50176 - LEGAL WRITING SEMINAR
Course taught in English
Go to class group/s: 31
Class-group lessons delivered in blended format (part online and part on campus)
Proficiency in spoken English. The course does not assume any prior knowledge of particular areas of law. Because most 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 legal documents and communications with judges, arbitrators, clients, and opposing counsel.
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.
- 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.
Students will strengthen their skills and confidence as counsel in domestic and international matters by:
- Establishhing objectives for every document.
- Distinguishing material from immaterial facts, identifying relevant legal principles, and effectively expressing legal analysis in writing.
- Strengthening core writing skills and avoiding common mistakes; and
- Assessing the implications of exposing documents to different laws and adjudicators from different legal systems.
Upon completing this course, students should have the confidence to tackle any writing assignment they encounter in their careers as lawyers, and to continuously build their skills as legal writers. The writing assignments arise from common situations that lawyers encounter. For example, in one assignment, students receive confidential instructions from their clients on what they desire in a contract. After a brief negotiation with the other side’s counsel, students will draft the contract clauses that reflect the agreed terms, and submit this to their counterpart for review. Both the course instructor and the counterpart provide feedback on the proposed text.
- Face-to-face lectures
- Online lectures
- Guest speaker's talks (in class or in distance)
- Exercises (exercises, database, software etc.)
- 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:
The writing assignments are not graded, but they must be completed in order for the student to build skills and confidence as a writer (and also to receive course credit).
There is no exam. The goal of the course is to make a substantial leap in the student’s legal writing ability. 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 the opportunity to obtain real, hands-on skills with the problems that lawyers typically face when writing.
There are only eight meetings of the class, with each is focused on particular 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 from the instructor.
REQUIRED: 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).
OPTIONAL: M. Mcilwrath & G. Moser, Negotiating International Commercial Contracts (Eleven Int’l Publishing 2020).
ADDITIONAL: The instructor will also make available briefing and other materials for assignments that will be uploaded in advance of each class meeting.