Grilling By Judges? It’s Not Just for Moot Court.

Posted by:
Category: Federal Law & Legal System, Legal Practice, Legal Research, Legal Writing, Marquette Law School, Public
Leave a Comment »

NSAPerhaps it is because I just spent an enjoyable few weeks judging the Appellate Writing and Advocacy class moot court rounds, that lately I have taken a few detours while doing research. While reading some of the NSA phone data cases, I watched an enlightening and very entertaining appellate argument online. We may wait a long time to see video recordings of U.S. Supreme Court arguments, but the Circuit Courts of Appeal oblige us for some of their cases, which is a bonus for everyone including students.

Several plaintiffs’ lawsuits that challenge the National Security Administration’s phone records surveillance program are making their way through the federal courts. Plaintiffs in these cases have claimed the NSA data grab violated their rights under the Fourth Amendment or that Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the original basis for the surveillance under President George W. Bush, cannot reasonably be interpreted as allowing the program. For students who participate in a moot court competition, or are considering it in the future, video of the oral arguments in these cases provides an opportunity to learn something about the privacy issues and also to see the types of questions and atmosphere an attorney might expect from a federal appellate panel.

Read more »

Print Friendly



Want to Have a Strong Legal Career? Find a Good Mentor.

Posted by:
Category: Legal Practice, Legal Profession, Public
Leave a Comment »

MentorThis article in the ABA Student Lawyer Magazine discusses the benefits of having a mentor. A mentor can help you acclimate to your new role as a lawyer.  A good mentor will make your life easier both at your office and in external venues.  Your mentor can teach you how to communicate effectively with clients, can show you how to handle technical and procedural matters that may otherwise be hard to learn on your own, and can introduce you to top management at your place of employment.  Having a mentor can speed up how you learn to be effective in your job.

Read more »

Print Friendly



Peace Be With You … And With You?

Posted by:
Category: Legal Practice, Mediation, Negotiation, Public
Leave a Comment »

Exclamation_markUnder the heading of hard bargaining tactics gone bad (and bad lawyer advice), we can now add this story.  When a group of eight faculty members at the General Theological Seminary in Manhattan decided to stop working in order to protest their newly hired dean and president, Rev. Kurt H. Dunkle, all purgatory broke loose. Under advice of their counsel, the faculty wrote a rather strongly worded letter outlining their demands regarding the dean.  (See the nasty details of the dean’s behavior here.)

Unimpressed with the tone of the letter, the Board of Trustees for the Seminary considered the letter, instead of the opening bid that the faculty intended, as a mass resignation.  They dismissed the eight faculty members (leaving the students at the Seminary with only two instructors.) In this case, the eight faculty members’ hard bargaining tactic to have their foul-mouthed, micromanaging (in their descriptions) dean dismissed ended up focusing attention on their perceived “bad” behavior rather than that of their dean. Read more »

Print Friendly



Congratulations to the 2014 Marquette National Moot Court Teams

Posted by:
Category: Legal Education, Legal Practice, Legal Writing, Marquette Law School, Public
1 Comment »

I had the privilege of working with two outstanding National Moot Court Competition (NMCC) teams again this year. Marquette hosted the Region VIII round of the 65th Annual NMCC this weekend and included thirteen participating teams.  Marquette fielded two teams; please congratulate both on their strong finishes.

Michelle Cahoon, James Decleene, and Brian Kane took the best Petitioner’s brief award with the top scoring brief in the competition.  The team advanced the semifinal round and just missed qualifying for nationals by less than a point.  Attorneys Jesse Blocher, Michael Cerjak, and Brendon Reyes coached the team.  Brendon, now an attorney practicing in Waukesha, was a member of last year’s national team.  Jesse was a member of one of my first NMCC teams.

Jennifer McNamee and Elizabeth Oestreich advanced to the quarterfinals and were the number 1 seed after the preliminaries, after particularly strong showings in their oral arguments.  That team was coached by Attorneys Emily Lonergan, Jason Luczak, and Max Stephenson.  Elizabeth, Emily, and Max happened all to have (Elizabeth), or had (Emily and Jason), the role of Chief Justice of our Moot Court Association.  I enjoyed watching the students and coaches on both teams working together and getting to know each other.

Read more »

Print Friendly



Justice Ginsburg on Empowering Oral Argument

Posted by:
Category: Judges & Judicial Process, Legal History, Legal Practice, Public, U.S. Supreme Court
1 Comment »

Justice GinsburgAn interview with Justice Ginsburg appears in the October issue of Elle magazine.  In the article, Justice Ginsburg describes her first oral argument before the United States Supreme Court.  Any advocate could relate to her story:

I had, I think, 12 minutes, or something like that, of argument.  I was very nervous.  In those days, the court sat from 10 to 12, and 1 to 3.  It was an afternoon argument.  I didn’t dare eat lunch.  There were many butterflies in my stomach.  I had a very well-prepared opening sentence I had memorized.  Looking at them, I thought, I’m talking to the most important court in the land, and they have to listen to me and that’s my captive audience.

Justice Ginsburg argued on behalf of Sharon Frontiero in Frontiero v. Richardson.  In that case the Court held that the United States military could not differentiate on the basis of gender in how it provides benefits to service members’ families.

In the interview, Justice Ginsburg recounts that as she spoke before the Court during oral argument her confidence grew:

I felt a sense of empowerment because I knew so much more about the case, the issue, than they did.  So I relied on myself as kind of a teacher to get them to think about gender.

 

Read more »

Print Friendly



Daubert Has “Teeth” (and a Pulse)

Posted by:
Category: Legal Practice, Public, Wisconsin Law & Legal System
Leave a Comment »

The first published case on Wisconsin’s (relatively) new rule on expert opinion testimony has emerged at long last. In 2011 the legislature replaced Wisconsin’s decade’s-old approach with the federal “Daubert rule,” a rule rejected by state appellate courts on several occasions. The old rule left disagreements among experts mostly to the trier of fact, provided the witnesses had suitable specialized knowledge that could assist in fact finding. The current Daubert rule unctuously anoints trial judges as “gatekeepers” responsible for ensuring that only “reliable” expert opinions are put before juries. Many critics, me included, thought the old rule served the same purpose quite well. In State v. Giese, 2014 WI App 92, the court of appeals wisely signals that the new rule is mostly compatible with the older approach.  Read more »

Print Friendly



Judge Catches BP Counsel Sneaking Extra Pages into Its Brief

Posted by:
Category: Environmental Law, Legal Ethics, Legal Practice, Legal Writing, Public
Leave a Comment »

BPIn a new twist on the BP litigation, BP filed a brief in a Louisiana federal court that seemed to comply with the already-enlarged 35-page limit. But the judge in the case, the Hon. Carl Barbier, uncovered BP counsel’s tactic of reducing the line spacing to cram more material into the brief than the page limit would have allowed. In this way, BP was able to fit in an extra 6 pages worth of material.

Judge Barbier had this to say about BP’s brief:

The Court should not have to waste its time policing such simple rules—particularly in a case as massive and complex as this. Counsel are expected to follow the Court’s orders both in letter and in spirit. The Court should not have to resort to imposing character limits, etc., to ensure compliance. Counsel’s tactic would not be appropriate for a college term paper. It certainly is not appropriate here.

Read more »

Print Friendly



Professor Edwards Speaks to the Marquette Legal Writing Society

Posted by:
Category: Legal Practice, Legal Writing, Marquette Law School, Public
Leave a Comment »

Yesterday, Professor Linda Edwards, the Robert F. Boden Visiting Professor of Law, spoke to the Marquette Legal Writing Society about her work and interest in legal writing.

This semester Professor Edwards is teaching a course on the great briefs.  Each week students study a brief to determine what made the brief successful—what made it sing, as she said.  Among her favorite briefs are the petitioner’s briefs in Miranda v. Arizona and in Bowers v. Hardwick.  Professor Edwards recommended reading and studying good briefs as a way for an advocate to advance his or her own persuasive writing. Aside from the briefs she mentions in her book Readings in Persuasion: Briefs that Changed the World, she recommended reading anything written by the Solicitor General’s office and anything written by any of the Supreme Court justices as examples of great legal writing.

Professor Edwards also noted that really good briefs speak to the reader and that a legal writer’s own voice should come through the brief.  While structure is important, she said, formulaic writing of briefs is not effective.  She cautioned against doggedly following a set of received “rules” rather than crafting a document for a particular reader or situation.  Good legal writing doesn’t have to sound lifeless or mechanical, she said.

The mission of the Marquette Legal Writing Society is to foster discussion about legal writing.  Elizabeth Oestreich is the president of this year’s organization.

Print Friendly



Chasing Happiness

Posted by:
Category: Education & Law, Legal Practice, Legal Profession, Public
4 Comments »

HappinessA July 2014 article in the Wisconsin Lawyer magazine describes a nationwide study about the happiness of lawyers.  This study shows factors that correlate with lawyer happiness, as well as those that don’t correlate.  Those factors that correlate most strongly are what the article calls internal factors, and the factors that are least likely to correlate are external factors.  The internal factors relate to how well a person is able to communicate and interact with others, and the external factors relate to points largely outside one’s immediate control.

The article highlights the following internal factors, which positively influence lawyer happiness:

•Autonomy, or being authentic and having a sense of control over one’s choices (0.66)
•Relatedness to others (0.65)
•Feeling competent in performing one’s job (0.63)
•Internal motivation at work (0.55) – that is, finding the work itself meaningful, enjoyable, and so on, rather than being motivated by external factors, such as pressure from others or needing to impress others
•Autonomy support at work (0.46)
•Intrinsic values (0.30) – these may include personal growth, helping others, and so on, in contrast to such extrinsic values as power, affluence, and others

 

Read more »

Print Friendly



Rule 18.2: Comments on Bluebook Citation to Internet Resources

Posted by:
Category: Legal Practice, Legal Research, Legal Scholarship, Legal Writing, Public
Leave a Comment »

Rule 18.2 in the Bluebook governs citation to sources and information available on the Internet. Although the rules in the Nineteenth Edition provide significantly more guidance on the subject than the general principles articulated in the Eighteenth Edition, citation to Internet sources remains a source of confusion for many legal writers. Until the editors release the Twentieth Edition and its inevitable alterations to Rule 18.2, here are a few tips and reminders about citation to Internet resources.

Read more »

Print Friendly



Of Trump Cards and Lawyering

Posted by:
Category: Criminal Law & Process, Legal Practice, Legal Profession, Pro Bono, Public, Seventh Circuit
Leave a Comment »

King of SpadesSome of the best and the worst of the legal profession can be seen through Socha v. Boughton, No. 12-1598, decided by the Seventh Circuit this past week. The substance of the case involved the court’s applying — for the first time — the doctrine of equitable tolling to excuse a late filing by a state prisoner in a habeas case. This required a conclusion that the district court had abused its discretion in concluding otherwise, including the catchy characterization that “[t]he mistake made by the district court and the state was to conceive of the equitable tolling inquiry as the search for a single trump card, rather than an evaluation of the entire hand that the petitioner was dealt” (slip op. at 19).

Yet it is the lawyering that I want especially to note. Read more »

Print Friendly



The Importance of Document Design

Posted by:
Category: Legal Practice, Legal Writing, Public
2 Comments »

helvetica-1

Jim Dimitri’s article, WordWise:  Best Practices in Document Design, is a must read for any lawyer interested in taking advantage of document design in drafting legal documents. Dimitri advises that a writer should “use the most readable font” and “use effective vertical and horizontal spacing” in designing a legal document. Dimitri’s article is useful not only for the advice he gives, but because he defines key concepts in document design, such as monospaced fonts (which “use the same width for each letter”) and proportionally spaced fonts (which use “different widths for different letters”). Dimitri suggests that a writer use proportionally spaced fonts because they are easier to read.

Read more »

Print Friendly