Friday, October 21, 2011

A critique of the process approach to teaching legal writing

The latest issue of the Journal of Legal Education contains a provocative article titled The New Legal Writing Pedagogy: Is It Our Pride and Joy or a Hobble?  The author, John Lynch, is Associate Dean at the University of Baltimore School of Law. The pedagogy of which he writes is the process approach, which focuses on the writing process rather than on the end product.  Although that approach has been widely accepted in the legal writing field for twenty years or so, it is new to Lynch, who recently returned to the field after an absence of thirty years.

Lynch believes that reviewing drafts and requiring conferences during the writing process are unnecessarily labor intensive and at times burdensome to students, especially night students. He also argues that students who rely on conferences may shortchange their own editing process, expecting the professor to edit for them. In his courses, “I have fewer conferences than if I required them for all students, and I do not spend nearly as much time answering questions before students turn the assignments in as I would if I were reviewing drafts.”  He does encourage students to meet with him if they want to, but he argues that the process approach is not suited to all situations and ABA should not require it in its accreditation standards.

Lynch’s article is not yet available on line—I read it in hard copy.


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