50176 - LEGAL WRITING SEMINAR
Course taught in English
Go to class group/s: 31
Class 31: MICHAEL MCILWRATH
Proficiency in spoken English. The course does not assume any prior knowledge of particular areas of law. Because many of the assignments are interactive, regular class attendance is required in order for students to make substantial progress with their legal writing skills.
Whether they realize it or not, most lawyers are professional writers who must be able to communicate their ideas clearly, concisely, and accurately. Designed as a workshop, this course provides hands-on experience in composing effective communications with any lawyer’s key stakeholders, whether judges, clients, or opposing counsel, as well as negotiating and drafting the text of contracts.
Students use the elements of good writing to present facts effectively, to argue from legal principles, and to draft contracts and other legal documents, including by:
- Identifying the intended and unintended readers of every text the lawyer writes.
- Establishing objectives for every document.
- Distinguishing what is material and needs to be communicated from what is not.
- Locating and properly citing authorities relevant to legal problems.
- Communicating legal analysis logically, concisely, and persuasively to the intended reader(s).
- Understanding how the lawyer’s writing reflects upon her style, integrity, and credibility.
- Negotiating (with others in class) the text of contracts, contract clauses, and other legal documents.
- Establish objectives for every document.
- Distinguish material from immaterial facts, identifying relevant legal principles, and effectively expressing legal analysis in writing.
- Strengthen core writing skills and avoiding common mistakes.
- Assess the implications of exposing documents to different laws and adjudicators from different legal systems.
- Have the confidence and skill to tackle any writing assignment they encounter in their careers as lawyers, because they already have had substantial practice. In focusing on practical, real-life challenges, most of the writing assignments are based on negotiations that take place in class and that the student reduces to a writing both during and after class.
- For example, in one assignment, students receive confidential instructions from their clients on what they desire in a contract, and in class they then seek to negotiate those terms with a representative of the opposing side. After this brief negotiation, they draft the contract clause that reflects the agreed terms, and submit this to their counterpart for review. Both the course instructor and the counterpart provides feedback on the proposed text.
- Face-to-face lectures
- Guest speaker's talks (in class or in distance)
- Exercises (exercises, database, software etc.)
- Case studies /Incidents (traditional, online)
- Individual assignments
- Group assignments
- Interactive class activities (role playing, business game, simulation, online forum, instant polls)
Using a workshop format, class sessions typically are in three parts:
- Discussion of key concepts,
- Student interaction in negotiating and drafting texts, and
- Practical exercises to help make the lawyer’s legal writing smooth and persuasive.
Each class concludes with a short writing assignment to allow the instructor to provide feedback before the next lesson. The writing assignments are not graded, but they must be completed in order for the student to grow and build confidence as a writer (and also to receive course credit).
|Continuous assessment||Partial exams||General exam|
There is no exam. The goal of the course is for the student lawyer to make a substantial leap in their writing ability and develop confidence to tackle any legal writing task. The instructor devotes considerable time to reviewing and discussing with each student the materials that they draft during or after the classes. Because the course is a workshop format - focusing on practical, real-life challenges - most of the writing assignments arise from short negotiations or role-playing that take place during class.Therefore, attendance provides students with a substantial opportunity to obtain real, hands-on skills with the problems that lawyers typically face when writing.
Because the course is a workshop - designed to develop practical skills in writing – non-attendance of all or most of the classes is not a realistic option. There are only eight meetings of the class, and each one is focused on different skills and types of legal documents. While students can make up for one or two absences by coordinating with classmates and the professor on the content, missing more than this detracts from the student’s ability to get the most out of the course and receive timely and useful feedback on their writing from the instructor.
- A.B. GARNER, Legal Writing in Plain English, A Text with Exercises, Univ. Chicago Press 2013, second edition, available in both paper copy or e-book (Kindle).
- Case-studies, briefing materials, and assignments that are discussed and shared in class, and also uploaded in advance of each class meeting.