The pandemic has disrupted so many aspects of our lives—including the ability to attend conferences, make presentations, and publish. This issue, “Pandemic Proceedings,” includes essays that reflect this reality. Two essays result from conferences that were canceled or moved online. Three others explore ideas that the authors might have presented at a virtual conference if they hadn’t been mastering the art of teaching remotely or home-schooling children. The issue begins with three authors sharing their individual writing processes, which might inspire you to turn your presentation idea into an article or book, whether or not you presented it during the pandemic.
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Heidi K. Brown
A New York City sound jolted me awake…again. I glanced at the clock. 3:26 a.m. What on earth is driving this new iteration of chronic insomnia? Has the pandemic finally taken its toll on my psyche?
On May 1, 2021, as I scrolled through countless emails from individuals already pressing me to make decisions about the fall semester, it finally hit me: I am completely and utterly burned out. Like epically fried, to my utter core. Not since 2001, when divorce and 9/11 trauma brought me to my knees, did I feel this raw.
The first week of May, I pushed myself to finish grades earlier than usual, and then I did the only thing I knew would breathe fresh life into me as a human and as a writer. Read full essay...
Sha-Shana Crichton and Sherri Lee Keene
Producing scholarship makes legal writing professors better teachers. Yet, many of us find that it is difficult to devote time to writing with an already packed schedule of preparing for class, constant grading, weekly office hours, regular student conferences, and heavy service requirements. Even when we find time to present our ideas at conferences, we can still struggle to turn those presentations into articles, essays, or books.
As law professors and directors of our respective legal writing programs, the two of us had a standing monthly meeting to talk “shop” (share best practices for teaching, strategies to meet the challenges we faced as legal writing professors and administrators, and ideas for running our programs). Read full essay...
During the pandemic, I discovered two perfect windows.
I stumbled upon the first while wandering the grounds of a mostly shuttered summer resort on a cold spring day. Curious about the pool, I located the building containing the locker room for swimmers. But that building serves a different purpose as well: it includes a large opening that spotlights a distant mountain peak. Before a visitor even notices the pool, she approaches a wide rectangular arch. And centered in that arch is a magnificent mountain. The pool and structure were shuttered until summer, but I didn’t have to enter the building to appreciate it’s effect as a frame for the ultimate attraction: an unmatched view of Mt. Washington in the Cascade mountain range. This window brings the dramatic mountain into sharp focus, at nine miles away.
In my spring syllabus, I found a second, similar window. Read full essay...
In J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, most of the characters decline to say the name of the arch-villain Voldemort. Some appear to be dissembling: either they are committed supporters of Voldemort or fellow travelers of his movement. Most of the characters in the books, though, are simply afraid of Voldemort and are concerned that invoking his name will somehow conjure him back into being and power. It’s one of the hallmarks of the stories’ hero, Harry, that he is at all times unafraid to say the name, first because he doesn’t know anything about Voldemort and later because of defiance and repudiation of all that Voldemort stands for.
I’ve noticed recently a similar restraint in using the name of Donald Trump. Friends of mine have taken to using various elisions to replace his name in conversation, and even late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert avoids the use of Trump’s name. I haven’t yet heard Trump referred to as “he who must not be named,” the avoidance technique practiced often in the Harry Potter books, but I suspect that time is not far off. Read full essay...
Rachel H. Smith
In the fall of 2019, I went to a St. John’s basketball game, right down the hill from my office in the law school. For me, the “Red Storm” is a charming part of working at St. John’s, and I was excited to see Mike Anderson, St. John’s new basketball coach. As the game started, I found it hard to look away from Iron Mike. He has charisma. And he was so engaged, so in the moment. In my memory, during the timeouts, he had this little whiteboard that looked like a basketball court and was describing plays in detail with a marker. But I may have added that from watching a lot of sports movies. Either way, there was shouting and pointing and pats on the back. The players were rapt—completely focused on what he was saying.
This moved me. It might have been because I had come to the game from class or because I was on the appointments committee and had spent a lot of time that week talking with potential law professors about pedagogy. But I couldn’t get over it. Read full essay...
Mary Ann Robinson
Often, the hardest part of a writing project is getting started. This is true for a new lawyer writing a letter to a client or another attorney, or a law student writing a letter to a potential employer.
To help new lawyers get started writing letters, the attached chart identifies the basic “building blocks” for any letter. The chart connects these blocks to several specific types of letters that lawyers write, showing how to use the blocks to quickly “construct” a letter. There are four separate blocks – the Formalities (which can be found on the Purdue Owl website); the Introduction; the Main Message, which delivers the primary content; and the Closing, which invites follow-up. The visual display of this block-by-block construction demonstrates the commonalities and the differences between the various types of letters. Professors can share this chart with students as a quick reference to get started writing any letter. Read full essay...
Matthew Cordon, Rachel Croskery-Roberts, Cassandra Hill, Sarah Morath, and Suzanne Rowe
In her bestselling book WOLFPACK, Abby Wambach identifies eight rules for leading that apply not only to soccer but also to leading a legal writing program. Rule 8, Find Your Pack, simply means you are not alone. You’ve got your pack.
If you are a new legal writing director or coordinator who is feeling alone and overwhelmed, we invite you to join our pack! The following suggestions come from new and experienced legal writing directors, as well as a former associate dean who is now a law school dean. These are strategies new directors can take to advocate for your program as you hire and mentor your colleagues; balance expectations and responsibilities; and effectively work with diverse constituencies. Read full essay...
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