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Hofer spreads the word of legal writing

Ronald Hofer – Self-employed teacher

Photo by Kevin Harnack

Photo by Kevin Harnack

Self-employed teacher Ronald Hofer has taught legal writing to a wide variety of students over the years.

They include judges, law clerks, attorneys, law students and even judges in foreign countries.

One judge he taught in Micronesia had bright red teeth and gums from heavy chewing of a popular drug called betel nut.

“I don’t know how much he got out of the course,” Hofer said.

But presumably, judges and attorneys here in Wisconsin and throughout the United States have gotten more out of Hofer’s instruction.

“I have a cottage business, teaching lawyers and judges how to write,” Hofer said.

Before attending law school, Hofer taught English at both Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. After law school, he became a staff attorney on the District II Wisconsin Court of Appeals in Waukesha, a position he held until 2008. And from 1988 until 2009, he was an adjunct professor at Marquette University Law School, teaching a variety of legal writing and appellate advocacy courses.

In addition, since 1994, he has taught at the National Judicial College, based in Reno, Nev. In nominating Hofer as a Leader in the Law, the college’s president remarked, “For seventeen years, Professor Hofer has served on our faculty…, teaching a variety of topics, most notably judicial writing. He is among the busiest of our faculty — this year alone, he taught in eleven college courses. His engaging and humorous teaching style has made him a very popular teacher, who always achieves the highest of evaluations.”

Besides Micronesia, Hofer has taught in the Ukraine, Prague, Russia and Jamaica.

In Prague, in 2005, he was part of a multinational team meeting with the new Supreme Court of Afghanistan and other Afghan judges to assist in the reconstruction of their judicial system.

The two biggest challenges Hofer identified in teaching judges in Afghanistan were ingrained corruption and the treatment of women.

“If a judge there takes bribes from both sides, he is viewed as impartial,” Hofer said. “I don’t know how much headway we made.”

In the United States, though, Hofer is widely respected by judges as a legal writing instructor. Interestingly, he says the most receptive students are judges, rather than lawyers or law clerks.

“Judges get reversed, and get their own words shoved back at them all the time,” Hofer says, “so they are more receptive.”

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