I, too, feel your pain. Legal Writing resulted in a D (50% of total grade)and a D- (25% of total grade) on the papers, and with the 3.0 curve and completing other minor (25% of grade) assignments, I ended up with a B- first semester, which was better than I actually expected. Grade on first memo for the second sem? F. Highest grade in the class on that memo? C-. How many of those were there? 2. Which means 18 people got Ds or Fs in some form. We were, in fact, warned ahead of time though, that half the class got Fs on this assignment last year--seems like it was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sometimes I wonder if this prof. has a formula for how many people will pass/fail each assignment at his whim, and then plugs people into his sadistic formula. Don't listen to people who tell you your life is over because you got a C+ and you had better get cracking to overcome it. I got a C+ in another class. People who say things like that are the ones who end up becoming legal writing professors. They are just jealous of your good looks, charm, and probably of your appealing British accent, now that we know about it. EVERYONE evaluates writing in their own way, and the next person for whom you write may think your writing is stupendous. It's stylistic and very subjective.
I too had a somewhat negative experience in legal writing. I found that they weren't too concerned with the substance of your writing, if you got all the legal points; my instructor was really looking for things like strong topic sentences, clean transitions, and above all, proper citation form. The actual legal analysis wasn't very important to them, nor was the completeness of your legal research or explanations of it. I realized this when I read some of the "A" papers of my friends which missed critical points of law and omitted some of the important cases.It's just one class, get good grades in the others and provide a writing sample to employers so they know your legal writing profs are just full of it.
For any law students in the New York City area who are having problems with legal writing and need help, send me a private message and we can talk. I'm a practicing attorney and can try to give you the big picture along with detailed help for memos, trial memos or appellate memos.
Um... doesn't getting advice from outside folks (especially those who are practicing professionals) violate the honor codes of most schools?
Not sure that memo-writing and the process of doctrinal study are synonymous. In the case of doctrinal classes, it's pretty clear that you *should* be discussing the material with people outside your class in an attempt to understand it. Moreover, some professors do allow you to "bring" the words of others into finals in the form of outlines, hornbooks, etc. The trouble there is that everything is timed and you can't spend forever looking at sources, because that would trade accuracy for the ability to discuss issues, which is what matters. The assumption here is that you're providing a finished product. The goal of legal research is different, because the advice you get is more directly related to the final product, and the product is static - you can look at it one day, then leave it, then go back to it. Compounded with this, what's being graded is not necessarily your thought process - which is ultimately intangible and unknowable - but your ability to perform more nuts-and-bolts tasks. Even conduct outside of this is suspect. Asking an employment attorney where to start an employment-related memo research contravenes the principle of the assignment, because the goal is to furnish all of your own research so that you'll be able to duplicate it one day.I tend to view legal writing assignments as more similar to "closed book" final exams. Clearly bringing anything into the final exam besides your laptop and a can of red bull would be a violation of the honor code. Accordingly, if the honor code says not to talk about the problem or share your work with any legal professional, I think enforcement of the letter of the law would be appropriate. I agree, though, all honor codes are different and there's an exception to every rule. Moreover, sometimes profs will say it's okay to ask for outside help. If that's the case, get help from wherever you can if it would be useful. Though I guarantee you that if I saw someone looking at their outline during a closed-book, closed-note final exam I would report them.