For many years, legal education has been criticized for not teaching its students enough of the practical skills they need to function effectively as lawyers. Those of us who teach legal writing have always understood this. Most of us teach in the first year, although some of us also teach upper level writing courses as well. Writing, of course, is certainly is an important skill for lawyers. But what is also needed is innovation in the teaching of doctrine, and because many (if not most) LRW faculty practiced law before becoming teachers, we are well positioned to teach doctrine in a practice-focused way.
While some of this sort of teaching can be accomplished in clinics, much more can be provided by simply making many of the courses we already have more integrated, with better formative assessment, and based more on a design of teaching “doctrine-in-context.” Legal writing teachers are well positioned to develop, propose, and teach such courses, and it could present a tremendous opportunity for us. My presentation at the LWI Biennial Conference this year will detail my Discovery Practice course, and the development of a “Carnegie Integrated Course" requirement at the University of Denver.
While more resources will – at many schools – be put into clinics, there is more that can be done in a non-live client environment to improve writing skills and prepare students for practice. One of the things that can be done is to offer more simulation-based practice courses with a doctrinal focus that include a significant writing component. Those of us who teach legal writing are, in many cases, the best-positioned members of our faculties to teach such courses, and indeed, a few of us already do. But it is still not widespread.
True, many schools have upper level writing courses, but this effort includes, but (in many cases) could go beyond those courses. These new courses are ones that combine a significant doctrinal component with formative assessment of numerous writing projects, taught in a fully simulated practice environment. This presentation at the 15th Biennial Conference of the Legal Writing Institute (LWI) will focus on how to teach such a course, and how to advocate for such courses in your law school. Further, it will describe the creation of a course requirements list for what we at the University of Denver law school are calling “Carnegie Integrated Courses” (CIC), and describe the current state of this project. Here is the Prezi I will be using during my talk:
If you prefer to view it at the Prezi site, here is a link to the Prezi for my talk, which is scheduled for Friday, June 1 at 10:00 a.m. during the Conference in Desert Springs, California. If you would like more information about the Discovery Practice course that I teach (which is an example of the CIC model), you can find a blog post about it here, and an article written about it by one of my former students here. Also, a complete teaching portfolio for the course is available on the Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers site, which you can find here.
For many of us, a career teaching just legal writing might feel limiting in the long term, but adding such a course to your portfolio and getting it accepted into the curriculum could present a terrific opportunity for professional development. A long-term mix of teaching some first year legal writing, and some upper-level writing courses with a significant simulation and practice focus, might well be the direction that many schools will be moving over the next several years as they adjust their curricula to respond to the Carnegie report. Accordingly, this could be both a broadening of focus and a tremendous opportunity for the legal writing community, and many of us will want to be well positioned to take advantage of it.