Wednesday, October 30, 2013

9781611634150Congratulations to Mark Cooney, chair of the Cooley Law School Research & Writing Department,  on the publication of his first book, Sketches on Legal Style (Carolina Academic Press 2013). It has been reviewed as a "collection of lively, offbeat short pieces explores legal style like no book you've read before. But be warned: you just might learn something while you're smiling. Through a colorful cast of characters, learn how legal writers can use plain language and careful syntax to produce clearer, stronger, and more persuasive documents."

hat tip: Eileen Kavanagh





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

Monday, October 28, 2013

Why computers can’t replace legal writers

Will computers replace lawyers? No, argues Syracuse University’s Professor Ian Gallacher. In  DoGallacher RoboMemos Dream of Electric Nouns?: A Search for the Soul of Legal Writing, he concedes that templates can be created for legal documents. But such programs will lack “empathy -- the ability to anticipate what information a reader will need from a document, and when the reader will need it.” That empathy, he says, is "a crucial, and uniquely human, aspect of persuasive writing" that can't be replaced by a machine.


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

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Build a good reputation through effective legal writing

KimuraIndianapolis lawyer Brandon M. Kimura recently offered lawyers advice on building a good reputation through effective legal writing. His article includes the following tips: “Apply the law to the facts” rather than just stating the law;  “Do not overstate the legal or factual support for your case”; and “Do not denigrate anyone—not another attorney, a party, a nonparty, a judge, a juror, or anyone else.” View Kimura’s article at page 83 of the September 2013 For the Defense.


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

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A lawyer is ordered to use email

Technology has become an integral part of the practice of law, as illustrated by a recent case where a lawyer was ordered to use email. Although the lawyer had considered herself retired from the practice for many years, she had maintained her status as a regular member of the South Carolina bar. When emails to her proved undeliverable, the state’s Supreme Court ordered her to comply with a rule requiring lawyers to provide valid email addresses. When she did not do so, the Court suspended her license to practice law.

In reporting on this case, the Louisiana Legal Ethics site also cited a recent amendment to ABA Model Rule of Professional Responsibility 1.1, comment 8. It provides, “a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology . . . .” The Louisiana site commented, "Why there are lawyers extant in 2013 who still refuse to use email is baffling."

hat tip: JoAnne Sweeny


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

Monday, October 21, 2013

NY Times Critiques Law Reviews

Adam Liptak has a scathing critique of law reviews in today's NY Times.  It's worth a read for those interested in the current state of legal scholarship.


October 21, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Avoid a long separation between a subject and verb

Don’t overburden your reader by including a long separation between a sentence's subject and verb. So cautions GopenGeorge Gopen, a professor emeritus of rhetoric at Duke University. In the summer 2013 issue of Litigation, Gopen explains that readers expect a sentence’s actor and its action to be close together. A short intervening word like however will not be intrusive, but readers will stumble at a long interruption, and they may even miss its import.  How long is too long?  One example that Gopen finds acceptable is three words long, and I think even four or five words can work in some contexts. But if you have more words than that between a subject and verb, consider recasting the sentence.

Gopen was the 2011 winner of the Legal Writing Institute’s Golden Pen Award.


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

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference: Call for Proposals

We previously told you to save the date (Vegas, baby!) and now it's time for the Call for Proposals for the Fourteenth Annual Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference, which will be held on March 28 & 29, 2014 at the UNLV Boyd School of Law in Las Vegas, Nevada:

Presentations may be on any subject of interest to those teaching legal writing and research.  Most of the available slots will be for 25-minute presentations, but there will also be a few slots available for 50-minute presentations. Each participant should limit himself or herself to one proposal so that as many people as possible can have opportunities to present.

The deadline for proposals is Friday, January 10th. To submit a presentation proposal, please send the following information to Sara Gordon at and Susie Salmon at

1. Contact information for all presenters and co-presenters
2. Title of presentation
3. Brief (one-paragraph) description of the presentation
4. Time needed for presentation (25 minutes or 50 minutes)
5. Technology needs for the presentation
The Program Committee will make decisions on proposals no later than Friday, January 17th to provide enough time for presenters to make travel plans.  If you need a decision earlier in order to secure travel funding, please let the Program Committee know as soon as possible so they can consider your proposal on a rolling basis.  
Registration information and more conference details will be available soon.  Registration is free, though the Program Committee requests that all participants register so they have an accurate head count. 
(h/t Sara Gordon)


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

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

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

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

Call for Proposals

The Global Legal Skills Conference is the leading international gathering for persons interested in global skills education. The Conference has been held four times in the United States, twice in Mexico, and twice in Costa Rica. The next conference (“GLS-9”) will be held at the University of Verona Faculty of Law in Verona, Italy. The conference will begin in the late afternoon of Wednesday, May 21 and continue through Friday, May 23, 2014. After the conference there is an organized optional excursion on Saturday, May 24, 2014 to the city of Vicenza.

This message invites proposals for presentations, including presentations on international and comparative law. Proposals should be for a 25-minute presentation (for one or two people) or a group panel presentation (no more than four panelists) of one hour.

The conference audience will include legal writing professionals, international and comparative law professors, clinical professors, and others involved in skills education, law school administrators, law librarians, and ESL/EFL professors and scholars, and law students from Europe and the United States. Also attending will be faculty members teaching general law subjects with a transnational, comparative, or international component. Attendees have also included judges, lawyers, court translators and others involved in international, comparative, and transnational law. Attendees come from around the world and as many as 35 countries have been represented in past conferences. As the 2014 conference will be in Italy, we anticipate a fair number of attendees from E.U. countries.

Please submit a proposal on any aspect of Global Legal Skills, including experiential learning, distance education, comparative law, international law, course design and materials, teaching methods, and opportunities for teaching abroad and in the United States. Proposals may also present classic and contemporary issues of international and comparative law.

GLS-9 will have a relaxed schedule to enhance professional networking opportunities and development. In addition to the excellent opportunities for networking and professional development, the conference schedule will allow for attendees to take in the historical sites and flavor of Verona, one of the most beautiful cities in Italy famous for the love story of Romeo and Juliette. Located in northern Italy, the city of Verona has a major airport as well as convenient train transportation to Milan, Florence, Rome, Vicenza, and Venice. Other trains can take you north to Innsbruck and Munich. You can plan your trip to arrive in one city and depart from somewhere else in Europe.

This is a self-funded academic conference, and as in past years, presenters will be asked to pay the speakers’ registration fee of $225.00. Ticketed events for family members will also be available, in case your family refuses to let you go to Italy without them.

Please send program proposals to or, even better, use the conference website at   Please  set out the title of your presentation, the format you would prefer (25-minutes or 1 hour), the names and institutional affiliations of co-presenters, a brief summary of your presentation, and the target audience. You may submit more than one proposal but because of high demand for speaking slots you will probably be allowed to speak on only one panel.

The first deadline for submitting a proposal is January 13, 2014. Earlier submissions are encouraged. The program committee will notify presenters of acceptance no later than January 31, 2014 so that you can make appropriate travel and hotel arrangements. We are arranging special discount rates at several different hotels in Verona.

The conference website is

Prof. Mark E. Wojcik
GLS-9 Conference Chair
The John Marshall Law School
315 S. Plymouth Court
Chicago, IL 60604 USA

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

Monday, October 14, 2013

reading literature to gain skill reading people

A skill often introduced in first-year LRW courses is non-verbal communication. Of course a lawyer needs well-honed critical reading and precise writing skills. But a good lawyer also has to be able to  "read" other people, including clients, judges, juries, bosses, and adversaries. As reported this week by the New York Times and others, it turns out that reading literary fiction teaches this skill. That's one more reason to major in English.

hat tip: Prof. Debbie Borman


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

A judge’s advice for appellate practitioners

Judge Diane Sykes of the Seventh Circuit offers some helpful advice for appellate practitioners in the Sykes summer 2013 issue of Litigation. Having also served on lower courts, Judge Sykes states that the quality of practice “is hit-and-miss in both court systems.” Appellate practitioners, she advises, would do well to strive for “focus, organization, clarity, and brevity in their briefs and at oral argument.” She also urges lawyers to concentrate on their best issues, because a brief with too many issues implies that the lawyer has no really good arguments. The full article contains more suggestions, including tips for oral argument.


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

Friday, October 11, 2013

Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference (Vegas Baby!)

Save the date for the 14th Annual Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference at UNLV in Las Vegas on March 28-29, 2014.  A call for proposals will follow soon, and we'll post it when we have it.  

Terry Pollman and the gang at UNLV put on a great conference the last time Rocky Mountain was in Vegas and this year should be no exception.  Mark your calendars.


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

Thursday, October 10, 2013

flipped classrooms

Michelle Pistone at Villanova has been doing some very interesting work on flipped classrooms in legal education. Although the classroom active learning that she advocates for is nothing new to legal writing professors, her reasons for it certainly are compelling. And her goal to create an Ideabank-like sharing mechanism for videos students can view outside of class is something legal writing professors can participate in with benefits all around.


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

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The new issue of JALWD is out

The Fall 2013 issue of Legal Communication and Rhetoric: JALWD arrived in my mail today.  It contains some intriguing titles by well-known legal writing scholars:

Linda Berger, A Revised View of the Judicial Hunch

Steven Johansen, Coming Attractions: An Essay on Movie Trailers and Preliminary Statements

J. Christopher Rideout, Twice-Told Tale: Plausibility and Narrative Coherence in Judicial Storytelling

Louis Sirico, Benjamin Franklin, Prayer, and the Constitutional Convention: History as Narrative

Julie Oseid, The Power of Zeal: Teddy Roosevelt’s Life and Writing

Richard Neumann, Osler, Langdell, and the Atelier: Three Tales of Creation in Professional Education

Pamela Jenoff, The Self-Assessed Writer: Harnessing Fiction-Writing Processes to Understand Ourselves as Legal Writers and Maximize Legal Writing Productivity

Stacy R. Sharp, Responding to Counterarguments: Learning from the Swing-Vote Cases

Michael Murray, The Promise of Parentheticals: An Empirical Study of the Use of Parentheticals in Federal Appellate Briefs



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

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How many cases should I cite?

Rutgers-Camden librarians have prepared a video response to a common question by first-year students: "How many cases should I cite?" As the 3-minute video explains, the real question is "How do I know when I'm finished researching?" 

hat tip: Sarah Ricks


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

Supreme Court oral arguments by early women lawyers

Supreme Court oral arguments by three pioneering women lawyers are the subject of an article in the lWillebrandtatest issue of the Journal of Supreme Court History. Author Marlene Trestman found that Mabel Walker Willebrandt (pictured at left) presented 23 arguments between 1921 and 1933, Bessie Margolin presented at least 24 arguments between 1945 and 1965, and Beatrice Rosenberg presented 28 arguments between 1946 and 1971. Trestman lists all the arguments and provides interesting background about some of them.


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

Monday, October 7, 2013

A lesson in civility and careful analysis

A recent Sixth Circuit case, Bennett v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., emphasizes the importance of both civility and careful analysis. A plaintiff in an insurance case made the unusual argument that when she was thrown on the hood of a car, she was its “occupant,” and she was therefore entitled to her medical expenses. The insurance company’s brief called that argument “ridiculous.” The Sixth Circuit pointed out three reasons not to use such extreme language: common civility, the probability that the statement will alienate the reader, and the persuasiveness of simply laying out the facts for the reader to evaluate. But in Bennett, the most important reason was that the plaintiff’s argument was correct. The insurance policy explicitly defined—“in primary colors”—occupant as someone “in, on, entering or alighting from” the vehicle. Careful analysis of that language might have led State Farm's counsel to be more temperate.


. Co.,

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

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Chicago Conference on "What the Best Law Professors Do"

Here's a reminder that the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning will hold a conference in Chicago at Northwestern University School of Law,  from June 25 - 27, 2014, on the book called "What the Best Law Teachers Do."

Confirmed presenters include
  • Rory Bahadur (Washburn University School of Law),
  • Cary Bricker (University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law),
  • Roberto Corrada, (University of Denver, Sturm College of Law),
  • Meredith Duncan (University of Houston Law Center),
  • Paula Franzese (Seton Hall University School of Law),
  • Heather Gerken (Yale Law School),
  • Nancy Knauer (Temple University, James E. Beasely School of Law),
  • Andy Leipold (University of Illinois College  of Law),
  • Julie Nice (University of San Francisco School of Law),
  • Ruthann Robson (CUNY School of Law), Tina Stark (retired, formerly Boston University School of Law), and
  • Andy Taslitz (American University Washington College of Law).
The co-authors of the book What the Best Law Teachers Do, Sophie Sparrow, Gerry Hess, and Michael Hunter Schwartz, will provide a framework for the presentations and a global sense of the takeaway lessons from their study.
Presenters teach a wide variety of courses across the curriculum including administrative law, civil procedure, clinics, constitutional law, criminal law, criminal procedure, election law, family law, labor law, legal writing, pretrial advocacy, professional responsibility, property, sexuality and the law, torts, transactional drafting, and trial advocacy.  
The conference in Chicago falls on the week before the Legal Writing Institute Conference in Philadelphia, which will be from June 29 to July 2, 2014.  

Hat tips to Deborah Borman and Sandra Simpson.


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

Friday, October 4, 2013

Writing the way judges are taught to write

Practical lawyerThe Federal Judicial Center published its Judicial Writing Manual in 1991. As Michael G. Walsh explained in the August Practical Lawyer, lawyers could profitably follow some of the Manual’s advice. It urges judges to write clearly and accurately. It also encourages them to feel pride of authorship in their opinions, a pride that Walsh says lawyers, too, should feel in their written work. That pride, he argues, will go “a long way toward insuring excellence in writing.” In addition to judges and lawyers, judicial clerks will also find some useful nuggets in Walsh’s article.


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

Thursday, October 3, 2013

report from Central States conference

The Central States Legal Writing Conference at University of Kansas began with an
ALWD Scholar's Forum.  Eight colleagues from around the country
participated in an engaged discussion of article drafts and article ideas: Mary
Ann Becker (DePaul), Cara Cunningham (Detroit Mercy), Emily Grant (Washburn),
Wanda Temm (UM-Kansas City), and Kelly Brewer (Denver) along with facilitators
Mike Murray (Valparaiso), Virginia Harper Ho (Kansas), and Suzanne Rowe

hat tip:  Suzanne Rowe, Oregon


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