Friday, March 29, 2013

a little Peep-ing levity

Vote for your favorite law-themed Peep diorama at  Here's a sample of the candy creativity called "Peepemptory Challenges":



March 29, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

R.I.P. Anthony Lewis

As some may have noted from earlier in the week, pioneering legal journalist and author of Gideon’s Trumpet, Anthony Lewis, died earlier this week. Mr. Lewis is widely credited for reporting many of the Warren Court’s seminal decisions in concise, accessible language. From the Washington Post:

Anthony Lewis, an indefatigable champion of civil liberties who became known during his half-century with the New York Times as one of the most trenchant legal journalists of his generation and was twice a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, died March 25 at his home in Cambridge, Mass. He was two days shy of his 86th birthday.

By the time he retired in 2001, Mr. Lewis was widely recognized as the dean of liberal American columnists and had written a book that is regarded as the seminal account of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Gideon v. Wainwright.

As a Times columnist for 32 years, he wrote his most noted work on First Amendment rights and the American justice system. In a crowded field of columnists, many of whom were at times enticed to bloviate, Mr. Lewis distinguished himself with the consistent lucidity of his writing and his reportorial approach to the job.

Taken together, [Mr. Lewis’s two] Pulitzers reflect the two most salient themes of Mr. Lewis’s career: a self-professed affinity for the underdog and seemingly infallible command of the law, despite his limited formal training in the field. “I was probably made to be a lawyer,” he once said. “It just didn’t turn out that way.”


March 28, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Hitting the Links

I'm playing catch-up this week...I finally got around to reading some interesting links that came my way over the past week or so and I thought I'd share.

  • Professor Deborah Merritt has this post up at the Law School Cafe (hat tip: Mary Beth Beazley), where she talks about finding the right "core faculty" for today's law schools. Here's a teaser:

There is room for many types of teaching and scholarship on law faculties. Our biggest error, perpetuated at most law schools, has been keeping legal writing and clinical courses at the periphery of the curriculum and faculty. If we move those professors and their courses to the core, where they belong at any institution devoted to teaching students to think like lawyers, we would solve many of the pedagogic problems plaguing law schools today. We could teach doctrine and new “practice ready” skills, while improving the ways we teach traditional methods of thinking like a lawyer.


March 26, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Annoyed by law review editors’ insistence on citations for everything?

IMG_0735There’s help for scholars who are annoyed when law review editors insist on citations for everything. The Green Bag offers a short piece with a suitably generic title for authors stuck without a citation for an obvious point. A citation to The Theory of Law, by Professor Orin S. Kerr, will lead readers to this authoritative statement: “If you have been directed to this page by a citation elsewhere, it is plainly true that the author’s claim is correct.” The Green Bag’s micro-symposium on Kerr’s piece offers other trenchant observations on the citation problem.


March 26, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 22, 2013

New Green Bag list of exemplary legal writing

Green BagThe 2012 Green Bag list of exemplary legal writing has just been published. TheKagan only United States Supreme Court Justice to make the list is Justice Elena Kagan, for her dissent in Williams v. Illinois. In that case, the majority upheld a conviction that was based an expert's report. After reciting the reasoning of the various justices, Kagan added this pithy sentence: "That creates five votes to approve the admission of the Cellmark report, but not a single good explanation." That's just one example of Justice Kagan's incisive writing.

The Green Bag's list is always a fertile source of examples for law school classes. This year's list includes majority opinions from federal appellate and district courts, other concurrences and dissents, books, long articles, news and editorial pieces, and "Miscellany."


March 22, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Garner column both helps and slights legal writing professors

Bryan Garner argues in the March ABA Journal that many legal writers suffer from the “Dunning-Kruger” Garnereffect—a syndrome named after two professors who showed that unskilled persons often think they’re better than they are. His column, titled Why Lawyers Can't Write, provides support for legal writing professors who are truthful about students' weaknesses and prod them toward a higher level of skill. But Garner is off the mark when he blames law schools for providing students with “little if any feedback (on substance, much less style) on exams and writing assignments.” While some professors may be guilty of that charge, most legal writing professors are not. We give students extensive feedback. 

By emphasizing the value of clear, precise legal analysis and writing, Garner helps us in our efforts to hold students to high standards. But he slights us in not recognizing that our profession is overwhelmingly on his side, as a myriad of our published articles and conference presentations have documented.


March 18, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

kudos, Mary-Beth!

MoylanMaryBethMary-Beth Moylan, director of the legal writing program at Pacific McGeorge School of law, was recently elected to the Board of Directors for the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York. An article in the Washington Post shows how impressive this year's inductees are. 

hat tip:  Hether Macfarlane





March 16, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

legal writing profs in the New York Times

Coughlcn McelroyLegal writing professors Chris Coughlin & Lisa McElroy have co-authored a letter published on NY, calling for more experiential legal education. It's nice to hear LRW voices in the main stream media!

hat tip: Sarah Ricks



March 16, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Empire State Legal Writing Conference information

Posted on behalf of Empire State Legal Writing Conference Organizers.

Dear colleagues,

Albany Law School is hosting an ALWD Scholars’ Forum on Friday, April 19th, 2013, the afternoon before the Fourth  Annual Empire State Legal Writing Conference, to be held on Saturday, April 20th.  This is a terrific opportunity to present and discuss an idea you are currently considering turning into an article or receive critiques on an article you are currently drafting – (or, rehearse your presentation for another conference!)  Lunch will be served and fantastic assistance from our wonderful Empire State Legal LW Conference committee will also be provided.  We are thrilled to announce that Robin Boyle of St. John’s University School of Law will be facilitating the forum.  Robin Boyle is the Assistant Dean for Academic Success and Professor of Legal Writing at St. John’s Law School in Queens, NY.   She has taught legal writing for 19 years and additionally teaches Drafting: Litigation Documents and Contracts and also Contracts I for conditional admission students.  She has served as a member of the Editorial Board for the Journal of the Legal Writing Institute and as a Director and Secretary for the LWI Board of Directors.  She has published on topics of pedagogy and learning styles.

 To apply for the forum, please submit the following information by March 28, 2013:  (1) your name, title, law school affiliation and contact information; (2) an article abstract; and (3) a description of where you are in the writing process.  For example, do you have an outline, a partial first draft, a full first draft?  Please send submissions and any questions at all about the forum to Dede Hill:  (As an alum of the LWI Writers’ Workshop at the 2010 Biennial, I can attest to how motivating and useful these gatherings can be to guide you through the sometimes daunting process of writing an article!) 

In addition, registration for the Fourth Annual Empire State LW Conference will go live very soon.  The Conference will be held on Saturday, April 20, 2013, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at Albany Law.  We hope the 10:00 a.m. start time will encourage those of you who would prefer to make this a one-day outing to join us.  For those who wish to spend more time in Albany, we are reserving a bank of rooms at a hotel right across the street from the law school for Thursday night (for those participating in the ALWD forum) and for Friday and Saturday nights (for those attending the conference – or both events).  We plan to organize an informal dinner for Friday night.  Stay tuned for an e-mail with a registration link for the conference and more details. 

We hope to see many of you in April!


Dorothy (Dede) Hill, Associate Lawyering Professor, Albany Law School,


March 15, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

More about student preparation for university and graduate work

     A post on the Chronicle of Higher Education blog continues the discussion about students’ preparation for university education. Michele Goodwin cites Kenneth Bernstein’s warning (discussed earlier on this blog) that students are poorly prepared because K-12 teachers perceive a need to “teach to the test” instead of cultivating higher-order thinking. Goodwin laments that those poorly-prepared students have now arrived at the university level. She also charges that “law schools are complicit” as they allow—or promote—grade inflation.

     I see poor preparation reflected in some of my students’ appellate briefs. The Table of Contents for a brief is essentially an outline, but many students don’t know how to draft a coherent outline, even after I cover the topic in class and provide outside resources. When I started teaching legal writing 23 years ago, students understood outlining and I didn’t need to devote much class time to the topic.

Hat tip: John D. Edwards


March 15, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Rules for Creative Filings

Texas Lawyer has some advice on when to employ, or not to employ, creative briefing strategies, like illustrations, poems, and other unconventional tactics.  Using photographs, drawings, and dialogues in briefs has become more common as lawyers attempt to breakthrough with an overburdened appellate bench.  From the article:

First and foremost, make sure it really works. The poem, play or drawing may seem brilliant when first written, but do others agree? Vetting themes or even whole drafts with colleagues or spouses is a great idea for any brief, but it is essential when dispensing with the standard form. It's probably best to return to the tried and true if more than one reader responds with a puzzled look or asks, "Are you really sure that's a smart idea?"


Second, carefully consider the specific nature of the task at hand. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and desperate legal challenges are better candidates for novelty than run-of-the-mill matters.


Third, flouting custom works best when simplicity can do the job. Opening appellate briefs require questions presented, statements of fact, summaries of argument and so on. There is no way to condense one into a single photo or cartoon, and such devices will inevitably grate on the court if a lawyer takes them too far. On the other hand, a short brief that will make one or two simple points may be more susceptible to innovation.


Fourth, no lawyer should wander off the reservation without the client's wholehearted endorsement. Counsel should explain beforehand why an out-of-the-box approach can work in this case and make sure the client fully understands and agrees. If things go south, charm and novelty may look strange and ill-conceived.


March 14, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

William Zinsser publishes a new book

ZinsserWilliam Zinsser, the former Yale professor whose On Writing Well is now a classic, Zinsser bookhas published a new book on writing. The Writer Who Stayed is a collection of essays from Zinsser's column in the American Scholar magazine. Like his earler book, this one emphasizes clarity and economy in writing. It should be a good reference for legal writing students and professors.


March 14, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mary Lawrence to receive Burton Award!

MlawrenceIt's hard to think of anyone more deserving of the Burton Award for Legal Writing Education than this year's recipient, Mary Lawrence. This award recognizes "outstanding contributions to the education of new lawyers in the field of legal analysis, research and writing, whether through teaching, program design, program support, innovative thinking or writing." The award will be presented at a gala event in Washington, D.C., in June at the Library of Congress. Mary is Professor Emerita at the University of Oregon School of Law and one of the founders of our field. Congratulations, Mary!

The awards will be held on June 3, 2013.  Click here for more about the Burton Awards. 

hat tip: Anne Kringle

(spl and mew)

March 11, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Global Legal Skills Conference in Costa Rica -- Link to Conference Schedule

2013-01-27_16-01-07_604 2013-01-26_11-36-22_427The 8th Global Legal Skills Conference is being held next week at the Holiday Inn Aurola in Downtown San José, Costa Rica (Central America).  Participants are expected from Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Italy, Japan, Mexico, and from across the United States. The conference is organized through The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, where it first originated.  

This year's Global Legal Skills conference (the second to be held in Costa Rica) includes a "legal field trip" with visits to:

Other special features of this year's conference include a plenary session to introduce law and legal education in Costa Rica and Central America and two contract negotiations workshops (one in Spanish for English speakers and one in English for Spanish speakers).  

The conference is being held during the week of the Central American Games, so it will be an especially exciting time to be in Costa Rica.

Click here to Download the latest version of the Conference Program.    Download GLS-8 Program Version 2.2

Conference registration information is available by clicking here.

The 2014 Global Legal Skills Conference will be held in Verona, Italy.

Mark E. Wojcik

March 8, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Third Circuit decries poorly-written documents

Once again, a court has chastised a lawyer for poor writing. The Third Circuit in Morris v. Kesselring decried “The unnecessarily prolix and disorganized nature” of a complaint and appellate brief. Noting that both documents were “disorganized, rambling, and largely incoherent,” the court upheld the trial court's dismissal of the case and its award of attorney’s fees to the opposing party.


March 8, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Top 10 Legal Writing Blogs

I was pleased to see the Legal Writing Prof Blog has been included in Legal Productivity's list of the top ten legal writing blogs!

Check out the full list for some other great legal writing sites.


March 5, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Recap: Capital Area Legal Writing Conference

I'm just back from DC (my old stomping grounds!) where I attended the Third Annual Capital Area Legal Writing Conference at American University, Washington College of Law.

RAVCThe faculty at AU put together a great conference with lots of interesting speakers and presentations. Pictured here are Ruth Anne Robbins and Victoria Chase (both of Rutgers-Camden) after their presentation entitled "Iron Chefs' Lawyering Kitchen."



Mary Beth Beazley (Ohio State) gave Friday night's keynote speech (pictured at right), entitled "Behavioral Legal Writing and MBB the Law." And the conference closed on Saturday with a plenary presentation from The Honorable Patricia Wald of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

There was much more on the conference agenda--you can check out what you missed here. Thanks to everyone at AU for a great conference!


March 4, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Law Students Helping in the Tax Clinic

Many legal writing professors are also involved in clinical legal education directly, and all (or almost all) legal writing professors strongly support expanded clinical opportunities for law students (even when it doesn't always involve a lot of writing!).  Here's a short video from The John Marshall Law School in Chicago about law students in its Voluntary Income Tax Assistance ("VITA") program for low income tax payers, a program being offered now through April.  I love the spirit of the woman who says that she's now thinking about going to law school herself!


Mark E. Wojcik (mew)

March 4, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Congratulations to Catherine Wasson

Wasson PhotoWe've just learned that Catherine Wasson has been granted tenure at Elon University School of Law in Greensboro, North Carolina.  Catherine is the Director of Legal Method and Communication at Elon.  She also teaches Family Law.  She previously taught at Widener University School of Law in Harrisburg and had also been an adjunct professor at William Mitchell College of Law, from which she also received her law degree.  
She is a frequent presenter and has presented across the United States, in Kenya, and in South Africa.
She is the author of many articles.  She is a co-author of "A Practical Guide to Legal Writing and Legal Method," a book published by Aspen Publishing. 
She served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) and is a member of the Legal Writing Institute and of Scribes -- The American Society of Legal Writers.
Catherine is a great colleague and a wonderful person -- we extend our congratulations to her and to Elon University. 
Secret facts about her?  She was an English and Theatre major in college and also got an M.A. in Speech and Theatre Arts from Kent State University.  She also co-founded the Minnesota Judicial Center Choir in 1994 with Judge Doris Huspeni.  
Hat tip to Legal Writing Cheerleader Suzanne E. Rowe (University of Oregon School of Law).  And congratulations Catherine!
Mark E. Wojcik (mew)

March 3, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A Roundup of Free Caselaw Research (from the Law Library of Congress Blog)

The Blog for the Law Library of Congress ("In Custodia Legis") has a useful post on "How to Locate Free Caselaw on the Internet."  Click here.

Mark E. Wojcik (mew)

March 3, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)