Friday, December 14, 2012

Twenty-five guidelines for persuading through storytelling

Van PattenStorytelling for Lawyers, a recent article by Jonathan K. Van Patten of South Dakota, stresses the value of telling a coherent story in order to persuade. “Storytelling is primal,” Van Patten argues. “We all grew up with stories.” In a legal argument, he says, persuasion should be “built from the bottom up. People should not be told what to think. They will reach the conclusion on their own and will hold on to it more firmly if they can relate it to their own life story.” The article offers twenty-five guidelines for effective storytelling. Among them are that a story is not just a collection of facts, but must have a theme, and that the theme is usually more effective if it is not stated explicitly. Read the article at 57 S.D. L. Rev. 239 (2012).


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

Thursday, December 13, 2012

legal writing resolutions

ImagesDoes the fact that the Mayan calendar ends -- for all time -- a week from now give you pause? You might follow the advice here to appease the cosmic powers.

hat tip: Dean Cindy Fountaine



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

AALS section newsletter

Professor Kim Holst has provided the Fall 2012 edition of the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research Newsletter for your reading enjoyment!


It’s also available on the AALS Section community site at (You need to be logged into to access the community site). 

hat tip:  Kimberly Y.W. Holst, Associate Clinical Professor, Sandra Day O’College of Law


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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Legal-Writing Carol

'Tis the season for a A Legal-Writing Carol.  Mark Cooney at Cooley recently republished his sure-to-be-classic legal-writing take on Dickens' holiday favorite in the Michigan Bar Journal.  It turns out Ebenezer is haunted by ghosts that legal writing professors are sure to be familiar with:


“Who . . . what are you? Why do you dis- turb my supper this way?”

“Do you not recognize me, Ebenezer? Look. Whom do you see?”

Scribe peered more carefully into the ghostly glow and made out a familiar face, the face of his long-dead law partner, Jacob Morley. The ghost’s eyes were vacant, its ex- pression blank. Yet its torment was evident. The ghost was clenched in chains—an elab- orate network of links that bound it in eter- nal struggle. As Scribe looked closer still, he saw that the chains were made of words: save as hereinbefore otherwise stipulated... as duly executed and attested by the party of the first part...and by these presents does unconditionally grant, bargain, and sell unto the party of the second part, to have and to hold, the said chattels, goods, and ob­ jects hereof . . . 

This is a great read to send to students, or your friends in the practicing bar, over the holiday.

Earlier posts:

Ebenezer Scribe Learns a Lesson




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

Legal Writing Prof Blog Makes the ABA Blawg 100! And You Can Vote for Your Favorite Legal Writing Blog!

We wanted to remind you that the Legal Writing Prof Blog has been selected to the 2012 ABA Journal Blawg 100, recognizing the top 100 blogs in the legal profession in the ABA Journal's inaugural Blog Hall of Fame.  We thank all of our readers for your support during the year.

And on that note, we want to remind you that we need your vote!  The ABA is now polling readers to recognize the top blog in each category.  Please click here to vote for us as the best Legal Research/Writing Blog of 2012.  You'll find us in the Legal Research/Writing group of blogs.  Voting is open until December 21, 2012.

We would like to recognize our editorial team for their contributions to the Legal Writing Prof Blog:


Mark E. Wojcik, Professor of Law, The John Marshall Law School (Chicago)

Sue Liemer, Professor of Law and Director of Lawyering Skills, Southern Illinois University School of Law

Nancy Soonpaa, Professor of Law and Director of Legal Practice, Texas Tech University School of Law

Judith Fischer, Associate Professor of Law, University of Louisville School of Law

Dustin Benham, Assistant Professor of Legal Practice and Assistant Dean for Strategic Initiatives, Texas Tech University School of Law

Contributing Editors:

Lori D. Johnson, Legal Writing Professor, William S. Boyd School of Law, University of Nevada Las Vegas

Kristen E. Murray, Associate Professor of Law, Beasley School of Law, Temple University

Thank you, everyone, for your support.  (Please go vote for us if you haven't already!)

(dbb and mew)

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

Global Legal Skills Conference in Costa Rica

Here's a reminder that the next Global Legal Skills Conference will be held in San Jose, Costa Rica, from March 11-13, 2013.  


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

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ralph Brill's presentation about the history of legal writing

Ralph Brill's recent talk at Willamette about the history of LRW is available on youtube: click here to view it. Ralph is pictured below with Willamette workshop participants Karin MIka, Sam Jacobson, and Professor Emerita Mary Lawrence (seated).

                                               Workshop image

hat tip: Karin Mika


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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Kudos for LWI's one-day workshops

    Kudos for this weekend’s one-day workshops have been pouring in on the legal writing listserv.  Participants have posted high praise for

         Sarah Morath and Elizabeth Shaver at Akron

Suzanne Rabe at the University of Arizona,

Danielle Shelton, Lisa Reel Schmidt, Melissa Weresh, and Melanie Carlson at Drake,                          

The organizers at Michigan State University,

Anne Goldstein, Lynn Su, Jodi Balsam, Kim Hawkins, David Epstein, Lynnise Pantin, Kirk Burkhalter, Erika Wood, Chaumtoli Huq at New York Law School,

Gail Stephenson and her colleagues at Southern University Law Center,

Tania Pierce at Texas Wesleyan,

Trish Plunkett Hurley and Roxanne Livingston at UC Berkeley,

Gail Greene at U.C. San Diego,

Craig Smith at UNC Chapel Hill,

Olympia Duhart and Michele Struffolino at Villanova, and

Jay Messenger and the other organizers at Willamette.

     Former LWI president Ken Chestek wrote, "And thanks to you, Robin, along with Mark Wojcik and Tracy McGaugh, all former LWI Board members who got this project started a few years ago . . . . The three of you got the program started off right, and Joan [Rocklin] and Laurel [Oates] are doing an excellent job keeping the program running well!"


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

Friday, December 7, 2012

That vs. Which: A Rule Living in Infamy

The Chronicle of Higher Education featured an article examining the that vs. which rule and concluding that it is unfounded.  The article uses an historical example that is particularly relevant today:

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” That was how President Franklin D. Roosevelt opened his famousinfamy speech, 71 years ago. Ignoring the writing handbooks, he opened with a passive construction, which of course is just right for the rhetorical context (America as innocent victim). And he also ignored another bogeyman rule: He introduced a restrictive relative clause with which.

The false belief that restrictive which is an error stems from a quixotic reform effort of the early 20th century. That attempt to change English failed, but American teachers and editors took note of it, and misinterpreted it as legislation, blithely ignoring the evidence of FDR’s sentence and thousands of others in all kinds of literature.

hat tip:  Lou Sirico



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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

History of LRW to be featured at Willamette workshop

Those interested in the history of our field might enjoy the one-day workshop at Willamette on Saturday,  Brill_Ralph_250px
December 8, which will feature a talk by Ralph Brill. His title: "Fifteen Years After The Sourcebook - Where Have We Been & Where Are We Going." Another pioneer in the field, Mary Lawrence, will be attending. Click here for information about this and other one-day workshops that will take place in early December.

hat tip: Karin Mika


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

Spelling, Commas, and the Constitution

Oregon recently voted to change some of the language in its constititution to bring it more in line with national conventions (e.g. the legislative, executive, and judicial "departments" will now be referred to as "branches").  This prompted the Christian Science Monitor to reflect on spelling, usage, and grammar in the U.S. Constitution.  The famous document may be a model for democracies but not for legal writing students:

The most notable flat-out spelling error, according to Mount, is "Pensylvania," with only a single "n" in the first syllable. Pennsylvania, as we all know, was named for William Penn. That an entire commonwealth was named for one man somehow makes me feel better about Trump Tower and its ilk.

The original Constitution includes such archaisms as "chuse" for "choose" and "controul," as well as "British" spellings such as "defence." Noah Webster and his Americanizing spellings still lay decades in the future as the Framers labored (laboured?) in Philadelphia.

There is even an "it's" where "its" is called for – see Article I, Section 10.

Some modern students of the Constitution are surprised at its original Capitalization. Almost every important Noun seems to begin with a capital Letter, and what's up with that?

And what about punctuation? The commas in the Second Amendment alone have inspired reams of legal writing.


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

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

LWI One-Day Workshops on December 7 and 8

This past week, I've been lucky enough to attend the Legal Writing Institute One-Day Workshops at George Washington University Law School and Villanova University School of Law. Kudos to GW's Iselin LWI Gambert (my former student!) and Villanova's Heather Baum and Candance Centeno for coordinating those programs, and to Laurel Oates and Joan Rocklin for coordinating the workshops nationwide.

There are four different themes for this year's workshops: The Evolving Legal Writing Classroom, Preparing Practice-Ready Students, Student Populations: Diversity Matters, and The Scholarly Way.

I love these workshops (some of which were recapped earlier on the blog), which always give me new perspectives and ideas on everything from my writing assignments, to classroom exercises, to my own scholarship.

If I've piqued your interest, I have good news...there's still a chance to attend one of the remaining workshops, most of which are this Friday, December 7, at the following law schools:

  • Drake University Law School (Des Moines, IA)
  • Michigan State University College of Law (East Lansing, MI)
  • New York Law School (New York, NY)
  • Nova Southeastern Univ. Law Center (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)
  • Southern University Law Center (Baton Rouge, LA)
  • Texas Wesleyan School of Law (Ft Worth, TX)
  • University of Akron School of Law (Akron, OH)
  • University of Arizona (Tuscon, AZ)
  • University of California at Berkeley (Berkeley, CA)
  • University of North Carolina School of Law (Chapel Hill, NC)
  • University of San Diego School of Law (San Diego, CA)

The final workshop is at Willamette University College of Law (Salem, OR) on Saturday, December 8.

The LWI Wiki has more information about these workshops, and you can register for them here.


December 4, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

AALS Section Award Announced

Faculty_terrillPollman JillRamsfield2009Congratulations are in order for this year’s recipients of the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research Award: Terry Pollman (UNLV) and Jill Ramsfield  (Hawaii). They will be honored at the AALS Section lunch during the AALS Annual Meeting in New Orleans on Saturday, January 5th at noon, in the conference hotel. Tickets to the lunch are available online through the AALS website (pre-registration is required) and at the AALS meeting site until that Friday evening, if space is available.  Kudos, Terry and Jill!

hat tip: Kathy Vinson


December 4, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

LWI one-Day workshops at George Washington and Washburn

LWI one-day workshops on November 30 included one at George Washington University Law School. Participant Elizabeth Beske wrote, "Congratulations to Christy DeSanctis, Karen Thornton, Iselin Gambert, and others at George Washington University Law School for a terrific one-day conference on Friday!  I left the conference with tons of new ideas and insights and a huge appreciation for the people in our great field."

Of Washburn's workshop, Karin Mika wrote, "Congratulations to Tonya Kowalski and the other members of the Washburn community for hosting a terrific workshop . . . . The panels provided incredible insight into dealing with matters regarding how best to educate our struggling students as well as a real life view  from students as to what it's like to be a disabled law student. We also discussed diversity in the classroom -- traditional notions of diversity, as well as other students who might feel marginalized, whether we're aware of those students or not."

hat tips: Elizabeth Beske and Karin Mika


December 2, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Successful one-day LWI workshop at Northwestern

     Chicago's Northwestern was the site of the one of the first one-day legal writing workshops of 2012, on Friday, November 30. Northwestern Dean Daniel Rodriguez began the day with an enthusiastic talk about the importance of preparing practice-ready students, which was the workshop's theme.

     That theme was then developed through a variety of enlightening panel discussions. One presentation, by Cindy Adams, Lori Johnson, Mary Nagel, and Elizabeth Inglehart, discussed writing for today’s partners. The panelists and the practitioners in the audience observed that 1) today, associates are often asked to summarize research in emails; 2) assigning lawyers want different levels of depth in those emails, so an associate should ask what is expected; 3) associates do still write memos; 4) writing a shorter email requires the same depth of understanding that a full memo does; and 5) even though fewer full-length memos are assigned in practice, assigning memos in law school is a good way to teach legal analysis and clear expression.

     That was only one of the outstanding panels!

     The event was flawlessly organized by the Northwestern legal writing professors. Pictured below are Northwestern professors Dana Hill, Judy Rosenbaum, Elizabeth Inglehart, and Deborah Borman. Not pictured is Professor Chris Martin, also one of the organizers.   


              Northwestern conference-12


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