Legal Writing Professors Dissect Language and the Law at Summer Conferences


Brooklyn Law School’s legal writing professors shared their insights and ideas this summer at an array of national and international conferences, where topics ranged from the deployment of negative language in legal writing to teacher evaluation improvements to the promise and limitations of using universal jurisdiction to prosecute crimes against humanity.

“Our legal writing professors are at the forefront of innovative thinking in the subjects we teach and in other areas of the law,” said Professor of Law and Director of Legal Writing Heidi Brown. “It is an honor that so many members of our faculty were selected to present at these major conferences, and I am proud of their contributions.”

Legal Writing Institute’s 2022 Biennial Conference

Several professors presented at the Legal Writing Institute’s 2022 Biennial Conference, which was held at Georgetown University Law Center July 20-23. Among them were Associate Professors Joy Kanwar and Danielle Tully, who participated in a well-attended, interactive panel titled, “Kick Langdell in the Butt: Puncturing the Equilibrium in Law School Pedagogy,” which posed the question: What should our classrooms look like in 2040? Kanwar described working with students during the pandemic to create the Brooklyn Law School metaverse, a low-key virtual space where students and faculty could interact. Tully, whose essay “What Law Schools Should Leave Behind” is forthcoming in the Utah Law Review, invited the audience to ponder the same question, positing, as one example, that eliminating the grading curve would make room for a more humanistic approach to teaching.

Kanwar also teamed up with Associate Professor Maria Termini for a joint works-in-progress workshop titled, “Negative Spaces and Negative Language,” in which Kanwar discussed questions raised by the Supreme Court’s decision in the 1923 case United States v. Thind on who qualifies as a “free white person.” Kanwar’s presentation drew on the dissenting opinion she wrote for the Thind decision as a contributor to the forthcoming book, Feminist Judgments: Rewritten Immigration Law Opinions (Cambridge University Press, 2023). Termini analyzed how the choice between using positive and negative language in legal writing depends on both the type of negative language at issue and the writer’s ultimate goals.

In addition to the panel mentioned above, Tully presented with other members of the Legal Writing Institute’s Discipline Building Working Group. This presentation, “Building Scholarly Engagement Through the Life Cycle of a Law Review Article,” addressed how authors can seek engagement throughout the life of an article, from idea to post-publication dissemination.

Assistant Professors Louis Jim and Irene Ten Cate participated in a panel titled, “Teaching Evaluations: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” which Ten Cate also moderated. The panelists and participants discussed individual strategies legal writing faculty can adopt to productively process teaching evaluations and to anticipate student feedback throughout the semester. They also discussed steps institutions can take to improve the assessment of teaching, including by improving evaluations and their administration and by implementing a meaningful peer review process.

Southeastern Association of Law Schools Annual Conference

Tully presented at the Southeastern Association of Law Schools Annual Conference, which took place in Sandestin, Fla., July 27 to Aug. 3, joining a discussion group titled, “ABA Standard 303 Revisions: Bias, Cross-Cultural Competency, and Racism.” The group explored how education on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism intersects with the development of students’ professional identity formation.

Law & Society Association Annual Meeting

Associate Professor Heidi Gilchrist presented at the Law & Society Association’s Annual Meeting, which was held in Lisbon, Portugal, from July 13-16. Her presentation discussed her article, “No Hiding from Justice: Universal Jurisdiction in Domestic Courts,” which is forthcoming in the Texas International Law Journal. Gilchrist’s presentation and publication address the promise and limitations of using universal jurisdiction as a basis for prosecuting defendants accused of committing crimes against humanity in domestic courts. She examines these issues through the lens of a recent German court decision, which marked the first use of universal jurisdiction to try a member of the Syrian intelligence service for crimes committed in Syria.