Category Archives: Legal Writing

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.

Student Writing Competition – First Prize $10,000

manwritesletterHave a particular legal issue you are keen on?  Interested in writing about it?  If so, then submit your paper to be considered for the annual Brown Award given by the Judge John R. Brown Scholarship Foundation.

The Award is in recognition of Excellence in Legal Writing in American Law Schools.  There is no  limitation as to topic; only that the writing must be on a legal subject.

Any student wishing to submit a paper must have a letter of recommendation from a faculty member.  Specific details regarding the competition may be found here.

Some topics from last year’s winners.

First Place: Information Traps

Second Place: Beneath the Surface of the Clean Water Act: Exploring the Depth of the Act’s Jurisdictional Scope of Groundwater Pollution

Third Place: Lien on Me: The Survival of Security Interests in Revenues from the Sale of an FCC License

Seminar Paper Workshop

training_iconOn Thursday February 6, Professor Elizabeth Fajans and Librarian Kathy Darvil will host a workshop on how to effectively research and write your seminar paper.  The workshop is from 4-5:30 and is located in Room 602.  Topics covered included sources for selecting your topic, sources for researching your topic, and how to effectively organize and write your paper.

If you are unable to attend the workshop, there is no need to fear.  Kathy Darvil created an online research guide to support the seminar.  The guide is available at  From the guide’s landing page, you will be able to access a recording of this year’s presentation, Professor Fajan’s slideshow on how to write your seminar paper, and Kathy Darvil’s online presentation on how to research your seminar paper.  Also listed and described on the guide are all the resources (as well as several others) that were discussed in the workshop.  If you should need further help selecting or researching your topic, please stop by the reference desk for assistance.

Gettysburg Address: 150th Anniversary

On November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, site of the bloodiest battle of the American Civil War in July of that with more than 7000 killed. Gettysburg attorney David Wills and local officials planned an elaborate dedication ceremony for a national cemetery for the fallen soldiers, inviting state governors, members of Congress, and cabinet members, and prominent orator Edward Everett as the keynote speaker. At the last minute, Willis asked President Lincoln to make a few remarks probably thinking he would not attend or simply deliver a few platitudes. But President Lincoln delivered a two-minute speech that redefined the nation. In a mere ten sentences of about 270 words, Lincoln delivered one of the most important political speeches in American history, one often called the Second Declaration of Independence.

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Lincoln's CounselThe Gettysburg Address still matters today. Brooklyn Law School Library’s copy of Lincoln’s Counsel: Lessons from America’s Most Persuasive Speaker by Arthur Rizer (Call # KF368.L52 R59 2010), calls it the Greatest Closing Argument Ever Made: “Even today, brevity in closing arguments isn’t universally appreciated. If an attorney gave a three-minute closing argument, he may be sued for malpractice. Despite this, with the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln used his skills as a persuasive litigator to breathe life into a cause that was costing so much human life. The speech was more than simple dedicatory remarks for a memorial site. He set out a position that advocated why his position was correct, much as a lawyer does in making a closing argument, and he did it quickly and beautifully.”  More importantly, President Lincoln rededicated the nation to the principle of human equality, and to a government that reflected that equality by advancing the economic interests of all Americans. Now, as then, most Americans back Lincoln’s vision and now, as then, some still oppose those principles for both racial and economic reasons.

BLS LL.M Grad Authors Bilingual Antitrust Blog

Thibault Schrepel, a 2013 LL.M Graduate of Brooklyn Law School, has published the first Antitrust Letter, a new monthly series of articles written in both French and English.

According to Mr. Schrepel, each month’s article will analyze major changes within United States antitrust law and legal precedents, whilst contrasting and occasionally drawing parallels to European antitrust legal issues.

Antitrust Letter #1 discusses the DOJ v. Apple trial, calling it “one of the year’s biggest antitrust trials

Other topics in this issue include –

Framing the class action: American Express v. Italian Colors Restaurant

Tesla and direct sell networks

Questioning “Pay-for-delay deals”: FTC v. Actavis

Patent-trolls hunting is open

Seminar Paper Workshop Tomorrow, January 31, 2013


If you are one of the many students who are writing a law note or seminar paper this semester, you may feel a bit overwhelmed at the moment.  Several questions maybe running through your head such as:  how do I identify a “good” topic; where do I begin researching; when should I stop researching; or how do I organize my paper. Well, there is no need to fear.  Tomorrow, January 31, 2013, Professor Elizabeth Fajans and Librarian Kathy Darvil will host a workshop on researching and writing your seminar paper.  The workshop will be held from 4 pm-6 pm in Room  605.

Listed below are several resources available from the BLS library that can help you research and write your law note or seminar paper. General Resources for Legal Research and Writing
Legal Writing: Style & Grammer

Having Fun with the OED

The Oxford English Dictionary is the granddaddy of dictionaries.  If you were a word, the OED lets you know when you have arrived and rolls out the carpet to welcome you to the English language.  For the English speaker, it is the place to go if you want to learn how a word got its meaning and how the meaning may have changed over the years, along with the spelling of the word.  Since putting the OED online, the publishers have added many enhancements that can bring out the word geek in all of us.

For example, the timeline feature tells us how many words entered the English language each year, beginning with the year 600.  One of the first words listed is the word town – which was spelt tuun way back in 601 and meant “an enclosed land surrounding a single dwelling.”  You can see how the word changed over time under the enty.

You can also filter the timeline by region, origin and subject.  For example, when looking at the time line, we learn that most of the words in our language were added to the English language between 1850 and 1899.  (In fact, 42,229 words were added during those years).  However, if we sort by subject – for example – law – we learn that most legal terms were recognized as English words in the years 1600-1649 (the number of new words was 1,595.

The OED adds new entries on a daily basis.  For example, today’s new words included:

to heart

The new sense added to heart v. in this update may be the first English usage to develop via the medium of T-shirts and bumper-stickers. It originated as a humorous reference to logos featuring a picture of a heart as a symbol for the verb love, like that of the famous ‘I ♥ NY’ tourism campaign. Our earliest quote for this use, from 1984, uses the verb in ‘I heart my dog’s head’, a jokey play on bumper stickers featuring a heart and a picture of the face of a particular breed of dog (expressing a person’s enthusiasm for, say, shih-tzus) which itself became a popular bumper sticker.  From these beginnings, heart v. has gone on to live an existence in more traditional genres of literature as a colloquial synonym for ‘to love’.

It also included muffin top, initialisms like LOL, and lumpenintelligentsia.  What?  You don’t know what lumpenintelligentsia means?  Look it up here (remember to use the proxy server if not on campus):

Zotero and your legal research

Brooklyn Law School Library launched its Spring Lunch and Learn with Zotero. You can view the presentation by Karen Schneiderman, Emerging Technologies Librarian and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Law here.

What is Zotero? Zotero (pronounced /zoʊˈtɛroʊ/) is a free, open source research management platform. Designed as an add-on for the Firefox web browser, Zotero  manages bibliographic data and related research materials (such as PDFs).  Users can install a separate word processor add-ons, available for Microsoft Word and Writer, for automatic in-text citations, footnotes and bibliographies.

How Does it Work? Zotero detects when a book, article, or other resource is being viewed and with a mouse click finds and saves the full reference information to a local file. If the source is an online article or web page, Zotero can optionally store a local copy of the source. Users can then add notes, tags, and their own metadata through the in-browser interface.

Does it Support Bluebook Citations Styles? Yes, but partially. Zotero has a  Bluebook Law Review style in its  list of available output styles.  Specifically, Zotero is also compatible with HeinOnline’s Law Journal Library. Users are able to bookmark articles directly from a search results list in HeinOnline, or when viewing the pages of an article.Hein Online created  a short tutorial on using  Zotero. Unfortunately, Zotero does better with secondary legal materials than with primary legal materials.

What Does the Futrue Hold? In June 2010, there was a Call for Participation: Zotero Bluebook Development. Zotero  is seeking  input from actual legal writers. Unfortunately, there are very few lawyers in the Zotero community now.  With more lawyers and legal researchers involvedin Zotero’s development,it can only become more useful.   The Zotero developers are looking for people to do beta-testing.  Candidate should be comfortable with a few basic things: a) technical things like installing Firefox and installing plugins, b) invest a small amount of time playing with software with limited and occasionally broken functionality, and c) have the patience to report a bit of detail when things do not work correctly.

Brooklyn Law School Library would like to help build a Zotero that is useful and welcome to law students and other legal writers.

Links to the development forum and utilities:

How to Write Legal Seminar Paper

A seminar is a course offered for a small group of advanced law students.  A seminar paper is a record of what you say to the group about a topic you have studied.

How to Write Legal Seminar Paper: Brooklyn Law School Library is co-hosting  a workshop on February 2, 2011, at Brooklyn Law School,  Room 504 from 4:00 to 6:00 PM.

The workshop focuses on finding topics, researching topics, developing theses, and avoiding plagiarism. Led by  Elizabeth Fajans, Associate Professor of Legal Writing and Kathleen Darvil, Reference Librarian and Adjunct Professor of Law, this workshop will help improve and sharpen your skills.

Professor Fajans is the winner of the 2011 Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning & Research Section Award. The award is given to an individual who has made a significant lifetime contribution to the field of legal writing and research. Professor Fajans has been Brooklyn Law School’s writing specialist since 1984. She is a co-author of the seminal book, Writing and Analysis in the Law, now in its 5th edition, and the more recent Writing for Law Practice, as well as the publication, Scholarly Writing for Law Students: Seminar Papers, Law Review Notes, Law Review Competition Papers, co-authored by Fajans and BLS Professor Mary Falk.

Law Students and Seminar Papers: Here are five great reasons to write a legal seminar paper:

1.       Opportunity to publish, develop professional reputation

2.       Writing product for jobs, especially judicial clerkships

3.       Opportunity to specialize in area of interest and to learn substantive law

4.       Self-fulfillment achieved from producing a truly independent scholarly writing

5.       Enter and win a legal writing competiton

Legal Writing Competitions: Entering a legal writing competition helps you hone your legal research and writing skills, which increases your attractiveness to potential employers.  You’ll have a superior writing sample which you’ll be proud to discuss and show others.  Moreover, the odds are excellent that your paper will be published, you’ll win a monetary prize, or you’ll be invited to present your paper at a conference of practitioners in your area of interest.

Locating Legal Writing Competitions:  Unless specifically noted, all contests listed are open to students at all ABA-accredited law schools.