Friday, July 17, 2009

supervising upper-division student writing

 AndreaMcArdle Andrea McArdle (CUNY) is leading a discussion about the ABA upper-level writing standard, 302(a)(3), requiring "at least one . . . rigorous writing experience after the first year." Andrea referred to extensive data from the 2007 ALWD/LWI Survey of Legal Writing, which contained a "hot topic" section querying about schools' upper-level writing offerings, structure, staffing, and administration (see survey pages 72-79).

What are law schools doing now?

  • What kinds of upper-level offerings meet or count toward the requirement?

Scholarly writing seems to be the most prevalent or popular. In some schools, litigation or transactional drafting courses meet, or partially meet, the requirement.

  • Who is teaching the courses that provide these writing experiences?

There's quite a mix in terms of who is teaching--doctrinal faculty, legal writing faculty, adjuncts. Non-legal-writing faculty predominates. Surprisingly, a couple of schools actually bar legal writing faculty from teaching such courses, requiring that they be taught only by tenured and tenure-track faculty (clearly at schools that do not offer the tenure track to the legal writing professors).

What should the law schools be doing?

  • Prescribe more specific form and content?
  • Develop more process criteria?
  • Should LRW faculty assume a greater role?
  • What are the implications for LRW faculty's workload? job status?
  • Can we expect more or greater collaboration among LRW, clinical, and doctrinal faculty?

Participants' discussion raised a number of issues: e.g., doctrinal faculty's erroneous assumption that scholarly papers are taught in the first-year legal writing curriculum; many schools' automatic interpretation of the ABA standard that a seminar paper would satisfy the requirement, rather than writing "in a legal context," which would include a much broader range of assignments; using the language of Interpretation 302-1 to develop enforceable curricular standards that mandate quality levels, as well as multiple drafts and face-to-face conferences, in order for seminar papers to satisfy the standard.


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