J.D. Candidate 2014
Like many other students, my first exposure to legal writing was in my first-year legal writing class. That year was spent deconstructing all the bad habits I had acquired during my time writing state and federal grants, and writing news stories for a small TV news station. I wanted to use flamboyant language to explain a case but I quickly learned that to be an effective advocate, I needed to draw clear and concise comparisons. It wasn't until my second year of legal writing with Professor Sara Rankin that I began to enjoy the process. I know that my writing skills are not perfect, but I am confident that I have the skills to continually improve. Professor Rankin taught me that legal writing is a recursive process.
J.D. Candidate 2015
My first year of legal writing was challenging but made me a better writer. I learned about legal writing through a variety of assignments. The topics were interesting and the memorandum I wrote in the spring semester was on a real topic for an actual client. My professor, Sara Rankin, made the information clear and made legal writing one of my favorite first-year courses. It was the class that I put the most work into and continually felt challenged in. This class was the most beneficial and prepared me the most for my summer internship. The legal writing class was smaller so it is the class that I was able to build relationships with both my peers and my professor. I liked Professor Rankin so much that I am taking Legal Writing II with her and also working as her research assistant.
James "Jamie" Harlan Corning '12
Associate, Davis, Wright, Tremaine LLP
Eric Wolf '12
Counsel, Washington State Senate
The Seattle University School of Law Legal Writing Program, nationally recognized for its quality, was the main reason I chose to relocate from Florida to the Northwest for law school. In my first year in the program I came to appreciate that lawyers are professional readers and writers as much as they are professional oral advocates, and the Legal Writing Program proved to be so much more than just focusing my ability to put words on a page. Indeed, by the time I had completed Legal Writing II's culminating project, an appellate brief presented in front of practicing attorneys on a mock Court of Appeals panel, I felt my legal research and oral advocacy skills had improved at least as much as my compositional skills.
In practice, I draw on the lessons I learned in Legal Writing on a daily basis, particularly when I'm hoping to convey complex information in as clear and concise way as possible.
Throughout the program, the feedback on assignments from my professors was the most extensive and thoughtful I've ever received. I will always be grateful to my Legal Writing professors, extraordinary mentors who helped me identify what worked in my writing style and what could be improved, provided career and professionalism advice, and, most importantly, provided invaluable guidance on finding my own voice within the legal community.
Alexandria (Ali) Hohman '11
Law Clerk/Bailiff, Skagit County Superior Court
I am currently the law clerk for Skagit County Superior Court and I mentor and supervise legal interns. With my position I have to constantly teach, critique, and support my interns in their legal writing. The judges have complimented me on my success, which is directly tied to having Professor Deirdre Bowen as my legal writing professor. Seattle University’s Legal Writing Program prepared me for my work in law. I can even tell which interns attend Seattle University School of Law just based on their legal writing samples!
John Rosecrans '12
Owner/Attorney at Rosecrans Law, PLLC
I remember the first case I took on as a solo practitioner. My very first court appearance was a hearing on two motions that I had filed. I distinctly remember standing at the podium and looking over at opposing counsel, who happened to be a seasoned attorney with decades of experience under his belt, and thinking to myself, "How on earth am I going to survive this?" But I stood there trying to look confident because I spent hours doing legal research and drafting those two motions. I remember looking over my motion brief and appellate brief that I drafted for Legal Writing II as a template. I borrowed the structure and format of those briefs and used them in the two motions I filed with the court. I also made sure to use persuasive headings and subheadings, which I learned in Legal Writing II.
I stood at the podium with my client by my side, waiting for my turn to respond. Much to my surprise, I did not get a single word in; the judge never asked me questions or gave me an opportunity to defend my position. The judge told opposing counsel what was wrong with the motions he submitted and why his position could not be supported. I distinctly remember the judge using some of the exact phrasing and language that I submitted in my motions. Then it dawned on me that, in addition to having good facts, perhaps my motions were solid and persuasive enough that the judge agreed with my position. The hearing ended with both of my motions being granted.
Because I did not have a chance to present oral argument, my entire case rested on the two motions that I submitted. And I drafted those motions entirely on my own with the support of my legal writing motion and appellate briefs as templates. Had it not been for my experience in the Legal Writing Program at Seattle University School of Law, I am sure my motions would not have been as clear, organized, effective, and persuasive as they were. I have continued to use the same formatting, structure, and organization for subsequent briefs and motions with similar success.
Of course, good facts and having the law on your side are largely responsible for how your issues will be resolved, but so is having good, clear, organized, persuasive, and well-written briefs. And I thank Professors Denis Stearns and Connie Krontz and the Legal Writing Program for that ability.
J.D. Candidate, 2014
Legal writing did not come easily to me. During my undergraduate years I was taught to write very wordy papers with the motto "the longer, the better." To my dismay, I was told to do the exact opposite in my legal writing class. Luckily, I was provided with extensive feedback, and each and every memorandum or brief I handed in came back with more and more comments, which in turn helped perfect my legal writing ability.
Although being able to write clearly and concisely is essential to writing an effective legal memorandum, my most important skill is my ability to effectively analyze a case and decide if it helps me with the legal question presented. As a judicial clerk, it quickly became apparent that I was expected to be able to shed light on difficult legal questions presented to my supervisors. The issues I was to research were issues the judges themselves struggled with and wanted a fresh perspective. My ability to determine which cases were helpful was crucial.
I decided to do exactly what I had learned in legal writing and hope for the best. I pulled out my legal writing handbook and slowly went through the process of writing a memorandum. After laboring over the memorandum for hours, I somewhat hesitantly emailed it to the judge at the end of the day. The next morning I was nervous to check my email. However, I was pleasantly surprised by his response. He informed me that I had produced a "first rate" memorandum and it was the type he expects from legal interns, but seldom receives. After reading his remarks I immediately thought of my legal writing professor, Dr. Deirdre Bowen, and all that she had taught me — it really works!