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Remedies for Breach of Contract

In Advocacy, Humanities, Jurisprudence, Law, Legal Education & Pedagogy, Philosophy on November 5, 2014 at 8:45 am

Allen 2

A breach of contract occasions potential damages traditionally measured in the form of three remedies: “expectation,” “restitution,” or “reliance.” The goal of the expectation remedy, which is the most common measure of damages for a breach of contract and is popularly said to confer the “benefit of the bargain,” is to put the non-breaching party in as good of a position as he or she would have been in had the breaching party performed the contract.

When a breaching party has defectively performed a contract, for instance, the non-breaching party can recover the cost of remedying the defective performance, i.e., the cost of completion. In a breach of contract lawsuit for the delivery of personal property at a fixed time and place, the proper measure of damages is the contract price subtracted by the market price at the place and time of delivery. By comparison, the proper measure of damages for the failure to complete a construction contract is the cost of completion subtracted by the amount that remains unpaid under the contract.

Restitution remedies are designed to prevent “unjust enrichment.” They represent the interest of a non-breaching party in recovering the value that was conferred upon the breaching party through the effort to perform a contract. In other words, restitution seeks to restore what was lost to the non-breaching party or to make the non-breaching party whole again.

Reliance remedies, finally, aim to put the non-breaching party in as good a position as he or she was in before the promise or agreement was made. Whereas expectation damages are “forward-looking” and consider what position the non-breaching party would have been in had the contract been performed, reliance damages are “backward-looking” and consider what position the non-breaching party would have been in had the contract never been contemplated.

These are not the only remedies available when a breach of contract occurs, but they are the most widely recognized and commonly implemented of such remedies.

Seven Points of Grammar

In Advocacy, Arts & Letters, Communication, Essays, Law, Legal Education & Pedagogy, Legal Research & Writing, Teaching, Writing on November 20, 2013 at 8:45 am

Allen 2

An earlier version of this piece appeared here in The Alabama Lawyer.

As a staff attorney to Chief Justice Roy S. Moore, I read several briefs and petitions each day.  I have noticed that certain grammatical errors are systemic among attorneys.  Some errors are excusable; others aren’t.  Here are seven errors that are inexcusable.

1.    “Whoever” and “Whomever”

Many attorneys do not know the difference between whoever and whomever.  Test your knowledge by answering these questions:

Which of the following sentences is correct?

A.  Give the document to whoever requests it.

B.  Give the document to whomever requests it.

Which of the following sentences is correct?

A.  Whoever arrives first will get a copy.

B.  Whomever arrives first will get a copy.

If you answered A to both questions, you were correct.  Here is a trick to help determine whether to use whoever or whomever:

STEP ONE:  Imagine a blank space where you wish to use whoever or whomever.

Example: Give the document to ______ requests it.

STEP TWO:  Split the blank space to create two sentences; then fill in the blanks with the pronouns he or him.

Example: Give the document to himHe requests it.

STEP THREE:  Whenever you fill in the blank space with a him/he combination, use whoever.  As we have already seen, the previous sentence should read, “Give it to whoever requests it.”  Whenever you fill in the blank space with a him/him combination, use whomever.

Him/He = whoever

Him/Him = whomever

Here are more examples:

STEP ONE:           You should hire ______ Pete recommends.

STEP TWO:          You should hire him.  Pete recommends him.

STEP THREE:      You should hire whomever Pete recommends.

 

STEP ONE:            This letter is to ______ wrote that brief.

STEP TWO:           This letter is to himHe wrote that brief.

STEP THREE:       This letter is to whoever wrote that brief.

 

STEP ONE:           The prize is for _____ wins the contest.

STEP TWO:          The prize is for himHe wins the contest.

STEP THREE:      The prize is for whoever wins the contest.

 

STEP ONE:            The lawyer made a good impression on ______ he met.

STEP TWO:           The lawyer made a good impression on him.  He met him.

STEP THREE:       The lawyer made a good impression on whomever he met.

 

STEP ONE:            The lawyer tried to make a good impression on ______ was there.

STEP TWO:           The lawyer tried to make a good impression on himHe was there.

STEP THREE:       The lawyer tried to make a good impression on whoever was there.

2.    “Who” and “Whom”

The difference between who and whom has fallen out of favor in common speech, but retains its importance in formal writing.  Use who if the pronoun is a subject or subject complement in a clause.  Use whom if the pronoun is an object in a clause.  A trick to help determine whether to employ who or whom is to rephrase the sentence using a personal pronoun such as he or him.  Consider the following:

A.      Proper: Whom did you meet?  (Rephrase: I met him.)

           Him is objective, so whom is proper.

Improper:  Who did you meet?

B.       Proper: Who do you think murdered the victim?  (Rephrase: I think he murdered the victim.)

           He is subjective, so who is proper.

Improper: Whom do you think murdered the victim?

C.        Proper: Who was supposed to finish that brief last week?  (Rephrase: He was supposed to finish that brief last week.)

            He is subjective, so who is proper.

Improper: Whom was supposed to finish that brief last week?

D.        Proper:  Justice Brown is the man for whom I voted.  (Rephrase: I voted for him.)

            Him is objective, so whom is proper.

Improper:  Justice Brown is the man who I voted for.

3.    “As Such”

I used to practice at a mid-sized law firm in Atlanta.  Tasked with reviewing the writing of all associate attorneys at the firm, one partner became hardheaded about two words: “as such.”  He always struck through the word “therefore” and replaced it with the words “as such.”  He did this so often that I finally decided to correct him. I was tired of watching him substitute a grammatical error for a sound construction.

When I spoke up, he got defensive.  “As such means ‘therefore,’” he said.

He was wrong.

The Random House Dictionary (2013) describes “as such” as an “idiom” that means “as being what is indicated” or “in that capacity.”  In other words, after you have described something, you use the phrase “as such” to refer back to that something “as described.”  Here are examples:

  1. He is the president of the university; as such, he is responsible for allocating funds to each department.
  2. This is a matter of law; as such, it is subject to de novo review.
  3. Theft is a crime; treat it as such.

In these examples, “as such” properly refers back to a definite antecedent.

“As such” appears regularly in legal writing.  Whenever I see this construction misused, I think about that partner in Atlanta and become agitated.

“As such” is a simple construction; as such, it entails a simple application.  Don’t be shy about calling out your colleagues when you see them misuse this construction, even if you are a “lowly” associate.  You might just save them—and the partners—from embarrassment.

4.    The Colon

Although many rules govern the use of colons, I want to focus on this one: Never place a colon between a preposition and its object or between a verb and its complement.  Likewise, never place a colon after such words or phrases as especially, including, or such as.

These sentences violate this rule:

  1. He was convicted of several crimes, including: first-degree robbery, arson, third-degree burglary, and second-degree forgery.
  2. Some affirmative defenses are: statute of frauds, waiver, statute of limitations, and contributory negligence.
  3. Most restrictive covenants have provisions about the developer or declarant such as: “Property Subject to the Declaration,” “Easements,” “Assessments,” and “Membership.”
  4. She enjoys the sites, especially: the courthouse, the town square, and the memorial.

No colon is necessary in these sentences.

5.    Subject-Verb Agreement: “Neither,” “Nor,” “Either,” “Each,” and “Number”

Attorneys generally understand subject-verb agreement.  A verb must agree with its subject in number.  That is, a singular subject must take a singular verb; a plural subject must take a plural verb.  The following words, however, give attorneys trouble: neither, nor, either, each, and number.  What follows should clarify how to make these nouns agree with a verb.

Neither Mel’s clients nor his associate ___ going to the meeting tomorrow.

When you pair neither and nor as conjunctions linking two nouns, choose the noun closest to the verb and let that noun determine whether you use is or are.  In the example above, associate is closest to the verb.  Associate is singular, so the proper verb is is.

Neither of the partners ___ attending the meeting.

Neither is singular and the subject of the sentence.  It requires a singular verb: is.  The verb is not are if the plural noun (partners) is not the subject.  Partners is not the subject; it is part of a prepositional phrase.

___ either of you available to take his deposition tomorrow?

Either is singular and the subject of the sentence.  It requires a singular verb: is.  The verb is not are if the plural noun (you) is not the subject.  You is not the subject; it is part of a prepositional phrase.

Each of you ___ contributed valuable insights to the case.

The pronoun each is the subject of the sentence.  Each is singular and requires a singular verb: has.  Many attorneys will write have because they think that each is plural or that the verb must modify the plural noun youYou is part of a prepositional phrase and cannot serve as the subject of the sentence.

The number of thefts ___ increasing.

Number can be singular or plural depending on the context.  Here, number is used with the definite article the.  Therefore, the singular verb (is) applies.  In most cases, if number is used with the indefinite article a, then the plural verb (are) applies.

6.    The Possessive Form of Nouns Ending in “S”

My sixth grade teacher instructed me never to add ’s after a singular noun ending with an s or s sound.  She was wrong.  The trick to nouns ending with an s or an s sound is that no trick exists: the rule is the same for these nouns as for all other nouns (with a few notable exceptions, such as the words “its” and “yours”).  To form a singular possessive, add ’s to the singular noun.  To form a plural possessive, add an apostrophe to the plural noun.  Here are some examples:

Singular Noun

Mr. Jones               Mr. Jones’s

Mrs. Burnes           Mrs. Burnes’s

The boss                The boss’s

Plural Noun

The Joneses           The Joneses’

The Burnses           The Burnses’

The bosses             The bosses’

7.    “Only”

Only is one of the most regularly used words in the English language.  It is also one of the most regularly misused modifiers.  Below are examples of how attorneys misuse only in petitions and briefs.  I have altered the language in these examples to conceal the identity of the authors.

A.  “The appellant only references the reason why the appellee did not seek counseling.”

This sentence implies that the appellant does nothing—nothing at all—but reference the reason why the appellee did not seek counseling.  The appellant does not eat, sleep, think, talk, love, feel, or breathe.  The only thing he does is reference the reasons why the appellant did not seek counseling.  He must be a robot.  The author of this sentence intended to say the following: “The appellant references only the reason why the appellee did not seek counseling.”  This revised sentence means that, of all the reasons from which he could have chosen, the appellant referenced only one.  The appellant could have referenced other reasons, but did not.

B.  “He only robbed two people.”

This example suggests that “he” has never done anything—anything at all—but rob two people.  If all you have ever done is rob two people, your entire existence has been a crime.  The author of this sentence intended to say the following: “He robbed only two people.”  This revised statement should cause one to ask, “That’s it?  Just two people?”

C.  “The agency granted the application on the condition that the hospital only will move 300 beds.”

A hospital that does nothing but move 300 beds will not help sick patients.  The author of this sentence should have written, “The agency granted the application on the condition that the hospital will move only three-hundred beds.”  In this revised sentence, “only” modifies “three-hundred beds” rather than the verb “will move.”

Attorneys are educated; we tend to avoid using language if we aren’t certain about its grammatical soundness.  But something about the foregoing rules baffles us.

The rules, though, are easy.  What’s difficult is overcoming habits and industry-wide error.  If you aren’t certain about a rule, don’t just ask your colleagues for the solution.  And don’t take your colleagues’ suggestions at face value.  Consult a good, reliable grammar book.  Doing so will improve your writing and possibly raise the quality of writing among the entire profession.

BOOK REVIEW: Killing Time by John Holloway and Ronald M. Gauthier

In Advocacy, Art, Arts & Letters, Book Reviews, Creative Writing, Criminal Law, Fiction, Justice, Law, Literary Theory & Criticism, Literature, Prison, Southern History, Writing on November 8, 2011 at 9:05 pm

Allen Mendenhall

The following review originally appeared here at The Southern Literary Review just over a year ago.  Click here to view the original version in PDF.

John Hollway and Ronald M. Gauthier have written a thriller.  Unlike other thrillers, Killing Time: An 18-Year Odyssey from Death Row to Freedom (Skyhorse Publishing, 2010) is not fiction.  It is, in the authors’ words, “a true story” told in “narrative style.”  There’s an old saying: reality is stranger than fiction.  Here’s a book that proves reality is not only stranger than fiction but also, in some cases, more terrifying.  

The plot is as chilling as it is plain.  Or perhaps it is chilling because it seems plain.  An unknown man murders an Italian-American hotelier named Ray Liuzza.  Police, witnesses, and prosecutors mistake the killer for an innocent man: John Thompson, a twenty-two-year-old African American.  The crime occurs outside Ray’s apartment.  The year is 1984.  The city is New Orleans.  What follows is the bulk of the book: a police investigation, arrest, trial, sentencing, conviction, appeal, and so forth. 

Using court transcripts, depositions, media reports, interviews, letters, and other records, Hollway and Gauthier piece together a stunning story of power, law, race, and justice.  The result is a book that increasingly calls into question the instrumentalities of our criminal justice system, redeemed, at last, by two Philadelphia lawyers, Michael Banks and Gordon Cooney, who undertake Thompson’s case pro bono and who spend millions of dollars in foregone legal fees. 

Without the intervention of these two men, Thompson, who was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death, might not be alive today.  Released from prison after his exoneration, Thompson resides in Louisiana, where he is involved with Resurrection After Exoneration (REA), an organization he founded.          Read the rest of this entry »

BOOK REVIEW: Laura F. Edwards. The People and Their Peace: Legal Culture and the Transformation of Inequality in the Post-Revolutionary South (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 2009).

In Advocacy, American History, Arts & Letters, Book Reviews, Civil Procedure, History, Humanities, Jurisprudence, Law, Laws of Slavery, Nineteenth-Century America, Politics, Rhetoric, Slavery, Southern History, The South on September 28, 2011 at 10:41 am

Allen Mendenhall

Since Mark Tushnet revived the study of slave laws in the American South, several historians, most notably Paul Finkelman, Thomas D. Morris, and Ariela Gross, have followed in his footsteps.  Laura F. Edwards’s The People and Their Peace is a book that extends this trend in scholarship.  Focusing on North and South Carolina from roughly 1787 to 1840, and more specifically on three North Carolina counties and four South Carolina counties during that time, Edwards situates local law in contradistinction to state law, portraying the former as polycentric and heterogeneous and the latter as centralized and homogenous.  Edwards suggests that state law was more aspirational than practical in the early nineteenth-century Carolinas because it failed to inform ordinary legal practice at the local level in the same way that resident culture or custom did.

Pitting “reformers” (elite individuals who sought to create a uniform and consolidated body of rules that appellate courts could enforce at the state level) against locals, Edwards demonstrates that the legal system was bottom-up and not top-down and that law on paper or in statutes was different from law in practice.  On paper or in statutes, law subordinated lower courts to appellate courts and seemed, in keeping with the reformers’ ideals, systematized into a unitary, integrated order that reflected the supposedly natural and inevitable unfolding of history.  Reformers selectively compiled local laws and practices into lengthy works to forge the impression that law was a set of consistent, underlying principles.  In practice, however, law was variable, contingent, and contextual.  It emerged from the workaday and quotidian operations of individuals in towns and communities.  Law was therefore as messy as it was unpredictable, and it cannot be understood today without a deep knowledge of interpersonal relationships and cultural conditions in locales where courts sat.  Slave codes, for instance, did not reflect realities on the ground because they were handed down by state legislatures and could not account for the reputations and routines of people in local communities—people who cared less about consistency in the law or about fixed principles than about their personal stake in any given legal matter. 

This book is a corrective to histories interested principally in local legal sources but neglectful of the particularities that brought about these local sources.  It marshals evidence from legal documents—especially case decisions, including appellate opinions—while considering why and how those documents were produced.  The development of state law became increasingly important during the antebellum years, but the rise in state law—which privileged narratives of individual rights, standardized legal principles, and enabled southern distinctiveness—does not make sense apart from local data.  Local data reveals much about the processes (as opposed to philosophies) of law.  Put differently, local law remained discretionary because it was fluid and not subject to abstract and purely notional mantras about rights. Read the rest of this entry »

Allen Mendenhall Interviews Richard Miles

In Advocacy, Arts & Letters, Communication, Ethics, Law, News and Current Events, Politics, Prison, Rhetoric, Rhetoric & Communication, Teaching, Writing on September 14, 2011 at 9:23 am

Richard Miles spent years in prison after being wrongly convicted and sentenced to 80 years.  He lives in Texas and speaks about false imprisonment.

Richard, thanks for doing this interview.  You and I have gotten to know each other through email correspondence.  I believe you first contacted me after reading my review of Dorothy and Peyton Budd’s Tested: How Twelve Wrongly Imprisoned Men Held Onto Hope (Dallas, TX: Brown Books Publishing Group, 2010).  You are one of those twelve men.  Tell us how you became part of the book.  What do you think of the book, now that you’ve seen the final product?

The first time anyone heard of or read anything about Richard Ray Miles was in The Dallas Morning NewsI remember that morning as if it was yesterday.  To be arrested for murder and attempted murder, at the age of 19, was a horrific experience, but to wake up Monday morning and read that I was the shooter, in a murder I didn’t commit, tore out my insides.  Mr. Mendenhall, my fight for innocence was not just for me—I knew I was innocent—but for my mom and dad.  I didn’t want the story to be the last thing that my father—a minister in the neighborhood who had to hear accusations about his son—to read.  So, when the book Tested was completed, it was like a dream come true: now Dallas residents could read about MY INNOCENCE. 

You’ve been through a lot.  Would you mind telling us your story?  Start wherever you want to start.

I was born in Dallas to Thelma Malone and Richard Miles.  My parents split when I was young, but not long after my mom met William Lloyd and married him.  I was probably about five when that happened, so to say I was without a father is false.  My dad, William, became a minister when I was still young, so I grew up in a very strict, religious household.  Going to church every day was not out of the ordinary.  For the most part, my older sister, two younger brothers and I had a very good upbringing.

As far as schooling goes, I was very smart and interested in learning.  I went to an academy for middle school and then to Skyline High School, which was one of the most prestigious schools at the time.  When I made it to Skyline, I began to feel something different.  I felt that my parents were way too strict on me.  As young children do, I began to rebel—nothing too extreme, but rebellious nevertheless.  I was kicked out of Skyline at the end of 11th grade and was transferred to Kimball.  Kimball and Skyline were two totally different places to learn.  To be more precise, Kimball was a Hood School; its reputation preceded itself.

By the time I got into Kimball and got ready to take my senior exams, I got a reputation for coming to school drunk.  Mind you, I was not a drinker, so any little thing was not good.  The long and short is that I made it all the way to the 12th grade, but did not graduate.  I left home a little after that, never to be in the streets or in a gang because I was working at McDonalds, and I actually liked the idea of having a job.  All that changed when my friend came to pick me up from my parents’ house.  He asked me about selling drugs.  I had never been introduced to that, and by mere peer pressure, my entire life was turned around.

I struggled on the streets for probably one year, but that was enough to experience a life I will never return to.  On May 15th, I was walking home, not knowing there was a shooting miles away, and I got picked up for a murder and an attempted murder.  I have never shot a gun in my life, nor ever thought about stealing or tried to steal someone’s things by force.  So, I knew I would be going home soon. The whole interrogation lasted probably five or six hours.  Because my friend had driven me home and wasn’t with me when I was walking and got picked up, I gave the detective phone numbers of people who could identify my whereabouts.  My friend had gone to his girlfriend’s place.  That’s why I was walking by myself.  All in all, I gave the detective four phone numbers of people who could verify my whereabouts and confirm that I was not the shooter. The detective left and came back about an hour later.  He said, “Your story checked out, but you killed that man, and you’re going to prison.”  I was lost at that point.

I stayed in the county jail for 17 months before I went to trial.  I was given a court-appointed lawyer. In August 1995, I had a jury trial.  

There were ten witnesses, nine of whom said I was not the shooter.  No weapon was ever found, and the fingerprints that were retrieved were neither mine nor the victims’. One person who was shot testified that I did not look like the shooter, and my alibis came as well.  Nevertheless, I was found guilty of murder and attempted murder and sentenced to 80 years in prison. 

After I had sent out numerous letters and spent 14 years in prison, I was contacted by an organization out of Princeton, New Jersey, that picked up my case and found in the police record an anonymous phone record received before I went to trial.  This record mentioned the real shooter as well as other confidential information.  This stuff had never been turned in.  Based on that and other exculpatory evidence, I was released in October 2009; I was the first non-DNA release under District Attorney Craig Watkins

Now I’m awaiting full exoneration, even though the DA and my judge pronounced me innocent. Read the rest of this entry »

Teaching Bioethics From a Legal Perspective

In Advocacy, Arts & Letters, Bioethics, Communication, Creative Writing, Creativity, Humanities, Jurisprudence, Law, Law-and-Literature, Legal Education & Pedagogy, News and Current Events, Pedagogy, Politics, Rhetoric, Rhetoric & Communication, Teaching, Writing on July 6, 2011 at 8:33 pm

Allen Mendenhall

Last fall, I was assigned to teach a course called “Health & Medicine.”  Because I know little about health or medicine, I was concerned.  The subject of the course was writing, so I decided to craft a syllabus to facilitate classroom discussion and textual argument.  Here is the course description as stated on my syllabus:

Forensic discourse is one of three forms of classical rhetoric as defined by Aristotle.  It focuses on the relationship between language and law.  This semester we will explore forensic discourse in the context of health and medicine and consider the relationship of law to such issues as physician assisted suicide, surrogacy, cloning, informed consent, malpractice, and organ transplants.  Readings on ethics and philosophy will inform the way you think about these issues.

Your grade will not depend on how much you learn about law, but on how you use language to argue about and with law.  Because the facts of any case are rarely clear-cut, you will need to understand both sides of every argument.  Your writing assignments will require you to argue on behalf of both plaintiffs and defendants (or prosecutors and defendants) and to rebut the arguments of opposing counsel.  You will develop different tactics for persuading your audience (judges, attorneys, etc.), and you will become skilled in the art of influence.

During the semester, your class will interview one attorney, one judge, and one justice sitting on the Supreme Court of Alabama.

My students came from mostly nursing and pre-medical backgrounds.  A few were science majors of some kind, and at least two were engineering majors.

The students were also at varying stages in their academic progress: some were freshmen, some were sophomores, two were juniors, and at least one was a senior.  Throughout the semester, I was impressed by students’ ability to extract important issues from dense legal readings and articulate complicated reasoning in nuanced and intelligent ways.

I thought about this “Health & Medicine” class this week when I came across this article published by the Brookings Institution.  The title of the article is “The Problems and Possibilities of Modern Genetics: A Paradigm for Social, Ethical, and Political Analysis.”  The authors are Eric Cohen and Robert P. George.   Cohen is editor of The New Atlantis and an adjunct fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.  George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, the director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals & Institutions, and a fellow at the Hoover InstitutionRead the rest of this entry »

Nicole N. Aljoe on Legal Discourse and Testimony in Early West Indian Slave Narratives

In Advocacy, American History, Arts & Letters, Civil Procedure, History, Humanities, Jurisprudence, Law, Law-and-Literature, Laws of Slavery, Literary Theory & Criticism, Nineteenth-Century America, Politics, Rhetoric, Slavery, The West Indies on July 5, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Allen Mendenhall

Nicole N. Aljoe has published an intriguing article in Volume 46 (issue no. 2) of Early American Literature (2011), which is published by the University of North Carolina Press.  The article is titled “‘Going to Law’: Legal Discourse and Testimony in Early West Indian Slave Narratives.”  It is available here on Project Muse.  The abstract is below:

Despite the fact that the courts had not proven consistently helpful in their quests for freedom, British West Indian slaves frequently consulted them in order to invoke the rule of law and pursue their rights. Several Caribbean historians have documented the ways in which slaves in the West Indies participated in formal legal arenas almost from the initial days of colonization and claimed the courts as one of their own forums for resolving disputes and asserting those few rights written into the various parliamentary acts intended to ameliorate the conditions of the enslaved and passed in England and its Caribbean colonies from 1788 onward. Indeed, slaves in the West Indies participated in the courts systems as plaintiffs as well as defendants more frequently than previously thought. And although the courts were certainly used by those in power to oppress slaves, women, children, and the poor, as well as to “legitimate [the] blatantly repressive regime” of slavery, they nevertheless provided a forum for those who did not write the laws in question to use the courts to ensure the legal protection of their “natural rights” (Lazarus-Black, “John Grant’s” 154). Thus, in another of the seemingly endless paradoxes inherent to the British imperial slave system, slaves—objects of property, yet human subjects—could, in certain situations, use the courts in the West Indies and in England on their own behalf, as legal agents to affirm their status as legal subjects deserving of the law’s unbiased protection, and judgment.

Erie Doctrine Flowchart

In Advocacy, Civil Procedure, Communication, Humanities, Law, Legal Education & Pedagogy, Legal Research & Writing, Pedagogy, Rhetoric, Rhetoric & Communication, Semiotics, Teaching on June 22, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Jonathan Board lives in Northern Appalachia with his wife and three children.  A graduate of West Virginia University College of Law, he has also attended Harvard Extension School, Fairmont State University, and the University of Cincinnati. Beyond legal commentary, he enjoys civic and community volunteerism, theological and ethical discourse, technologies, and athletic coaching.

The Erie doctrine vexes law students year after year.  For that reason, Mr. Board created this flow chart to help struggling law students through their Civil Procedure courses.

Truth and the Virtue of Candor: Advocacy as Art

In Advocacy, Arts & Letters, Communication, Information Design, Legal Education & Pedagogy, Legal Research & Writing, Rhetoric, Rhetoric & Communication, Writing on February 21, 2011 at 10:13 pm

Jonathan Board lives in Northern Appalachia with his wife and three children.  A graduate of West Virginia University College of Law, he has also attended Harvard Extension School, Fairmont State University, and the University of Cincinnati. Beyond legal commentary, he enjoys civic and community volunteerism, theological and ethical discourse, technologies, and athletic coaching.

Truth and the Virtue of Candor: Advocacy as Art

The truth is that no law student in America receives competent training in the art of advocacy.  [] Generations of students [have been produced] who at graduation were utterly unqualified to do anything except what their professors did—study the law.[1]

The art of warfare is defined as deception. Sun Tzu said, “When able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.  Hold out baits to entice the enemy.  Feign disorder, and crush him.”[2]  Similarly, the art of legislation, as John Quincy Adams observed, is the ability “to do a thing by assuming the appearance of preventing it.  To prevent a thing by assuming that of doing it.”[3]  The art of business is that “set of dynamic, integrated decisions, that you must make in order to position your business in its complex environment.”[4]  Surprisingly, the art of advocacy, which, unlike war and, to differing degrees, legislation and business, affects every aspect of life. Yet, it is left without scholarly definition, thus begging the question: what is it? I submit that the art of advocacy is a combination of many elements—storytelling, play-acting, artistic expression.  As the opening quote suggests, the legal education system today focuses almost entirely on the methods and techniques of legal research, not on true advocacy.  This is due, at least in part, to the adoption of the “case method” style of study.  Case methodology was developed by Christopher Columbus Langdell during his professorship at Harvard over a century ago.[5]  This style of study is infused with pragmatism, and focuses almost entirely on legal research and teaching through the process of inference.  Although research is arguably one of the more important aspects of the profession and practice of law, it is, in fact, only one aspect.  Langdell’s technique overlooks the fact that advocacy is an essential aspect of the practice of law, and, as such, requires the mastery of numerous oratory skills.  However, Langdellian theory has infected the legal profession to the point that many legal scholars consider the teaching of these oral advocacy “arts” as nothing more than juvenile exercises—something that must be shunned in the hallowed halls of legal academia.[6] Read the rest of this entry »

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