University of Louisville Law Faculty Blog
I recently read Beth Simone Noveck's article Wikepedia and the Future of Legal Education, 57 J. Legal Educ. 3 (March 2007). In it, she discusses teaching law students how to write wikis. She suggests law students are "ideally suited to contribute their newly developed expertise" to substantive wikis. She also suggests using an internal, class-based wiki so that students can learn from each other.
In the past, I have used wikis only as a reader, so do not profess to have expertise in their use. But I am always interested in ideas for teaching legal writing, and this seems like a good one.
I envision using wikis to teach legal writing in the following manner. First, the student writes a short piece, perhaps an IRREAC exercise or a blurb on a legal topic of interest to the student, and posts the piece to a wiki. Next, the student edits someone else's post to a wiki, perhaps the IRREAC of another student or a publicly available post on a topic of interest to the student. Finally, the student returns to the student's original piece and edits it, using the same editing techniques applied to edit another's post.
Another interesting use of a wiki in a legal writing class is that developed by Peter Friedman. He has used a wiki in his legal writing class to have his class compose a checklist for writing a persuasive brief. You can find out about this exercise at http://www.case.edu/pubs/casemagazine/fall2006/Wiki_feature_edit.pdf , and you can view the checklist at the wiki, http://wiki.case.edu/Brief_writing_checklist .
I also envision using wikis as a component of legal writing across the curriculum. Writing and editing wikis is an opportunity to practice concise legal writing that, as discussed in Noveck's article, fits easily into a substantive law class. If students had experience with writing and editing wikis in their legal writing class, they would make the connection with writing across the curriculum.
Moreover, even if students are not writing or editing wikis for class, their use might provide an excellent opportunity for students to practice legal writing, collaborate with others in the legal community, and provide useful information to the public. From time to time, one hears antidotal stories about a student obtaining an employment opportunity because of a webpage. Certainly, writing and editing a wiki might also lead to opportunities. In the future, when I am counseling and speaking with students about writing opportunities, this is one that I will mention.
I had the opportunity recently to read Leah M. Christensen & Julie A. Oseid, Navigating the Law Review Article Selection Process: An Empirical Study of Those with All the Power - Student Editors, 59 South Carolina Law Review 465 (forthcoming 2008) (available at http://papers.ssrn.com/abstract=1002640). I recommend it to students, practitioners, and scholars interested in publishing in law reviews. As a basic legal skills instructor, I was heartened to learn that student editors value interesting and well-written manuscripts. They care about "technical writing including: grammar, punctuation, spelling, citation form, proofreading, and easy-to-read formats."
The methodology used by the authors was to survey student editors and ask them about the selection process used and the factors that the student editors consider. I would like to see a follow-up inquiry. Perhaps someone can convince student editors to record, via Ipod or other recording device, their contemporaneous thoughts as they sit down to review and select manuscripts. This might provide confirmation of the study results, and it might provide other interesting insights.
As an undergraduate major in sociology, I did research which involved interviewing college students about their parents division of labor in the household. While some (rare) students professed that their father and mother equally divided household labor, inquiry into specific tasks sometimes revealed otherwise. For instance, the tasks of planning, organizing, and making lists were often times performed by wives but not included in a facial assessment of the division of labor. These time-consuming tasks actually rendered the household labor less equal than the college student believed. In a similar manner, an inquiry into the actual contemporaneous thought process used by the student editors might reveal some interesting insights.
I have recently posted the following manuscripts on my SSRN author page. http://ssrn.com/author=866378
Lawyering Skills Principles and Methods Offer Insight as to Best Practices for Arbitration, Baylor L. Rev. (forthcoming Winter 2008)
Lawyers as Problem-Solvers One Meal at a Time: A Review of Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, 15 Widener L. Rev. (forthcoming 2008)
Questioning the D.C. Circuit; Harmonizing Board Precedent: Why Mere Presence of an Organizer Should Not Invalidate a Board Election, Casenote, 7 U. Pa. J. Lab. & Emp. L. 463 (2005)
Fans of the dormant Commerce Clause and/or Kentucky treasury, will be pleased to know that the transcripts of Monday's oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in Department of Revenue of Kentucky v. Davis (06-666) are now available: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/06-666.pdf.
SCOTUS Blog has a brief analysis of the case, which turns on whether Kentucky can favor its own government-issued revenue bonds by making them exempt from the taxes levied on the bonds of other states. It is perhaps a little less interesting than Kentucky's other case before the court (lethal injection), but with bonds being touted as the magic solution to everything from Louisville's library system to new university buildings, the issue is certainly not trivial. Of course, the real interest is seeing where the two Bush-appointed justices will come down in the Court's evolving view of the Commerce Clause.
UPDATE: TaxProf Blog has posted a round-up of commentary on the case here.
It has been a busy year. I have finished working on two new books for Carolina Publishing. The manuscript for an Evidence book and a Products Liability book are both in the hands of the publisher. The books should be out sometime early next year.
The crisis in Pakistan throws into stark relief the importance of the bench and bar in protecting the rule of law in a representative democracy. When voices (including a U.S. senator) attacked the U.S. federal courts for upholding legal precedent in the Terry Schiavo case--even hinting that the violence against judges was justified--national, state and local bar associations rightly condemned these attacks and rallied around the principle of an independent judiciary. However the lines formed by the American bench and bar did not have to face lines of riot police. In Pakistan, lawyers are in the streets, almost alone, to defend that nation's supreme court from measures designed to subvert the Pakistani constitution and neutralize the judiciary. (Their surest allies are the Pakistani press, another institution whose freedom is vital to a democratic state, but, like lawyers, are regularly villified in quieter times).
Now it would be easy to say, like Gen. Musharrif, that Pakistan is under seige by extremists who have no love of democracy and that this measure, in the long run, will allow democracy to return stronger. However, the lawyers of Pakistan know that adherence to the rule of law is not a luxury to be put away in times of crisis but in fact is the basis of a stable society. The Pakistan lawyers are to be commended and their example kept in mind as we in the U.S. continue to grapple with the issues of preserving our essential rights as we fight a long struggle against terrorism.
For extensive coverage of the Pakistan bar protests, see JURIST's Pakistan aggregator.