Linda Berger On The Evolution of Legal Writing & LWI

Posted on 07-06-2016 by
Tags: Industry Insights & Trends , legal writing , legalwriting , LIT , #writinglegally , LWI

We all realize how much technology has changed the way we communicate over the phone, whether that be through text messages or social media, but have you  stopped to think how much it has changed our writing, specifically our legal writing?  Linda Berger, a law professor at UNLV’s Boyd School of Law and President of the Legal Writing Institute, took some time to answer some questions for LexisNexis:

Generally, how has legal writing evolved over the past couple years, particularly with the greater emphasis on practical skills within legal education. 

Legal writing has changed over the last few years because of the effects of technology on student learning and legal research and because of the pedagogical innovations carried out by individual professors dedicated to the study of our field.

These changes are stimulating. When I talk with other professors who teach legal writing, I often hear real excitement about adapting and developing to meet new challenges. Teaching legal research is much more challenging—but also much more interesting—because today’s law students are at a different point in the process when they realize they have a research problem. In the past, students needed help finding authorities that would help them analyze a legal problem. Today, students find authorities easily but they need help understanding what to do with those authorities. This shift has meant that we need to adopt a more nuanced and more flexible approach to what we do.

As for pedagogical innovations, these are encouraging because many of them have emerged from scholarly engagement and community involvement and because they play out in so many ways. For example, many recent innovations have grown out of law school discussions about teaching, learning, and assessment or from law school and individual commitments to social justice and community betterment. Others have emerged from empirical research or research into disciplines including psychology, rhetoric, composition, social sciences, and more.

As noted above, Linda serves as the President of the Legal Writing Institute aside from her teaching duties so we took the time to get more insight on the work that the Institute does.

What are you most proud of regarding accomplishments of the Legal Writing Institute?

LWI’s distinctive claim is that LWI members do it all—as volunteers—because we believe effective legal communication is critical to the wellbeing of society, the judicial system, and the legal profession. To take the most obvious and everyday example, the LRWPROF listserv instantly connects members across the country to discuss issues, ask and answer questions, and seek and offer guidance. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to work collaboratively and closely with literally hundreds of LWI members. These volunteers do unbelievable work and they accomplish near-miracles: planning and hosting a range of conferences (Biennial, Applied Storytelling, One-Day Workshops, Writers’ Workshop, Social Justice, Moot Court); producing publications for every reader (the Legal Writing Journal, Second Draft, Monograph Series, LWI Lives); collecting and disseminating resources (the joint Survey, the joint Scholarship Grants, the Idea Bank--soon to become the Teaching Bank); and finding a million other ways to provide on-the-spot information, mentoring, and assistance.

For me, the distinctive accomplishment of the 2014-16 LWI Board is the adoption of two priority goals to serve as a unifying focus for the organization: (1) improving and protecting professional status for LWI members and (2) building the discipline of legal communication. These goals provide a consistent framework for making decisions about future activities, projects, and programs. Looking at everything we do through the lens of professional development and discipline building concentrates our resources and our attention.

Every LWI milestone has a long history. In 1984, the participants at the first conference of the group that became LWI adopted a resolution urging law schools to extend to legal writing teachers and administrators the same security in employment available to other law faculty. In 2015, LWI, along with the ALWD Board and the Society of American Law Teachers, reiterated that position by adopting a policy statement that expresses the same view in new language: The Legal Writing Institute is committed to a policy of full citizenship for all law faculty. Recognizing that some of our members, despite their long-term contract status, are facing adverse employment actions, LWI and ALWD also drafted and adopted a statement of best practices for protecting law professors with ABA Standard 405(c) status.

Do you want to learn more about Linda Berger? Read more on her here!

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