Mastering the Art of Legal Writing

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childsWednesday night I went to see the movie Julie & Julia, which is about a writer, Julie, who blogs about working her way through chef Julia Child’s famed cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in one year.  I loved everything about the movie, and as such, I’m starting off this blog post with a discussion of the movie.  (This post was actually originally entitled “Best Brief Awards.”) 

One of my favorite scenes was when Julie pulled her first roasted whole chicken out of the oven.  I roasted my first whole chicken this summer.  Like Julie, who felt like a “lobster killer” when she boiled three live lobsters for Lobster Thermidor, I must admit that I felt a bit like an executioner when I ordered my organic hand-fed chicken through our CSA, Backyard Bounty.  Guiltily, I asked Farmer Laura how she knows which chickens are ready for slaughter.  She said she knows it’s time when the chickens start to bite her.  (I guess the lesson there is “don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”)  At home with my chicken, I tried to do the chicken justice by dressing it with olive oil and sprigs of thyme and rosemary from our garden.  I felt Julie’s same sense of pride and excitement when I opened the oven door and a perfect golden-brown roast chicken appeared from the oven.

Watching the movie reminded me of how students develop in their legal writing classes.  Continue reading “Mastering the Art of Legal Writing”

Legal Writing Monograph Series

Posted on Categories Legal Education, Legal Scholarship, Legal WritingLeave a comment» on Legal Writing Monograph Series

13156535v1_240x240_Front_Color-BlackLast year, the Legal Writing Institute (LWI) Board of Directors created a Monograph series.  The Monograph’s first electronic volume is now available on the LWI website.  The focus of this first volume is “The Art of Critiquing Written Work.”  Our own Professor Alison Julien worked on this project.  Professor Jane Kent Gionfriddo stated in a post to the LWI listserv that the volumes “will focus on a specific topic relevant to teaching, curriculum, scholarship or status of Legal Writing professionals and will include substantial, well-developed pieces of scholarship in the form of law review articles or book chapters that have been previously published elsewhere.”

Storytelling in Appellate Brief Writing

Posted on Categories Legal Scholarship, Legal Writing2 Comments on Storytelling in Appellate Brief Writing

2566241384_4264b1f0f3At the end of July, both Professor Michael Smith and I attended the Applied Legal Storytelling Conference at Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon.  The conference was entitled “Chapter 2:  Once Upon a Legal Story” and focused on storytelling in “ways that will directly and tangibly benefit law students (i.e. future lawyers) and legal practitioners (i.e. former law students).”  The presentations I attended addressed ways to use storytelling to create a stronger narrative theme in a case and how to handle the ethical issues in storytelling.

One of the most intriguing presentations was Professor Kenneth Chestek’s talk “Judging by the Numbers:  an Empirical Study of the Power of Story.”  Professor Chestek conducted a study where he wrote four fictional test briefs:  two that focused heavily on stating the law and applying it (the “pure logos” briefs), and two that focused on creating a narrative story into which the law was inserted and applied (the “story” briefs).  (He wrote a logos brief and a story brief for both the petitioner and respondent.)  Professor Chestek solicited appellate practitioners, appellate judges, appellate judicial law clerks, appellate court staff attorneys, and legal writing professors to read these briefs and rate their strength of persuasion.  The participants knew they were taking part in a study, but they did not know who was conducting the study or what the purpose of the study was. Continue reading “Storytelling in Appellate Brief Writing”

Law School Strategies for Success

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MV5BMTk2NTY2Njg5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNTc3OTQ2__V1__CR68,0,283,283_SS100_As we officially open the school year, I have been thinking a lot about what are the secrets to success in law school.  I understand that Dean Rofes spoke at Orientation about the sausage races at Miller Park.  (I personally always root for the Chorizo Sausage!)  Law school may sometimes feel a bit like a race, or, to think more classically about Aesop’s fables, like the story of the Tortoise and the Hare.  In that story, the tortoise ultimately wins the race using slow and steady steps to the finish line.

What does slow and steady have to do with law school?  Be steady by being methodical.  Read and brief cases before every class.  Be steady by outlining every night when you get home from class.  An hour of outlining nightly will save you from the panic of trying to cram material at the end of the semester.  Outlining each day also helps you to see where you have questions, so you can ask your professors or study group members to help you unravel those questions.  One of the benefits of a Marquette education is that the faculty are accessible; use that accessibility to your advantage.

Be also like the tortoise by being slow.  The study of law takes time.  It takes time to ponder why a decision was rendered or to think about whether a court’s reasoning is sound.  One of the ASP leaders in my Orientation section said that it takes at least ten minutes to read each page in a casebook.  Good legal reading, like good legal writing, is slow going. 

What tips do others reading this blog have for success in law school?  Share your strategies for success here!

Best wishes for a wonderful school year!

Welcome to Professor Michael Smith

Posted on Categories Legal Writing, Marquette Law School3 Comments on Welcome to Professor Michael Smith

Smith_michael_rThis fall, Marquette University Law School is fortunate to have Professor Michael R. Smith as a Robert E. Boden Visiting Professor of Law.  Professor Smith is visiting from the University of Wyoming College of Law, where he is the Winston S. Howard Distinguished Professor of Law and the Director of Legal Writing.  Professor Smith’s work in legal writing and written advocacy is nationally renowned.  He has published a book on persuasive legal writing entitled Advanced Legal Writing:  Theories and Strategies in Persuasive Writing (Aspen 2002).  This book has received such interest and acclaim that the release of the second edition was the impetus for a 2008 conference, A Dialogue About Persuasion in Legal Writing & Lawyering, which was held at Rutgers Law School-Camden.  Continue reading “Welcome to Professor Michael Smith”

Stephen Jay Gould on Jim Bowie, Bill Buckner, and Storytelling

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AlamoStephen Jay Gould, the eminent scientist and Harvard professor, was interested in human pattern recognition in stories.  He referred to the patterns that human minds want to create as “canonical stories.” His essay entitled “Jim Bowie’s Letter and Bill Buckner’s Legs”, which appears in I Have Landed:  The End of a Beginning in Natural History, describes two famous stories — one of Jim Bowie at the Alamo and the other of Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner.    

Gould explains how both of these stories have often been patterned into the form of a canonical story.  In the Alamo story, the canon focuses on the Alamo defenders’ valor and honorable death.  William B. Travis, a young commander at the Alamo, wrote a letter describing the siege, which ends with the phrase “VICTORY OR DEATH.”  (60)  This famous letter is often cited in Alamo legend, but Gould points out that Bowie also wrote a letter, which fails to get mentioned because it does not fit with the canon.  (60)  He goes so far as to say Bowie’s letter is “hidden in plain” sight, ignored in a glass case at the Alamo museum.  (60-61)  Bowie thought that Santa Anna was willing to negotiate, and he wrote in Spanish to Santa Anna asking whether Santa Anna had called for a parley.  (61-62)  Santa Anna responded that he would have no mercy without unconditional surrender.  (62)

Gould then surmises that even with this response, had Bowie been less ill, “some honorable solution would eventually have emerged through private negotiations” because Santa Anna and Bowie were seasoned battle veterans.  (62-63)  Continue reading “Stephen Jay Gould on Jim Bowie, Bill Buckner, and Storytelling”

Summer Reading List

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booksIn his remarks at the hooding ceremony this spring, Dean Kearney encouraged our law graduates to remain active readers.  And during a recent presentation to the Marquette law faculty, Professor Julie Oseid asked us how many books we have on our nightstands.   

That question left me with another: what books are folks reading over the summer for pleasure?  Reading is one of the great joys in life.  Choosing the next good read is almost as satisfying.  We would love to know what books others are reading or have already read this summer to add to our own nightstand collections.  After all, we still have a few weeks to fit in some reading before classes start.   

This summer, I especially enjoyed reading— 

The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova:  a Dracula tale, with a literary tour of Central and Eastern Europe.

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2008, Jerome Groopman and Tim Folger, editors:  a compilation of beautifully written articles from magazines like The New Yorker.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames, by David Sedaris:  I read a third of the book before even leaving the bookstore.      

List yours to add to another nightstand.

What’s Your Archetype?

Posted on Categories Legal Practice, Legal Scholarship, Legal Writing1 Comment on What’s Your Archetype?

Saint_george_raphaelThis past year I came across a terrific article by Professor Ruth Anne Robbins on using archetypes to develop a client’s story.  (Harry Potter, Ruby Slippers and Merlin: Telling the Client’s Story Using the Characters and Paradigm of the Archetypal Hero’s Journey, 29 Seattle U. L. Rev. 767 (2006)).  An archetype is an innate prototype, or epitome, of a personality.  The Swiss psychologist Carl Jung advanced the theory that some personality types or characteristics are universally recognized.  The American mythologist Joseph Campbell was influenced by Carl Jung’s work on archetypes and considered how archetypes manifest in mythology.  Professor Robbins examines how Jung’s and Campbell’s theories can be used in a practical litigation and courtroom setting.   

In her article, Professor Robbins suggests that archetypes, as universally recognized symbols, can be used to create a compelling image of a client.  As Professor Robbins states, “Because people respond — instinctively and intuitively — to certain recurring story patterns and character archetypes, lawyers should systematically and deliberately integrate into their storytelling the larger picture of their clients’ goals by subtly portraying their individual clients as heroes on a particular life path.”  (768-69.)  The key to using archetypes is to tap into a judge or jury’s unconscious to align the client’s story with a hero’s transformative journey. 

How do you put your client on the path of a hero’s journey?  Continue reading “What’s Your Archetype?”

NAAC Wrap-Up: Congratulations and Thanks

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Congratulations again go out to Stephen Boyett, Carrie Devitt, and Jessica Franklin for their outstanding finish at the National Appellate Advocacy Competition finals this past weekend.  The team placed among the final 16 in the nation.  The competition is hosted by the American Bar Association.

Both of Marquette’s teams, including the team composed of Elizabeth Champeau and Thomas Worsfold, distinguished themselves at the competition this year.  Both teams did well because they maintained a consistent effort throughout the competition.  They worked diligently on their briefs, and both teams achieved high scores on their briefs.  They also met numerous times with practices judges to hone their arguments.  The teams and I would like to thank the following practice round judges for all of their assistance this year:

Michael Aiken, Katie Bender, Rebecca Blemberg, Jesse Blocher, Bruce Boyden, Christopher Brunson, Kristina Cerjak, Michael Cerjak, Elizabeth Champeau, Wade DeArmond, Teague Devitt, Christopher Eisold, Rick Esenberg, Andrew Finn, Michael Fischer, Janine Geske, Kathleen Goodrich, Jeff Greipp, Jay Grenig, Nadelle Grossman, Martha Hamilton, Sam Hamilton, Thomas Hruz, Joseph Kearney, Jennifer Kreil, Mark Leitner, Alan Madry, Lisa Mazzie Hatlen, Natalia Minkel-Dumit, Brent Nistler, Julie Norton, Michael O’Hear, Joseph Peltz, Janice Rhodes, Peter Rofes, Paul Secunda, Bonnie Thomson, Michael Tuchalski, Carey Villeneuve, and Michael Waxman.

Marquette’s National Appellate Advocacy Competition Team Advances in Finals

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The Marquette NAAC Moot Court team advanced through the first day of competition at the national finals in Chicago on April 2.  The team is one of 24 teams to have made it to the finals from the six regional rounds held across the country.  The finals are being held at the federal district court in Chicago.  Sixteen teams will be competing in the octafinal round on April 3.  

Congratulations to team members Stephen Boyett, Carrie Devitt, and Jessica Franklin.

Congratulations to the Marquette National Appellate Advocacy Competition Team

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Congratulations to the Marquette National Appellate Advocacy Competition (NAAC) team!  On Saturday, our students distinguished themselves at the Boston regional NAAC competition.  Stephen Boyett, Carrie Devitt, and Jessie Franklin won each of their five rounds of competition, and they will be advancing to the National Finals in April.  Elizabeth Champeau and Thomas Worsfold advanced to the semifinal round.  The students also distinguished themselves in obtaining high scores on their briefs. 

Approximately 190 teams entered the competition and are participating in six regional competitions.  Only the top four teams from each regional round advance to the National Finals in Chicago.

Both teams have worked hard to prepare for competition.  The students put many hours into preparing their briefs and oral arguments.  We appreciate the assistance that many local practitioners and law faculty gave us in preparing for the oral arguments.  We are especially grateful to Attorney Michael Cerjak, a 2008 law alum and former NAAC competitor, who organized and attended numerous practice rounds.  Michael surprised the team by flying out for the final rounds on Saturday. 

Congratulations, Team!  I’m proud of you!!

Outliers and the Health and Wellness Fair at MULS

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I appreciated Professor Dan Blinka’s thoughtful post on the book Outliers.  The book begins with a quote from the book of Matthew in the New Testament:  “For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance.  But from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.”  Matthew 25:29.  Malcolm Gladwell refers to this quote in the title of the first chapter as the “Matthew Effect.” 

This passage from Matthew always makes me squirm, because it doesn’t seem to square with another famous passage from the Bible that “the meek shall inherit the earth.”  Gladwell’s first chapter similarly made me slightly uncomfortable, because it suggests boldly that such undeniably unfair factors as the month into which a person is born may determine whether they end up as a professional hockey player.  Gladwell may well be right, and his insight is in its own way stunning, but it still makes someone who likes to be in control of his or her own destiny feel suddenly out of control. Continue reading “Outliers and the Health and Wellness Fair at MULS”