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Ohio Northern University Law Review

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In the early days of legal writing, we use exercises that have clear "right" answers. The rules are very simple and their meaning, even without looking at the cases, is usually clear. So, the "right" answer is often obvious. Indeed, it is intuitive. Though these exercises give students a sense of accomplishment and allow them to track achievement and understand success and failure, in some ways, they reinforce a common problem in first-year law students: their inability to see beyond the surface of a legal rule.

To ensure the "right" answer, students must distill not only a general rule, but derive its meaning from the facts, holdings, and reasoning of precedent cases. They must use what's explicit as well as what's implicit in the cases. They must make reasonable inferences from the facts, and not disregard common sense or ignore practical implications and everyday realities. In other words, they must approach the assignment as a skilled practitioner. Therefore, after the most preliminary assignments, when the meaning of the general rule is not easily discernable and the "right" answer is counterintuitive, students usually get the answer "wrong" because they neglect all but the most obvious analysis.



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