Owl Lex

  • Owllawyeropti

Clawk Fox

  • Fox5x6_2

Alltop Feed - Law


  • Featured in Alltop

Great Books


« Conference announcement: Leadership, Ethics and Innovation - Strategies for Change in the Legal Profession | Main | Blog Glob: "Meet the clients" & "Who says being a lawyer has to suck?" »


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Not on the same legal writing page: George Gopen of Duke responds to Wayne Schiess of University of Texas:

» Schiess v. Gopen from the (new) legal writer
Here's something you don't see every day: two legal-writing teachers engaged in a war of (and over) words. The arena is Idealawg, which, a few days ago, ran an interview with George Gopen. In the interview, George suggested that most [Read More]

» What's your opinion of legal writing? from Lawsagna
Law students are getting serious about legal writing. They don’t want to hide behind wordy legalisms. They want to be understood. And they offer good tips on how they plan to become effective writers. As part of Legal Andrew’s class [Read More]

» Is Passive Voice Making a Comeback? from Texas Appellate Law Blog
For the past decade or so, appellate lawyers have been taught to avoid the passive voice in their writing (the preceding sentence notwithstanding). But Dr. George Gopen of Duke University says that advice, as well as other principles emphasized in toda... [Read More]


Wayne Schiess

No point-by-point response here. Just want to point out a big difference in the way we look at teaching legal writing.

I think the greatest weakness in legal writing is failure to understand the material. When writers don't fully understand the authorities they are using or the analysis they are constructing, they tend to fall into bad writing habits.

I think the second greatest weakness is the failure to use analogical reasoning (comparisons) instead of rule-based reasoning (mere assertions) in applying authority to a problem.

I think the third greatest weakness is the failure to organize and order the material in a sensible way.

I think the fourth is failing to connect ideas and sentences and paragraphs.

So what you say is the greatest weakness--failure to recognize and use the stress position--is probably fourth on my list. Is that a fair assessment?

Why would that be so?

I think the differences in our views arise because you do not have to teach first-year law students. You do not have to teach novices how to introduce an authority, how to explain an authority, how to cite an authority, where to cite an authority, or how to apply an authority to the facts. You do not have to teach novices how to frame an issue, how to state a conclusion, how to introduce a counter-argument, or how to order a legal analysis. You teach only grown-up lawyers. So you can focus on using the stress position because your students have already studied--even if they have not mastered--the basics of analytical legal writing.

So it's hard for me to accept your assessment: "As I see it, you are overly concerned with certain aspects of the surface appearance of prose."

That's what I thought about you.

I was just responding to your assertions about what writing teachers are teaching that is wrong. Those aren't the things I value. I can't afford to. My students need to learn how to construct a memo and a brief. There's no time for stress position or passive voice.

Different perspectives, I guess.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Regarding Guest Bloggers

  • Please do not contact me about writing a guest blog post. In the rare instance when I do have guest-written posts, I invite the writers. Thanks very much!
My Photo

Please Read

  • Full Disclosure:
    Due to a conflict between the Colorado legislature and Amazon, those of us in Colorado are no longer Amazon Associates. The law is being challenged in federal court.