LWI 2018: Sessions on empirical study of legal communication

The schedule for the Legal Writing Institute 2018 biennial conference in Milwaukee, July 11 — July 14, is published (version as of June 27), and it looks terrific, with a great focus on pedagogy and pedagogical research in the field!

This blog post is about a subset of the sessions, those devoted to empirical study of legal communication.  In that category, I include any study that systematically examines some class of legal communication outside the law-school context (so, not including classroom and pedagogical research). I’m excited to see scholars pursuing such projects.

I’ve made the argument in the past that folks in the legal writing community should engage in empirical research of this kind as a discipline-building effort. I’d love to see more. As I noted in my previous post, however, I don’t mean by my focus on empirical studies to devalue pedagogical and related research. Quite the contrary: We have the talent and motivation to do both!

Below is a list of the sessions I’ve been able to identify that fit this bill. If you are presenting on a topic at LWI that matches these criteria that I have not listed here, please let me know, and I’ll get it added. I’ve included short abstracts for all sessions except the one in which I’m presenting, where I happen to have the long abstract. If you are presenting in one of the other sessions and want me to include your full abstract here, please let me know, and I’ll add that!

Judges and the Craft of Writing

Amy Langenfeld
Room 363
Thursday, July 12, 3:15 — 4:00 p.m.
How do judges approach writing as a craft? How much do they see themselves as like other professional writers? I’ve interviewed judges and will share their thoughts, such as about writer’s block, writing as editing, and who they love to read. We’ll discuss implications for judges and their many audiences.

Searching for Missing Narratives in Judicial Treatment of Obstetric Violence Claims

Liz Kukura
Room 363
Friday, July 13, 9:15 — 10:30 a.m.
This presentation examines how courts analyze women’s claims of mistreatment by their health care providers during childbirth. It explores judicial framing of women’s experiences of alleged mistreatment, and how that framing both reflects and reinforces the limitations of existing legal frameworks in the context of obstetric violence.

Citation Stickiness

Alexa Z. Chew and Kevin Bennardo
Room 263
Friday, July 13, 11:45 a.m. — 12:30 p.m.
How closely do the authorities cited in federal appellate opinions track the authorities cited in the parties’ briefs? Do litigants’ citations “stick” to the resulting opinion? What does citation stickiness mean for judicial decision making and effective brief writing? Come and learn the results of our empirical study!

Weird Science: The Empirical Study of Legal Writing

Shaun Spencer, Kenneth Chestek, Brian Larson, and Lance Long
Lubar Center—room 144
Saturday, July 14, 2:45 — 3:30 p.m.

Short abstract: Attendees will learn about emerging approaches to the empirical study of legal writing and gain practical advice about finding a research question, choosing a methodology, finding subjects, gathering and coding data,
and publishing.

Full abstract: Panelists will summarize their recent empirical studies of legal writing. Attendees will benefit in two ways from this panel. First, they will learn about the variety of emerging approaches to the empirical study of legal writing. One panelist will describe a quantitative study of the correlation between brief readability and summary judgment outcome. Another will describe an experimental study of the effect of positive and negative themes on how judges decide cases. Yet another will describe a qualitative study of how lawyers use exemplary reasoning in legal memos. Discussing these studies will surface themes and questions about methodological choices, outcomes of interest, and measurement tools. Second, attendees will receive practical advice from the authors on topics such as finding a research question, choosing a methodology, finding subjects, gathering and coding data, and publishing. Discussing these current projects will, we hope, empower attendees to begin or continue their work in this emerging field.

I provide the theoretical background for the legal analogy presentation in a draft article available now on SSRN.

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