Sunday, August 22, 2010

comparing apples to case briefs

3608 The other day I baked an apple crisp for the first time. I followed a cookbook’s basic recipe. The suggested variations sounded interesting, but I wanted to try to make a basic apple crisp first. It came out okay and was eaten up quickly. I asked family members what they thought of it and what they thought of the cookbook’s suggested variations. In the end I thought my first apple crisp came out okay, but I would do things a little differently the next time.

And then it struck me: making my first apple crisp was just like being a new 1L writing her first case brief. The first time, she follows the basic format, from a textbook or a professor’s handout, which is like following the basic recipe in a cookbook. That first case brief probably comes out okay. And then the professor or teaching assistant gives the student a little feedback, suggesting variations that might be helpful. Likely the new 1L comes to realize that her first case brief was okay, but she too would do things a little differently the next time.

I explained this analogy to my new legal writing students last week. I told them I’m going to make my second apple crisp this weekend, and they’re going to write their second case briefs, and we’ll both try things a little differently and likely have even better results. They seemed relieved.


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