Monday, February 23, 2015

Correcting a misunderstanding of what legal writing professors teach

Over on the legal Skills Prof Blog, legal writing professor and scholar Scott Fruehwald has posted an incisive response to a Newsweek piece by Lewis and Clark’s former dean James Huffman. Huffman argued that the traditional law school model needs reform, a point Fruehwald does not disagree with. But his ire was aroused—as was mine—by Huffman’s notion that legal writing skills should not be taught in law school, but instead should be acquired before then. Fruehwald points out that Huffman’s view of the legal writing course is “nonsense.”  Rather than simply covering basic writing skills, the course covers legal analysis and how to communicate it. That content “cannot be taught in undergraduate school.”

Huffman’s dismissal of legal writing courses comes at a particularly inopportune time. This blog has previously discussed the increasingly weak preparation of some law students, and just last year an entire conference at Duquesne was devoted to teaching the underprepared law student. So as we teach how to communicate legal analysis, we must remind students of points about grammar, organization, and clarity that they should have learned in undergraduate school or earlier. Legal writing courses are needed now more than ever.


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