Sunday, September 30, 2012

call for proposals for Rocky Mountain conference

Clear Law-School-8.CUphotoThe next Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference will be held on March 22 and 23, 2013, at the University of Colorado Law School in Boulder, Colorado. The Program Committee is inviting proposals for conference presentations. Although presentations may be on any subject of interest to those teaching legal writing and research, past conference attendees have indicated that they particularly appreciated presentations on teaching techniques, including teaching tools that can be implemented in the classroom. 

You may submit a proposal for a 25-minute presentation or for a 50-minute panel presentation (for two or preferably more presenters). The deadline for proposals is Thursday, November 8, 2012. To submit a presentation proposal, please send the following information to both Andrew Carter and Susie Salmon:

1) Contact information for all of your co-presenters,
2) the title of your presentation, 
3) a one-paragraph description of the presentation,
4) the time needed for your presentation (25 minutes or 50 minutes), and
5) your technology needs for the presentation.

For more information about the conference, including driving directions, special hotel rates, and things to do in and around Boulder, visit the conference website, or contact conference site co-chairs Derek Kiernan-Johnson or Natalie Mack.

Registration is free, but you will need to register so the school has an accurate head count for food, beverages, and space. The Program Committee will make decisions on proposals no later than December to provide enough time for presenters to make travel plans.

hat tip: Susie Salmon


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

Friday, September 28, 2012

Jim McElhaney retires his ABA Journal column

JimMcElhaney025The ABA Journal announced in its October issue that Jim McElhaney, longtime author of the Journal’s Litigation column, is retiring from that post. He goes out with a flourish on the magazine’s cover and in a feature article about his career, first in the JAG Corps and later as a professor, lecturer, editor, and writer.

McEhlaney believed lawyers must be good storytellers. “Stories grab us in a way no list of facts could ever do. So why would you make your story difficult to follow?”

I’ve mentioned several of McElhaney’s columns on this blog; many of his gems are especially relevant to legal writing. Readers may be interested in the journal’s story with its photos of McElhaney and his wife enjoying their New Mexico home.

Some of parting words of McElhaney’s wisdom from the article seem appropriate here:

I want everything I express to do so cleanly, clearly and simply. Law schools teach you to talk funny, and lawyers want to sound “special” coming out of the law school environment. I was so happy to spend my academic life talking like a normal person.



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

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Are Your Students Literally Confusing "Literally"?

Throwing bookMany writers (and speakers) have the unfortunate habit of using "literally" when their reference in fact is figurative. ("In sentencing the defendant, the judge literally threw the book at him.") A recent post on The Lawyerist blog discusses and illustrates this problem, along with writers' problems with other "crutch words" or "comfort words," or as some call them, "weasel words" (e.g., actually, basically, clearly, very). It's a good post to share with your students.


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

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Law Schools Should Have This Problem . . .

The Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had too large an entering class.  The Wall Street Journal reports today that the school ended up offering some students as much as $20,000 to defer their admissions for a year.  


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

Judges advise clarity and succinctness in legal writing

Emily Grant of Washburn recently reported her informal survey of judges’ thoughts about legal writing: Grant

The most common comment I received dealt with organization and clarity of court filings. [L]ong, rambling briefs are ineffective. . . . . [M]ore often than not, a longer brief is confusing for the reader and less effective because the writer fails to clarify and hone the issues facing the court. . . .

In addition to advocating for clear and concise writing, many judges and clerks reiterated the importance of proofreading. It's a basic housekeeping skill for writers . . . .

Grant’s short article appeared in the August issue of the Journal of the Kansas Bar Association.


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

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Job Opening at UNLV!

Logo The William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas is accepting applications for a position in the Lawyering Process Program.  Applicants will be considered at the contract, tenure-track or tenured professor level.  Salary will be competitive, based on experience. Tenure-track candidates should have a substantial record of publication.

Responsibilities include teaching in a three-semester program that enjoys faculty support, carries nine credit hours and is fully graded.  Lawyering Process Professors have the opportunity to create upper-division legal writing classes in their area of special interest.  The Lawyering Process website will provide more information about the program. 

Applicants should submit a letter of interest, along with a detailed resume, three professional references, and copies of any published works to Professor Ruben J. Garcia, Chair, Appointments Committee, UNLV, William S. Boyd School of Law, 4505 S. Maryland Parkway, Box 451003, Las Vegas, NV 89154-1003, or

1. The position advertised may be a contract, tenure-track or tenured appointment, depending on experience. 
2. The professor hired will be permitted to vote in faculty meetings.
3.  The school anticipates paying an annual academic year minimum base salary in the range of $80,000-$89,999, but the salary would be greater depending on experience. Base salary does not include conference travel or other professional development funds.
4. The number of students enrolled in each semester of the courses taught by the Lawyering Process Professor will be 31-36.  Tenure and tenure-track professors teach a three course load, which means that for one semester, the faculty-student ratio will be around 1-18.

September 25, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Happy National Punctuation Day!

Today is National Punctuation Day--read more about it here. I wish the site's discussion of the colon explained that Colonan introductory passage ending with one must be grammatically complete. (See Anne Enquist and Laurel Currie Oates, Just Writing 234 (Wolters Kluwer 2009)). But I quibble. It's still an interesting site.

hat tip: Chris Wren


September 24, 2012 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

the death of whom?

ImagesIf you've been wondering where the word "whom" has gone, read here.

hat tip: Joe Bazan




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

Friday, September 21, 2012

Kentucky legal writing professors meet in Frankfort

On September 21, legal writing professors from Kentucky's three law schools met in the state capital to chat and discuss collaborating on a CLE session. The group enjoyed sharing ideas and exploring historic Frankfort. Below are Judy Fischer of the University of Louisville, Melissa Henke and Kristin Hazelwood of the University of Kentucky, Jennifer Jolly-Ryan of Chase at Northern Kentucky University, Diane Kraft of U.K., and JoAnne Sweeny and Tammy Pettinato of the U. of L.



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

Thursday, September 20, 2012

How to publish scholarship while teaching legal writing

Anna Hemingway of Widener University School of Law has published an article with lots of advice on how to Hemmingway-Apursue a scholarly agenda while teaching legal writing. She offers tips for saving time in teaching the course, along with ideas for getting an article written. New professors especially will find these tips helpful in establishing their careers as scholars.


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

Monday, September 17, 2012

Writing for Partners

Above the Law has a great legal writing post focused on what law firm partners actually demand.  One of the tips marries legal writing and research, and I think it's particularly timely while many of us are teaching students how to research and report their results:

Step Four: Using Authorities

These days, nearly all associates find the authorities they need. But partners want associates to do more than just copy or summarize those authorities; they want to know how each authority supports the associate’s points explicitly.

“This may be as much an analytical skill as a writing skill, but I have been struck by how often junior associates think sending you five cases is an appropriate response to a research assignment.”

“[A]ssociates should work on better integrating their discussions of the facts and the law in briefs, i.e., doing more than just stating the facts and stating the law, but explaining how the facts apply to the law.”

The post is a great read and boils down the law firm writing process to four easy-to-understand steps.


September 17, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

peer review in upper level legal writing courses

SheilaroIf you're teaching an advanced legal writing course, you might find a new article by Sheila Rodriquez particularly interesting.

In "Letting Students Teach Each Other: Using Peer Conferences in Upper-Level Legal Writing", 13 Florida Coastal Law Review 101 (2012), Sheila explains "how incorporating structured one-on- one student conferences in an upper-level legal writing course helps novice writers develop expertise. This Article also explains how peer conferences help students to develop critical skills that they will need as practicing lawyers. Although the peer conferences described in this Article are discussed in the context of legal writing, peer conferences may be used in any upper-level course, including both practice-oriented courses and doctrinal courses. This Article responds to the recent impetus to reexamine the nature and purpose of legal education by providing students with more skills training."


September 16, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

tech & teaching conference

Home_footer_steepleCall for Proposals

The Third “Colonial Frontier” Legal Writing Conference
Saturday, March 16, 2013

Technology and the Teaching of Legal Research & Writing

This conference is intended to provide legal writing professors and other interested law school faculty members with the opportunity to improve the ways in which they use computer technology for teaching legal research and writing. Proposals for four types of presentations are welcome:

• demonstrations of how to use computer software and hardware
• small-group workshops in which attendees will use their own laptops to do something
    new, under the presenter’s guidance
• informal “roundtable” discussions during lunch
• presentations about the positive and negative effects of using computer technology

A proposal should be further categorized as calling for a session intended for small group or plenary  sessions and requiring either 20- or 50-minutes.

Proposals should be sent as an e-mail file attachment in MS Word or PDF formats to Professor Jan Levine at by November 1, 2012. Proposals should be under 1,500 words and should use the cover sheet format below, noting the topic to be addressed, the amount of time sought for the presentation, any special technological needs for the session, and the presenter’s affiliation and contact information. Proposals will be reviewed by the faculty of Duquesne’s legal writing program.

Proposals should not address these already-scheduled topics:
1) PowerPoint Basics for Mac
2) Distance-Learning – A Discussion of the Risks and Benefits
3)Customized Critiquing Using Word 2011 for Mac and Other Tools
4) Switching to the Mac

The registration fee for the one-day conference is projected to be approximately $100 (which does not include hotel costs). Attendees will receive free on-site parking, two meals, an open-bar closing  reception, and other refreshments.

Proposal Cover Sheet
Presenter’s Name:
Law School:
Business Mailing Address:
E-mail Address:
Telephone Number:

Presentation Type:
___ Demonstration of how to use computer software and hardware
___ Small-group workshop in which attendees will use their own laptops under the presenter’s
___ Lunchtime “roundtable” discussion
___ Presentation about the positive and negative effects of using computer technology

Presentation Size:
___ Plenary
___ Small-Group (estimated size): _______

Presentation Duration:
___ 20 minutes
___ 50 minutes
___ Lunchtime
___Other (please explain): _______________

Presenter’s Technology Needs:                                             Attendees' Technololgy Needs:
___ Connection to Presentation Screen                                ___ Laptop
___ Wireless Internet Access                                               ___ Windows
___ Audio                                                                           ___ Mac
___ Other (please explain): _______________                      ___ Other (please explain): ____________
___ None                                                                            ___ None


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

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A reminder to use simple words

Jim McElhaney’s column in the September ABA Journal reminds readers of a key truth about writing: “GoABA J Sep_2012_Cvr_1 for simple words if you want to communicate effectively.” Perhaps numbed by dense writing in old case opinions, lawyers and law students may slip into using terms like clear beyond peradventure, vel non, and with respect to. Such obscure vocabulary, McElhaney says, too often confuses readers instead of telling a clear story. “Let the story—not the legal theory—pick the words.”

Sadly, a sidebar notifies readers that this repeat of a previous piece will end McElhaney's twenty-five-year run as a colunist for the Journal. 


September 12, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Updates from Legal Communication & Rhetoric: JALWD


Last week the ALWD Board confirmed the masthead for this year’s Legal Communication & Rhetoric: JALWD.  The vote resulted in the elevation of Sara Gordon (UNLV) and Jason Cohen (Rutgers-Camden) from associate editors to Lead (Articles) Editors.  Additionally, Tom Cobb (U. Washington) rejoined the board and will be spearheading a new book-review feature.

The Journal continues to seek peer reviewers for the Fall Edition, by email to 

Hat tip - Joan Ames Magat


September 10, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

My Legal Writing Coach - a new app for memo writers

LegalWritingCoachNot that we want students to actually write memos on their smartphones, but given how busy they are, they may find a new legal writing app to be a useful tool as they prepare to write, and once they have a draft, to revise and improve what they've written.

The app is My Legal Writing Coach, put together by Kirsten Davis of Stetson University College of Law, and it provides structural templates and checklists; tips for conducting research, improving the quality of the memo, and working more efficiently; guidance on adapting a memo for email; annotated sample memos; and more. To get the modestly priced app--or to learn more about it--go to iPhone/iPad App Store, or for Android devices, to Google play.


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

Saturday, September 8, 2012

tenure-track LRW job in North Dakota

Lgo-undThe University of North Dakota School of Law is accepting applications for a tenure-track position at the rank of Assistant Professor of Law in the field of Legal Writing or Lawyering Skills for the academic year beginning August 2013.

Candidates must have a J.D. degree, a distinguished academic record, and demonstrated excellence in their professional work. Candidates also should have a record of, or show promise for, achievement as a teacher, scholar, and colleague with a commitment to academic and professional service.

Applications are being reviewed on a rolling basis. The School of Law especially welcomes candidates who will enhance faculty diversity. Postal address: Professor James Grijalva, Chair, Faculty Selection Committee, University of North Dakota School of Law, 215 Centennial Drive Stop 9003, Grand Forks, ND  58202-9003. Electronic address: Electronic submissions preferred. 

Questions regarding this position can be directed to Kirsten Dauphinais, Law School Builders of the Profession Professor of Law, Director of Lawyering Skills, and Vice Chair of the Faculty Selection Committee at (701) 777-6396 or

1. The position is tenure-track. 
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 $80,000 to $89,000.
4. The person hired will teach legal writing, each semester, to 30 or fewer students or 56-60 students.

(Professors who teach Lawyering Skills at UND traditionally alternate teaching loads: one year teaching two sections of first year Lawyering Skills of 25-30 students each and the next year teaching one section of Lawyering Skills, plus one additional course each semester. These additional courses can be either upperlevel skills or casebook and are selected in consultation with the Dean on the basis of the professor's interest and background, as well as the needs of the law school.)


September 8, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Illinois State Bar Association to Offer Free Online CLE to its Members

Bar associations -- particularly the voluntary ones (where you don't have to be a member to practice) -- are always looking for ways to improve the service that they provide to members.  

The Illinois State Bar Association is one of the nation's largest voluntary state bar associations.  Like other state bar associations, It offers members free online legal research (through Fastcase).  It provides a very helpful daily email message with the latest cases and legal news.  It provides members with subscriptions to the Illinois Bar Journal and section newsletters.  It provides ethics help from its database of advisory opinions and an Ethics Infoline.  And now the ISBA has announced a new member benefit of free online CLE programs, starting in January 2013.  Here's a video message from ISBA President John Thies to explain the new member benefit:


Click here for more information about the free CLE program.

Click here for information about membership in the Illinois State Bar Association.  

Law student memberships in the ISBA are free.  (And you don't have to be a law student in Illinois).  Click here for more information about law student memberships.

Mark E. Wojcik, Member, ISBA Board of Governors

September 7, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Legal writing provides clues to the Justices' original positions in the health care case

You may not have realized that legal writing can be a tool for solving mysteries. But sleuth Ross Guberman has demonstrated that it can. In an article in his on-line newsletter, he attempts to solve a lingering question from the Supreme Court’s last term: Did Chief Justice John Roberts switch sides in the health care case at the last minute? Applying forensic linguistics to the opinion’s prose, Guberman concludes that Roberts was probably the original author of the majority opinion and Justice Scalia probably drafted the dissent.


September 6, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

another legal writing job opening

The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, is accepting applications for two tenure-track faculty positions in the area of legal research and writing. 

Each legal writing professor teaches approximately 35 first-year students, divided into 2 sections, during the fall and spring semesters. They teach predictive writing in the fall (graded, 3 credit hour class) and persuasive writing in the spring semester (graded, 2 credit hour class). They follow uniform assignment deadlines and assignment length. Beyond these requirements, however, each professor has full authority over how his or her class is taught. Basic legal research instruction is integrated into the first year curriculum. There will also be an opportunity to teach a small section of upper-level legal writing or another class of interest, during the spring semesters. 

Please address letters of application to Professor Brian Gallini, Chair Faculty Appointments Committee, Direct questions about the legal writing program at the University of Arkansas to Ann Killenbeck,

Applications are being reviewed now, on a rolling basis, with a list of candidate interviews to be finalized by the end of September.  

1. The position advertised is a tenure-track appointment.
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 $70,000-$89,999, but the salary could be greater depending on experience and qualifications.
4. The number of students enrolled in each semester of the courses taught by the legal research & writing professor will be 31-40.

(spl) J.D., Ph.D.

September 6, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)