Indispensability of Editing When Constructing Voice

Helpful Editing Advice

Editing Exercises on Wordiness


January 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Black's Law Dictionary

The Law Library of Congress Blog chose Black's Law Dictionary, first published in 1891, for its picture of the week.  Click here for a quick look.


January 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

nominate a legal writing professor

Logo2Want to recognize the person who taught you legal writing? Well, nominations for the Burton Award for Outstanding Contributions to Legal Writing Education are due by February 17, 2012.

This award is given annually to an individual or group that has made an outstanding contribution to the education of lawyers in the field of legal analysis, research, and writing, whether through teaching, program design, program support, innovative thinking, or writing. The contributions considered may be significant single achievements or the accumulated achievements of a career. The previous recipients have been Dean Kent Syverud of Vanderbilt, Dean Darby Dickerson of Stetson, Professor Ralph Brill of Chicago-Kent, Professor Laurel Oates of Seattle University, Professor Mary Beth Beazley of Ohio State, Professor Richard Neumann of Hofstra, Professor Helene Shapo of Northwestern, and Professor Marjorie Rombauer of the University of Washington.

Nominations should describe the contributions of the nominee in a few paragraphs and should be forwarded to one of the following members of the selection committee by e-mail: Anne Kringel (akringel@law.upenn.edu); Grace Tonner (gtonner@law.uci.edu); Nancy Schultz (nschultz@chapman.edu). 

hat tip: Anne Kringel



January 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

ever been called the "grammar cop"?

This cartoon is joining the collection on my office door.

hat tip: Chris Wren



January 28, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

legal writing opening in Arkansas


PLEASE NOTE: We've been informed that U. Arkansas received a good response to this announcement and is no longer accepting applications.

The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, has an opening for a visitor to teach in the LRW program for the 2012-13 academic year. The position consists of teaching a total of 32 to 35 first year students divided into two sections of 16 to18 students each. The program teaches predictive writing in the fall and persuasive writing in the spring semesters.

Telephone interviews are being set up over the next week or two. If you are interested in the position or would like further information, you should contact Ann Killenbeck at akillen@uark.edu.

A search will begin next fall to fill the position with a full-time tenure-track professor.

position type: visitor for 2012-13 academic year
faculty vote: no, not as a visitor
salary: negotiable
students per semester: maximum of 40, will be closer to 32-35

submission deadline: rolling; will remain open until filled.

hat tip: Ann M. Killenbeck


January 28, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 27, 2012

New Issue of the LWI Second Draft Now Available

LWIA new issue of The Second Draft, the flagship newsletter of the Legal Writing Institute, is now available.  Click here to download a copy.


January 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

more LRW pics from AALS

AALS logoWe previously posted links to pictures of LRW events at the AALS annual meeting, which took place earlier this month. Now, thanks to Prof. Suzanne Rowe at U. Oregon, here's another link to additional photos of our legal writing colleagues at the Law Library of Congress and at the Blackwell Reception.


January 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

the dangers of cutting and pasting

The ABAJournal reports on a malpractice suit over claimed cut-and-paste work done on patent applications.  The client claims that patent application approval was delayed due to the inclusion of unrelated material from another client's filings.

Even if the material were boilerplate, as the law firm claims, this situation is a good real-life lesson for our students, who grapple with originality and ownership of the entire contents of their documents.  Taking refuge in the tried-and-true by cut-and-paste still requires care.


January 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New blog covers circuit splits

A blog covering splits in the federal circuits was recently started by Texas lawyer Nicholas J. WagonerCircuit Splits will be a helpful resource for professors seeking topics for research and writing assignments.

hat tip: Jim Dimitri


January 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Curtail wordiness, judge says

        Recently, a federal judge in Indiana rebuked a lawyer for submitting verbose and irrelevant documents. On a summary judgment motion, instead of being helpful, the lawyer’s “Statement of Material Facts in Dispute” only complicated the court's job:

Rather than identifying potential factual disputes in a concise fashion, Plaintiff’s counsel unfurled an 18-page narrative that is replete with argument and a 154-page surreply that is no better as it contains a great deal of immaterial information.  

       The lawyer’s rambling documents largely failed to persuade the court. Most of his client’s claims were dismissed. Williams v. Lovchik.


January 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

E-Casebooks On The Horizon?

In a move that represents a double play for the future of legal education, or at least its textbooks, Apple announced its plans to enter the e-textbook market.  Apple plans to release several high school textbooks in electronic form.  Students will be able to read these textbooks on an iPad after they present a redemption code purchased by their high schools from Apple.  Apple being a player in the textbook market is big news for all levels of education. 

But an earnest transition to e-textbooks in the law school market could create momentum that reshapes the more general legal text market.  If students are trained to read legal writing solely in electronic form, the transition to a paperless legal text environment will accelerate.  Some might argue that the transition to electronic text has already effectively occurred with services like Westlaw and Lexis dominating the legal research market and traditional paper libraries, in both firms and counties, being disassembled.  The current reality, however, is one where students read paper casebooks. 

The paper casebook is the last real bridge between the digital age student and reading in traditional print.  Eliminating this link could make it more difficult to get students to browse traditional print secondary sources that are currently, in my opinion, superior in paper form.  And some writers have seriously questioned the wisdom of putting the law book market in the hands of Apple, a company that is notoriously closed and proprietary.  Near the time of the advent of the iPad, Greg Lambert observed:

The biggest problem with legal publishers relying on the iPad as their platform for electronic publishing is that they are really locking themselves into a partnership with a company that is extremely proprietary --closed systems vs. open.

Whichever company ultimately ends up building the device that replaces the classic casebook, the change is coming, and it will redefine the way the next generation of law students consumes legal content.


January 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

non-fiction writing competition for doctors & lawyers

SEAK, Inc. is sponsoring the 2012 National Fiction Writing Competition for Physicians and Lawyers.   The purpose of the competition is to encourage physicians and lawyers to become more interested in and adept at writing fiction.

FORMAT: A short story or novel excerpt, fiction, typed, not exceeding 2,500 words.

DEADLINE: August 1, 2012

JUDGING: The submissions will be judged on originality, quality of writing, and the potential of the author.

SEAK, Inc. — Fiction Writing Competition
ATTN: Steven Babitsky
P.O. Box 729
Falmouth, MA 02541

1. The competition is open to any licensed physician or attorney in the United States and its territories.
2. The physician or attorney’s name, address, phone number, and e-mail address should be contained in the submission.
3. Only one entry should be submitted by each physician or attorney.

PRIZES: Prize winners will be notified by email. A press release announcing your award will be sent to New York Literary Agents.


JUDGING: The judging will be done by a panel of judges at SEAK, Inc. No employees or relatives of employees of SEAK, Inc. are eligible to enter the competition. The decision of the judges is final and not appealable.

COPYRIGHT: All authors will maintain the original copyright to their materials.


January 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

another view of plain English

CHINUA ASUZU, of the Assizes Lawfirm in Lagos, Nigeria, has written an article called: "I Give You that Orange: Language and Style in Nigerian Legal Writing", urging lawyers in his country to use plain English. His references to the archaic uses of English among lawyers in Nigeria may make it easier for some U.S. lawyers to recognize their own bad habits. His memorable turns of phrases are highly quotable. He even refers to our co-blog-editor, Judy Fischer, as "learned author" (which, indeed, she is).




January 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 20, 2012

on teaching legal writing

Amyvorenberg-3Congratulations to Amy Vorenberg at the University of New Hampshire School of Law! Aspen has just published her short book, Strategies and Techniques for Teaching Legal Analysis and Writing. It is available through her SSRN page or directly from Wolters Kluwer. The book aims to help new legal writing teachers,but may also be helpful to veterans.




January 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

2012 LWI Golden Pen Award

LWIThe Legal Writing Institute announced that the 2012 Golden Pen Award will be given to Matthew Butterick at the 2012 LWI Biennial Conference.

ButterickMatthew Butterick is the designer of the popular website Typography for Lawyers, and of the book by the same name.  Click here to have a look.  Matthew Butterick has become the go-to person for document design information in the legal world. In the three short years since his website first went live, and the twelve months since his book Typography for Lawyers was published, he has made a very large impact on legal practice. Otherwise-temperate critics have showered his work with praise. Harvard's William Rubenstein calls Butterick "a messiah." Bryan Garner describes Butterick's advice as "infallible,"  and the first edition of Typography for Lawyers as not only "bold and fresh and original" but also "fully developed," reading like "a fifth edition."

Mr. Butterick has also designed two typefaces for attorneys: Alix and Equity. Alix is a monospaced typeface, like Courier, but immeasurably superior. Lawyers who are occasionally required to set documents in a monospaced font now have a more readable choice. Mr. Butterick’s newest font, Equity, is a proportional typeface, like Times New Roman, and has similar overall dimensions and architectural features, allowing it to be easily substituted for Times New Roman. Equity is specifically designed not just for use in long documents but for legal documents in particular.

Mr. Butterick will be honored during the 15th Biennial Conference of the Legal Writing Institute, May 29 through June 1, 2012, at the J.W. Marriott Desert Springs Resort in California.

Hat tip to Ken Chestek.


January 19, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Are You a Member of Scribes?

Scribes is "The American Society of Legal Writers."  If you're reading this blog, you're probably a legal writer and you should probably consider joining Scribes as a member.  Click here for more information about the organization and how to join it as an individual or insitutitonal member.

Mark E. Wojcik, Board Member, Scribes

January 19, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Job Opening at Indiana University Maurer School of Law

The Indiana University Maurer School of Law is seeking applicants for appointment as a full-time Lecturer to teach in the LLM program, including legal research and writing, beginning with the 2012-2013 academic year. Applicants must possess a J.D. degree, a strong academic record, an interest in teaching writing, and a sensitivity to the needs of international law students. Applicants with substantial practice experience and/or previous law teaching experience preferred. Initial appointment is for two years, renewable annually thereafter with the possibility of promotion and a long-term contract after six years. Applications from minority group members are welcomed. Salary range, depending on qualifications and experience, is in the mid-$50,000s for a 10-month appointment. The position also includes a generous benefits package.

The committee will begin to consider applications on February 13 and will continue to accept applications until the position is filled. To apply, please submit a statement of interest, resume, writing sample, and contact information for three references to Julia Lamber, Professor of Law at lamber@indiana.edu (or mail an application to Professor Lamber, Indiana University Maurer School of Law, 211 S. Indiana Ave, Bloomington, IN 47405).  Indiana University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

1.  The position advertised may lead to successive long-term contracts of five or more years.

2.  The professor hired will be permitted to vote in faculty meetings.

3.  The school anticipates paying an annual academic year base salary in the range $50,000 - $59,999. 

4.  The number of students enrolled in each semester of the courses taught by the legal research & writing professor will be 36 - 40 

Website: http://www.law.indiana.edu/
Position Type: long-term

Submission Deadline: 2012-02-13

January 17, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)