Did your Summer Job Fall Through? Become a Better Writer Anyway

Did your Summer Job fall through? Become a Better Writer AnywayThis week we welcome back guest writer and tutor Elizabeth Knox to talk about working on your legal writing skills this summer, whether or not you have a legal job.

Some lawyers find that the value of law school isn’t found in the coursework, but rather in the summer work most students do. Summer jobs allow students to practice tailoring their legal writing and then get real feedback from practitioners. There’s nothing like going through a brutal feedback process to help new attorneys become stellar legal writers.

COVID-19 has changed the summer landscape for most law students. Jobs have been canceled or postponed because of stay at home orders, leaving many students in the lurch. This would normally be a red flag for future employers, but because this is happening on an unprecedented scale, you don’t need to worry about that right now

This does not mean you should do nothing this summer. Employers are still going to wonder how you spent the summer, and you’ll want a good answer. If you don’t have to work or care for family, this summer holds a fantastic opportunity to improve your legal writing. It can be daunting to do this without the promise of feedback, but it’s worth doing anyway.

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Legal Writing Mishaps You Should Avoid Like the Plague

Legal Writing Mishaps You Should Avoid Like the PlaguePlease welcome back attorney Christen Morgan to to talk about some important reminders about legal writing!

God bless my 1L legal writing professor. Although I am now two years removed from law school and five years removed from my first semester of legal writing, I maintain this statement with the utmost conviction. This professor deserves special blessings as she has had to endure reviewing hundreds of memos and briefs proposed as exemplary writing but fraught with blatant error. She has also spent countless hours in her work day trying to explain to each student (me included) about why their writing is in fact not exemplary. Finally, she has on numerous occasions had to maintain the “patience of Job,” as she did her very best to take charge of the debate each student assumed was necessary to prove that they were in fact writing experts after their first three weeks of law school. [Read more…]

Avoiding The “Slings And Arrows” Of Outrageous Case Briefing Misfortune And Getting To What’s Important

Reading/briefing casesThis week we welcome guest writer and 3L, Mark Livingston, to discuss how to get started with case briefing as a new law student.

I remember, not so fondly, the first case I tried to brief in law school. It was Todd v. Danner, 17 Ind. App. 368, 46 N.E. 829 (1897). I remember briefing this case, and because it was from 1897, it involved an incident with an unruly steer, and I had no idea how to brief it. The language used by the court was archaic and convoluted. I had no idea what was important or what I needed to include in my brief.

That first brief was awful. Despite the brevity of the court with its two-and-a-half-page decision, my brief weighed in at a cool six pages! I was way off course, and if all of my case briefs had turned out like that one, I would have been briefing my 1L cases after my retirement. I have since developed a few skills and approaches that have helped me streamline the process and cut through my cases like a champ.

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Are You Going to Law School Because You’re a Good Writer?

Are You Going to Law School Because You're a Good Writer?This week we welcome back Law School Toolbox Tutor Whitney Weatherly to discuss how writing in law school can be very different from writing you’ve done before (and how to best learn how to write for legal practice).

I can’t even pick out one specific memory of this conversation, because I had it so many times with so many people. Here’s the rough transcript:

Me: So, why did you decide to go to law school?

Law Student: Well, all of my professors at [university] said that I was such a good writer that I should go to law school. So here I am!

Me: Right. OK…so how’s that working out for you?

Okay, so maybe that last reply was (usually) internal. When I first started law school, I certainly didn’t realize what was expected of me from a writing perspective. Like most of my fellow classmates, I usually did well on writing assignments in undergrad, but I’d had the benefit of working for an attorney before law school. Just the fact of working for her helped me shift my mode of writing from “creative” to “professional”, but she also gave me some tips along the way that made me more open to input once I got to my legal writing class. If you’re going into law school with the confidence of a good writer, consider this your wake-up call.

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Struggling with that Lengthy Writing Assignment? 7 Practical Strategies to Help You Get It Done!

Legal Research/WritingPlease welcome back Jennifer Warren, attorney and Academic Achievement Coordinator at Oklahoma City University School of Law. She’s talking about how to survive a legal writing assignment you may be struggling with (or just to offer some encouragement).

I have a love/hate relationship with writing. While it’s extremely satisfying to finish a writing assignment, the process of getting to that point can be a real struggle. Most law students seem to feel similarly about the legal writing assignments and research papers assigned in law school. These assignments tend to be time consuming, complex, and require a significant amount of concerted effort (unlike, say, passively highlighting your case book). On top of that, law school writing assignments aren’t even necessarily that interesting. But as frustrating as these assignments may be, they’re actually a fairly realistic preview of what you’ll likely be doing as a lawyer: researching, writing, and writing some more. Whether it’s drafting a brief, a contract, or even just a memo, nearly every practicing lawyer has to write on a regular basis. So it’s helpful – no, necessary – that you develop some strategies to manage lengthy writing assignments and avoid procrastinating. Below are a few techniques I’ve relied on to help me complete difficult projects and that may help you manage your own lengthy assignments. [Read more…]

Navigating the Research Paper

research paper

Please welcome back Keri Clapp, professor and tutor for the Law School Toolbox and Bar Exam Toolbox to discuss how to handle your first big research paper in law school.

Once you survive your 1L year, you may be accustomed (or at least resigned) to having your grade decided by a single exam; you’ve internalized the organizational structure of legal writing, and you may have had a summer position that utilized and honed your developing skills.

Classes should be smooth sailing from here, right? Not always. Upper-level law courses demand new skills; you may not approach them with the same mix of awe and terror as your 1L self, but you’ll still need to meet new challenges. One of those challenges may be tackling the dreaded research paper. [Read more…]