Summer associate legal writing advice

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Summer associate legal writing advice

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Apr 02, 2013 1:58 am

I'm a 1L at a T10 school and I recently got a 1L summer associate position at a big firm. I made the very practical decision to focus on my doctrinal courses rather than legal writing in my first semester (it didn't help that my professor was awful). Anyway, I did very well in my doctrinal courses -- which is probably why I got the job -- but I didn't really learn a thing about legal writing. I am totally unprepared; I feel like I don't even know how to Shepardize. Is there any book I can read/video I can watch to prepare me for my briefs/memos etc this summer? I want to do the best job I can. I can't overstate how little I know about legal writing. I didn't take it as seriously as I should have.

Second question: my second semester grades are going to suck for various reasons. Will the second semester grades alone affect my ability to get an offer to return to the firm my 2L summer? (It's a well known firm, but in a smaller legal market -- not NY/LA/SF/DC). I've heard mixed things.

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Re: Summer associate legal writing advice

Postby josehill » Tue Apr 02, 2013 7:00 am


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Re: Summer associate legal writing advice

Postby arizonairish » Tue Apr 02, 2013 7:25 am

similar to my concerns, I read on an older thread that "Plain English for Lawyers" was helpful.

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Re: Summer associate legal writing advice

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Apr 02, 2013 8:12 am

It's a common situation to blow off Legal Research & Writing because of the relatively low amount of credits it's worth, only to feel later like you've failed to absorb the most practical thing that was introduced to you during 1L. While there's wisdom to the feeling, I don't think you should worry. You aren't expected to leave LRW knowing very much, and it's not that hard to catch up.

Legal writing is mostly about writing with simplicity, clarity, and impact. Most of the "rules" that you're introduced to in LRW simply serve this policy, and when the rules don't serve this policy, an exception to the rules is in order. I think that so long as you keep this in mind and edit thoroughly for punctuation and grammar, you'll be fine. If you'd still like a specific source that will help you refine your legal writing, you should check out virtually anything by Bryan Garner. Bryan Garner is often heralded as the foremost authority on effective legal writing, and everything he has to say on the matter is straight-forward and illuminating. His book Legal Writing in Plain English is, in my opinion, his best and most generally applicable book. The Winning Brief is another famous one that concentrates specifically on persuasive writing (e.g. appellate briefs, motions), and it reiterates much of what is said in Legal Writing in Plain English. Both books are short and easy to read. I'm sure they're probably in your library, but you can obviously get your own hard copies or the kindle versions if you prefer.

As far as legal research, I don’t think people will expect your skills to be very advanced as a 1L. As a starting point, if you have an easy way to find out whether your firm uses Westlaw, Lexis, or both, that will help you concentrate your limited time on getting familiar with one platform. For a 1L SA, my guess is that you’ll just be expected to be familiar with basic research tools like secondary sources, annotated codes, and sheppardizing cases—if they even expect that much. I think both platforms have tutorials on these topics, so I would just do those. Additionally, I would contact your westlaw/lexis rep to ask them for advice and if they will be offering any more training sessions for the year.

Honestly, though, I think the absolute best way to spend your time right now is worrying about your grades. Maintaining your grades will presumably improve the chances that your summer firm will extend an offer to return to you, and it will definitely improve the chances that you’ll be able to find another firm if this one falls through. I know you said there are various reasons for your expected grade dive, but I guess this prediction just doesn’t make sense to me if there’s still a month to go and you feel you have time to work on your research and writing. People have pulled off stellar semesters with much less time to prepare.

HTH. Good luck.

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