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University of Michigan Law School

Legal Writing and Research

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Full-Text Articles in Law

Numbers, Patrick Barry Nov 2020

Numbers, Patrick Barry

Articles

Numbers can be numbing. Depend too much on them to make your case, pitch your product, or tell your story, and you risk losing your audience. This essay offers a way to way to use numbers—both large and small—in a manner that is at once more compelling and more concrete.


Errors And Insights, Patrick Barry Oct 2020

Errors And Insights, Patrick Barry

Articles

In Seeing What Other's Don't, the psychologist Gary Klein suggests that only focusing on reducing errors limits our ability to improve. We also need to spend time increasing insights. This short essay applies Klein's approach to writing and editing.


Resources For Foreign, Comparative, And International Legal Research, Kate E. Britt Sep 2020

Resources For Foreign, Comparative, And International Legal Research, Kate E. Britt

Law Librarian Scholarship

In our increasingly globalized world, a legal issue outside of American domestic law can pop up in a variety of circumstances. Commercial transactions, marriage and custody issues, immigration statuses, and more may involve the law of another nation or be governed by an international treaty. This article outlines some resources to help you tackle foreign, comparative, and international legal issues, whenever they arise.


Rhetorical Repetition, Patrick Barry Aug 2020

Rhetorical Repetition, Patrick Barry

Articles

When it comes to persuading judges, boardrooms, or even just co-workers, many lawyers shy away from repetition. They remain committed to the idea, often developed in college, that good writing is associated with having (and showing) a big vocabulary. They mistakenly think the best thesaurus wins. This essay explores that error and offers ways to correct it.


Editors' Note, Michigan Law Review May 2020

Editors' Note, Michigan Law Review

Michigan Law Review

A reflection on the origins of the Michigan Law Review book review issue.


On Lawyers And Copy Editors, Jonathan I. Tietz May 2020

On Lawyers And Copy Editors, Jonathan I. Tietz

Michigan Law Review

Review of Benjamin Dreyer's Dreyer's English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style.


"Downright Indifference": Examining Unpublished Decisions In The Federal Courts Of Appeals, Merritt E. Mcalister Feb 2020

"Downright Indifference": Examining Unpublished Decisions In The Federal Courts Of Appeals, Merritt E. Mcalister

Michigan Law Review

Nearly 90 percent of the work of the federal courts of appeals looks nothing like the opinions law students read in casebooks. Over the last fifty years, the so-called “unpublished decision” has overtaken the federal appellate courts in response to a caseload volume “crisis.” These are often short, perfunctory decisions that make no law; they are, one federal judge said, “not safe for human consumption.”

The creation of the inferior unpublished decision also has created an inferior track of appellate justice for a class of appellants: indigent litigants. The federal appellate courts routinely shunt indigent appeals to a second-tier appellate ...


Regarding Narrative Justice, Womxn, Geeta Tewari Jan 2020

Regarding Narrative Justice, Womxn, Geeta Tewari

Michigan Journal of Race and Law

The story within this article explores how narrative justice can be applied as a form of advocacy for persons seeking access to justice. The questions—what is narrative justice? How do we define it?—deserve a separate space, which will be shared in a forthcoming article. Meanwhile, in short, narrative justice is the power of the word—written, spoken, articulated with the emotion or experience of an individual or collective, to shape or express reaction to law and policy.


Spoiler Alert: When The Supreme Court Ruins Your Brief Problem Mid-Semester, Margaret Hannon Sep 2019

Spoiler Alert: When The Supreme Court Ruins Your Brief Problem Mid-Semester, Margaret Hannon

Articles

Partway through the winter 2019 semester,1 the Supreme Court ruined my favorite summary judgment brief problem while my students were working on it. I had decided to use the problem despite the Court granting cert and knowing it was just a matter of time before the Court issued its decision. In this Article, I share some of the lessons that I learned about the risks involved in using a brief problem based on a pending Supreme Court case. I conclude that, while I have not typically set out to base a problem on a pending Supreme Court case, doing ...


Corresponding Ideas In Corresponding Forms, Patrick Barry Aug 2019

Corresponding Ideas In Corresponding Forms, Patrick Barry

Articles

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that content always comes before structure. You don’t need to figure out all your ideas before you decide how to organize them. Much value can come from going in the opposite direction: first figure out how you are going to organize your ideas—their appropriate structure—and then determine the appropriate content. I often offer law students the following suggestion: “Once you find the right structure, perhaps it will be easier to find the right content.”


Uselessly Accurate, Patrick Barry May 2019

Uselessly Accurate, Patrick Barry

Articles

There is an accuracy that defeats itself by the overemphasis in details," Justice Benjamin Cardozo wrote in his 1925 collection Law and Literature and Other Essays and Addresses. The problem hasn't gone away, as any reader of legal briefs, contracts, and memos can attest. This essay offers a few ways to help.


Incorporating Social Justice Into The 1l Legal Writing Course: A Tool For Empowering Students Of Color And Of Historically Marginalized Groups And Improving Learning, Sha-Shana Crichton May 2019

Incorporating Social Justice Into The 1l Legal Writing Course: A Tool For Empowering Students Of Color And Of Historically Marginalized Groups And Improving Learning, Sha-Shana Crichton

Michigan Journal of Race and Law

The media reports of police shootings of unarmed Black men and women; unprovoked attacks on innocent Jews, Muslims, religious minority groups, and LGBTQ persons; and current pervasive, divisive, and misogynistic rhetoric all cause fear and anxiety in impacted communities and frustrate other concerned citizens. Law students, and especially law students of color and of historically marginalized groups, are often directly or indirectly impacted by these reports and discrimination in all its iterations. As a result, they are stressed because they are fearful and anxious. Research shows that stress impairs learning and cognition. Research also shows that beneficial changes are made ...


Good Sentences, Patrick Barry Feb 2019

Good Sentences, Patrick Barry

Articles

To write good sentences, you need to read good sentences. Skilled writers and editors know this, so they seek out good sentences wherever they can find them—the short stories of Alice Munro, the political essays of William F. Buckley, even well-crafted cartoons, speeches, and advertisements. They read not just with voracity but also with an eye toward larceny, always on the lookout for moves that they can learn and repurpose.


Transferability: Helping Students And Attorneys Apply What They Already Know To New Situations (Part 1), Edward R. Becker Jan 2019

Transferability: Helping Students And Attorneys Apply What They Already Know To New Situations (Part 1), Edward R. Becker

Articles

Every fall, I work with my first year law students to begin developing their legal writing skills. They work hard learning how to analyze cases objectively, predict how a court might resolve a dispute, and convey their assessments to an experienced attorney. Their improvement from September to December is noticeable. They have only one semester of law school behind them and still have much to learn, but they’re on their way…In the second semester, we begin focusing on advocacy. The first assignment asks students to draft a pretrial brief. When I review the drafts, I’m struck by ...


Research Resources For Michigan Criminal Law, Kate E. Britt Jan 2019

Research Resources For Michigan Criminal Law, Kate E. Britt

Law Librarian Scholarship

Few areas of the law are as consequential to the personal lives of those involved as criminal law. The law can, and does, change quickly, and attorneys need to stay abreast of the latest developments to effectively represent their clients. Thankfully, modern government bodies publish current primary law (and many useful secondary sources) online. The sites outlined below will take users to reliable sources of Michigan criminal law and procedure.


Buckets, Kincaid C. Brown Jan 2019

Buckets, Kincaid C. Brown

Law Librarian Scholarship

Inspired by “‘A Day in My Law Library Life,’ Circa 1997,” this compilation collects descriptions of a day in the lives of law librarians in 2018. The descriptions provide a current snapshot and historical record of the law library profession, with similarities to, and differences from, the profession of 1997.


Review Of Draft No. 4, Beth Hirschfelder Wilensky Jan 2019

Review Of Draft No. 4, Beth Hirschfelder Wilensky

Reviews

"Draft No. 4" is an essay collection by John McPhee about his long career as a journalist for The New Yorker. This book review uses the essay collection as a jumping-off point to discuss the similarities and differences between legal writing and long-form journalism, and what legal writers can learn about the writing process from journalists like McPhee.


Books, Debate, Specificity, Neal Kumar Katyal Jan 2019

Books, Debate, Specificity, Neal Kumar Katyal

Michigan Law Review

Foreword to Volume 117, Issue 6 of the Michigan Law Review.


The Most Revealing Word In The United States Report, Richard Primus Jan 2019

The Most Revealing Word In The United States Report, Richard Primus

Articles

The most prominent issue in NFIB v. Sebelius was whether Congress’s regulatory power under the Commerce Clause stops at a point marked by a distinction between “activity” and “inactivity.” According to the law’s challengers, prior decisions about the scope of the commerce power already reflected the importance of the distinction between action and inaction. In all of the previous cases in which exercises of the commerce power had been sustained, the challengers argued, that power had been used to regulate activity. Never had Congress tried to regulate mere inactivity. In NFIB, four Justices rejected that contention, writing that ...


How Many Copies Are Enough Revisited: Open Access Legal Scholarship In The Time Of Collection Budget Constraints, Kincaid C. Brown Jan 2019

How Many Copies Are Enough Revisited: Open Access Legal Scholarship In The Time Of Collection Budget Constraints, Kincaid C. Brown

Law Librarian Scholarship

This article discusses the results of a study into the open access availability of law reviews, followed by a discussion of why open access has such a high rate of adoption among law reviews, especially in comparison to the journal literature in other disciplines.


Collaboration With Doctrinal Faculty To Introduce Creac, Beth Hirschfelder Wilensky Oct 2018

Collaboration With Doctrinal Faculty To Introduce Creac, Beth Hirschfelder Wilensky

Articles

When legal writing professors introduce CREAC (or IRAC, TREAT, etc.), our examples necessarily use some area of substantive law to demonstrate how the pieces of legal analysis fit together. And when we ask students to try drafting a CREAC analysis, they also have to learn the relevant substantive law first. Students might be asked to analyze whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor or whether the elements of a tort claim are satisfied. But that means that students need to learn the relevant substantive doctrine while they are also grappling with the basics of CREAC. In the language ...


Shot Selection, Patrick Barry Sep 2018

Shot Selection, Patrick Barry

Articles

One of the more common pieces of writing advice in our post-Hemingway world is to keep sentences short. Experts on legal writing are particularly fond of this Position — and for good reason. Few judges look at the sentences that appear in briefs, memos, statutes, and contracts and say, "You know what each of those could use? More words." Professor Noah Messing does a particularly good job making the case for short sentences. Brevity, he explains, "reduces the risk that your writing will confuse or irk readers," especially given that "empirical studies show that writing verbosely makes writers sound dumber, not ...


Paragraphing, Patrick Barry Aug 2018

Paragraphing, Patrick Barry

Articles

Consider treating the word paragraph as a verb. Think of it as something you can do well or poorly, with major consequences for your readers. Good paragraphers, for example, help readers. They make it easy to navigate and absorb information. They don’t flit around, hastily moving on to the next point before fully supporting their first. Nor do they get stuck for too long in one place. Instead, they give a lot of thought not just to the ideas but also to their arrangement—their shape, their balance, their pace.


Using Appellate Clinics To Focus On Legal Writing Skills, Timothy Pinto May 2018

Using Appellate Clinics To Focus On Legal Writing Skills, Timothy Pinto

Articles

Five years ago, I went to lunch with a colleague. I was teaching a legal writing course to 1L students, and he taught in a clinic in which 2L and 3L students were required to write short motions and briefs. Several of his students had taken my writing class as 1Ls, and he had a question for me. "What the heck are you teaching these students?" he asked as we sat down. He explained that several of his students were struggling with preparing simple motions. They were not laying out facts clearly. They were not identifying key legal rules. In ...


What We Still Don't Know About What Persuades Judges – And Some Ways We Might Find Out, Edward R. Becker May 2018

What We Still Don't Know About What Persuades Judges – And Some Ways We Might Find Out, Edward R. Becker

Articles

Over 25 years ago, in his foreword to the first volume of Legal Writing, Chris Rideout nailed it: legal writing as actually practiced by lawyers and judges needs to improve, “[b]ut more fundamental inquiry into legal writing...is needed as well.” The intervening decades have seen many laudable efforts on the latter front, as our collective scholarly discipline, then in its infancy, has matured. But one particular question that Rideout identified remains largely unaddressed by our discipline, although recent developments suggest a welcome increase in attention to the topic. Specifically, Rideout explained that our field did not know as ...


Editing And Empathy, Patrick Barry May 2018

Editing And Empathy, Patrick Barry

Articles

Design begins with empathy.” I recently wrote that on the board during a class for students in the Child Welfare Appellate Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School. I thought it might help them write better briefs. I got the idea from Ilse Crawford, whose work as an interior designer can be seen all over the world—from airport lounges in Hong Kong, to fancy restaurants in London, to pear-shaped stools at IKEA. In Crawford’s view, “empathy is a cornerstone of design.”1 She thinks it is important to understand the spaces and products she creates from the ...


Books Have The Power To Shape Public Policy, Barbara Mcquade Apr 2018

Books Have The Power To Shape Public Policy, Barbara Mcquade

Michigan Law Review

In our digital information age, news and ideas come at us constantly and from every direction—newspapers, cable television, podcasts, online media, and more. It can be difficult to keep up with the fleeting and ephemeral news of the day.

Books, on the other hand, provide a source of enduring ideas. Books contain the researched hypotheses, the well-developed theories, and the fully formed arguments that outlast the news and analysis of the moment, preserved for the ages on the written page, to be discussed, admired, criticized, or supplanted by generations to come.

And books about the law, like the ones ...


Judge Kozinski Objects, Beth H. Wilensky Sep 2017

Judge Kozinski Objects, Beth H. Wilensky

Articles

Sitting judges don’t get to practice law. So although they often opine on the dos and don’ts of effective advocacy, we rarely get to see them put their advice into practice. But a few years ago, a class-action lawsuit provided the rare opportunity to witness a federal judge acting as an advocate before another federal judge—if not in the role of attorney, then certainly in as close to that role as we are likely to see. Given the chance to employ his own advice about effective advocacy, would the judge—Alex Kozinski—practice what he preaches? Would ...


The Words Under The Words, Patrick Barry Aug 2017

The Words Under The Words, Patrick Barry

Articles

The words lawyers choose can change the decisions people make. Psychologists call the mechanics of this change “framing.” They’ve found, for example, that more people will decide to have a surgery if they are told that the “survival rate is 90%” than if they are told that the “mortality rate is 10%” — even though a survival rate of 90% is exactly the same as a mortality rate of 10%. They’ve also found that having to pay a “surcharge” for using a credit card rankles people (especially people in the credit card lobby) more than if they were simply ...


Foreword: The Books Of Justices, Linda Greenhouse Apr 2017

Foreword: The Books Of Justices, Linda Greenhouse

Michigan Law Review

For this Michigan Law Review issue devoted to recently published books about law, I thought it would be interesting to see what books made an appearance in the past year’s work of the Supreme Court. I catalogued every citation to every book in those forty opinions in order to see what patterns emerged: what books the justices cited, which justices cited which books, and what use they made of the citations. To begin with, I should define what I mean by “books". For the purposes of this Foreword, I excluded some types of reading matter that may have a ...