Thursday, February 22, 2018

Going Negative as a Tool of Persuasion

Using negative themes in your writing may be beneficial if you have sympathetic facts on your side. Conversely, positive themes are likely to direct the court’s focus to the legal issues. Those are some of the conclusions reached by University of Wyoming College of Law Professor Kenneth Chestek and set forth in a paper released on SSRN on Tuesday, April 18, 2017, and appearing in Volume 14 of the Legal Communication & Rhetoric: JALWD.
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Use Google Books Ngram Viewer to Resolve Word Choice Questions

Many print resources are devoted to proper word usage. See, e.g., Bryan Garner, Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage (2011) [Amazon Link]; Mignon Fogarty, Grammar Girl’s 101 Troublesome Words You’ll Master in No Time (Quick & Dirty Tips) (2011) [Amazon Link]. Sometimes, however, those guides may not answer your question fully or the phrase giving you pause may be too complex for a static resource to adequately address. That is where the Google Books Ngram Viewer can help.

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Quick Tip: “Section” or “§” in text?

Spell out the word “section” when referring to a state statutory section in a textual sentence (rather than in a citation sentence). Bluebook Rule 6.2(c). 

  • Section 39:5-12 “empowers the court to suspend a defendant’s license.”

Use a “§” symbol when referring to a provision of the United States Code, unless the symbol would begin the sentence. Bluebook Rule 12.10(c).

  • Under § 1983, racial slurs shouted by a person in a position of authority may entitle a victim to recover damages.
  • Section 1983 contemplates that a victim may recover damages following such an instance of verbal abuse.


Best Supplements for the First Year of Law School

As the end of August and the start of the fall semester approaches, 0Ls across the country are preparing for their first year of law school. I previously posted a guide to free law school supplements that can be immensely helpful. However, sometimes there is no substitute for a clearly written commercial supplement–particularly during the first semester of law school when one has yet to nail down many of the basic concepts of the law.

The following list of supplements, based on my personal experiences and discussions with my peers during law school, hopefully will streamline the process for new law students looking to purchase supplements. This post, with one exception, includes recommendations for only supplements, not commercial outlines, and is limited in scope to the most common 1L courses: civil procedure, contracts, constitutional law, criminal law, property, and torts.

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When to Use Quotation Marks for Defined Terms or Acronyms

Whether it is appropriate to use quotation marks surrounding parenthetically defined terms or acronyms can be difficult to determine given the Bluebook’s lack of guidance and the seemingly inconsistent manner in which legal writers appear to use them.  The following guidelines and explanation, based on a survey of law review practices, should help to clarify when to use quotation marks.

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Temporary Hiatus

The author of Persuasive Authority has taken a position that, for ethical reasons, will prevent the publication of any new content for the next year. I will continue to conduct routine maintenance during the break and intend to re-launch next year with a large amount of new and (hopefully) useful content. Thank you for your interest and support over the past year.

Have a great year.



Quick Tip: Convention for Underlining Signals

In a previous post, I discussed in detail when to use introductory signals. See When to use Introductory Signals. Today’s post focuses on the proper convention for underlining introductory signals and the citations that follow.

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Ten Tips for Law Review Write-on Success

small_4450623309First-year finals are wrapping up and the next dark cloud looming on the horizon is journal write-on. Journal participation can be one of the most fulfilling (and grueling) law school experiences. It is highly valued by prospective employers and making it onto your school’s flagship journal is one of the most coveted “brass rings” up for grabs. Making Law Review does not guarantee you the Biglaw job of your dreams but, it does make your résumé stand out from the crowd and, it will–in all likelihood–open many doors for you. The following ten tips are based on my experience as a 1L writing onto my school’s flagship journal and on my experience as an editor evaluating write-on submissions.

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Quick Tip: Judgment or Judgement?

small_43512821Among the most inconsistently spelled words in legal writing is judgment. It is often spelled as “judgment” or “judgement”; sometimes as both within the same law review article or court opinion.

According to Bryan Garner, “[j]udgment is the preferred spelling in [American English] and in British legal texts.” Bryan A. Garner, Garner’s Modern American Usage 490 (2009) [Amazon Link]. A quick Lexis search appears to support this statement by yielding 1,155,822 results for “summary judgment,” while only 20,685 results for “summary judgement.” Also, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure embrace the “judgment” spelling. See, e.g., Fed R. Civ. P. 12(c) (“Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings” (emphasis added)).

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Guide to Free Law School Outlines, Supplements, and Study Aids [Updated]

small_4421990486Finals are approaching again and I thought it would be appropriate to post an update to my previous guide to free law school outlines and study aids. I received a lot of feedback and suggestions after the previous post and this new list incorporates many of the new sources that were suggested.

There is certainly no shortage of study aids and supplements for law school courses on the market, but finding high quality free study aids can be difficult. The following resources can provide valuable reinforcement of the concepts and material covered in your law school courses, particularly the required 1L curriculum. The resources are listed in alphabetical order.

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