Friday, July 22, 2016

LWI Conference Guest Post: Two Minutes for Professional Status in Legal Writing

Please welcome a guest post from Stetson's Kirsten Davis, reflecting on last week's wonderful LWI Biennial Conference in Portland!


From Kirsten:

Two Minutes for Professional Status in Legal Writing

I had the great pleasure of speaking on what I’ll call a “pop-up panel” (a short panel at the end of longer conference session that featured other speakers on the same topic) at the Legal Writing Institute Biennial Conference last week in Portland, Oregon. Each panelist had two minutes to speak on the subject of professional status for legal writing faculty. My friend, Brian Larson of Georgia Tech, also on the pop-up, posted his two minutes here.

Here are my two minutes:

As professors who teach legal writing in law schools, our collective professional status depends on three choices we can make in imagining and talking about ourselves.

First, we should imagine ourselves as subject matter experts who study and teach “legal communication”--not just “legal writing”—but also legal speaking and legal symbolism. Perhaps this imagining doesn’t require much work at all; our scholarship and our teaching have almost always extended beyond the boundaries of legal writing. But, I think it's time that each of us, supported by our national organizations, name ourselves as legal communication experts.

Second, our value in law schools goes well beyond the labor of our red pens; our value is not just as lawyers who pass on the received wisdom of the profession through intensive student interaction. Instead, we should recognize that we are valuable for our new ideas, our insights, and our knowledge-generating research in the field. And we should tell the world about them.

Finally, we should imagine ourselves as critical scholars of legal communication. We are not limited to teaching and research about whether legal communication is effective; instead, we can take normative positions on the value, ethics, morality, and social impact of legal messages. Our expertise and position within the academy empower us to judge legal communication for its impact on political participation, marginalized communities, wealth distribution, community violence, perpetuation of exclusion, perceptions of difference, hateful speech, and access to justice. Perhaps there is no other moment in our history that more passionately calls for us, as legal communication scholars, to critically evaluate legal and quasi-legal messages and to speak publicly about them.

What are your two-minutes on professional status in legal writing?

{ldj} Thanks to Kirsten Davis!

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