Saturday, November 18, 2017
 

May Legal Writing Contests

Gold-MedalThe following is a list of student writing competitions with deadlines coming up in May 2013. These contests are a great opportunity for students with seminar papers due soon to win prize money or a publishing credit. Winning a writing contest is a nice addition to your résumé and can help improve your job prospects.

If you know of a writing competition that is missing from this list, please leave a comment with the contest information.

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When is Subsequent History Required Under Bluebook Rule 10.7?

Legal research and writing students often struggle with when to include subsequent history. The Bluebook is fairly straight forward but its statement of the rule does not seem to “click” for most students until they become more familiar and comfortable with how our courts work and the appellate process. The following post explains when subsequent history must be included in case citations and includes a few (hopefully) helpful examples.

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When to use Introductory Signals

Introductory signals, small__4983464182discussed in Bluebook rules 1.2 and B3, describe the relevance of the cited authority to the proposition stated in your text. The Bluebook divides the universe of signals into five categories: (a) signals that indicate support, (b) signals that suggest a useful comparison, (c) signals that indicate contradiction, (d) signals that indicate background material, and (e) signals used as verbs.

The following post discusses each of the five categories and provides some guidance on their appropriate use. All of the examples are pulled from United States Supreme Court decisions and should provide better context for how each signal is used in legal writing.

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Optimizing Microsoft Word for LRW

Word IconLegal research and writing courses usually have strict lines-per-page, margin, typeface, and other stylistic requirements. Legal writing, in general also requires the use of special characters most first-year students have never needed before. The following post details how to optimize some of the settings and features of Microsoft Word for the task.

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Capitalization of Party Designations

small__5203880818When to capitalize party designations is one convention of legal writing that causes problems for many legal writers. See, e.g., Elie Mystal, Benchslap: Judge Orders Local Attorney to “Re-Read . . . FRCP,” Above the Law (Sept. 21, 2009 4:23 PM) (Judges corrected motion available here). Fortunately, the convention is relatively simple to comply with after reading the relevant Bluebook rule and observing a few examples.

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Quick Tip: Complying with Characters per Inch Font Requirements

Courier NewMost legal research and writing courses and courts have strict format and stylistic requirements. One requirement that often causes problems is font size. Font size requirements can be confusing because  they are often expressed in characters per inch (CPI) or pitch (e.g., 12 characters per inch, or 12 pitch).

If a course manual or court rule gives you a maximum CPI number, it is a strong indication you are expected to use a monospaced font like Courier New. Each character in a monospaced font takes up the exact same amount of horizontal space; while proportional fonts, like Calibri or Times New Roman, have variable character widths.

These CPI requirements are a holdover from the days of the typewriter but, once you understand them, are easy enough to comply with.

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Ten Tips for Success on Legal Research and Writing Assignments

small_6263897021Legal Research and Writing courses are unlike any writing most first-year law students ever experienced as undergraduates. “[L]egal writing classes often give students their first glimpse into how the United States legal system works, the hierarchy of United States courts, and the differences between mandatory and persuasive authority.” Miriam E. Felsenburg & Laura P. Graham, Beginning Legal Writers in Their Own Words: Why the First Weeks of Legal Writing Are So Tough and What We Can Do About It, 16 Legal Writing: J. Legal Writing Inst. 223, 224 (2010). This flood of new information, accompanied by new stylistic requirements and seemingly arbitrary and unintelligible rules beginning with B and R can be overwhelming for the first few weeks of law school.

Sadly, there is no magic secret to doing well on legal writing assignments. Legal writing is a skill that can benefit from effective coaching but, in the end, comes down to practice and repetition.  Hopefully, the tips that follow can help you avoid some of the major obstacles encountered by new legal writers.

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Bluebook Quick Tip: Case Name when Law Firm is Party to Litigation

large__5129607997A question raised occasionally is how to cite a party’s name under Bluebook Rule 10 when the party’s name is composed of many names (e.g., a law or accounting firm). A brief survey of law review articles citing such cases revealed that many journals are unsure of the answer as well. The answer, as it happens, is buried in Rule 10.2.1(a).

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Punctuation Inside or Outside of Quotation Marks?

small_4692181913It can often be difficult to determine where to place the punctuation following a quotation; and the Bluebook only provides one sentence of guidance on the subject in R5.1(b)(iv). The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation R. 5.1(b)(iv), at 77 (Columbia Law Review Ass’n et al. eds., 19th ed. 2010).  To understand this rule, it is necessary to turn to a style manual for more guidance. My style manual of choice is the Chicago Manual of Style [amazon link], and luckily, in this case, the major manuals seem to be in agreement with each other.

This is an area where U.S. English has moved away from the more flexible British standard in favor of a more rigid rule—in most cases.  See Mignon Fogarty, Quotation Marks with Periods and Commas, Grammar Girl (Aug. 25, 2011), http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/quotation-marks-with-periods-and-commas.aspx.

The following chart expands on the rule stated in the Bluebook and provides a few examples.

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Guide to Free Law School Outlines, Supplements, and Study Aids

small_4421990486There 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 seven resources can provide valuable reinforcement of the concepts and material covered in your law school courses, particularly the required 1L curriculum.

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