Sm Firm Hiring P wrote:quakeroats wrote:Sm Firm Hiring P wrote:DocHawkeye wrote:Thanks for taking the time to answer questions. I am interested in practicing in a small firm and this thread is of particular interest to me. I am currently a 1L and am wondering how much a A in legal writing and/or prizes (such as best memo or best brief in the 1L class) balance a single slightly below median grade in a substantive course (a C+ in torts for example)? Also how much do you consider the need for writing in an applicant's prior career? For example, I was a community college instructor in music before law school and wrote fairly extensively - conference papers, program notes, and the like.
I might depend somewhat on the small firm. Our firm handles fairly sophisticated business transactions and commercial litigation, so writing is especially important to us. Not the only thing, but a good writing grade is a big plus. Obviously, given our practice areas, torts is not real important. I look for undergraduate business majors, english majors and journalism majors as a plus and preferable over political science. Again, we are a business firm so those things are attractive. As I mentioned above, the number one reason associates fail at our firm is poor writing despite our efforts to identify candidates who we think will be able to write well in private practice.
Inability to concisely write a document, memo or pleading in a form that is unambiguous. If it is a legal agreement, knowing what representations and warranties, covenants and agreements, default provisions, special agreements and miscellaneous clauses are necessary and understanding what they mean. Using defined terms effectively. In a memo, making it direct and to the point with answer and any collateral issues easily understood. In a pleading, allegations that are clear and sequential so you lay it out in a manner a busy judge can understand. Almost like writing a story that you can easily follow and get the reader to understand what you are saying and why. It takes a lot of work even with the best new associates. I tell our new hires I expect to hand them a blank legal pad (I know it is the computer age, but they understand) in 2 years and have them draft a letter agreement from scratch without the use of templates or examples, in near perfect form in less than an hour. My mentor told me that when I was starting out and I did not believe him. But after much pain in learning and having lots of red on my drafts, I was in fact, able to do it.
At what point does a legal writing grade cease to be a metric (i.e. once you have a "real" writing portfolio, as opposed to school assignments)? Would, say, real world writing product from interning for a judge (and his positive recommendation on writing ability) adequately supersede a low legal writing grade?