Monday, July 30, 2007

first day of classes coming up . . .

My first day of class is just 3 weeks away, so I'm starting to think about what to say to that room of 20 eager 1-L's.  The legal writing listserv is always a source of great ideas, but I'd like to hear from any practitioners out there:

What do you think that I should tell that room full of impressionable students--about writing, about ethics, about the practice of law?

Please comment and let me know.  Thanks!


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Were I in your shoes, I'd tell them that they'd better give a great deal of care to their writing. I'd tell them that they can expect to be judged on it, and that it will affect their prospects, for better or for worse.

I might ask them to consider this:

You wouldn't appear for an interview for a job at a prestigious law firm wearing blue jeans and sneakers, with dirty fingernails and unkempt hair, with your breath smelling anything but minty fresh, now would you?

For the same reasons, you wouldn't want to write anything that wouldn't pass muster with an 8th-grade English teacher. You certainly wouldn't want to put your name on something like this:

If you did, people wouldn't take you seriously. They certainly wouldn't start you out at $145,000 per year.

Posted by: Mister Thorne | Jul 30, 2007 12:13:23 PM

I suggest providing the students with a compilation of local attorney job listing from the previous year or so, particularly for entry level positions, with the percentage of those that request something like "excellent legal writing and research skills" noted. You can then go one more step if you like, and include the percentage that mention a desired expertise in other first year classes. (my suspicion - zero)

Posted by: Appealing in Nevada | Jul 30, 2007 3:42:53 PM

Like blogs, the legal profession primarily involves words - although a lawyer's words are in pleadings and correspondence rather than internet posts. A lawyer will make a positive impression on clients and others in the legal profession by writing clearly and well. For instance, careful writing reinforces that a lawyer is accurate and pays attention to detail. Clear, concise, accurate writing also helps a lawyer who wants a good reputation. Some lawyers have a reputation for glib talk or crafty strategy but lawyers with the best reputations are known for clear words and honest dealings.

Posted by: DRJ | Jul 31, 2007 12:04:35 PM

Tell them legal writing is a unique skill.

Tell them to read whole cases in reporters to understand the organization and flow of cases.

Tell them to be patient and to realize that the skills and sensitivities they learn in this class will build the foundation upon which their legal career will rest forever after.

Posted by: Tish | Jul 31, 2007 6:44:58 PM

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