Monday, September 30, 2013

helping students land jobs

ImagesGetting a job is uppermost in nearly every law student's mind. But many students do not grasp how law professors can help the job search, and many law professors do not know how to advocate for  students. An essay in the The National Jurist on point encourages students to use their resources well. Of course, legal writing professors make excellent references for students, because we know our students and their skill sets, and we know how to write effective letters or advocate in person or on the phone for our students. 

hat tip: Sarah Ricks





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

Friday, September 27, 2013

Can Grammar Win Cases?

Can grammar win cases? Yes, says Professor Phillip M. Sparkes of NKU Chase College of Law. He  suggests, for example, that saying a politician "had an affair" (past tense) sounds less damaging that saying he "was having an affair" (past progressive tense). The latter implies more actions and suggests that they may continue. For additional examples, read the full article at pages 26-27 of the September 2013 Kentucky Bench and Bar Journal.


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

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

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Books by Supreme Court Justices

FrankfurterHave you ever wondered how many books Supreme Court Justices haveTaft written?  According to a recent compilation in the Journal of Supreme Court History, the total is 353.  Among the lesser-known but interesting titles are The Case of Sacco and Vanzetti: A Critical Analysis for Lawyers and Laymen by Felix Frankfurter (pictured at left) and Four Aspects of Civic Duty by Chief Justice William Howard Taft (pictured at right). For additional intriguing titles, see the full list.


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

Monday, September 23, 2013


Today's New York Times has a great story on the growing body of scholarship exploring link rot in judicial opinions.  From the Times:

Supreme Court opinions have come down with a bad case of link rot. According to a new study, 49 percent of the hyperlinks in Supreme Court decisions no longer work.

This can sometimes be amusing. A link in a 2011 Supreme Court opinion about violent video games by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. now leads to a mischievous error message.

“Aren’t you glad you didn’t cite to this Web page?” it asks. “If you had, like Justice Alito did, the original content would have long since disappeared and someone else might have come along and purchased the domain in order to make a comment about the transience of linked information in the Internet age.”



September 23, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

the legal world's six word sentences

IndexOver on Marquette's law faculty blog, Lisa Mazzie has an engaging post on six word sentences. Be sure to read the comments, too.






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

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The University of Hawai'i seeks a legal writing director

The University of Hawai'i Law School is seeking a legal writing director. It's a tenure-track or tenured position. To learn more about it, check the Legal Writing Institute's job listings.



September 18, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Advice to Law Students from Justice O'Connor

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor delivered a speech yesterday at the University of Colorado in honor of Constitution Day.  She was asked what advice she had for new law students.  We are told that this was her answer: "Learn everything you can. Be a good student. Do your homework. Learn to write. Learn to express yourself well. Learn everything they have available to teach you."

Hat tip to Lisa T. McElroy (Drexel University)


September 18, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 16, 2013

The John Marshall Law School Features its Legal Writing Program in a Video

The John Marshall Law School in Chicago has a series of videos for prospective students.  This one, just released on September 13, 2013, features Anthony Niedwiecki talking about the Lawyering Skills Program that he directs at John Marshall.  Anthony also serves as the school's Associate Dean for Skills, Experiential Learning, and Assessment.



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

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The best dictionaries

In the latest Green Bag, Justice Antonin Scalia and Bryan Garner explain that not all dictionaries OEDare equally authoritative. As an example, they propose a judge who must decide whether fighting cocks are poultry under a particular statute. In inferior dictionaries, the judge will find poultry defined as domestic foul. Thus the judge would conclude that fighting cocks are poultry. But better dictionaries add this important point: poultry are raised for their meat or eggs, a qualification that shows fighting cocks are not poultry.

The article, which originally appeared as Appendix A to Scalia and Garner’s book Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts, lists the most authoritative general and legal English dictionaries for particular time periods. Scalia and Garner paise the Oxford English Dictionary as a reliable source for historical terms, but note that it is not as useful for recent changes. They say two of the best current general dictionaries are The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. See their article for the full lists.


September 15, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Photos from the Global Legal Skills Conference in Costa Rica

The eighth Global Legal Skills Conference was held earlier this year in San Jose, Costa Rica.  Here are some photos from that conference, taken by one of the best photographers in the legal writing world:  David Austin of the California Western School of Law.  

The slideshow also includes a preview of GLS 9 to whet your appetite for next year's conference in Italy.  The next Global Legal Skills Conference will be held at the University of Verona Faculty of Law from May 21-23, 2013.  The call for proposals for that is about to be issued.  Leave your name and contact information in the "comment" section if you want to be sure to get a copy of that call for proposals or if you'd like more information about attending the GLS-9 Conference in Verona, Italy.

Enjoy the show here from GLS-8 in Costa Rica!



September 13, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Gerald Lebovits on the Importance of Legal Writing

Gerald Lebovits (Columbia) has a piece in the New York State Bar Association Journal on the importance of legal writing.  The whole abstract:

Noting that the legal-writing courses are the most important courses in law school, the author urges that law schools strengthen their legal-writing programs to make students ready to practice law when they graduate.

It's worth a read.

hat tip: Scott Fruehwald


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

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Jan Levine to Receive Blackwell Award

Jan Levine The Association of Legal Writing Directors and the Legal Writing Institute have announced that Professor Jan Levine has been selected to receive the Thomas F. Blackwell Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Legal Writing.  Jan is an Associate Professor and Director of Legal Research and Writing at Duquesne University School of Law.

The Blackwell Award is named to honor the memory of Thomas Blackwell, a legal writing professor at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia.  He was one of three people killed at the law school on January 16, 2002 when a former student opened fire at the school with a handgun. 

Recognizing the contributions that Tom Blackwell made to the legal writing community, the Blackwell Award is presented annually to a person who has made an outstanding contribution to improve the field of Legal Writing by demonstrating:

  • an ability to nurture and motivate students to excellence;
  • a willingness to help other legal writing educators improve their teaching skills or their legal writing programs; and
  • an ability to create and integrate new ideas for teaching and motivating legal writing educators and students.

Previous winners include:

  • 2012 - Suzanne Rowe of the University of Oregon
  • 2011 - Carol McCrehan Parker of the University of Tennessee
  • 2010 - Steve Johansen of Lewis & Clark
  • 2009 - Linda Edwards of Mercer Law
  • 2008 - Diana Pratt of Wayne State
  • 2007 - Louis Sirico of Villanova Law School
  • 2006 - Mary Beth Beazley of Ohio State
  • 2005 - Ralph Brill of Chicago-Kent
  • 2004 - Pam Lysaght of Detroit Mercy
  • 2003 - Richard K. Neumann of Hofstra University

The award is a joint award of the Legal Writing Institute and the Association of Legal Writing Directors.

The Blackwell Award Reception will be held during the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Law Schools.  The reception will be at the New York Marriott Marquis on Friday, January 3, 2014, from 8 p.m. until 10 p.m. 

Here is a link to a story about the last Blackwell Award Presentation.

Hat tips to Kathleen Elliott Vinson &  Mel Weresh

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

Penny Pether

Penny_PetherWe are sorry to learn from Lou Sirico that we have lost Professor Penny Pether to a longstanding battle with cancer.  Penny was a professor at Villanova University School of Law, where she taught Comparative Constitutional Law, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law and Procedure, and Law and Literature.  

Penny had been educated in her native Australia and in the United States, receiving a B.A. and LL.B. from the University of Sydney, an MLitt from the University of New England, and a Ph.D. from the University of Sydney.  She had worked as a solicitor in Sydney before joining the Ombudsman's Office of New South Wales.  She was an Associate Lecturer in English at the University of Sydney, a Lecturer in Law at the University of Wollongong, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney, and an Assistant Professor and Director of the Lawyering Skills Program at Southern Illinois University.  She also taught at American University before joining the faculty of Villanova University School of Law.

Penny served on a number of academic boards, including the Board of Governors of the Law and Humanities Institute, the Law and Literature Association of Australia, and the Association of American Law Schools Committee on Lawyer Performance and Admission to the Bar.

She was, above all, a delightful person whose smile and presence could lighten any room.  She was a skilled and valued teacher and colleague to many.  Lou Sirico, in an announcement to the Legal Writing Listserve and a post on the Legal Skills Blog, wrote of his colleague that she was determined to regain her health and that she had looked forward to teaching this semester and to taking on several speaking engagements.  He said:  "Those of us who knew Penny knew how passionate she was about her scholarship, her teaching, and most of all, her students."

Penny is survived by her husband, Dave Caudill, who is also a Professor at Villanova.  Lou Sirico advises us that a memorial reception will be held on Friday evening, September 13, 2013, from 7-9 p.m., at St. Asaph’s Episcopal Church, 27 Conshohocken State Road, Bala Cynwyd.  Funeral services will be held at St. Asaph’s at 2 p.m. on Saturday, September 14, with burial to follow in St. Asaph’s cemetery.

Rest in peace, Penny.  You are missed.


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

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Milani Award announced

Sue Painter-Thorne at Mercer has announced:

"The Adam A. Milani Disability Law Writing Competition is a national disability law writing competition sponsored by the Mercer University School of Law and the ABA Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law. The competition honors the work of the late Professor Adam Milani, a passionate advocate for disability rights, an accomplished legal scholar, and a beloved faculty member at the Law School. Adam was a long-time legal writing professor and a dear friend and colleague to all of us in the legal writing community.

"This year two winners were selected from many fantastic entries. The first place winner is Margaret Dreschel, from the Berkeley Law School. Congratulations to Ms. Dreschel and her legal writing professor Michelle Cole.

 "In second place is John Chamberlain, also from Berkeley Law School. Congratulations to Mr. Chamberlain and (again!) to his legal writing professor, Michelle Cole.

"I would also like to take a moment to thank our outstanding judges, who worked very diligently to judge this competition: Linda Berger—University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Ian Gallacher--Syracuse University; Karen Henning--University Detroit Mercy; Allison Martin--Indiana University; Shannon Moritz--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Terrill Pollman—University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Suzanne Rabe--University of Arizona; Anne Rector--Emory University; Judy Stinson-- Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University; Christine Venter--Notre Dame."


September 10, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"Express your most powerful thought in the shortest sentence."

Five-word sentences: Gospel truth.


September 10, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Staying happy in law school

Just in time for this fall’s new law students, the National Jurist has published ten suggestions for staying happy while in law school. Memphis Professor Andrew McClurg offers this advice: “The key is spending time with other people and not talking about law school.” Nevada’s Nancy Rapoport’s suggestion is to “Get over yourself. If you’re in law school, you’re likely pretty smart. You signed on to work hard as part of the law school experience. Don’t whine.” For all ten suggestions, see 10 Ways to Stay Happy While in Law School in the September 2013 National Jurist.

Another article in the same issue may boost law students' happiness. It predicts that smaller law school classes and pending attorney retirements may cause a shortage of lawyers by 2016, enhancing new graduates' employment prospects.


September 7, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Skeuomorphs and Legal Research

Last night I heard [via podcast] this story, from NPR’s Fresh Air, about the new operating system for Apple’s iPads and iPhones. It’s a big change; as the story says:

To be clear: If you're an iPhone user, everything — your email, your calendar, your texts, your phone dialer, your photos, your notes — will look and work differently.

The big change involves a move away from skeuomorphs, which are ornaments or designs on objects, copied from a form of the object when it was made from another material or by other techniques. The current calendar app, for example, allows the user to flip pages from day to day, as one would with a paper planner.

It got me thinking about how legal research has its own skeuomorphs—how the organization of most electronic research materials is still rooted in the print system, how we can organize our legal research into virtual “folders,” and so on.

Here’s the jarring part: with the new operating system, almost all of these throwbacks to the physical counterparts will be gone. Are the days of legal research skeuomorphs also numbered? And, if so, are we ready to deal with that change?

I’ll be honest—I’m intimidated by the changes in iOS7, and I’ll probably wait to upgrade the software on my iPhone and iPad until someone I know and trust tries it out and demystifies it for me. And though I’ve embraced a lot of changes in how I teach legal research, I’m realizing I may be forced to make even more changes if the digital research landscape also moves away completely from its physical analogs.

So, we can put off change, but we can’t hide forever. Can we?


September 6, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The correlation between vocabulary and success

Stdt lwr 2-edIn the September Student Lawyer, Bryan Garner reminds law students of the importance of a good vocabulary. He cites University of Virginia professor emeritus E.D. Hirsch, Jr., whose review of the research showed “there’s a positive correlation between a student’s vocabulary size in grade 12, the likelihood that she will graduate from college, and her future level of income.” Hirsch argues for more systematic teaching of vocabulary in the first through twelfth grades. For law students, Garner offers a quiz to test their understanding of words used in Supreme Court opinions. And to improve their vocabularies, Garner recommends Wilfred Funk & Norman Lewis’s 30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary and Maxwell Nurnberg and Morris Rosenblum’s How to Build a Better Vocabulary.

My own recommendation is for students to read good, edited books. As Hirsch explains, K-12 students best absorb vocabulary through “a systematic curriculum that presents new words in familiar contexts, thereby enabling the student to make correct meaning-guesses unconsciously.” Though law students have passed that stage, they might start reading books from the ABA Journal’s list of the best law-related novels, previously discussed on this blog.

Read Garner's article here.


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

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The latest issue of the Legal Writing journal is out

  Volume 18 of Legal Writing: The Journal of the Legal Writing Institute is out!  In the leadJLW 9-13
article, Hitting the Wall as a Legal Writer, Elizabeth Fajans presents ways to elevate students’ writing from “good” to “excellent.” Practical suggestions for team learning appear in Sophie Sparrow and Margaret Sova McCabe’s article Team-Based Learning in Law. Check the full issue for these additional articles:

             David Herring & Collin Lynch, Teaching Skills of Legal Analysis: Does the Emperor Have Any Clothes?

            Mark Yates, Text is Still a Noun: Preserving Linear Text-Based Literacy in an E-Literate World

            Mary Dunnewold & Mary Trevor, Escaping the Appellate Litigation Straightjacket: Incorporating an Alternative Dispute Resolution Simulation into a First-Year Legal Writing Class

            Amanda Smith, Preparing for Practice from Behind the Bench: Opinion Writing as the “Heart and Soul” of the First Semester of Legal Writing

            Heidi K. Brown, The“Silent but Gifted” Law Student: Transforming Anxious Public Speakers into Well-Rounded Advocates

            Samantha A. Moppett, Think It, Draft It, Post It: Creating Legal Poster Presentations


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