Legal Writing Support

November 17, 2008

J.P., 1L

There may be no more daunting prospect for all soon-to-be-1Ls than the impending need to dive headfirst into the peculiar world of legal writing. As I was staring down the start of my law school career only a few short months ago, the thought of adapting my writing to a completely new set of norms and requirements was intimidating, to say the least. Luckily, I need not have been worried: one of the many strengths of the first semester program here at YLS is the breadth and depth of support available to help 1Ls adjust to the demands of legal writing.

This is not to say that the world of legal writing doesn’t take some adjustment. Whether it’s memos or briefs, contracts or complaints, interrogatories or injunctions, the rules can seem abstruse, the citations arcane, the specifications absurd. Should the brief have a “Table of Statutes” section, or a “Table of Authorities”? Is a journal citation formatted in Italics, or SMALL CAPS? Should footnotes be in 8 pt. font, or 9 pt., and will the clerk of the court round up or down if she finds it’s in between? (believe it or not, I’m not making that last one up…)

Part of the first semester program at YLS is the inclusion of a specific Legal Writing curriculum to address these (and many more) questions. Throughout the course of the term, 1Ls have small group meetings with legal writing professor Rob Harrison. Rob (as he insists on being called) is a font of information and advice, and manages to guide us towards professional and proficient legal writing with a unique blend of instruction, humor, and personal attention (among other amazing feats, Rob memorizes the names of all ~190 members of the incoming class before they arrive on campus from their YLS photos). We have had specific sessions on memo writing, the use of appropriate writing styles in legal writing, construction of appellate briefs, and more. Rob is always available to meet with students individually if they have further questions. Additionally, 1Ls have countless other resources to help shape their legal writing abilities. Whether it’s individual attention from small group professors and TAs (usually 3Ls who remember all too well what it was like to hone the legal writing craft as a first year student), advice from our amazing librarians, or the guidance of fellow classmates, there are always resources to help you adjust to the demands of legal writing here at YLS.

Having already completed my first several legal writing assignments, I can attest to the tremendous guidance and support I received from many areas of the YLS first year program. While I won’t say that the adjustment to legal writing is always easy, I will say that the law school ensures we 1Ls are never without the appropriate support to make such an adjustment successfully.