1. What kinds of writing assignments can I expect in Legal Writing classes?
The law school requires two courses: Legal Analysis, Writing and Research 1 (“LAWR 1”) and Legal Analysis, Writing and Research 2 (“LAWR 2”). In addition, students can take a variety of upper-level courses in advanced legal writing, appellate advocacy, and legal drafting.
In LAWR 1, professors typically assign interoffice memoranda. The assignments pose a legal issue confronting a hypothetical client, and the writer must inform the reader of “the law” on a particular issue and predict how a court might decide the client’s issue. Some professors also assign other types of shorter research and writing assignments.
In LAWR 2, professors typically assign trial memoranda of law, which are also called trial “briefs.” For these assignments, the writer must persuade a court to rule in favor of the writer’s client. Some professors also assign other types of shorter research and writing assignments.
In the upper-level courses, assignments vary widely. For more information, students should ask the professor teaching the course.
2. What qualities of writing are especially valued in Legal Writing papers?
In LAWR 1 and 2, outstanding papers are written with the legal reader in mind. These papers
- Have the proper format for the assigned document
- Present a well-reasoned and compelling analysis of the legal and factual issues
- Are organized coherently and according to the legal reader’s expectations
- Are written clearly and concisely
- Use proper legal citation
- Are free from spelling and typographical errors.
3. What kinds of argumentation and evidence are recognized as valid in Legal Writing papers?
Legal writing professors teach legal argumentation as part of the courses. In general, legal arguments use reasoning strategies such as rule-based, analogical, and policy-based reasoning.
4. What citation conventions will I be expected to use in Legal Writing papers?
Legal writing professors teach students how to use The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation. For additional help with this format, use the links available here.
5. Special do's and don'ts about Legal Writing:
Each professor discusses these matters with students. In general, professors want students to know that a good style manual is a must for law school and the legal practice.
Students will also find valuable online advice at the Legal Writing Institute's Web site and at various sites devoted to promoting Plain English.