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Legal Writing Institute One-Day Workshop

Presentation Summaries

Teaching Legal Writing in the Deep, Dark Shadow of the Bar Exam (Adam Todd)
To effectively prepare “practice ready" students, we need to ensure that students are prepared for and can pass a bar exam. Joan Howarth, in her article “Teaching in the Shadow of the Bar,”  argues that law professors “can reduce the insidious power of the bar exam over our students and our classrooms by routinely teaching about bar exam techniques” in class. As the importance of bar pass rates has grown, teaching specific techniques is no longer a choice for many of us but an imperative. Todd’s presentation will explore how legal writing professors can effectively teach about the bar exam and bar exam technique inside and outside of their legal writing classes. The presentation is designed to acknowledge the importance of the skills taught in legal writing classes to bar exam success as a general matter. Todd will explore measures taken by legal writing professors specifically for the purpose of improving their students’ performance on the bar exam. 

Transforming the Internal Office Memo to an External Document (Sarah Malik)
Most first-year legal writing programs focus on the basic and necessary skills of legal research and writing, which culminate in an office memorandum. While this remains an important skill and practice to learn during the first year, the resulting writing sample does not, in most cases, stand out when students begin applying for summer positions or law clerk positions. In a tough job market, helping students create a writing sample that shows off additional abilities is valuable. Malik will discuss the possibilities of altering the syllabus to create an end-of-semester assignment that asks the students to transform the office memo into an external document such as a letter to a client with the attorney's advice, a demand letter or a court pleading. 


Are We Listening? A Survey of the Profession (Claudia Diamond & Catherine Finn)
Recent calls for reform in legal education have stressed the need to produce “practice ready students.”  The goal is to provide students with an advantage in the workforce while reducing the burden on employers to incur the time and expense of training recent graduates to be lawyers.  The focus of the academy has understandably been on the law school side of this equation with little or no input from the potential employers themselves.  We will survey a cross section of the legal profession in a variety of areas of private and public practice to answer the question of what “the practice ready student” means to real practitioners in a position to hire and train our graduates.  With this information, we hope to begin a conversation between educators and employers to design a law school curriculum that will benefit the profession and the public.

Kind to Be Cruel: Are We Too Nice to Students? (Michael Sackey)
We all want to be effective teachers. To that end, we strive for better ways to connect with our students—to accommodate different learning styles, to create engaging classrooms, to use new techniques and technologies, to remain accessible beyond "business hours," and to foster a supporting and nurturing environment. But do our well-intentioned efforts actually undermine our goal of preparing practice-ready students? Are we hindering our students' ability to develop the professional skills and identity they will need in practice? Does our kindness today lead to a cruel tomorrow? This presentation will briefly explore some of the ways we might actually be hurting our students' professional development; participants will be asked to share their experiences and observations.

Using Local Attorneys in Panel Discussions (Brooke McDonough)
One of the most important goals of the introductory legal writing course is to prepare professional, practice-ready students. Unfortunately, teaching basic legal writing and analysis skills is time consuming, and often the bulk of both the instructor’s and the students’ attention is focused on this task. One way to devote more attention to the topic of professionalism and the realities of practice is to bring local attorneys into the classroom to discuss these issues with students.  McDonough’s presentation will focus on why a panel discussion is the best way to approach the topic of professionalism and on how to most effectively assemble and moderate such a panel discussion. 

Moving from Lecture to Practice: Integrating a Negotiation Exercise into a Lawyering Skills and Values Course (Amanda Foster)
Foster will be speaking about the negotiation exercise that she created for the Lawyering Skills & Values course she teaches. This negotiation exercise centers around: (1) reading about negotiation; (2) hearing a lecture about negotiation; (3) watching a mock negotiation between the professor and another practitioner; and (4) giving students the opportunity to negotiate a case against one another in teams of two.

Old School Rhetoric & New School Cognitive Science (Lucy Jewel)
This presentation will focus on the needs of today’s legal audiences—the busy and demanding legal boss or judge who every day must wade through piles of legal texts. Scientific experiments show that people comprehend information much more accurately and efficiently when their "cognitive load" is reduced by having information presented in a clear, concise manner. Readers also judge authors to be more intelligent when text is presented lucidly. This research supports the conclusion that we should teach legal analysis in a classic way: by instructing students how to use syllogisms and how to organize messy law and facts into clean-cut categories. 

Ready, Aim, Practice! : Bringing Practitioners into the Classroom to Assist in Making Students Practice Ready (Carla Boles)
This presentation will explore inviting practitioners to class to discuss the involvement of legal writing in day-to-day law practice, common errors new attorneys make, Q&A re the practice of law; inviting practitioners to serve as supervising attorneys for legal memoranda assignments, meet with students, and provide verbal instructions; inviting practitioners to play the role of supervising attorneys in Report to Partner conferences; and inviting practitioners to play the role of judicial officers during oral arguments.

What do In-house Lawyers want Legal Writing Professors to Teach (Chris Farris)
Writing as an in-house lawyer is different than writing as an external counsel.  The audience is different, the risk tolerance/calculation is different, the competition for attention is different, and the attention span of the reader is different.  Law schools gear their legal writing programs to work as external counsel.  Little is taught in law schools about these differences, and this presentation seeks to explain what they are from a practical perspective so we can better prepare our students who work in-house.