help with legal writing please?

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Turing
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Joined: Thu Jan 06, 2011 6:08 pm

help with legal writing please?

Postby Turing » Thu Jan 06, 2011 6:47 pm

I am sure this question has been asked before but I was wondering if anyone could point out some useful suppliment or guidance for legal writing. I got my writing grade back today and I literally got the worst grade in my writing section. I've been sitting around dumbfounded since I saw the grade. I really don't know what to do about it. I didn't understand what was going on the whole semester. I really don't think I slacked off or tried to BS my way through the papers. I worked hard on them. But I just didn't get it. I still don't. I read the prof's feedback and the stuff he wrote makes sense. I can see how choosing one case instead of another makes sense or how I could have marshalled some better facts for my arguments... but I can't see the big picture. I really am not sure what the prof is looking for.

FWIW, I tried using the search tool at the bootom of the page and scanned through many recents posts including the FAQ. Thanks in advance.

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dibs
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Re: help with legal writing please?

Postby dibs » Thu Jan 06, 2011 7:14 pm

i can offer what worked for me, if you would like.

a lot of people started with their analysis sections before anything else. these are likely strictly big picture people, and if they're not, they are probably approaching it wrong. as you say you're not big picture, perhaps it would be best to follow the method i take. i start with my statement of facts and i write a story that i want to tell. i chronologically walk the reader through the facts. as you do this, you'll be able to paint a picture of the law you're trying to analyze. sometimes when you can't see where things are going, organizing thoughts into a linear path will help you discover it.

tl;dr: understand the law to analyze, read over the factual scenario, write a story that will eventually lead you to a factual conclusion. legal analysis may flow from this process.

works for me, at least. everybody processes information different.

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LAWYER2
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Re: help with legal writing please?

Postby LAWYER2 » Thu Jan 06, 2011 8:23 pm

I struggled on my first memo, then got a better picture on how to approach the second (final). I found that writing an outline TREMENDOUSLY helped me. Enumerating the rules, explaining them, then explaining how they pertain to your argument, then concluding it by (very) briefly saying it all over again.
By tailoring my writing so that it flows to an average person rather than a lawyer, also really helped.
The book Plain English for Lawyers really helps

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mikeytwoshoes
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Re: help with legal writing please?

Postby mikeytwoshoes » Thu Jan 06, 2011 9:11 pm

LAWYER2 wrote:I struggled on my first memo, then got a better picture on how to approach the second (final). I found that writing an outline TREMENDOUSLY helped me. Enumerating the rules, explaining them, then explaining how they pertain to your argument, then concluding it by (very) briefly saying it all over again.
By tailoring my writing so that it flows to an average person rather than a lawyer, also really helped.
The book Plain English for Lawyers really helps

+1 despite the omission of a period

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Amy wineBerry
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Re: help with legal writing please?

Postby Amy wineBerry » Thu Jan 06, 2011 11:33 pm

The best supplement is your professor. I don't get my open memo back until tomorrow, but my professor has already given us her spill, and I'm sure it probably applies to you and your situation. If it's clear you aren't getting it, please go see your professor. Take time to go through things. Sometimes it takes the one-on-one instruction to spell out what's going on. Although I put no effort into my closed memo, I was still confused as to how I had done so poorly. I mean, I had followed her example, or so I had thought. She pointed out to me where I had gone wrong. When it came time for the open memo, I saw her often about my draft. In doing so, I was better able to grasp where I was going wrong in the writing process. Take your open memo in to your professor and go through it. Then take that feedback to your appellate brief. If your professor allows it, use office hours early on to flesh out the disconnect between your thoughts and the appropriate way to articulate them.

Don't know if this helps, but I found that I knew what I should have been doing regarding the content of the memo; I just wouldn't write it down. The facts I thought were unnecessary were the very ones I needed to include in order to make explicit parallels and connections. Once that started to click, I was golden. Even if my memo grade does not fare as well as I'm hoping, I know I've made progress...and if need be, that's what I plan to tell perspective employers during interviews.

Best of luck.

Turing
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Joined: Thu Jan 06, 2011 6:08 pm

Re: help with legal writing please?

Postby Turing » Thu Jan 06, 2011 11:59 pm

Thanks. I,ll start reading plain english tonight. My meetings with my prof were pretty much useless last semester but I.ll double down and try to meet with him more often. If anyone knows where to go to get a good text book with a few examples that would really help a lot too.

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Amy wineBerry
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Re: help with legal writing please?

Postby Amy wineBerry » Fri Jan 07, 2011 12:17 am

Turing wrote:Thanks. I,ll start reading plain english tonight. My meetings with my prof were pretty much useless last semester but I.ll double down and try to meet with him more often. If anyone knows where to go to get a good text book with a few examples that would really help a lot too.


We're using the book Writing and Analysis in the Law by Helene S. Shapo for class. Also, do you have a student fellow in your legal writing class to whom you can turn to for help? I haven't utilized the students provided to us, as I find it better to go to the professor since she's the one grading my assignment. Other students swear by their student fellows, though.

random5483
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Re: help with legal writing please?

Postby random5483 » Fri Jan 07, 2011 2:19 am

I have found help from upper division students somewhat helpful. Some of them are good, while others are pretty damn horrible. Not every "smart" student is a good teacher.

Anyways, it is usually best to go to the professor. Student TAs or equivalent are good secondary sources (and so our classmates). Legal Writing was the one class where I met my professor frequently during office hours. I learnt early in the semester that each writing professor has their own criteria. My friend in another section and I were sometimes receiving contradicting information. Simply put, find out what your professor wants (especially in legal writing classes).

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LAWYER2
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Re: help with legal writing please?

Postby LAWYER2 » Fri Jan 07, 2011 9:32 am

My LW teacher sucked, he had a difficult time manifesting his expectations into actual words. I'm really praying he isn't invited back to teach the second term.
It wasn't till I sat down with the TA, that I finally had that "I get it now" moment.




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