Wednesday, July 31, 2013

another reason writing well is so important

ImagesOur new 1Ls might not fully appreciate how important good legal writing is when in-house counsel are reviewing the work of outside counsel. But surely upper level students will. And you can share an insider's perspective with them here.



July 31, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

great teaching!

ImagesAs inspiration for your fall semester planning, the following LRW professors won teaching awards as last spring’s semester came to an end. (If you see someone is missing here, please do let us know.)

Professor Tracey Banks Coan received the Joseph Branch Excellence in Teaching Award during the Wake Forest Founders’ Day Convocation. 

Professor Juliana Campagna was named the Teacher of the Year at Hofstra Law School.

At Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, Professor Gary Craig who was voted Professor of the Year by the class of 2013.

Professor Brad Desnoyer won two Missouri University awards: the Excellence in Education Award for significant contributions to students’ out-of-classroom experiences and the Gold Chalk Award for significant contributions to the education and training of graduate and professional students.

At this year’s graduation at the John Marshall Law School, Professor Joanne Hodge received the school’s Dedicated Service Award

Berkeley Law’s Dean named Professor Trish Plunkett Hurley as the 2013 recipient of the Rutter Award for Teaching Distinction.

Professor Karen Sneddon received the Reynold Kosek Excellence in Teaching Award at Mercer Law School.

The graduating students at SUNY Buffalo Law School chose Professor Patrick Long as the Faculty Member of the Year.

Professor Jennifer Mailly received the Teaching Scholar Award from the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at the University of Connecticut.

Professor Tom Noble was selected by the students at Elon to receive the 2013 Outstanding Service to Students Award.

Professor Ruth Anne Robbins, for the second year in a row, was selected by the graduating class at Rutgers-Camden as the Lawyering Professor of the Year.

Chicago-Kent’s SBA named Professor Kent Streseman as the Professor of the Year, also for the second year in a row.

The University of Michigan Law School Student Senate named Professor Nancy Vettorello as the 2013 recipient of the L. Hart Wright Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Finally, at Nova Southeastern University, Professor Joe Hnylka received the Stephanie Aleong Impact Award. For this unique award, the faculty votes for a student, who then presents the award to the professor who was most influential to him or her. Note that the award is also named in memory of a legal writing colleague.


July 30, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Kimble on Legalese

Over at Legal Writing Editor, Joe Kimble has a nice take on the (hopefully long-settled?) debate over legalese in legal writing.  The piece, You Think Anybody Likes Legalese?, makes a good point about the disconnect between what lawyers expect as readers and what they produce as writers:

Do you think anybody likes legalese? No. Nobody. Or I should say no body — not judges or lawyers or the public at large. All those groups strongly prefer plain language and find it more effective and persuasive. Besides that, they understand it better and faster, perform more accurately when they have to deal with it, and are more likely to read it in the first place. Please, purveyors and defenders of legalese, just look at the studies of your readers.

Now, I can hear the objections. “But clients expect legalese.” If they do, we should be ashamed of having conditioned them to expect it because they certainly don’t like it. “But my boss likes it the old way.” Then either try gentle persuasion or wincingly do what your boss wants, bide your time until you can decide, and know that your boss’s attitude and style are retrograde. “But most lawyers are still churning out legalese.” That’s the great disconnect: they forget as writers what they prefer as readers. 


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

Saturday, July 27, 2013

some real world advice

ImagesProfessor Megan Boyd (at Mercer) and Adam Lamparello (at Indiana Tech) have written an article offering Legal Writing for the "Real World": A Practical Guide to Success, 46 John Marshall Law Review (2013). The article contains real world writing advice, along with examples, to give students guidance about what to expect in law practice. It could provide some valuable context, once your students get their sea legs.



July 27, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

everything you need to know to submit a journal article

Nancy Levit and Alan Rostron at UMKC report that they have just updated their charts about law journal submissions, expedites, and rankings from different sources for the fall 2013 submission season covering the 203 main journals of each law school.

The highlights from this round of revisions include:

1) The list of law reviews is now up from 202 to 203 with the addition of a brand new law review, and for the first time it includes a law review that accepts submissions by Twitter. (The new law review is Belmont. The Twitter-friendly law review is Case Western Reserve.)

2) The chart now includes as much information as possible about what law reviews are not accepting submissions right now, what dates they say they'll resume accepting submissions, etc. 

The first chart contains information about each journal’s preferences about methods for submitting articles (e.g., e-mail, ExpressO, Scholastica, or regular mail), as well as special formatting requirements and how to request an expedited review. The second chart contains rankings information from U.S. News and World Report, as well as data from Washington & Lee’s law review website. 


July 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Being a Follower

I manage the Temple Law LRW twitter feed, and I want to do more following this year...that is, I want to find new law, writing, and LRW-related accounts to follow. Are you on twitter? Who do you follow?

And if anyone wants to follow us, we are @TempleLRW on twitter!


July 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 22, 2013

a quick grammar guide

Cupples_big-115x150 Templesmith_big-115x150Deborah Cupples and Margaret Temple-Smith, both legal writing professors at the University of Florida, have published a handy and dandy small book, Grammar, Punctuation & Style: A Quick Guide for Lawyers and Other Writers. You could literally fit in your purse or a large pocket, yet it provides a full review of American English grammar and punctuation and also includes style tips for lawyers. The authors practice what they preach, creating highly precise and concise prose. And the excellent typography adds to the legibility of this slim volume. (No  grammar maven will agree with every point in such a guide, but I found only three to disagree with, a personal minimum record.) It's a good guide to keep handy and to recommend for students.


July 22, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Judge Wald advises lawyers to write clearly

The Indiana Law Review recently published Judge Patricia Wald’s address at Indiana University’s Wald2012 commencement. Judge Wald, who sat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, advised the graduates, “Whatever you do, learn to write well--succinctly, clearly, and persuasively.”

Lawyers write the words that compose the laws that flood our courts with issues of interpretation and proper construction. We are told to hold with the “plain meaning” or “plain language” of the statutes, but in too many cases the meaning and the language are far from plain; the syntax is convoluted, surplusage and redundancy abound, participles dangle, and pronouns twist aimlessly in windy speech. . . . The best language conveys ideas clearly and completely. The road to legal limbo is paved with good intentions, sloppily articulated.


July 19, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Dilloff on Practice-Ready Graduates

Neil Dilloff (Maryland) has an interesting, timely new article (available on SSRN) out in the Stanford Law and Policy Review.  From the abstract:

Over the past several years, there has been a plethora of articles by law school administrators, faculty members, legal foundations, practicing lawyers, judges, various commentators, and national, state, and city bar associations about the perceived gap between what currently is being taught in the nation's law schools and what various practicing members of the legal profession believe needs to be taught. In addition, law schools have conducted various symposia in which law school administrators, faculty, and practitioners have met and discussed ways to improve law school curricula so that what a student learns is immediately useful to the student, and to his or her employer, when the student enters the workplace. 

The backdrop for the renewed attention to making legal education more practical has been the dismal job market for lawyers, which is now entering its fifth year. Law graduates are scrambling for jobs in a buyer's market. Employers are looking for applicants who have the training, legal maturity, and experience to become instant contributors to the productivity of the firm, corporation, or agency. While few employers expect recent law graduates to be able to meet job demands without some acclimation and on-the-job training, many employers no longer have the time, will, or finances to dedicate to training new lawyers. Accordingly, those law schools that are able to turn out "finished" work-ready graduates will move to the head of the pack, and their graduates will have a leg up in this uncertain job market. This Article will explore ways for law schools to accomplish this mission.


July 17, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Impact of Digital Tools on Student Writing and How Writing is Taught in Schools

This afternoon, I'm digging into this survey about technology and writing from the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project. The survey asked about 2,500 middle and high school teachers about how digital technologies have affected student writing. 

From the Overview:

According to teachers, students’ exposure to a broader audience for their work and more feedback from peers encourages greater student investment in what they write and in the writing process as a whole.

At the same time, these teachers give their students modest marks when it comes to writing and highlight some areas needing attention. Asked to assess their students’ performance on nine specific writing skills, teachers tended to rate their students “good” or “fair” as opposed to “excellent” or “very good.” Students received the best ratings on their ability to “effectively organize and structure writing assignments” and their ability to “understand and consider multiple viewpoints on a particular topic or issue.” Teachers gave students the lowest ratings when it comes to “navigating issues of fair use and copyright in composition” and “reading and digesting long or complicated texts.”

The Washington Post's report on the survey notes that "teachers weren’t thrilled about students using casual writing in formal assignments" (including "tech talk" and "shortening"). One survey response highlights this problem:

Texting has spilled over into so much of my students' writing that trying to decipher what they are writing has become difficult. They don't see the problem, and feel that as long as they have written something, it should be accepted no matter how it's written.

Interesting reading!

(h/t to my friend Brendon, who used technology to tweet a link to the survey to me this morning)


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

Monday, July 15, 2013

teaching time management, too

1345831027627Christine Bartholomew, at SUNY-Buffalo, has written a very helpful article onTime: An Empirical Analysis of Law Student Time Management Deficiencies. She acknowledges LRW professors' role on the front line of teaching time managment and provides information and ideas that every law professor should find helpful. Here's her abstract:

"This Article begins the much needed research on law students’ time famine. Time management complaints begin early in students’ legal education and generally go unresolved. As a result, practicing attorneys identify time famine as a leading cause of job dissatisfaction. To better arm graduating students, law schools must treat time as an essential component of practice-readiness. Unfortunately, most law schools ignore their students’ time management concerns, despite growing calls for greater 'skills' training in legal education.

"To date, legal scholarship has overlooked psychological research on time management. Yet, this research is an essential starting point to effective instruction. Rather than viewing time management as a singular concept, this research shows it is actually multi-dimensional, compromised of multiple time structure skills and behaviors. This more nuanced understanding of time management means each dimension can be isolated, measured, and remediated. Rather than a shotgun approach, law schools can tailor instruction to law students’ specific deficiencies.

"To help identify these deficiencies, this Article presents a psychometric study of 1Ls – the first study to ever quantify law students’ time management problems. The study identifies five specific dimensions 1Ls lack: perceived control, present orientation, structured routine, goal setting, and mechanics. Using this information, the Article offers tailored advice on incorporating skills across the curriculum to help remedy these deficiencies. By learning foundational time management skills during law school, students have at least a fighting chance of managing time famine in practice."



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

Check your typography

KellerPamela Keller of the University of Kansas recently reminded lawyers to pay attention to typography. In an article in the June Journal of the Kansas Bar Association, Keller stresses the importance of visual presentation, discussing points like font choice and the importance of white space. Weighing in on a topic previously discussed on this blog, Keller urges legal writers to insert one space, not two, between sentences. The two spaces, she explains, are a holdover from typewriter days.

Since I last posted on the topic, I have repented of my Luddite ways, and I now place only one space between sentences.


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

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Is the legal memo alive and well?

Kirsten Davis at Stetson has written a timely article as legal writing professors start preparing syllabi and assignments for the fall semester: "'The Reports of My Death are Greatly Exaggerated': Reading and Writing Objective Legal Memoranda in a Mobile Computing Age" .

Free Download
Here is the abstract:
"Is there any reason for lawyers to write legal memoranda, particularly when some lawyers report that they no longer value the 'traditional' legal memo? Does the legal memorandum – a common first writing project for law students – have any application whatsoever beyond the first year of law school? Does the usefulness of the memo decrease when it is read on a mobile device?

"This article takes issue with the idea that the 'traditional' legal memorandum is dead. It challenges lawyers, law faculty, and law students to think more deeply about the purposes of the legal memo, its role in modern legal practice, and its readability in a mobile computing world. And it offers a view of the legal memo that draws upon not only legal practice traditions but also upon the rules of ethics, rhetorical theory, cognitive science, and on-screen readability studies."

July 13, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The meaning of "Conclusory"

Kochan_DWhen I comment on student papers, I often use the word conclusory to refer to an unsupported conclusion. But I have noted that Microsoft Word’s spell checker does not recognize the word.

Now Professor Donald J. Kochan has written an analysis of conclusory, focusing on its history and use.  He notes that many dictionaries do not include the word and that its definition is elusive. After presenting extensive data about courts’ use of the word, especially concerning pleading standards in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, Kochan concludes that conclusory has become “even more difficult to define than ever.”

I'll keep using it, though. I'll just be sure to define it.


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

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Global Legal Skills Conference in Verona Italy (May 21-23, 2014)

Save the dates!  The next Global Legal Skills Conference will be held in Italy at the University of Verona Faculty of Law.  The conference will begin with an opening reception on Wednesday, May 21, 2014 and continue with two full days of programs on May 22 and 23, 2014.

This will be the ninth time that the Global Legal Skills Conference is being held, and the first time in Europe.  Previous conferences were held in Chicago, Washington DC, San Jose Costa Rica, and Monterrey Mexico.  The conference began at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.

Persons traveling to Verona can fly directly into Verona (VRN) or to other airports in Milan or Venice.  Train transportation to Verona is easy.  Post-conference activities are being planned for Venice and Vicenza.

Mark E. Wojcik

July 9, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Some venerable advice about writing to courts

The Green Bag's spring 2013 issue contains some old but still valid advice about writing to courts. In an addressPaxson delivered in 1888, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice (and later Chief Justice) Edward M. Paxson advised lawyers, "As you grow older . . . you will learn that a clear, compact argument is the greatest aid to a Court in disposing of a case."


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

Saturday, July 6, 2013

register for the Central States Legal Writing Conference

Registration is now open for the Central States Legal Writing Conference. The University of Kansas School of Law will host the Conference on Friday and Saturday, September 27-28, 2013. The conference theme is Creating Context & Connections.

You can register on the conference website.  The website also contains additional information about the conference, including travel, accommodations, scheduling, and (very soon) information about the presenters from across the country. 

Also consider submitting a 5-minute Take-Away presentation. In addition to the traditional, longer presentations, the conference will have Take-Away sessions toward the end of the second day of the conference. Each person in these sessions will have 5 minutes to present a teaching technique or idea to the group. By the end of the session, participants will have a number of great ideas they can immediately implement in the classroom. If you would like to present a 5-minute Take-Away, please submit a participation form online. Participation in the Take-Away sessions will be on a first-come, first-served basis.

If you have any questions, please contact the KU Law Lawyering Skills Program: Pam Keller, Betsy Six, Joyce Rosenberg, or Chelsi Hayden.

hat tip: Pam Keller


July 6, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 5, 2013

Controversy in Class

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog posted a new piece about law school pedagogy.  It discusses effectively using controversial class discussions to foster critical thinking.  From the post:

Law school pedagogy is a bit like weight-control diets. People have different ideas of what works best, and there’s always a new idea floating around promising better results.


Now, a new essay appearing in Southwestern Law Review suggests that law school teachers could enrich their lessons by seizing and dissecting classroom controversy instead of avoiding it.

The authors — Professors Patti Alleva of the University of North Dakota School of Law and Laura Rovner of the University of Denver College of Law — are basically talking about the times when students wade into fraught subjects like race, gender, ethnicity or sex and start yelling at each other.

These moments “provide a vehicle for teaching critical lessons pertinent to becoming self-reflective, well-rounded, and responsible lawyers,” they write.

If you can manage the discussion to avoid unduly alienating students in class, I tend to agree.  The challenge is fostering an environment of respect for competing positions when student temperatures run hot.


July 5, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Clarity Breakfast Program on the "Good Law Initiative"

Clarity is an international organization dedicated to clear communication.  In the United Kingdom, more individual Clarity members work for the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, drafting UK legislation, than for any other organization in the United Kingdom. In April, the Office of Parliamentary Counsel published a review of the causes of complexity in UK legislation, and launched the "good law" initiative. The initiative is an appeal to everyone interested in the making and publishing of law to come together with a shared objective of making legislation work well for the users of today and tomorrow. Hayley Rogers and Elizabeth Gardiner, Parliamentary Counsel and regular participants at Clarity breakfast meetings, will introduce the good law initiative to Clarity members and guests at a breakfast meeting on July 9, 2013, starting at 8:00 a.m.

Location: City Marketing Suite at the Guildhall, London

To reserve a place: Please email

There is no charge to attend. Non-members are welcome to try one meeting before they join Clarity, but Clarity members have priority when booking.  For information on joining, Clarity, click here.

Mark E. Wojcik, a U.S. member of Clarity

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

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

legal writing's true rock star

Salamon.susanProving that legal writing really does rock, Susie Salmon, who teaches at the University of Arizona, just last week with her bandmates won the Arizona State Bar Battle of the Lawyer Bands. This band contest took place at the state bar convention, and Susie's band, the Gotes, came away with 1st place bragging rights and a $1,500 award check. In addition to her full-time role as assistant director of Arizona's legal-writing program, Susie is the lead singer of the band. If you click here, Susie is the singer at the microphone in the black dress. You can visit the band's Facebook page here.

hat tip:  Suzanne Rabe


July 3, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)