Thursday, June 12, 2008

Comment on a Work in Progress

Legal writing scholarship is a wonderful thing.

It is great to read the interesting articles our colleagues publish in journals such as ALWD, Legal Writing, Scribes, Clarity, The Second Draft, and even mainstream law reviews.

But I find that I enjoy reading works in progress even more than published work.  Why?  If I have something to say about the article before it gets published, I have an opportunity to contact the author directly and share my thoughts.  It is more interactive, and I feel an opportunity to contribute in general to legal writing scholarship (and other scholarship by legal writing professors).

SchwinnI've just come across one such work in progress by a legal writing collegue, and I'm sharing this with you (in case you also share my willingness and enthusiasm for reading works in progress).

Here's the abstract: 

The traditional first-year curriculum in American law schools takes incoming law students as novice or dualistic thinkers (in the nomenclature of developmental learning theorists). Thus the traditional first-year curriculum emphasizes the determinate nature of law and practice, and the role of authority in the law, just to name two features.

But while our incoming students may, in fact, be novices in the law, they are increasingly sophisticated thinkers in other areas of their lives and in their moral reasoning abilities. They can deal with indeterminacy, and they can be agents of development (not merely recipients of knowledge), outside the law. Moreover, they can apply these capabilities to their legal studies.

In treating first-year students as novices, the traditional legal curriculum neglects these capabilities. Worse, it regresses first-year students as thinkers and as moral reasoners on conventional developmental continua.

In contrast to the traditional curriculum, actual legal work in the first year—where students take responsibility for actual legal work, with all its attendant indeterminacies—builds upon the capabilities that our students bring to law school and thus promotes their intellectual development, their ethical reasoning skills, and their development as professionals.

The article is by Steven D. Schwinn of The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.  Click here to read his work in progress.


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