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Author Topic: Screwed in Legal Writing  (Read 10929 times)

Texas2L

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Re: Screwed in Legal Writing
« Reply #20 on: April 17, 2009, 08:54:10 PM »
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.

So...as a first semester 1L, you had already developed an excellent grasp of which points of law are critical and which aren't?  You seem to be ahead of the curve, at least from my experience.

I also just have to point out that legal writing is all about the transitions, the topic sentences, the excellent organization and flow.  If the main focus was somewhere else (like which cases are critical), it'd be legal analysis (that's not to say that if you completely strike out and make a nonsensical legal argument that you're getting an A). 

It doesn't matter how much of a genius you are in terms of analyzing cases, distilling the critical points, etc., if you can't write a well organized and easy to read analysis.

Lets just say that one of the "A" papers I read which was discussing how the 11th circuit should rule (appellate brief) on a 1985(3) class issue neglected to include the case (or any case which included) the test for determining if the class is covered by 1985(3). 

It is very easy to make flowery and complete transition sentences and make well organized and easy to read analysis when you effectively have double the space to do it in because you've omitted half the critical law.

Silly me, I thought when they call a class Legal Writing, Research & Analysis I thought they wanted you to do research and analysis.  My bad.

k0em9u

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Re: Screwed in Legal Writing
« Reply #21 on: April 18, 2009, 10:49:32 AM »
Silly me, I thought when they call a class Legal Writing, Research & Analysis I thought they wanted you to do research and analysis.  My bad.

It's alright, a lot of people seem to make that mistake. Generally speaking, LRW is about writing down the examples your professor give you in class, and parrot them on your paper.
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mnewboldc

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Re: Screwed in Legal Writing
« Reply #22 on: April 19, 2009, 09:21:01 PM »
Changed Name,

As I said not all honor codes are treated alike, and enforcement would ultimately depend on whether the professor says outside help is available. I grant you, hiring a dominatrix who forces you to stand with your feet in a bucket of icewater while singing Milli Vanilli songs might help cleanse you mind and might make you a better writer. I imagine that most honor codes don't contemplate, let alone proscribe, that activity. Ditto with closed-book exams: I doubt I'd report someone who brought a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel to their Constitutional Law final and transcribed it (though I'd probably ask to look at the pages they'd been looking at just to make sure). Those situations are like the "innocent slobberor" exception to offensive battery. What I was discussing, and I think what most honor codes contemplate, is getting outside help on the assignment that's actually been given - or one distinctly similar.

So, to take your hypothetical a step further, suppose this purportedly innocent tutor gives a research/writing assignment that deals with the same federal statute that's the subject of the student's law school open memo. The student also knows that he may be corrected if he misapplies the statutory scheme, and that he'll receive these corrections before his open memo is due. The tutor may have no way of knowing that there's a potential conflict. But the student does have that knowledge, and thus even if he might have begun the class without knowing that a potential conflict might arise, he has the duty to excuse himself.
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Re: Screwed in Legal Writing
« Reply #23 on: April 19, 2009, 09:45:58 PM »
Changed Name,

As I said not all honor codes are treated alike, and enforcement would ultimately depend on whether the professor says outside help is available. I grant you, hiring a dominatrix who forces you to stand with your feet in a bucket of icewater while singing Milli Vanilli songs might help cleanse you mind and might make you a better writer. I imagine that most honor codes don't contemplate, let alone proscribe, that activity. Ditto with closed-book exams: I doubt I'd report someone who brought a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel to their Constitutional Law final and transcribed it (though I'd probably ask to look at the pages they'd been looking at just to make sure). Those situations are like the "innocent slobberor" exception to offensive battery. What I was discussing, and I think what most honor codes contemplate, is getting outside help on the assignment that's actually been given - or one distinctly similar.

So, to take your hypothetical a step further, suppose this purportedly innocent tutor gives a research/writing assignment that deals with the same federal statute that's the subject of the student's law school open memo. The student also knows that he may be corrected if he misapplies the statutory scheme, and that he'll receive these corrections before his open memo is due. The tutor may have no way of knowing that there's a potential conflict. But the student does have that knowledge, and thus even if he might have begun the class without knowing that a potential conflict might arise, he has the duty to excuse himself.



I agree that for any graded work outside help (that is not permitted)is an honor code violation.  I was speaking to a point made earlier which seemed to suggest that any outside help would always be a violation of the honor code.  I don't think that's necessarily the case.

sepepper

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Re: Screwed in Legal Writing
« Reply #24 on: April 21, 2009, 02:55:50 AM »
What dumbfounds me is the way the 1st semester LW is explained. IRAC method is beat in your head for exam taking - and then you get to LW and they want CREAC. I was under the wrong impression that writing a good exam and writing a good memo were similar. Not So! I had to receive a C+ in LW and Bs or As in all other classes to figure this out, but the adjustments have been made.

LegalMatters

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Re: Screwed in Legal Writing
« Reply #25 on: May 03, 2009, 01:57:02 AM »
It's best to keep in mind that fact that legal writing in law school does not resemble legal writing in the real world. Everyone has to write those god-awful open memos that run 12-30 pages their first year. Professors grade on everything from a single misplaced comma to writing style (whatever that means in legal writing). A lawyer gave me some advice before I started my internship last summer: In real life, a partner or supervising attorney does not have the time to read memos longer than 10 pages unless it's a very complex set of issues. Therefore, keep it brief and current. Last summer, I made sure to write research memos that were no longer than five pages because my supervising attorney did not have forever to read a 30-page memo and I was given a good review.

Pretend the legal writing assignments are formal "papers" and then toss it out the window for accuracy and brevity in the real world.

m1ss_uNdeRst00d

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Re: Screwed in Legal Writing
« Reply #26 on: May 03, 2009, 09:44:48 PM »
It's funny how Americans like me so easily forget we're not the only native-English speakers on the planet. 

American = ethnocentric & xenophobic

UB Law 2012

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Re: Update
« Reply #27 on: June 17, 2009, 06:58:59 AM »
Just had to let everyone know as the OP of this forum that I F*n ACED legal writing this semester!!  Went from a C+ on the memo to a beautiful A on the brief.  Any idea on how firms might look at this on my transcript?  Generally speaking, does this mean I have a really strong writing sample? 

At my school...  Legal writing grading focuses heavily on format and not as much on substance.  A nominal argument within the structure suggested by the prof will lead to a solid grade while a stronger argument that doesn't follow the same repetitive format may end up near the bottom of the pile.  From what I understand, the formality in terms of structure for our first memos/briefs is far more rigid than what any practitioner would want.  The format we are supposed to follow is very repetitive.  I find that reading a memo/brief that is constantly summarizing the same information difficult to read.

First semester, I followed the format strictly and did well.  Second semester, I tried to organize my argument (after consulting the prof on the adjustment) so that I could get all my points in within the page limit and didn't do very well.

So, depending on who is reading your writing sample, what they think is important, the focus of the grader and the format you are supposed to use, your writing sample may be considered strong. 

Edit: reading back through the last page of this thread, comments by others including Texas2L and LegalMatters share a similar analysis of the system, I think. 

asiangirl

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Re: Screwed in Legal Writing
« Reply #28 on: June 17, 2009, 09:29:57 AM »
I concur with everybody here concerning the importance of format ...

now I have a solid grasp of all the legal writing techniques. A few days ago I went back to some older writing (literary criticism) which I need to edit for an upcoming book -- I found my old writing really looks loose and disorganize to me! I just wonder if I need to tighten them ... now that I am seeing the whole thing through different lenses

Professorlaw

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Re: Screwed in Legal Writing
« Reply #29 on: June 17, 2009, 10:58:07 PM »
Legal writing programs tend to be bad experiences for students because it is such a huge change from the way you learned to write in high school and college. If you don't get a ton of feedback, or you don't click with your professor, the results can be very bad. Legal writing has a steep learning curve, and I think that even after you graduate, your legal writing continues to improve, as you read stuff filed by other lawyers and have stuff reviewed by (the few) decent partners.

I think if you got an "A" on the brief your second semester, it shows that you finally figured it out, and that is all that the firms will care about. It took me my entire first year of law school to get the format down, but once I got in down, my grades took off in all of my subjects. Too bad it takes a whole year for some of us, and longer for others if you have a lazy or unkind professor.
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