Monday, September 2, 2019
Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on. — Louis L’Amour
Scholarly writing is the professional currency of academia that buys the respect and recognition that is needed to advance. In some career tracts, writing and publication are required. In others, optional writing can be easily pushed to the back burner of an otherwise busy day, week, year . . . career.
It is a challenge, to say the least, to find time to write when you have skills courses to teach that require multiple formative assessments over the span of the semester. On top of a course load with more grading and feedback expectations than other faculty may experience, ASPers typically have endless days with a steady stream of student appointments and walk-ins. But then there’s summer. NB: In ASP world, “summer” can be that eight to 17-day period between the bar exam and new student orientation where we: build our new class preps, learn about changes to the bar and prepare presentations to our faculty and administration re the same, or possibly squeeze in a week to tend to a home project or health condition that we’ve neglected all year.
Great idea, but who has time for it really? Honestly, we don’t have time to write with all the pressing demands on our time; but we can make time to write on topics about which we are passionate and knowledgeable. Joining a writing group, whether through AASE or on your university campus, is a great first step. As a member of a writing group, you will find opportunities to receive supportive guidance and feedback on your writing.
A possible second step is to use your own appointment/calendaring protocol to carve out one hour per day or a 3-hour weekly block for writing and self-expression. ASP writing can also be intimidating to those of us without a doctrinal area of expertise. But it does not have to be. There is no Blue Book rule that says ASPers must write about pedagogy, testing, or learning. We all have general levels of doctrinal expertise or we could not help students to succeed in law school and on the bar exam. It would not be a huge leap to expand on a favorite doctrinal area and research and write on ambiguous rules or inappropriate application of policy.
I’ve never done this before; I’m not sure how to. ASP writing might be most daunting to first-generation lawyers and law professors. It is important to not self-exclude oneself by concluding that you don’t know where to being or to question whether anyone would be interested in what you have to say. If you are not yet ready to submit a journal article, please consider the array of other outlets for your writing including, but certainly not limited to, The Learning Curve (published by the AALS section on Academic Support), Raising the Bar (published by AccessLex), the Law Teaching Blog (hosted by the Institution for Law Teaching and Learning), and your local bar journal newsletters and state bar publications. You can present your work-in-progress at conferences to get ideas to improve your work before submission. Pan this Blog and the ASP listserv for calls.
You do not have to know today what you will write, when you’ll make time to do it, or where you will be published. First things, first. Pick up a pen and notepad or blank journal that you’ve squirreled away in a dresser drawer. Pull out that laptop and create a new folder in your drive called “Writing”. And write. Just write. If you are an outliner, build an outline. If you don’t know where to begin write journal-style entries about a topic that you disagree with or strongly advocate for. Write about something that you’ve been trying to convince your faculty to adopt. Brag about something that your law school does better than everyone else. Write about something entirely non-legal (your kids’ learning process, your journey to patience, struggles with emotional well-being, etc.) and then make analogous parallels into law teaching and the needs of our students. Your first draft writing need not be perfect, polished, or persuasive. It can be deficient, descriptive, and underdeveloped. But it must be written to be improved and shared with the world.