The Legal Research and Writing Program offers courses in legal research, analysis, and writing for students at all levels.
Students gain intensive legal research and writing experience in their first year in the Legal Research & Writing I and II courses. They learn to conduct research in both traditional and electronic formats and prepare a variety of predictive and persuasive documents that are typical of law practice. Upper-level students have a variety of choices for advanced legal writing instruction in seminars, clinics, doctrinal courses, and specialized legal writing offerings.
Lawyers are problem solvers and professional communicators, and the law school is committed to helping students acquire the essential skills for success in law practice. Our legal writing curriculum reflects this commitment.
1L students take the three-credit Legal Research & Writing I course in their first semester.
Legal Research & Writing I focuses on predictive legal writing and introduces them to legal research sources and strategy. Students learn the conventions of effective legal writing, including:
- How to structure legal documents
- How to explain and support a legal analysis
- How to edit their writing for clarity and conciseness
This course reviews concepts that affect legal problem solving, including the workings of the American legal system, binding and persuasive sources of law, the use and weight of authority, and the principles of stare decisis.
Students learn cost-effective legal research strategies, including the appropriate use of both electronic and paper-based sources of legal information. They also simulate many of the tasks that lawyers perform and learn how to meet the professional expectations of clients, judges, employers, and colleagues in various contexts.
1L students take the three-credit Legal Research & Writing II course in their second semester.
Legal Research & Writing II focuses on persuasive legal writing in a variety of contexts, as well as on oral presentation and advocacy skills. Students learn the ethics of advocacy, which explores how to argue effectively on behalf of a client while still maintaining integrity as an officer of the court.
The course introduces students to the strategies of effective written and oral advocacy, both at the trial and appellate level. Students write a persuasive trial-level motion brief and an appellate brief representing their client. They also may examine or prepare a number of shorter documents typical of law practice and discuss best practices for writing them. Finally, to balance the litigation focus of some legal-writing instruction, the course introduces students to basic principles of transactional drafting.
In connection with their writing projects, students refine their legal research skills in a variety of different subject areas and procedural contexts. The course covers select advanced legal research topics and reinforces foundational research skills in different media. The goal is to help students to become efficient and cost-effective in their work.
In all legal writing courses, students learn by doing. They receive written feedback and the opportunity to meet individually in conference with their legal research and writing professor during the semester.
Advanced Legal Research & Writing courses
The Law School offers advanced skills courses regularly. Recent offerings have included:
- Transactional Drafting
- Writing for Law Practice
- Advanced Legal Research
All J.D. candidates have an “Upper-Level Writing Requirement” and are required to complete one rigorous writing experience after completing the First-Year Program. Courses and curricular offerings that meet this requirement are designated by the Dean. They include, for example, advanced legal writing courses, law journal writing, and upper-level seminars or courses requiring substantial writing.
Students may find these courses by looking for the designation "LW" in the Notes column of the online course schedule for any semester. Students, however, should check with the course instructor in advance to ensure that they will indeed be able to fulfill the Upper-Level Writing Requirement in the course.
More information about the Upper-Level Writing Requirement is in section 4.4.2 of the Student Handbook.