An Interview with Professor Linda Edwards

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faculty_lindaedwards2014-04This fall, Professor Linda Edwards joins Marquette Law School as the Robert F. Boden Visiting Professor of Law.  She is the E.L. Cord Foundation Professor of Law at UNLV.

You have written a wonderful book on the great briefs. What are some of your favorite briefs and why do you like them?

One of my favorites is the Petitioner’s brief in Miranda v. Arizona. Scholars, law teachers, and practitioners usually read judicial opinions rather than the briefs that produced those opinions. The Miranda brief is one of the few that has received attention in its own right. I took my turn to comment on it in Once Upon a Time in Law: Myth, Metaphor, and Authority, 77 Tenn. L. Rev. 885 (2010). Instead of a dry parsing of the cases, the argument section tells an engrossing story of the birth of the right to counsel. It’s also a story about the kind of people we want to be. It’s well-written too. In an era when lawyers tended to write in a boring, ponderous style, the Miranda brief is engaging and easy to read. It combines strong legal analysis, great policy arguments, and a passion for justice—a great example for us all.

Another of my favorites is the primary defense brief in the set of consolidated cases that came to be known as Furman v. Georgia. The primary brief challenging the death penalty for those cases was actually filed in Aikens v. California. The thing I like most about this brief is the daring choice it makes in the fact statement. It does not try to minimize the crimes or argue that the defendant was innocent or that his hard life provided an excuse for his actions. All of those would have been losing arguments. Instead, it admits that the crimes were horrendous and that the defendant probably did them, but it uses our human reaction to those killings to argue that state-imposed killing is little better. It was a risky argument, but it was honest and much better strategy than the alternatives. I really admire the courage and skill it took to pull it off.

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A Global Survey on the Study of International Law (Part II)

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Last month I put up the first in what I anticipate will be a series of posts on the subject of international legal education. I summarized the results of a global survey on the study of international law, reported that a majority of law students around the world must complete at least one course on the subject prior to graduation, and pointed out that the overwhelming tendency for American law schools to offer international law exclusively as an elective is fairly abnormal. In this post, I’ll explain my methodology and elaborate a bit on the data underlying my conclusions.

The methodology was pretty simple: I relied on a collection of official government documents, information available on the websites of university law faculties, and, occasionally, email correspondence with faculty members. Where this evidence established that a curriculum includes a mandatory course that on its face substantially implicates public international law, I coded the corresponding university as requiring international legal training. Inversely, I coded a university as requiring no such training where the evidence demonstrated that courses on public international law are elective or unavailable. Finally, I coded a university as “no data” if it has a law faculty but evidence of its curriculum was inaccessible within the confines of the research methods. For present purposes, the key point is that the numbers only reflect what I could find. This probably amounts to all relevant data for many states. But for others, particularly in the developing world, the data are less complete because not all universities have functioning websites and even those that have them often omit information about their curriculum. Read more »

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Dealing with Law School Stress

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9e5f2e74ad783851eeb0312f24f2c7d5It’s a gray, rainy fall-like Friday. The fall is a wonderful season, especially in Wisconsin. But the fall, for law students, brings with it some added stressors: negotiating the fall interview season for 2Ls, keeping up with the increased workload in classes, squeezing in pro bono hours, writing appellate briefs or memos, all while trying to still have a life outside of law school. These stressors can feel overwhelming, especially to the 1Ls who are, as of yet, unfamiliar with the full rhythm of law school.

Some of these stressors are unavoidable. But others can we manage. Or at least we can adjust our expectations so that our responses to those stressors are healthier. See here  for law school’s common stressors and how to manage them.

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A Global Survey on the Study of International Law

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In the United States, public international law is not an important part of legal education. By my count, only eight schools require their students to complete a course on the subject: Florida International, Harvard, Hofstra, UC-Irvine, Michigan, Nebraska, Washington, and Washington & Lee. Everywhere else, international law is purely elective. Insofar as relatively few students tend to choose this elective, we have a legal profession made up of individuals who lack formal training on topics like treaty interpretation, human rights law, and international organizations.

Is this common in other countries or another example of American exceptionalism? To answer that question, I conducted a global survey of the study of international law. The results, which are available in the form of an interactive world map at PILMap.org, show the frequency with which law schools and governments around the world require individuals to study public international law en route to obtaining a law degree. By clicking on individual states, you can look at summary statistics and details about the curricula of specific law schools.

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Learning the “Old-Fashioned Way”: Study Says Taking Notes by Hand Better for Recall

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note takingThese days, it’s hard to find a law student who doesn’t come to class with a laptop or tablet of some type. Even if the student avoids the temptation to access the Internet during class and simply uses his laptop to take notes, it’s likely his recall of concepts will be not as good as a student who takes her notes by hand.

According to a post in The Chronicle of Higher Education, researchers have found that taking class notes by hand helps students better recall concepts in the lecture. The researchers asked students to take notes using “their normal classroom note-taking strategy.” Some used laptops (disconnected from the Internet) and others used pen and paper and wrote longhand. After 30 minutes, students were tested on the lecture. Researchers discovered that while the laptop note-takers took more than twice the amount of notes as the longhand note-takers, the laptop note-takers “scored significantly lower in the conceptual part of the test.” Both groups scored the same on factual recall. Read more »

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Welcome to the Summer Youth Institute

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Welcome to the students participating in the Summer Youth Institute at Marquette Law School. The Summer Youth Institute is a free program for Milwaukee students entering eighth through tenth grade, and the program is in its second year. Students learn about the American legal system, participate in a moot court, and meet judges, attorneys, and law students, as well as other people involved in the legal system. This year the students are touring the federal and state courthouses, Rockwell Automation, and Gonzalez Saggio & Harlan. Students also are paired with a mentor from the Eastern District of Wisconsin Bar Association and are eligible to participate next summer in a law-related internship. The Summer Youth Institute is hosted by Marquette Law School and the Eastern District of Wisconsin Bar Association, in collaboration with Just the Beginning Foundation, Kids, Courts, & Citizenship, and the Association of Corporate Counsel Wisconsin Chapter.

This morning after a warm welcome from Dean Joseph Kearney and Judge Nancy Joseph at breakfast, the students learned how to introduce themselves and shake hands. Students learn important concepts about the law at the SYI, but they also gain confidence in presenting an oral argument. They form bonds with their mentors, who teach them about legal work, but also take them to baseball games and teach them intangible skills they will need to succeed in their work and life. And, finally, they get to know their peers, who, like themselves, are the future of the legal profession and our society.

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MULS to Welcome Professor Linda Edwards in Fall 2014

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faculty_lindaedwards2014-04Marquette University Law School’s legal writing professors are pleased to announce that Professor Linda Edwards, E.L. Cord Foundation Professor of Law at University of Nevada Las Vegas, will be joining us as a Boden Visiting Professor for the fall semester of 2014.

Professor Edwards is a leading scholar and leader in the field of legal writing.  She has authored five texts, three of them focused on legal writing, and has written numerous scholarly articles on legal writing, rhetoric, and law. Her recent book, Readings in Persuasion: Briefs that Changed the World (Aspen Law & Bus. 2012) will serve as the basis for the advanced legal writing seminar she will be teaching at MULS next fall. The book discusses why some briefs are more compelling than others and covers briefs written in some of the law’s most foundational cases: Muller v. Oregon (the Brandeis Brief), Brown v. Board of Education, Miranda v. Arizona, Furman v. Georgia, Loving v. Virginia, and others. Professor Edwards says the course will build on what students learned in Legal Analysis, Writing & Research 2, but from a more advanced perspective.

Professor Edwards practiced law for 11 years before becoming the coordinator of NYU’s Lawyering Program. She then spent 19 years at Mercer University School of Law, where she was the director of legal writing and taught legal reasoning and advanced legal writing, as well as property, employment discrimination, and professional responsibility. In 2009, she joined the faculty at UNLV.  Also in 2009, Professor Edwards was awarded the Association of Legal Writing Directors and Legal Writing Institute’s Thomas Blackwell Award for her lifetime achievements and contributions to the legal writing field.

We are very excited to welcome Professor Edwards next fall.

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Iowa Supreme Court Contemplating Diploma Privilege

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Iowa Judicial Branch BuildingThe Iowa Supreme Court has recently announced that it is entertaining a proposal that would exempt graduates of the University of Iowa and Drake University law schools from the Hawkeye state’s bar examination.  If the rule is adopted, Iowa would join Wisconsin as the only state that grants the diploma privilege to graduates of American Bar Association accredited law schools within its boundaries.

The diploma privilege refers to the practice of admitting the graduates of certain law schools to a state bar without requiring them to take a bar examination.  Although the number of states recognizing some version of the diploma privilege at some point in their history is approximately 30, the use of this mechanism was denounced by the American Bar Association in the 1910s and 1920s and fell into disfavor in the second half of the 20th century.

However, as late as 1980, there were still five states that recognized the diploma privilege: Mississippi, Montana, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.  Read more »

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Restorative Justice is for Libertarians

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I remember joking with former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice and leader of the Restorative Justice program at Marquette that I was taking her class on RJ because my wife made me. Liz wanted to know more about RJ, even if it was through me. I took the course begrudgingly, and to my surprise it quickly became a passion of mine here at Marquette.

Restorative Justice has a lot of appeal. Incredible outcomes for prisoners and victim participants that will renew your faith in the criminal justice system and in humanity. I, on the other hand, was drawn in because I am libertarian, and so is Restorative Justice. Read more »

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The Skills I Use in Law School, I Learned From Third Graders

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When I first came to law school, I thought that I was at a disadvantage compared to a lot of my peers. Instead of coming straight to law school out of undergraduate studies, I had been an elementary school teacher for about three years before I decided to return to school to study law. I did not have an undergraduate degree in anything related to the law, politics, or even social sciences. I had never set foot in a law firm office before. The only exposure that I had had to the law was mostly through the depictions seen on television and in the movies.

While some of my peers had taken courses to prepare them for the study of law, I was making macaroni pictures with third graders and teaching them about division and grouping. While most pre-law students spent time with counselors to prepare them for the law school journey, I was attending teacher conferences and working with guided reading groups in the classroom. Read more »

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Postcard from Prague – Part One: Comparing the U.S. and Czech Experiences in Legal Education

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Prague Legal education in the Czech Republic is similar to that in the United States in some regards, but it departs from the U.S. model in a number of ways.

First of all, the choices of where to study law are clearly more limited in the Czech Republic.  There are only four universities in the Czech Republic that are authorized to award law degrees:  Charles University (Prague); Masaryk University (Brno); the University of Western Bohemia (Pilsen); and Palacky University (Olomouc).

The most noticeable difference is that Czech students study law as undergraduates, as is the case in most countries of the world.  (The United States and Canada are outliers in that regard.)  Would-be lawyers typically enter the university as law students and remain law students the entire time they are enrolled. Read more »

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Law School in Hindsight

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At my alma mater, the University of Queensland, it is around this time of year that Brisbane’s jacaranda trees start to blossom their distinct purple bloom. It is a sight that I miss immensely, but back in my university day, the purple haze of the jacaranda around my hometown always aroused a slight sense of dread, signaling impending end-of-year examinations. At Oxford University, my second alma mater, the same sense of anticipation pervades the “gown” part of town at the end of each short term (Michaelmas, Hilary and Trinity), but instead of jacarandas, carnations are the relevant bloom. Following an old tradition, students attend examinations with carnations pinned to their academic gowns – white for the first, pink thereafter, and red for the final exam (these colors are rumored to represent the blood, sweat and tears that go into a degree.) I remember the trepidation and excitement with which I pinned on a white carnation, and the feeling of joy and freedom of walking out of the Examination Schools on red carnation day.

Jacaranda trees in bloom at The University of Queensland, Australia.

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