Perspectives: Teaching Legal Research and Writing
First-year legal writing students always plead for model examples of the types of writing we teach. Though most legal writing texts include an appendix of sample legal documents, the students invariably ask for more. They insist that a multitude of samples are needed to fully grasp the structure and organizational approach that is expected of them. Their reasons for wanting models of good legal writing are not without merit. Interoffice memoranda, trial and appellate briefs, as well as the other kinds of legal documents we teach in the first-year writing curriculum are unlike anything our law students have previously seen or written. Through studying samples, students are able to identify the analytical framework used to organize the discussions of varied legal issues and then apply it to their writing assignments. The more samples they have at their disposal, the easier it will be for them to emulate that framework.More samples also reinforce the reality that there is “no one structure which fits all presentations.” Because we teach students to analyze legal problems using traditional paradigms like IRAC, particularly in the first semester, they are often misled into thinking that the presentation of legal analysis must be formulaic and rigid.As the writing assignments become more complicated, we want our students to realize there are different and more sophisticated approaches to organization. This can be accomplished through the use of models.