How To Tell Whether A Law School Offers A Solid Legal Writing Foundation
Writing and communications are essential skills that every lawyer must master no matter the field they choose. A law program that emphasizes legal writing can have a big impact on a law student’s career.
Kirsten Davis is a professor of law and director of the Institute for the Advancement of Legal Communication at Stetson University’s law school. Davis tells U.S. News that writing is an inherent reality of any legal career.
“In all practices of law, you’re going to be writing,” she says. “You’re going to be writing emails and contracts, as well as litigation documents.”
Ilana Kowarski, a reporter at U.S. News, recently disclosed three signs that indicate whether or not a law school offers a solid foundation in legal writing.
Upper-level writing courses
While many schools require students to take introductory legal writing courses, upper-level writing courses in a curriculum are indicative of a school with a strong legal writing foundation.
Mary Bowman is an associate professor at the Seattle University School of Law and director of its legal writing program, the No. 1 best legal writing program, according to US News. Bowman tells US News that “many, many schools have a course in the first year and have little true upper-division legal writing programming that’s taught by legal writing professors.”
Bowman adds that it’s essential that law students practice producing real legal documents that lawyers work with daily, such as client memos.
At Duke Law School, the curriculum offers upper-level legal writing courses such as “Contract Drafting” and “Judicial Writing.”
Davis of Stetson University tells U.S. News that upper-level legal writing courses are essential in showing students how to apply certain legal skills to real lawyer applications.
“Legal writing courses are a place in the curriculum where you are making the transition between being a student learning the law to being able to do real lawyering,” Davis says.
Full-time writing faculty
On top of looking for upper-level writing courses, applicants should look into whether or not a law school has a full-time faculty dedicated to teaching legal writing and if the faculty has published papers on “what makes legal writing compelling.”
Bowman tells U.S. News that faculty who have experience studying the aspects of legal writing, such as for clarity and persuasiveness, are often best equipped in teaching legal writing.
Another sign that a law school has a strong legal writing foundation is if it offers a variety of writing-related opportunities, such as “moot court competitions, law journals, and writing workshops.”
Bowman tells U.S. News that students should consider law schools that offer courses that utilize real court records. “Legal practice is so much messier than what you do in a traditional, controlled legal writing program,” she says.
Legal writing can be difficult to master, but the best environment to practice it is in law school. Davis tells U.S. News that aspiring lawyers should seek to attend schools where they have the opportunity to practice their writing.
“Improving as a writer requires getting feedback and having opportunities to practice the skill.”
Sources: US News, Duke Law School