October 29, 2005
Legal Writing & Academic Support
In a recent article in the Cleveland State Law Review, Professor Dionne L. Koller, who directs the Academic Achievement Program at University of Maryland School of Law, addresses the relationship between Legal Writing programs and Academic Support programs.
"It is often assumed," Professor Koller writes, "that legal writing and academic support go hand-in-hand. As a result, little thought may go into the ways that a legal writing course may actually hinder a law school's academic support mission."
The article (Legal Writing and Academic Support: Timing is Everything, 53 Clev. St. L. Rev. 51) provides a thorough analysis of the functions of both programs, and suggests how they may complement (or not) each other.
For example, although many of us in Academic Support offices believe that our best source of "struggling student" referrals will be the Legal Writing department, it ain't necessarily so. Drawing from her own experience, and from observations by Professor Herb Ramy (Academic Support at Suffolk University Law School), Professor Koller writes, "... while the legal writing course may serve as an important additional identification tool when used in conjunction with other predictors, performance in the course is unreliable as the primary indicator of the need for academic support."
After mentioning some of the downsides of too close a relationship, or dependency, between legal writing and academic support, Professor Koller then proposes a legal writing course as a model for delivery of academic support. Odd? Not so fast. What she recommends is an upper-level legal writing class as a vehicle for post-wunnelle support.
The article describes the program at the University of Maryland in great detail. "Students in an upper-level legal writing course can practice their emerging analytical skills with smaller, 'bite-size' writing assignments on the issues presented by the problem that build up to the final written product," she explains, as one of the many valuable aspects of combining upper-level writing with essential analytical training in the second year of law school.
Professor Koller explains that the "...upper-level legal writing course must incorporate elements of learning theory and academic support practice," in order to "...provide a meaningful legal writing opportunity to ... [struggling] students." (djt)
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