April 9, 2012
Approximately 100 Legal Writing Professors from across the country enjoyed the 2012 Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference in sunny Tempe, Arizona. Host school Arizona State University, led by conference coordinators Carrie Sperling and Kim Holst, welcomed attendees to the conference on Friday, March 24. The lively weekend agenda provided Legal Writing Professors with a chance to listen to many presentations, each lasting about 30 minutes. Three concurrent sessions were running at all times, which kept the ASU law school classrooms constantly bustling with fresh ideas.
The plenary speaker was Professor Linda Berger, of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who presented Psychological Insights and Legal Persuasion: Judicial Decision Making as Human Behavior and Expert Problem Solving. The Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference is unique in that there is no registration fee, and the attendees themselves volunteer to present to their peers. As such, a variety of innovative sessions were delivered, from using hip analogies for teaching the basic foundational concepts of writing, to leveraging real-life experiences in the classroom to connect with students, to what is new with WestlawNext and TWEN.
The relaxed Arizona backdrop lent to an amicable atmosphere for the professors to socialize and enjoy the beautiful desert weather. Those traveling to the conference took advantage of a little “Spring Break” of their own. On Friday evening, the group was invited to a cocktail hour on the ASU campus at Engrained, a local eatery. On Saturday, a Mexican-themed breakfast was served, while The Flaming Kabob provided a festive Mediterranean lunch. The conference also took place during the Major League Baseball Spring Training season, a big plus for the baseball fans in attendance, since Phoenix plays host to 15 teams in the month of March – known as the “Cactus League.”
Nearly all attendees took a moment to stop by the West exhibits, where Junior Torres, of Foundation Press, showcased new Legal Writing texts as well as favorite publications such as Scalia and Garner’s Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges. Stephanie Jeffery and I greeted guests on behalf of WestlawNext and TWEN. Serving up “TWENkies”, we encouraged the Professors to visit their Saturday afternoon sessions, which focused on new features and upgrades to the TWEN course management system, as well as insights on making the shift from using Westlaw Classic to WestlawNext.
One of the most anticipated moments of the conference typically occurs during the lunch break of the second day, when the destination for next year’s conference is announced. The crowd broke into hearty applause when the location was revealed to be the University of Colorado – Boulder. Todd M. Stafford, Director of the CU Legal Writing Program, instantly became a popular attendee with colleagues expressing their excitement and pledging to attend the 2013 event right in heart of the Rocky Mountains.