Category Archives: Legal Writing

Beware the Bootleg Bluebook

Richard Posner doesn’t like the Bluebook. He has railed against it for years, devoting entire articles in the University of Chicago Law Review (1986) and the Yale Law Journal (2011) to the horrors of what he deems an ever-growing monstrosity. In a December 2016 article for Green Bag, Judge Posner stated that among the reforms he would implement at federal appellate courts, the first thing to do is burn all copies of the Bluebook, in its latest edition 560 pages of rubbish”.

Well, one person’s rubbish is another person’s treasure.  Enter the Bootleg Bluebook.  

Say what? Of all the things to make knockoffs of, why the Bluebook? It isn’t a literary bestseller like Harry Potter and it sure as heck isn’t Louis Vuitton. Even the Kelley Blue Book would seem a likelier candidate for a fake. Then again, with over 35,000 students matriculating at ABA-accredited law schools annually, the built-in demand means that a lot of Bluebooks are sold every year.

Unfortunately some BLS students who bought Bluebooks through third party vendors have been victimized by these fakes.  We’ve heard that students at other law schools have run into this problem too.

Imagine a student at Any Law School, U.S.A., meticulously poring over the Bluebook to make sure everything is cited correctly for their first legal writing assignment. Only to get his or her paper back, marked up to the hilt with corrections in red ink.

“But I cited to page 16 of the Bluebook. Id at 100, no period after Id

“That’s not correct and not what it says in my copy. Let me see your Bluebook.”

Sorry. It’s fake.

I feel for students who are using the Bluebook for the first time only to find out that their trusted source was a bootleg.  Fake news we can handle. But fake Bluebooks?

One of the BLS students was kind enough to lend us their bootleg copy.  It’s basically a case of OCR gone bad.  Periods vanished, text out of sync, commas turned to periods and vice versa, blurry text, off-kilter page numbers, and the most common error: missing spaces. New jersey losing its capitalization and making you think of swag rather than state — while the III for Illinois makes you want to yell “My kingdom for a horse!” Interestingly, the Chinese and Japanese characters seemed to be in good shape, though the bootleggers couldn’t decide what color print to use and kept switching back and forth between black and blue.    

 

 

      

So the Public Service Announcement for today: It’s best to get your Bluebook directly from the publisher or from a trusted retailer, rather than through a third party vendor.

It’s nice to know, though, that the bootleggers got this citation on page 510 right:

Richard A. Posner, The Bluebook Blues, 120 Yale L.J. 850 (2011).

 

 

Congressional Legislative Research

With paper deadlines fast approaching, many of you may need to identify relevant Congressional documents for your paper.  Often legislative history research is cumbersome and time consuming.  The Brooklyn Law School Library licenses two useful databases to ease this process: Legislative Insight and Proquest Congressional.

Legislative Insight streamlines the research process by digitizing the majority of full text publications associated with an enacted statute’s legislative history.  These documents include all versions of enacted and related bills, Congressional Record excerpts, and committee hearings, reports, and documents.  Legislative Insight also contains other relevant material such as committee prints, CRS reports, and Presidential signing statements.

Unlike Legislative Insight, Proquest Congressional carries documents pertaining to both enacted legislation as well as the bills that do not become law.  This includes the text of bills, transcripts of unpublished and published hearings, Congressional reports, the Congressional Record, Congressional Research Service reports, voting records, etc.  The indexing of some of the material goes back to the signing of the Constitution.   A useful feature of Proquest Congressional is the Congressional Profiles which provide the historical context of each Congressional term, including an overview of party divisions and leadership, economic conditions, conflicts, major laws, Landmark Supreme Court cases and major event

To access Legislative Insight or Proquest Congressional from off-campus, you first need to implement the proxy instructions.

Stressed about your seminar paper? Attend the Seminar Paper Workshop this Thursday

This Thursday Prof. Fajans and Librarian Kathy Darvil are holding their semi-annual workshop on how to research and write a seminar paper in Room 502.  The workshop is from 4-5:30 PM. Topics covered include sources for selecting your topic, sources for researching your topic, and strategies for effectively organizing and writing your paper.  If you are unable to attend the workshop, you can access an online research guide which contains a recording of the workshop, links to and descriptions of all the research sources discussed, and the writing and research presentations.  The online guide is available at guides.brooklaw.edu/seminarpaper.  From the guide’s main page, you can access the recording of the presentation, Professor Fajans’ slideshow on how to write your seminar paper, and Kathy Darvil’s online presentation on how to research your seminar paper.  If you should need further help selecting or researching your topic, please stop by the reference desk for assistance.

Researching Legislative History?

Whether you are tracing a statute’s history for your summer internship or for a paper you are writing, you will want to use a new tool the library recently acquired, Proquest’s Legislative Insight.  Often researching legislative histories can be cumbersome and time consuming.   Legislative Insight promises to streamline the process by digitizing and by publishing online the majority of full text publications associated with a legislative history.  These documents include all versions of enacted and related bills, Congressional Record excerpts, and committee hearings, reports, and documents.  Legislative Insight also includes other related material such as committee prints, CRS reports and Presidential signing statements. Furthermore, Legislative Insight offers a research citation page that not only links to the full text of the associated primary source publications, but allows the user to do a Search Within from that very page that searches the full text of all the associated publications with one-click.

To access Legislative Insight from off-campus, you first need to implement the proxy instructions.

Seminar Paper Workshop

Last week Prof. Fajans and Librarian Kathy Darvil ran their semi-annual workshop on how to research and write a seminar paper.  Topics covered Image result for image writing a paperincluded sources for selecting your topic, sources for researching your topic, and how to effectively organize and write your paper.  If you were unable to attend the workshop, you can access an online research guide which contains a recording of the workshop, links to and descriptions of all the research sources discussed, and the writing and research presentations.  The online guide is available at guides.brooklaw.edu/seminarpaper.  From the guide’s landing page, you will be able to access a recording of the presentation, Professor Fajans’ slideshow on how to write your seminar paper, and Kathy Darvil’s online presentation on how to research your seminar paper.  If you should need further help selecting or researching your topic, please stop by the reference desk for assistance.

Law and the English Language

Lawyer'sLast year, the Brooklyn Law Library added to its collection The Lawyer’s Guide to Writing Well (3d ed.) by Tom Goldstein and Jethro K. Lieberman (Call No. KF250. G65 2016). This critically acclaimed book “should be in the office of every lawyer” says William Safire of the New York Times. In its 286 pages, the authors demystify legal writing, outline the causes and consequences of poor writing, and prescribe easy-to-apply remedies to improve it. Reflecting changes in law practice over the past decade, this revised edition includes new sections around communicating digitally, getting to the point, and writing persuasively. It also provides an editing checklist, editing exercises with a suggested revision key, usage notes that address common errors, and reference works to further aid your writing. This guide is an invaluable tool for practicing lawyers and law students.

Chapters are: Why Lawyers Write Poorly — Does bad writing really matter? — Don’t make it like it was — The Practice of Writing — Ten steps to writing it down — Of dawdlers and scrawlers, pacers and plungers: getting started and overcoming blocks — The technology of getting it down: from quill pens to computers — Lawyers as publishers: words are your product — Getting to the Point — Writing persuasively for your audience: tell your audience the point — Writing the lead — Revising for Clarity and Luster — Form, structure, and organization — Wrong words, long sentences, and other mister meaners — Revising your prose — Making your writing memorable.

AnimalBooks and essays about the art of writing well go back a long time. In 1947, English novelist, essayist, journalist, and critic George Orwell (born Eric Arthur Blair 1903 – 1950) and author of Animal Farm: A Fairy Story and Nineteen Eighty-Four, his most famous works, wrote an essay titled Politics and the English Language. Although the essay addresses the decline of language in political and economic contexts, Orwell, in the closing paragraphs, offers rules that cover effective legal writing as well. They are:

  • Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  • Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  • If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  • Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  • Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  • Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Episode 097 – Conversation with Prof. Heidi Brown

Episode 097 – Conversation with Prof. Heidi Brown.mp3

Heidi BrownIn this podcast, Brooklyn Law School Professor Heidi Brown talks about her article, The Emotionally Intelligent Law Professor: A Lesson from the Breakfast Club, 36 University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Review 273 (2014). The article examines the importance of teaching Emotional Intelligence (EI) as part of the law school curriculum and as a component of “professionalism.” In April 2016, Professor Brown joined the faculty at Brooklyn Law School as Director of the Legal Writing Program after serving as Associate Professor of Law at New York Law School, where she helped launch that school’s Legal Practice program. Before that, she was an Associate Professor of Legal Research and Writing at the Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law in Orange, California. A prolific scholar and author on the importance of legal writing, she has published four books on predictive and persuasive legal writing and federal litigation, and other scholarly articles for law journals. Prof. Brown is  working on a forthcoming book The Introverted Lawyer.

Research & Citation Review Workshops

In anticipation of the first year Research and Citation Quiz, the Library will offer two review workshops.

180px-The_Bluebook_18th_ed_CoverThe workshop on Bluebooking with Success will be offered twice; you may attend either session.  Please bring your Bluebook!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015, 4:00pm – 5:00pm, Room 601

Thursday, October 22, 2015, 5:00pm – 6:00pm, Room 503

 

ContentImage-6275-95126-shutterstock_108141146You may bring your research questions to this Question & Answer Workshop.  We will also go over some sample quiz questions.

Monday, October 26, 2015, 5:00pm – 6:00pm, 7th floor Moot Court Room

 

Looking forward to seeing you at these timely and helpful research & citation review sessions.

Writing Competion for Securities Law Students

Brooklyn Law School students interested in competing for cash prizes in connection with Securities Arbitration and Securities Law can enter the James E. Beckley Securities Arbitration and Law Writing Competition being sponsored by the PIABA Foundation. The mission of the PIABA Foundation is to promote investor education and to provide the public with information about abuses in the financial services industry and the securities dispute resolution process. The Beckley competition is open to all law students. Eligible topics include any aspect of securities law, securities arbitration, the Federal Arbitration Act, or the FINRA Code of Arbitration. Winners get their submissions published in the PIABA Bar Journal and receive cash prizes for first place ($1,000), second place ($750), and third place ($500). The deadline for entries is September 19, 2014.

Episode 090: Conversation with Gideon Martin

Episode 090: Conversation with Gideon Martin.mp3

This podcast interview of Gideon Martin, Brooklyn Law School Class of 2014, focuses on his article Allergic to Equality: The Legislative Path to Safer Restaurants, 13 Appalachian Journal of Law 79 (2013). Gideon received his J.D. degree this year graduating with honors. While attending BLS, Gideon was selected for the law school’s competitive Edward V. Sparer Public Interest Fellowship and was the recipient of a Peggy Browning Fund Fellowship for work on labor and employment issues. Most recently, he spent the summer of 2013 working at the Major League Baseball Players Association. While at BLS, he interned for United State Magistrate Judge Cheryl Pollak of the Eastern District of New York. He was also a member of the Moot Court Honor Society and served as Notes and Comments Editor on the Journal of Law and Policy.