Tuesday, January 8, 2008
I recently received a comp copy of a legal writing book from a publisher, which is not unusual for a legal writing professor. This one is called Writing a Legal Memo, by Professor John Bronsteen at Loyola University in Chicago. It's a practical guide on memo-writing, not unlike the nutshells or little-book-on-xyz type books I've seen over the years. What was unusual about this otherwise perfectly fine book was the odd, sinking sense of deja vu I got while skimming through it. I saw many more books like this when I first started teaching, circa 1990 -- how-to books focusing on the form of legal writing, while almost ignoring the process, doctrine, and analysis inherent in legal writing. But we've come a long way in the field of legal writing and now have many fine books that include instruction on all these aspects of legal writing. Suspicious, I googled Prof. Bronsteen (you can just click on his name above) and had my suspicions confirmed: he's had an elite education all around. And that's where my beef lies, not with him or his book or even the facts of his academic pedigree. It's the assumptions behind the legal education and early exposure to teaching that he received from some of the nations' top law schools that make me want to shout to those schools: "Wake up! You are a couple of decades behind the curve when it comes to teaching legal skills in general and legal writing in particular." Okay, I've gotten that off my chest. I feel better. And I truly hope I haven't offended the author; his book could be helpful for a 1L who has a memo due soon and needs a to-the-point, practical guide.