Friday, December 21, 2012

The Email Cover Memo

Like many other professors, I have my students turn in their papers electronically.  The email allows me to see that the students have submitted their papers on time.  I can see if they have used the grammar and style checking programs on their computers.  I can print out multiple copies if I need to (such as for in-class editing exercises).

And for the last two semesters, I've added something new -- the "email cover memo."  

Instead of an email saying something like "here's my paper, prof," I have students do an "email cover memo" to summarize the findings of their legal memo.  Having done it now for two semesters, I can say that it the results have been good.  It gives the students another writing opportunity.  It allows them to share information about their research that they might not include in the memorandum itself.  And it gives them an idea of how lawyers and others working in a law firm might actually communicate.  

I'm sure that many visitors to this blog must have tried something along these lines.  Would you mind sharing your experiences in the comments below?


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In my upper-level seminar on legal writing in civil practice, I have students e-mail various assignments to me while I play the role of the "real world" recepient. For example, one assignment requires students to write a demand letter to opposing counsel. After their drafts are submitted, I tell them that counsel did not respond within the designated time, and I have them follow up by e-mail. Often their e-mails are terse and unnecessarily hostile especially since they know nothing about why their opponent failed to respond. I answer these e-mails in my role as opposing counsel with a message apologizing for the lack of response and indicating some personal difficulty such as my child is in the hospital or I have been recovering injuries from a car wreck. In addition to giving students more writing practice, this exercise helps students realize that opposing counsel is also human and that a little courtesy can go a long way to building good professional relationships.

Posted by: Jo Ann Ragazzo | Dec 27, 2012 7:03:04 AM

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