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Author Topic: Journalism and Law  (Read 1299 times)

akronite08

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Journalism and Law
« on: September 13, 2011, 11:53:25 PM »
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Morten Lund

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Re: Journalism and Law
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2011, 04:45:52 PM »
You are going to have to fill me in a little.  What do you mean by "legal journalism" and "legal feature writing?"

FalconJimmy

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Re: Journalism and Law
« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2011, 11:02:02 PM »
So here's the deal - I'm a senior at Ohio University's school of journalism (ranked in the top 3 or 5 in the nation). I want a JD to pursue a blended career in law and journalism. With a GPA of 3.8 and hopefully an LSAT score between 161 and 165 (only two weeks away), I have in the past wanted to attend the best school in legal writing possible. I'd like to enter as a clerk and eventually write briefs before moving laterally into legal journalism.

Reasonable enough.

The best schools in the legal writing field - Georgia Mercer, Temple, Ohio State, to name a few in which I'm interested - would throw me into some considerable debt.

If your goal is to be a clerk and/or write briefs, the best schools for that are the best schools, period.  I'm not sure who gave you this list of schools that excel at legal writing, but I think somebody is pulling facts out of their hind quarters.

Mercer isn't considered one of the best schools at anything, legal-wise.  They're a low ranked school that's probably considered solid and competent in their region.  For anybody who doesn't want to be in that region, it's a school of last resort, best-case.  Ohio State, if memory serves, is around #30-ish.  So, a solid school with a good reputation.  However, no way does it stack up against T14 schools in terms of legal writing or anything else.  Temple?  Solid 2nd tier school.

I'm not sure who gave you that list, but they may as well have had monkeys throwing darts at a dartboard to do it.

So should I apply to a smaller T2 or 3 law school that would give me a full ride? I'd still probably be able to enter the legal workforce in some respect, but I still only see that as a necessary stepping stone into legal feature writing. I guess it's between quality (which brings more job opportunities in the legal field and, in some sense, respect) and economy (free law school YEA!). Either way, it's a JD. Thoughts?

This is, from what little information I have on it, a very, very small field, which tells me that it's also probably highly competitive.  The only person I know of offhand who did what you propose to do is Emily Bazelon.  She graduated from Yale.  If you think you can compete in the same pool she swims in by going to Mercer, more power to you.

Morten Lund

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Re: Journalism and Law
« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2011, 01:07:44 AM »
I'm not sure who gave you that list, but they may as well have had monkeys throwing darts at a dartboard to do it.

I'm glad you said it, FJ, so I didn't have to.  That's pretty much where I was headed as well, although by way of a significantly more circuitous route.

Moreover, I would add that "legal writing" is absolutely and completely unrelated to any type of writing used in journalism.  I would not recommend going to a particular school to acquire mad legal writing skillz when your ultimate career goal is to be anything other than a lawyer.  If anything, being an expert at legal writing might harm your journalistic writing skills.

Quote from: FJ
["Legal feature writing"] is, from what little information I have on it, a very, very small field, which tells me that it's also probably highly competitive.  The only person I know of offhand who did what you propose to do is Emily Bazelon.  She graduated from Yale.  If you think you can compete in the same pool she swims in by going to Mercer, more power to you.

... and that's the other half.  That is not to say that graduating from Yale necessarily means you are brilliant, or a brilliant writer, but if the purpose of the law degree is to provide legal "street cred," as it were, then it is important to have as fancy a name as possible - if for no other reason than that the competition will.

There may, however, be an alternate route.  ("There is another")

I am still not clear on what exactly legal feature writing is, but if the career goal is the larger category of "legal journalism" - i.e., journalism on the legal beat, then what you really need is some actual experience practicing actual law.  Many/most of the talking heads on TV commenting on various legal stuff are former practitioners themselves, often in a criminal law context.  The same is true, I believe, of a large portion of the folks writing about legal stuff in newspapers.  And for that angle, I get the distinct impression that a few years of gritty practical experience will count more heavily in your favor that some ivory-tower sheepskin.

Of course, I could be wrong.  I don't even like writing.

akronite08

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Re: Journalism and Law
« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2011, 05:17:39 PM »
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FalconJimmy

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Re: Journalism and Law
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2011, 09:46:32 PM »
I understand your confusion, but legal writing is actually a field that US News and World Report ranks here: http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-law-schools/legal-writing-rankings.

Fair enough.


As far as what "legal writing" actually is, it's my impression that it's big-picture legal analysis coupled with a specific writing style used in appellate brief writing and legal academia.

That's what I would have thought it was.  The schools that are considered to produce the best legal writers are simply the best schools, period.  Harvard, Yale, Stanford and down the line.  That's who gets first dibs on the clerkships, that's who gets the jobs in academe, etc.  I honestly don't know enough about the US News rankings to understand what they're ranking, but legal writing is a skill every attorney is expected to master in their studies and to use throughout their career.  So, I'm not sure how they broke this out as its own separate discipline.  I mean, your abilities as an attorney are really only going to be assessed by your skills at research and your skills at writing for the vast majority of new associates.  The schools that produce the best graduates are almost necessarily going to produce the best legal writers.

Anyway, your statement was made on credible authority.  Not sure of the methodology, but you were right to make the statements you made.

From what I can gather, though, these rankings are based heavily on participation in the Legal Writing Institute (headquartered at Mercer, which explains their ranking.)  However, I'm not sure that the US news ranking indicates anything about producing superior legal writers.  Just that those schools might be more involved in the LWI.  Obviously, whether participation in LWI makes a school better simply by virtue of that participation is a subject that's probably too broad to discuss, here.

Why not go to OSU?  You'd get in-state tuition, right?

akronite08

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Re: Journalism and Law
« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2011, 01:49:13 PM »
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