Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Uncivil language exasperates the Fourth Circuit

Recently, a group of lawyers found that the Fourth Circuit was not amused by their uncivil language.  In U.S. v. Venable, the court chastised them for their brief’s disrespectful statements aimed at courts, opposing counsel, and the opposing party. Among the lawyers’ gaffes, they said the trial court’s concerns required “a belief in the absurd,” that a court’s opinion showed a “crabby and complaining” attitude, that the opposing party was a “charlatan.” The Fourth Circuit bluntly said “such disrespectful and uncivil language will not be tolerated by this court.”


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

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

please register for Rocky Mountain conference!

Here's a reminder from Kim Holst:

Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference

Join your fellow legal writing colleagues from around the country at the 2012 Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference hosted by ASU on March 23-24.  The  conference schedule is now available on the conference  website.   We are excited about all of the fantastic presentations we have lined up from our colleagues from around the country.

 While visiting the website, please don’t forget to register.  While there is no fee to attend, we still need each attendee (including our presenters) to register by March 16, 2012.   We’ve also include links to information about lodging, transportation, and getting some sunny relaxation while you’re in the area.  Please check out our suggestions on the website for adding some fun and relaxation to your visit by attending a spring training baseball game, hitting the greens, taking a hike, or visiting one of the beautiful area resorts. 

 Also, consider attending the ALWD Scholar’s Forum on Sunday, March 25.  The Forum will take place from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  The facilitators for the event will be Linda Edwards, Linda Berger, and Suzanne Rowe.   Don’t miss your chance to advice and feedback on your works in progress or scholarship ideas from these dynamic and experienced scholars.   There is no fee to participate, but we must limit enrollment to 12 participants. We will fill spots on a first-come basis. To participate in the Rocky Mountain ALWD Scholars’ Forum, please e-mail Carrie Sperling at Please include ALWD Scholars’ Forum in your subject line. In addition, include a one paragraph description of your work in progress or scholarship idea.  The application deadline for the Scholar’s Forum is March 5th

 Please don’t hesitate to contact us ( or if you have any questions!


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

another LRW promotion!

HNYLKAJThe law faculty at Nova Southeastern has voted to promote Joe Hnylka to Associate Professor and award him a five-year, presumptively-renewable contract. In addition to teaching the first-year Lawyering Skills and Values courses, Joe also teaches a Jurisprudence Seminar. Congratulations, Joe!

hat tip: Elena Langan






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

Monday, February 27, 2012

Justice Stevens to be Honored at Burton Awards

The Burton Awards, presented in association with the Library of Congress, are one of the most prominent and dynamic awards programs in law.  This year the event will be held on Monday, June 11, 2012 in Washington, D.C. 

Retired U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice John Paul Stevens will be honored for his book, "Five Chiefs: A Supreme Court Memoir."

Click here for more information.


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

Friday, February 24, 2012

Wanda Temm Wins Legal Scholar Award

We've learned that Wanda M. Temm of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law has been selected for the "Legal Scholar Award" as part of the annual Women’s Justice Awards presented by Missouri Lawyers Media.  The Women's Justice Awards recognize Missouri's leading women professionals.   The Legal Scholar Award is given to women law faculty and administrators who improve the quality of justice, inspire others, and exemplify "the highest ideals of the legal profession."

Congratulations, Wanda!

Hat tip to Suzanne Rowe


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

Another lawyer is chastised for verbose writing

Recently, another lawyer was chastised for filing a verbose document. When a motion to dismiss the lawyer’s forty-five-page complaint argued that it was confusing and convoluted, the judge reproduced this example of its verbosity:

[b]reach of Contract - Failure of the original lender to Transfer or to Assign respectively either the Note or the Deed of Trust to US Bank National Association as Trustee for the Investors in the Mortgage Backed Security and the Defendants’ lack of authority to vary the terms of Plaintiff’s loan by agreement as a result of the securitization of the loan and the involvement of MERS in this series of transactions 

The judge held that the complaint violated Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), which requires “a short and plain statement of the claim.” He then observed, “Given the prolixity of the complaint and the plaintiff’s silence, it is difficult to tell whether amendment would cure any of the plaintiff’s claims.” He therefore dismissed the complaint with prejudice.

The plaintiff’s lawyer was later able to convince the court to remove the “with prejudice” language and let him amend the complaint. But the embarrassing assessment of his writing remains on the record.


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

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Class Action Lawsuit Alleges Copyright Protection for Trial and Appellate Briefs

Several lawyers are suing Westlaw and Lexis on the theory that trial and appellate briefs sold by the services are copyrighted.  The Wall Street Journal reports:

Edward L. White, a Oklahoma City, Okla., lawyer, and Kenneth Elan, claim WestLaw and LexisNexis have engaged in “unabashed wholesale copying of thousands of copyright-protected works created by, and owned by, the attorneys and law firms who authored them” — namely publicly filed briefs, motions and other legal documents.

In the lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court, White and Elan are hoping to represent two classes of lawyers: ones who have obtained copyright registration of their works and ones who haven’t done so.

Will this mean a big payday for current and former trial and appellate brief writers?  What if those writers have also lifted passages from other briefs?  Lifting from other briefs without attribution is a common occurrence in practice, but could it subject the copying attorney to liability for infringement?


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


Among academics who teach writing outside the law, there is a just-now-coalescing organization called WAWN, the Writing About Writing Network. You can read the new WAW newsletter here, and perhaps some LRW professors have essays to contribute to it.

hat tip: Michele Mekel



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

Monday, February 20, 2012

Raising bar passage rates

Some law schools’ bar passage rates are higher than one would expect based on their entrance statistics. How do they accomplish that? The National Jurist recently published the results of a study probing that question. The magazine ranked schools according to bar exam performance in relation to student LSAT scores. Topping the list are Louisiana State, Campbell, Stanford, and Wake Forest.

Campbell’s academic support director explained how her school boosted its bar passage rate to an enviable 92% by adding a free course in which practice essays are graded like bar exam questions. And now that the ABA has lifted its ban on for-credit bar preparation classes, other schools have begun to offer for-credit courses. One such school is Capital University, which ranks a respectable 30 on the National Jurist list. Capital raised its passage rate from 62% to around 90% by offering a for-credit course that includes weekly quizzes and essays. For more about the study, see the article at page 28 of the February 2012 National Jurist.


February 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

more legal writing openings in Florida

SaintthomascommonsAve Maria School of Law in Naples, Florida, anticipates teaching openings in its Research, Writing and Advocacy (RWA) program for the 2012-2013 academic year. RWA is a three-semester course taught in the first and second year of law school for which students earn two graded credit hours per semester. Applicants should have excellent academic performance and teaching experience, particularly in a legal writing course. Professors of RWA are needed for the traditional 1L research, writing and oral advocacy curriculum, and  possibly for the upper-level litigation based writing course. To apply, send a cover letter, resume, a writing sample and academic transcripts by March 15th to:

Maureen M. Milliron
Director of Research, Writing, and Advocacy Program
1025 Commons Circle
Naples, Fl 34119

1.  The position advertised
        a.   is tenure-track.
        b.   can lead to long-term contracts.
   X   c.   has neither of these forms of job security.

2.  The person hired will be permitted to vote in faculty meetings.
        a.   true
    X  b.   not true

3.  The school anticipates paying an annual academic year base salary in
the range checked below. 
___ over $120,000
___ $110,000 - $119,999
___ $100,000 - $109,999
___ $90,000 - $99,999
___ $80,000 - $89,999
___ $70,000 - $79,999
___ $60,000 - $69,999
_X_ $50,000 - $59,999
___ less than $50,000

4.  The person hired will teach legal writing, each semester, to the total number of students in the range checked below:
        a.   less than 30
 X     b.   30 to 44
         c.   45 to 59
        d.   more than 59


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

Sunday, February 19, 2012

legal writing promotions at Detroit-Mercy!

Deborah  Paruch_17f0b3ec053c1d8d1fe37a3c0fcd29cf Christina Lockwood_8ff3ebd57513057a3ca805381e21d963Congratulations are in order for Deborah Paruch and Cristina Lockwood, both legal writing professors at Detroit Mercy. Their faculty has voted to recommend tenure for Deb and a promotion for Cristina to Associate Professor of Law, along with her successfully passing her mid-term review. 

This is an especially happy occasion for the legal writing professors at UDM, because Deb and Cristina began their careers there as contract faculty teaching legal writing. As the terms of employment for legal writing faculty improved, they moved to fully vested 405(c) status and then to the tenure track. Kudos all around!

hat tip: Pam Lysaght


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

Friday, February 17, 2012

Are law review articles worthwhile?

An article in the February ABA Journal concludes that law review articles do have value. Its author, Richard Brust, reiterates Chief Justice John Roberts’ recent criticism that law review articles are unhelpful. But then Brust cites a recent study by Professors Lee Petherbridge of Loyola of Los Angeles and David Schwartz of Chicago-Kent, which showed that 32.21% of U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the years 1929-2009 cited legal scholarship. Brust concludes that “legal scholarship is more useful than many judges suspect.”


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

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Shud We Do Away With Propur Spellin?

Anne Trubek has an interesting article in Wired Magazine, Proper Spelling?  Its Tyme to Let Luce.  Trubek defends the claim that proper spelling is overvalued:

English spelling is a terrible mess anyway, full of arbitrary contrivances and exceptions that outnumber rules. Why receipt but deceit? Water but daughter? Daughter but laughter? What is the logic behind the ough in through, dough, and cough? Instead of trying to get the letters right with imperfect tools, it would be far better to loosen our idea of correct spelling.

The piece has invoked the ire of some in the grammar-nerd community.  Grammar Girl responds that standard spelling has its benefits:

Sure, English spelling is often confusing and seems illogical, but proper spelling serves many good purposes.

Clarity. As Trubek conceded in her article, proper spelling "enables readers to understand writing, to aid communication and ensure clarity," and those seem like awfully good reasons for keeping it to me.


Understandable Contracts. ... accepting loose spelling could be a nightmare in legal contexts, where clear and precise meanings are essential. We should definitely stick to standard spelling for laws and contracts.

I could not agree with you more, Grammar Girl.  Contractual ambiguity is enough of an ongoing legal issue without unnecessarily multiplying spellings of the same term.  And I'm not sure I see the downside of proper spelling.  Sure we commit time to learning to spell as children and adults, and we spend time proofreading for spelling errors.  But the cost of this time does not exceed the confusion and headaches that would attend a more flexible system.  I already have a hard enough time understanding text messages.  Let me at least keep formal writing as one forum free of indignities like L8R and B4.


February 16, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Global Legal Skills Conference

Costa-rica-national-theaterHere is an information packet for persons attending the seventh Global Legal Skills Conference in San Jose, Costa Rica.  Download GLS-VII Info Sheet (Version 2.0)

The conference is being held at the Gran Hotel Costa Rica and at the University of Costa Rica Faculty of Law.  This is the seventh time that the conference is being held and the first time in Costa Rica.

Here is also a link to the conference website.  That page also has a link to the conference registration page.


February 15, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Congratulations Professor DeArmond!

Edearmond_webElizabeth DeArmond has been teaching legal writing at Chicago-Kent since 2003. Now she has been promoted to Professor of Legal Writing and Research (from Associate Professor of Legal Writing and Research), effective July 1, 2012. She also teaches Privacy Law and does scholarship on Consumer Protection Law. Kudos!

hat tip: Mary Rose Strubbe




February 14, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Doonesbury offers grading help

The February 12 Doonesbury comic strip provides a helpful response to students who think they should receive higher grades. The strip has a professor explaining some low grades this way: "The real world demands results. It doesn't much care whether you hold yourself in high regard. That era is over."


February 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

teaching legal writing in the Windy City

Logo_nwuLawNorthwestern University School of Law invites applications for the position of Clinical Assistant Professor of Law in its Communication and Legal Reasoning (CLR) Program. The faculty member would be hired to teach Communication and Legal Reasoning, the first-year JD legal analysis, research, and writing course. In addition, the faculty member might, in the future, teach Common Law Reasoning, a required legal research and writing course for LLM students. In addition, CLR faculty from time to time serve on Law School and University committees. The CLR faculty is encouraged to produce scholarly work, and to attend and present scholarly work at regional and national conferences.

Candidates should have excellent academic records, outstanding writing and editing skills, and experiences that demonstrate their potential for excellence in classroom teaching. A successful applicant must have a JD degree and strong post law school practical experience as an attorney or judicial clerk, preferably at least three years’ legal practice experience, as well as prior teaching experience.

The search committee will consider applications through March 5. Applicants should direct a cover letter, resume, and five page legal writing sample to the attention of the search committee chair, Grace Dodier, and the interim director of the CLR Program, Margaret Curtiss Hannon. Please submit all materials via email to Program Assistant Hannah Mae Marlin,

1. The position advertised may lead only to successive on year contracts.
2. The professor hired will not 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 and writing professor will be 30 - 35.


February 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Legal writing tips from the Chief Justice of Canada

The Right Honorable Beverly McLachlin, Chief Justice of Canada, presented some thoughts about legal writing atBeverley_McLachlin a 2011 Scribes luncheon. The bad news about legal writing, she said, is that it is “difficult to do well.”  The good news is that “legal writing is getting better.” She then offered four guidelines, each of which begins with the word “understand,” to emphasize her overall conclusion: “Good thinking and good legal writing are one and the same.” Read a transcript of her talk at page 9 of the Late Fall 2011 Scrivener.


February 10, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

teach legal writing, live by the beach

ABOUTpage(flat)Florida Coastal School of Law is seeking applications for multiple Lawyering Process faculty positions for the academic year beginning in Fall 2012. Legal writing teaching experienced is preferred. Candidates should have distinguished academic qualifications, a record of accomplishment in the legal profession, and a commitment to excellence in teaching, student mentoring and collegiality.

The Faculty Appointments Committee will review candidates until the open positions are filled. Interested candidates should send a resume and cover letter to: Professor Brian Foley, Faculty Appointments Committee Chair, Florida Coastal School of Law, 8787 Baypine Road, Suite 255, Jacksonville, FL 32256, or via e-mail to

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 - $69,999.
4.  The number of students enrolled in each semester of the courses taught will be 36 - 40.



February 9, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Celebrating a New Legal Dictionary

Sheppard"The world of law is a world of words."  So says Stephen Michael Shepard, a professor at the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville, who served as the general editor of a new edition of the Bouvier Law Dictionary, recently published by Wolters Kluwer.

The new work brings back to life the American law dictionary first published in 1839 by John Bouvier.  I'm not a Bouvier scholar by any means, but I can at least let you read part of the wikipedia entry about John Bouvier so that you can appreciate the importance of this law dictionary: 

John Bouvier (1787–1851) was born in Codogno, France, but came to the United States at an early age. He became a U.S. citizen in 1812, was admitted to the bar in 1818, and began practicing law in Philadelphia. During his years of practice and study, he noticed the lack of a solid American law dictionary. He decided to fill this need, and worked on a new law dictionary incessantly for 10 years. One of his main goals was to distinguish American law from its Englishantecedent. He finally presented it for publication in 1839. Like many of his generation, Bouvier used his preface to justify his work, stating the irrelevance of English legal dictionaries to the American legal system of the United States. He wanted to create a totally new law dictionary that would address the American legal system, so he derived his definitions almost wholly from customs, court decisions, and statutes of the United States.

So that's the book that Professor Sheppard has now updated.  The Bouvier Law Dictionary was the one used by Daniel Webster, Abraham Lincoln, John Marshall, Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes, and all of the other great early American jurists and lawyers.

This new edition of the Bouvier Law Dictionary was well received at the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools, where Professor Sheppard kindly signed a copy for me.  Actually the new dictionary is being published in three versions, a desk edition, the compact paperback version, and an electronic version.

John Bouvier drew on material for his first dictionary from all of the sources that influenced American law.  This new edition of the Bouvier Law Dictionary "is an entirely new book, with new definitions for every term, based on quotations and entries from tens of thousands of new cases, books, and statutes, as well as on Bouvier's final text and other classic materials."  (Preface, at page ix).  I had to laugh at Professor Sheppard's acknowledgment page, where he thanked his student research assistants by saying that his "sincere thanks go to each of you, and I remind all of you who haven't returned some of my books that is never too late to do so."

The dictionary entries are easy to read and often provide a little more information about particular legal terms than you might find in other dictionaries.  We will still use our other law dictionaries, but we now have a second source that we'll also consult.

The ISBN Number for the Compact Paperback Edition of the Bouvier Law Dictionary is 978-0-7355-6852-5.

Mark E. Wojcik (mew)

February 9, 2012 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)