Monday, December 15, 2014

Inspiring Ideas for the Teaching & Learning of Law

Wow! What a Resource!

I applaud Vickie Eggers for the amazing breadth and depth of resources collected on this website. Not all of the materials are specific to law students and schools, and few to none are specific to international law students; nonetheless, these materials appear to be infinitely translatable and adaptable and generally appropriate for a number of teaching/learning contexts. 

Consider these topics: Teaching, Learning, Thinking, Outcomes, Assessment, Skills, Practice, and Technology. I'm looking forward to spending a great deal of time on this website! 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Painting with Print

On the homepage for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals under Guides is a link to an interesting article published in the Journal of the Association of Legal Writing Directors: "Painting with print: Incorporation concepts of typographic and layout design into the text of legal writing documents."

You might think that nice typography and design are just the icing on the cake - the cake being the substance and organization of your legal writing - but author and professor Ruth Anne Robbins suggests that "[m]aking a textual document visually effective means making the document as readable as possible. The more readable the document, the more likely the reader will remember the content."

The Seventh Circuit appears to agree on the importance of typography in legal writing; in addition to Professor Robbins' article, the court offers a link to its own "Requirements and Suggestions for Typography in Briefs and Other Papers."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Global Legal Skills Conference 2014

Mark Wojcik and crew did it again!

The Global Legal Skills Conference, which took place 21-24 May in Verona, Italy, was truly wonderful. The wide array of speakers and participants, along with generous sponsors and hard-working staff, made this one of the most well-organized, interesting, and enriching conferences I've ever attended.

A sampling of the panel presentation topics include the following:

  • Institutionalizing Practical Lawyering Skills in a Continuing Legal Education Program
  • Creating a Cohesive Curriculum for Graduate Students
  • Comparative Legislation, Statutory Drafting, and Statutory Interpretation
  • Needs of Legal English Users in Italy
  • International Legal Frameworks to Prevent Financial Abuse of Elders
  • Teaching Students to Produce Scholarship
  • Cool and Useful Foreign Law Legal Research Tools
  • “Interference” and the Legal Writing Needs of International Lawyers
  • Get Your Students Talking: Emphasizing Speaking Skills in LWR Courses for Foreign Lawyers
  • Demystifying the American Law School Classroom for International LL.M. Students: Oral Reporting on Legal Research
  • The Proposed EU-US Free Trade Agreement (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership): Its Impact on U.S. and European Law and How it Will Affect the Teaching of International Law

Additional GLS 2014 information here:

Next year's GLS Conference takes place in Chicago, and I highly recommend attending. These conferences just keep getting better and better!

The GLS Conference facebook page will post up-to-date information as it becomes available:

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Multiple Perspectives on ESP Needs Analysis and Research

ESP = English for Specific Purposes, e.g., Legal English and Teaching International Law Students

It's a short article, but it brings up an important issue that may be overlooked in developing LL.M. programs and courses: needs analysis and research.

Multiple Perspectives on ESP Needs Analysis and Research
by Kevin Knight on the TESOL Blog

The author suggests that multiple perspectives must be considered for a needs analysis to be valuable. Focusing on "multiple perspectives" may manifest in a variety of ways. For example, from the article:

In the field of professional communication research, Candlin & Crichton (2012) write of a multi-perspectival research framework. This framework includes multiple and overlapping perspectives of site-specific discursive practices. Briscoe (2009) defines discursive practices in education to be as follows: 
Briefly defined, discursive practices in education are the uses of language in an educational context (e.g., the typical pattern of teacher question, student answer, teacher feedback) or the use of language in context relating to education (e.g., state legislators’ talk when making new educational laws).
Alternative perspectives may include focusing on "necessities, lacks and wants":
Needs or ‘Target Needs’ are comprised of necessities, lacks and wants (Hutchinson & Waters, 1989, p. 54). First, necessities are ‘determined by the demands of the target situation.’ This procedure involves the estimation of necessary skills required for the learner to work efficiently in the target situation. Second, lacks are the gaps between the target proficiency and existing proficiency of the learner. Third, wants are perceptions of the learners about their own needs (Hutchinson & Waters, 1989, pp. 55–57).

Just how important is good grammar?

In this recent decision, the court considered the placement of a comma in a settlement agreement.

Erie Boulevard Hydropower v. State of New York

From the settlement agreement:
The intent and purpose of the agreement being so to operate the Hinckley State Reservior [sic] that, after serving the canal uses and purposes, of the State, it may so far as practicable, be fully used for the storage of water and the regulations of the flow of West Canada Creek below the same for the benefit of the power property and riparian lands of [claimant] on West Canada Creek below the Hinckley State Reservior [sic]. Provided, [h]owever, that during periods of extradordinary [sic] or unusual drought, flood or emergency caused by the temporary failure of other sources of water supply for the canal use, . . . the Superintendent of Public Works or other officer . . ., without the payment of any damages to [claimant], . . . may temporarily vary or entirely suspend the operation of th[e] said dam and reservior [sic] as described and laid down in the operating diagram aforesaid during the periods of such extraordinary or unusual
drought, flood or emergency caused by the temporary failure of other sources of [water] supply for the canal use . . . .

The explanation by the court:
The key phrase at issue here addresses the parties' intent that defendants operate the reservoir such that, "after serving the canal uses and purposes, of the State," the reservoir may be fully used to store water and regulate its flow for the benefit of claimant's power facility and riparian rights. Defendants contend that they may operate the reservoir for any State purpose – including protection of a local supply of drinking water – in the first instance. On the other hand, claimant contends that defendants may only consider the State's canal uses and canal purposes before fully using the reservoir for claimant's needs, after which defendants may consider other uses or purposes. Defendants' interpretation would be accurate if the comma was placed after the word "uses" rather than after "purposes" (see A.J. Temple Marble & Tile v Union Carbide Marble Care, 87 NY2d 574, 581 [1996]; cf. Valleylab, Inc. v New York City Health & Hosps. Corp., 228 AD2d 180, 181 [1996]). As written, "canal" -4- 516510 modifies the entire phrase "uses and purposes," and the phrase "canal uses and purposes" is modified by the ensuing phrase "of the State" (see People v Case, 42 NY2d 98, 101 [1977]). 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Is it Time for Contractions in Legal Writing?

Although I always tell my students not to use contractions in legal writing, this author makes a good case for them. What do you think?

Is it Time for Contractions in Legal Writing?
by Matthew Salzwedel on Lawyerist

Monday, January 13, 2014

On Writing in Grad School

Somewhat disturbing article on how writing is given short shrift, even in grad school.

On Writing in Grad School
by Kevin Gotkin on The Chronicle of Higher Education's blog The Conversation