Law and Conversation

May 26, 2009

Fun with words

Filed under: Books and writing — Helen Gunnarsson @ 11:58 am
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I learned in high school, from a wonderful teacher, Peggy Larson, that dictionaries’ roles are both to describe and prescribe.  I’ve always favored prescribing over describing, but overemphasizing the prescriptive role can stifle creativity and be the equivalent of donning blinders to some marvelous works of literature.  So I enjoyed Bryan Garner’s thoughts on “Morphological Deformities” in today’s “Garner’s Usage Tip Of The Day,” a free daily e-mail newsletter to which I subscribe (and you can, too, by visiting ):

 In some philologists’ view, one does not combine the inseparable particle “dis-” with nouns to form English verbs (e.g., “dismember”) because it is impermissible by Latin morphology. In Latin, “dis-” was joined only with verbs to form privative verbs (e.g., “disentitle,” “disregard”).

BUT ….

It’s preposterous to contend that Latin morphology should govern English morphology…..Our playfulness and inventiveness with morphemes like these are what makes English such a vital language.

Garner’s commentary made me think of some writers for whom playing with English was a huge part of their greatness:  Lewis Carroll (think “Jabberwocky,” in particular) and Theodore Geisel, a/k/a Dr. Seuss (whom I think should have received a Nobel Prize for literature—he combined genius with words with genius for drawing with genius for storytelling with genius for poetry), for example.  I also thought of C.S. Lewis, who told great stories in his Chronicles of Narnia and made up the wonderful Marsh-wiggle creature, with an equally wonderful name, Puddleglum, not to mention Rumblebuffin the giant, Mr. Tumnus the faun, and, of course, Aslan the lion.

 I forwarded the Garner e-mail to a writer friend.  Showing her own amazing creativity, she wrote back “I make up words all the time.  It’s funnisher than being all rulesticky.  🙂 ”

May 15, 2009

Friday funny

Filed under: Uncategorized — Helen Gunnarsson @ 8:22 am

Start your Friday off right by watching a two-minute video from The Onion: You can subscribe to the video podcast free either there or in the iTunes store.

May 14, 2009


Filed under: Law — Helen Gunnarsson @ 2:20 pm

Scott Nathanson, an Attorney/Regional Manager at Chicago Title’s 1031 IPX Exchange Division, has some good info for Illinois lawyers looking to satisfy their CLE requirements for FREE: 

 IPX 1031, Chicago Title’s and Ticor Title’s 1031 division, is offering an online webinar on May 19th. Attorneys will receive 2 FREE MCLE credit hours. Log on from your desk on May 19th!

 Topic: Recent Developments In 1031 Exchanges

Date: Tuesday May 19th

Time: 11:00-1:00

Illinois Attorney MCLE hours: 2

 To attend this conference, please follow the steps below:

 1. Register by emailing Anna Barsky your ARDC# ( )

 2. Login to the webinar on May 19th  by clicking:  and calling 914-339-0014

 -Access Code: 352-918-459

-Audio PIN: Shown after joining the meeting

-Meeting ID: 352-918-459

 3. The ARDC requires that you complete an evaluation in order to receive CLE credits. The evaluation form will be emailed to you after registration.

 Contact Anna Barsky with any questions – 312.223.2169

And while you’re considering CLE requirements, check out my own course on Persuasive Writing for Lawyers at .  View it for free, pay only a rock bottom $19.95 if you want 1 hour of Professionalism (Ethics) CLE credit for it.  Lots of other good seminars there, too, for the same price.

Trash talking

Filed under: Law,legal writing,Uncategorized — Helen Gunnarsson @ 12:04 pm

St. Louis area lawyer Evan Schaeffer has a good post on his Trial Practice Tips Weblog (one of my favorites) at how snide or nasty remarks in briefs nearly always backfire, disposing the judge against you and your arguments (and, therefore, against your client as well) instead of helping the judge to see things your way. 

Schaeffer gives credit to Philadelphia lawyer Maxwell Kennerly, who writes the Litigation & Trial weblog, at for his post; Kennerly, in turn, looked up the brief in question after reading an article in the (subscribers only, alas) Legal Intelligencer and thoughtfully posted it here for all interested parties to read. 

Lawyers should take both Kennerly’s and Schaeffer’s conclusions to heart.  Says Kennerly:  “An opening brief filled with sarcasm will perturb a judge doing his or her best to reserve judgment until they’ve heard both sides just as much as an opening statement filled with indignity will repulse a jury doing their best to be fair and impartial until they’ve heard all of the evidence.”  For his part, Schaeffer comments “Kennerly’s post stands as a good reminder to all of us who write for judges–judges who are always more interested in the facts and the law than our own belly-aching about the other side.”

As an administrative law judge, I saw snide remarks in briefs and oral arguments more frequently than I would have liked, and can attest that Kennerly and Schaeffer are dead on in their conclusions.  I’d add that what’s true in court holds in the rest of life as well.

Alzheimer’s documentaries on HBO

Filed under: dementia — Helen Gunnarsson @ 11:24 am
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Mark Palmer, a lawyer in Champaign, IL (see ) , notes that the films of The Alzheimer’s Project are available to watch online for free on HBO’s website.  They’re also available for downloading (also free) via the iTunes store; go to the “Podcasts” category, find HBO, and download away.

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