April 21, 2010
A punchlist of law student writing errors
I have just gone through a difficult session reviewing a student's "directed study" term paper. It was odd to hear a statement to the effect that "I was a good writer before I got to law school, but legal writing screwed me up." I can still remember vividly sitting in a small section of my sophomore year U.S. history survey course at the University of Michigan (circa 1973), and the teaching fellow (to become lifelong friend and widely-acclaimed historian and gerontologist) W. Andrew Achenbaum describing what we were to do when we wrote the three five page papers that were required for the course. "A history paper," Andy said, "is like a legal brief." Well, at age nineteen, I had no clue what that meant, but I do now. You make an overall assertion - the thesis statement - then supply supporting arguments that are backed by the historical evidence. (Note: just to make me feel really old, the other grader on the papers was Andy's best friend and fellow TF, Jan Lewis, the mother of current New York Law School prof James Grimmelmann.)
Professor Lipshaw then describes three categories of student writing errors: 1. The "Elevator Speech Error (i.e. organizational problems) "; 2 the "Peeling the Artichoke Failure" (i.e. lack of analytical depth); and 3. the "Presentational Failure" (i.e. ethos fail) Read the elaborated upon explanations here.
I am the scholarship dude.
April 21, 2010 | Permalink
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