"If I had to choose the single most valuable experience I had in law school, it would have to be the Legal Writing Program. The small classes, the willingness of the professors to meet one-on-one as much as a student needs, and the quality of in-class instruction are unparalleled. I will be a better advocate because of the tireless help I have received from professors who truly want to help every student succeed."
Class of 2013
The Legal Writing Program is based on foundational principles that maximize student learning.
The first principle is long-term learning, not just the successful completion of any one assignment. Consequently, the Legal Writing Program focuses on the process lawyers go through as they research, analyze, and write so that students can use that process to solve other legal problems and write other types of documents.
The second principle is sequencing for mastery. We believe that the best curriculum is one in which each assignment not only builds on what was learned before but also introduces new concepts and skills. Carefully sequenced assignments allow students to practice and master critical research and writing skills. In our curriculum, the entire first-year course contains a series of sequenced assignments related to legal research and objective analysis. In addition, we require a third semester focused on pretrial and appellate advocacy. Students can also take upper division courses in both research and writing that build on the skills learned in the required courses, and our clinical courses and externship placements continue to build on what students learn in the Legal Writing Program.
The third principle is individualization. Legal Writing professors provide extensive feedback on assignments and teach students to analyze and revise their own work. Students receive written feedback on many initial drafts and all final assignments, and many students have individual conferences with their legal writing professors to discuss their writing. All students have the opportunity to apply feedback to other parts of the assignment and revise drafts to create even better final products.
Legal Writing I: Research, Analysis, Writing
In their first year, law students take a two-semester, four-credit course that uses the process approach to introduce legal research and citation, legal reading and legal analysis, and the principles of good writing. Legal Writing I classes are small, interactive classes taught by full-time faculty that help prepare student to work as interns and externs following their first year of law school: Students learn to research and write both short, informal memos and longer, more formal memos. In addition, during the spring semester, students are given the opportunity to apply what they are learning by researching and writing a memo for either one of the Law School's clinics or for a non-profit organization.
Legal Writing II: Written & Oral Advocacy
In their second year, students learn how to be advocates in a one-semester, three-credit course that focuses on persuasion. Working with the documents based on a real case, students spend the first half of the semester researching and writing a pre-trial motion brief and then presenting the oral arguments in support of that brief. Then, during the second half of the semester, students review the trial record, identifying and researching potential errors and drafting an appellate brief. The course ends with what most students find the most exciting part of the course: Students argue their brief before a panel of attorneys acting as appellate judges.
In their second and third year, law students can also take advanced legal writing and researching classes as electives. In the Drafting Labs, students learn principles of legal drafting, then apply those principles in labs tied to areas of law practice--such as business law, real estate law, or trusts and estates. The labs are taught by practitioners who specialize in those areas of law practice. In the Advanced Writing Seminar, students have the opportunity to further develop their skills in effective persuasion and in the use of an elegant, clear style. In Basic Contract Drafting, students learn to draft business contracts, using a conceptual approach to produce contracts that are both strategic and well-drafted. In an advanced legal research class, students further explore the ever-increasing number of legal resources.
Teaching with Technology
The legal writing faculty at Seattle University uses technology both inside and outside the classroom to enhance student learning. Each classroom is equipped with a state-of-the-art system that allows faculty to project computer screens and all types of paper documents and to show videos. In addition, classrooms have both high-speed and wireless Internet. Students can e-mail drafts to their professor for immediate projection and can actively participate with their professor in online legal research sessions.
Outside of class, almost all critiquing and grading is done electronically: students submit their assignments as e-mail attachments, and professors insert comments directly into the electronic versions of the documents and then return the assignments to students. Furthermore, every legal writing class has its own website, used to upload assignment sheets and handouts, to link to useful websites, and to schedule student conferences.
Legal Writing Scholarships and Awards
Seattle University has demonstrated its commitment to legal writing by offering four legal writing scholarships. The Cheney Legal Writing Scholarship and two Metzger Legal Writing Scholarships are awarded to second-year students who demonstrate a high level of proficiency in their first-year legal writing course. The Mark Reutlinger Excellence in Legal Writing Scholarship is awarded to second- or third-year students who have written the best papers in a law school course outside the legal writing program. Additionally, the Marilyn J. Berger Gender and Justice Writing Award is a writing achievement award that is available to second- and third-year students in recognition of excellence in written work on a gender and the law topic.