April 4, 2005
The Writing Corner
Take the time to read: "Talking to Students About the Differences Between Undergraduate Writing and Legal Writing," a brief article by Professor Anne Enquist, Legal Writing Advisor at Seattle University School of Law.
"Yes," Professor Enquist writes to new law students, "there are things that you learned about undergraduate writing assignments that will carry over into law school writing assignments." She describes what most of us refer to as the "writing process": pre-writing, drafting, editing, and so on. But then, the legal writing path diverges.
Focusing on the "audience" for the writing, Professor Enquist points out the difference between the writer-reader relationships - "Undergraduate writing has an unusual, even artificial, writer-reader relationship," she explains. The writer is presumed to be the novice, while the reader is the expert. This relationship "...is, of course, backwards."
On the other hand, the law professor "...will probably be role-playing the real-world reader - either a supervising attorney, a judge, a client, or opposing counsel."
While a goal of undergrad writing may have been to "make simple things seem more complex," the reverse is true in legal writing, where students/attorneys strive to make complex things seem simple.
Although Professor Enquist is focusing on writing assignments, it occurred to me that her thoughts apply to exam answering as well. One characteristic of poor exam answers is the convoluted, complex, confusing analysis - often written by the student who has succeeded in making the simple seem complex.
Your thoughts? (djt)
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