Monday, March 17, 2014

Skills: Incorporating Legislative Advocacy into the First Year Legal Writing Classroom


One of the goals of the Legislation Law Prof Blog is to facilitate discussion among faculty about how we incorporate legislation into our courses.  I am among the growing body of legal writing faculty that incorporate legislative process, advocacy, and drafting into legal writing courses.  I’ve been fortunate at Seattle University because our program structure allows me to bring this experience to my first year students during the spring semester.   Seattle University’s first year program features collaborations between legal writing classes and either (1) a community non-profit or pro bono agency, or (2) Seattle University’s clinical program.  Although each professor can select their own focus for these collaborative projects, my spring collaborative project always focuses on an outside partner’s contemplated legislative proposal.    Through this experience, my first year students:

      • learn about legislative enactment and administrative rule-making processes: how a bill becomes law and how agency regulations are promulgate
      • gain insight into legislative, administrative, and judicial roles and      relationships in the lawmaking process
      • meet with the outside partner in class to learn about the partner’s real, contemplated legislative proposal
      • conduct both legal and non-legal research to support and analyze the partner’s contemplated legislative proposal
      • connect with outside practitioners, legislators, and legislative-lawyer alums through related guest lectures and class visits
      • learn basic interviewing skills; conduct interviews of various constituents (approved by the client); and incorporate the results of these interviews into their analysis
      • gain familiarity with some of the basic principles of legislative drafting
      • draft written analyses and recommendations for the outside partner
      • orally present the highlights of their written work to the partner in a final      meeting

For most of my students, this experience is not only their first opportunity to work on a “real world” issue for a real entity; it is also their first real glimpse into the world of legislative process and policymaking.  Many of my students report this experience as the highlight of their first year experience; others decide to pursue further legislative experience through clinics or externships; some have even changed course and decided to pursue legislative lawyering as a potential career option.

How do you incorporate legislation into your classes— legal writing or otherwise?  Please comment or contact us to share.

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