Friday, November 30, 2012

Sophie Sparrow Named as one of the 25 Most Influential

Sophie SparrowThe National Jurist Magazine has just named 24 legal educators and one "legal education public policy advocate" to its 2012 list of the 25 most influential people in legal education.  The list will be published in the January issue of the National Jurist Magazine. 

One legal writing professor included on that list is Sophie M. Sparrow of the University of New Hampshire, who is currently in residence as a visiting professor in the Lawyering Skills Program at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.  Sophie is well known in the legal writing community (indeed, I'm surprised that there were 24 other people named to the list of the most influential people!).  She has given dozens of workshops and presentations on teaching, professionalism, assessment, and legal writing.  Her publications include "Teaching Law by Design" and "Teaching Law by Design for Adjuncts" published by Carolina Academic Press.  She is also a co-author of a forthcoming book called "Team Leadership for Lawyers," also from Carolina Academic Press.

Click here to read more about those selected and the magazine's selection process.  That link also allows you to sign up to receive a digital or iPad version of the January publication.

Congratulations, Sophie!

Mark E. Wojcik (mew) 

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

A Student Editor Defends Traditional Law Reviews

While we are on the topic of glasses half full, the editor-in-chief of the Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution, Brian Farkas, has a nice piece up on Inside Higher Ed.  The essay argues that traditional doctrinal scholarship serves a purpose and is tied, contrary to recent criticism, to the practical needs of the profession.  From the article:

Yes, some journals are “theory-heavy”—the Yale Law Journal, William & Mary’s Bill of Rights Journal, and Washington University’s Jurisprudence Review, to name a few. But average law reviews and most specialty journals (journals that focus on particular areas, like real estate or intellectual property) are keenly interested in publishing relevant scholarship. Don’t believe me? Visit a few law journal websites and scroll through their recent tables of contents. Sure, you’ll encounter the occasional oddball pretentious titles. But you’ll also find articles firmly grounded in reality — articles that, as Sherrilyn Ifill of the University of Maryland said, “offer muscular critiques of contemporary legal doctrine, alternative approaches to solving complex legal questions, and reflect a deep concern with the practical effect of legal decision-making on how law develops in the courtroom.” Indeed, many law journal articles are written or co-written by practicing attorneys.



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

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Is law school worth it?

ImagesThere's been a lot of national and legal press arguing that a law degree is not worth the investment of students' time, effort, money, and forebearance. But now you can read the glass-half-full perspective here.

hat tip: Cindy Fountaine


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

Second Draft deadline approaches

Legal_writing_institute_logoThe Winter 2012-13 issue of The Second Draft, the newsletter of the Legal Writing Institute, will examine scholarship as it relates to legal research, writing, and lawyering skills faculty. For professors of LRW, does scholarship mean focusing only on issues uniquely related to legal writing instruction, such as teaching research skills or how to construct and draft legal memoranda; or, should it also mean developing an additional “doctrinal” area of expertise? This newsletter welcomes articles addressing these questions and also articles explaining where to publish articles; how to develop and choose ideas for scholarly articles; alternative forms of scholarship such as CLE presentations and books; advice on strategically developing a body of scholarship; and the benefits, both personal and professional, of engaging in scholarly writing. 

Send submissions to by December 15

hat tip: Teri McMurtry-Chubb


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

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

legal writing checklists -- there's an app for that

ImagesVeteran legal writing professor Kathy Vinson at Suffolk has developed a writing checklist now available as a free app here. The new iPhone app, iWrite Legal, includes tips for clear communication, writing checklists, and other resources designed to help students thoroughly revise, edit, and proofread a legal document. Thank you Kathy!




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

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

2013 Legal Writing Scholarship Grants

Ellie Margolis (Temple) and Greg Johnson (Vermont), the Co-Chairs of The Joint LWI-ALWD Scholarship Committee, have announced the application procedures for the 2013 Legal Writing Scholarship Grants. As the announcement notes:

Each year, ALWD, LWI, and LexisNexis award several research grants to legal research and writing teachers. These research grants enable gifted educators to spend their summers exploring scholarly ideas of interest to them and to produce scholarship that will assist others in the field. The grants also provide evidence of the three organizations' support for the scholarly pursuits of legal research and writing professionals.

Applications are due by 5 p.m. East Coast time on February 15, 2013.

The full announcement is available here, and you can download the application here.


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

Monday, November 26, 2012

Advice about writing e-mails

In the November 2012 issue of the Kentucky Bench and Bar Journal, Kristin Hazelwood of the University ofKristin-Hazelwood-FULL Kentucky offers advice for writing e-mails. Her article, titled E-Mails to Clients: Avoiding Missteps, presents guidelines for messages to clients. But her advice will be helpful for law students who write e-mails in other settings. Among the suggestions students will want to consider is whether e-mail is an appropriate medium for sensitive information. Students should also consider the guideline to double-check the list of addresses so the message does not go to unintended recipients.


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

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

whether the president should pardon the turkey

11-19turkey_full_600Sure, you've advised your visual learners to create a flow chart of their legal analysis. Maybe you've analyzed a legal problem using a flow chart yourself. Now no less of an authoritative source than The Onion brings us the President's flow chart on whether to pardon the Thanksgiving turkey. Note the edits. And enjoy.





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

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

the service aspect of LRW jobs

NovDec12The AAUP publishes a magazine called Academe, and the most recent issue has an interesting essay on the service aspects of being a composition professor teaching undergrads. Many of the points made will resonate with LRW professors.




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

Monday, November 19, 2012

Justice Scalia on advocacy

Justice Antonin Scalia recently offered some suggestions for appellate advocacy at the Appellate JudgesScalia_s Education Institute in New Orleans. "Be brief" was his first suggestion. His second was to be "unfailingly accurate." He explained, "I'm listening to you because you're an expert--so you must know the law and the facts." Inaccurate statements taint the whole of the lawyer's presentation and even future presentations to the Court. He also urged lawyers to "use the English language" and to avoid cliches. Opposing arguments, he dryly observed, are always "fatally flawed," never just "wounded."

I was at the conference to speak about writing issue statements.


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

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Romig on Legal Writing Checklists

As students approach the final memo deadline, Jennifer Romig (Emory) had a great piece in last year's Georgia Bar Journal on legal writing checklists.  She wrote the piece to a practicing audience, but some of her ideas are great for students as well.  From the abstract:

Lawyers may wish for their writing to be more powerful and efficient, but not know what to change or how to implement changes. One solution that speaks to each phase of the writing process and every writing situation is this: a checklist. Actually, the solution is not just one single checklist, but the method of using checklists throughout the writing process as well as in broader conversations about effective legal writing.

Inspired by Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right (2009), this column in the Georgia Bar Journal reviews the types of checklists lawyers may use to improve their writing process and their written work product. It provides short sample checklists and encourages lawyers to critically assess their own writing strengths and weaknesses and construct personalized writing checklists for better legal writing.



November 18, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thinking About How We Teach Research in Light of Law Firm Billing Trends

As the semester draws to a close and we look ahead, the ABAJournal has provided some interesting food for thought concerning legal research costs.  A November 14th post notes that more law firms are absorbing the costs of electronic legal research, particularly in connection with transactional matters.  Many of us devote class time to tips for free and low cost legal research, and should perhaps increase emphasis on these skills in light of the changing legal market.  

Hat tip: ABA Journal


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

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A federal judge demonstrates the value of editing

Recently, in denying a lawyer's motion to exceed the court's the page limit, a federal judge offered a stinging lesson on how to edit. By eliminating "redundancy, verbosity, and legalism," the judge reduced one of the lawyer's passages from approximately 125 words to 47 words. He then suggested that the lawyer apply the same technique to comply with the page limit.

hat tip: Joe Kimble


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

Monday, November 12, 2012

AALS Section survey

Top_logoThe leaders of the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning & Research have asked us to post a reminder that they are looking for the input of Section members via a quick survey. In just seven short questions, the survey asks for members' ideas and suggestions on programming, communications, and other Section activities. You can link to the survey here.  

hat tip: Jane Scott


November 12, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Grammar Gap

This blog has discussed schools’ poor grammar coverage before, but a recent incident dramatizes the problem. A student who is a native speaker of English told me she doesn’t know grammar. I thought perhaps she had forgotten some arcane rule, but she said she was never taught grammar as she went through the public school system. She explained, “I think I know what a noun is, but I don’t know what a pronoun is. Is it like a preposition?” I was taken aback. I tell my students that a pronoun should agree with a nearby antecedent, and I’ve posted a pronoun exercise on line. But I did not think a graduate student would have no idea what a pronoun is.


November 9, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

gender neutrality on the Supreme Court?

Picture-72Our co-blogger has written a very telling study on"The Supreme Court and Gender-Neutral Language: Splitting La Difference". Here's Judy Fischer's abstract:

"Following the first term with three women on the United States Supreme Court, this article analyzes the extent to which the justices used gender-neutral language. The article presents background about the meaning, history, and importance of gender-neutral language. It then examines both biased and gender-neutral phrasing in the justices’ opinions for the 2010 term. It concludes that some justices, with Justice Ginsburg in the forefront, frequently use gender-neutral language, others use it some of the time, and still others, especially Justice Scalia, seldom use it. The article presents unobtrusive ways to avoid biased language and suggests that the justices, as leaders in the legal profession, could easily apply them."



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

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Poor models for student writers

If students have difficulty expressing themselves clearly, that may be due to what they’re reading—and I'm not referring to S Ct Reporterbad novels or Tweets. Case opinions in law school textbooks contain some cumbersome prose, as Bryan Garner points out in the November Student Lawyer. He bluntly tells his student readers that much of their assigned reading is poorly written. To call attention to the problem, Garner is sponsoring a “Bad-Legal-Writing Contest.”  Send entries to, or see Garner’s article for further information.


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

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

drafting conference

Tina2 IMG_3975Professor Emerita Tina Stark and Dean Robert Schapiro of Emory University's law school are pictured here at the dinner honoring Tina's huge contribution to legal drafting education. The dinner was part of Emory's Third Biennial Conference on Transactional Education. The conference, held last weekend, was "a veritable cornucopia of information with oodles of presentations on innovative teaching methods, new experiential opportunities, outcomes and assessments, and creating concentrations and and certificates."

hat tip: Cynthia Adams and Edna Patterson


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

Monday, November 5, 2012

New book on plain English for statutes

Plain English for Drafting Statutes and Rules was recently published by Cincinnati Emeritus Professor MartineauRobert J. Martineau and Tennessee Commissioner Robert J. Martineau, Jr. A promotional Martineau Jrflyer says the book devotes attention to “the importance of the simple declarative sentence and the use of the singular noun, active verb, present tense, and the positive expression (SAPP) as the principal vehicles for achieving clarity in a statute or rule.”


November 5, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Contemporary Take on Strunk and White for Legal Writers

Professor Judith D. Fischer recently uploaded a new article evaluating the usefulness of a classic grammar authority.  From the abstract:

The Elements of Style, often called “Strunk and White,” has evoked both strong praise and vehement criticism. In the legal field, scholars often cite the book as an authority on grammar and style, as do judges, who sometimes order lawyers to read it. But detractors have criticized The Elements of Style as filled with “inconsistent nonsense” and even “hogwash.” This article examines the book and the critiques of it to consider whether legal writers should continue to revere it. The article points out the book’s flaws and concludes that it is time to demote Strunk and White to the bottom bookshelf and fill its former space with more current and effective resources.

The article is a good read and will appear in an upcoming edition of Scribes.


November 1, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)