AALL Spectrum Blog

PrintEmail


The AALL Spectrum® Blog is published by the American Association of Law Libraries. Submissions from AALL members and other members of the legal community are highly encouraged. Opinions and editorial views expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of AALL. AALL does not assume any responsibility for statements advanced by contributors. The previous Spectrum Blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com.
8/8/2013 3:27:01 PM

Lost in Translation: Effective Legal Writing for the International Legal Community

Lost in Translation: Effective Legal Writing for the International Legal Community. By Kevin J. FANDL. New Providence, NJ : LexisNexis, 2013. Pp. xv, 139. ISBN 978-0-76-985746-6 (paperback) US$59.00.

Audience

The intended audience for this book is foreign law students & practitioners who need to communicate professionally with U.S. based English-speakers. However this short and hastily (read sloppily) edited text provides nothing new or valuable. The book itself did not necessarily shape itself to the particular needs of non-U.S. law students or practitioners and the advice seemed generic and at times patronizing. Overall I was completely underwhelmed.

Content

Chapter 3 Making Your Writing Effective

Chapter 8, Part IV: Editing in Nadia Nedzel’s Legal reasoning, research, and writing for international graduate students (2012), and the CALI Lessons on Punctuation and Grammar, are in my opinion preferable resources for learning U.S. Legal Grammar than Fandl’s Chapter 3.

Chapter 4 Drafting Correspondence

Fandl’s 2 pages of bulleted and numbered lists provide the reader with tips and an outline for writing a letter to a client (including a statement, 3c., on p. 31 containing the first of several typos that I, unfortunately, noticed in this book on professional legal writing). This was followed by 5 pages of detailed explanations and blurry greyscale screenshots illustrating how to use specific features of MS Outlook. That this is not a problem specific to a foreign audience, is demonstrated by the existence of the ABA Publication The Lawyer's Guide to Microsoft® Outlook 2010 (2012). For a generic understanding of professional email drafting, Lee, Hall, & Barone’s American Legal English: Using Language in Legal Contexts (2007) provides email writing tips and activities starting on p. 184.

Chapter 5 Drafting Legal Memoranda and Case Briefs

A particularly disappointing chapter, not only is it so mundane as to merely echo the basic tenets in any legal writing text without adding anything that would be of particular value for a foreign audience, but vague and imprudent advice is given in the section on research strategy. Fandl instructs readers to start with secondary sources, but makes no mention of using them to find references to the most relevant primary sources.  He also provides an example of how the user should search LexisNexis® to find relevant statutes and case law by doing a broad jurisdiction specific keyword search. Not only is that an ineffective way to search LexisNexis®, for topic specific primary law, but his description of how to do that search is unclear. For superior instruction on drafting legal memoranda and case briefs and for general in-depth explanations of U.S. research techniques aimed at a foreign audience, again, I point you to Lee, et al. (2007) and Nedzel (2012).

Exercises

The editor seems determined to make the use of these exercises as difficult as possible for the reader.

At the end of each exercise is one of two statements intended to lead the user to the sample answer. The reader is told either "Suggested solutions can be found in Appendix A" or "sample <insert noun here> can be found in Appendix B".

In each Appendix the materials are lettered [A] etc.

  • the text does not refer the reader to solutions on a specific page number or even section letter within each Appendix
  • the solutions titles are haphazardly listed
  • solutions are not provided in the same order in which the exercises themselves appear in the text
  • nor are they in alphabetical order
  • the titles of the solutions do not always match exactly the titles of the exercises

This creates the frustrating experience of trying to flip back and forth between the text of the exercise and the Appendices, trying to find the right solution. If it was difficult for a native English speaker, how much more challenging must it be for someone speaking English as a Second Language (the supposed target audience of this book).

This whole fiasco could have been avoided in two simple ways.

1. Put the solutions to exercises on the page after the exercises themselves.

2. Provide actual page numbers when directing the reader to a sample document in Appendix B.

Index

The index did not have page numbers, instead referring the reader to a chapter and a lettered section, sometimes followed by a numeral for a subsection. This method is useful for a loose-leaf publications but unnecessarily confusing for a book that has page numbers.

Conclusion

This book attempts to teach the reader a strange combination of skills related to professional U.S. legal writing. The writing lessons in Chapter 3 are nothing that could not be gleaned from a fair read of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style (2012) or the relevant chapter section in Nedzel (2012). The legal writing exercises in Lee, et al. (2007) are more appropriate for the audience, easier to use, and with more than twice the content, it’s less than half the price of Fandl’s book.

If Fandl’s ethnocentric and misleading title (which could have been corrected by adding the words “in the United States”, See eg. Deborah H. McGregor & Cynthia M. Adams, The International Lawyer's Guide to Legal Analysis And Communication in the United States) rubbed me the wrong way when I first cracked the book open, the lack of organization of the answers to the exercises proved the death knell.

I give this book two thumbs down for being a waste of perfectly good trees. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s an earlier draft freely available online in non-tree killing pdf format.

Posted By Catherine Deane at 8/8/2013 3:27:01 PM  0 Comments
TOPICS: book review
8/7/2013 3:17:57 PM

Quick One-Question Survey

Fellow law librarians - I would like your input today.  I recently came across a Top 100 list put together by Brodart in 1999, and I would like to put together an updated list from a law librarian's perspective.  When I have finished collecting responses, I plan to write up a small article that will hopefully be printed in the Spectrum.  So I am posing this question:  What is your favorite novel?

Please respond with the following:

Favorite Novel:
Job Title:

Feel free to pass this on to your professional coworkers.

Please comment below or send your response to:  gamawire@gmail.com

Thanks in advance!!

Posted By Stacy Fowler at 8/7/2013 3:17:57 PM  0 Comments
7/28/2013 7:30:15 PM

Book Review: The Accidental Law Librarian

Anthony Aycock, The Accidental Law Librarian, (Medford, New Jersey: Information Today, Inc., 2013). 247 pages.  ISBN: 9781573874779. $39.50 (Paperback).

Anthony Aycock’s The Accidental Law Librarian fills a tall order.  In less than 250 pages, Aycock covers all the crucial aspects of law librarianship.  Drawing from both his personal experiences and those that he thinks up with his creative mind, he explains key concepts such as collection development, education in law librarianship, providing services to different patron types, and, of course, legal research.  Beyond that, he does this task with a wonderful sense of humor that keeps the reader hooked to his words.  He writes with equal portions of ease and hilarity and gives a refreshing take on topics than can be considered dry, such as loose-leaf filing or conducting a legislative history. 

The book is structured in ten chapters, starting with an introduction to legal publishing, the nature of law and a librarian’s role in finding it, and how to serve patrons (especially public patrons).  Aycock then digs deep into the bread and butter of law librarianship, legal research.  He provides clear and succinct descriptions of print and electronic searching and describes how to create a research plan.  He also mentions the two main research giants in the league, LexisNexis and Westlaw, but not overly so.  He spends an entire chapter focusing on other options which are supplemental or less costly.

Next, Aycock describes how to find public information for both individuals and companies.  He also explains the ins and outs of courthouse filings and briefs.  The last few chapters of the book take a different approach than most other guidebooks on law librarianship.  Aycock takes the time to mention how administration works in law libraries, focusing mainly on law firms and public libraries.  He also advises how to market library services by reaching out to other departments, hosting events, and providing specialized service that makes the name of the library memorable.

Finally, he closes the book with a discussion on the education and qualifications necessary for law librarianship, a list of resources for career development, and his two cents on the future of law libraries.  The final word on that: innovate, innovate, innovate!  In order to remain relevant, librarians must innovate the services they offer and the way they can be used.  Those open to the public need to reach out and actively engage their clientele by providing new services designed specifically for them.  For example, he mentions partnering with local or state bar associations to host events or provide training sessions for material use by public patrons. 

Aycock maintains that the book is geared toward those who do not have law degrees and find themselves, through some walk of life, working as a law librarian; typically, someone who makes their way through a law firm, as he personally did.  However, this book would be a good resource for any law librarian’s personal collection.  As well researched as it is written, the book contains a plethora of resources and can serve as a go-to guide for newcomer librarians in all law library settings.  It would serve as a great brush up and keep current tool for the more seasoned bunch. 

The take away gems of the book are the endnotes in every chapter and Appendix A.  The endnotes are packed with helpful resources in the form of books, articles, and links to online material.  They are great to peruse through during free time and for reference in a pinch.  In Appendix A, Aycock shares some of the many questions that he has been asked while working reference.  Along with this he provides some suggested answers.  His personal favorite is the time he was asked to find an episode of the soap opera Guiding Light from 1998 to use in a products liability case.  Mine is the time a patron came up to his desk and asked for a revised Nevada statute.  His response for how librarians should answer this question?  Read it to find out.  You will not be sorry you did.

Anupama Pal is the Reference and Government Documents Librarian at the Elon University School of Law Library.

Posted By Anupama Pal at 7/28/2013 7:30:15 PM  0 Comments
TOPICS: book reviews