Legal Writing woes

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waxecstatic
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Legal Writing woes

Postby waxecstatic » Mon Nov 14, 2011 2:43 pm

I got back the rough draft of my memo, which was graded, and while it only accounts for 10%, I received a C-, which might as well be an F in law school. The professor said my grade was undermined by citation errors and not having mentioned certain key words. For example, one element of a statute could be described fully and comprehensively, but apparently not explicit mentioning some key word she is looking for, for all practical purposes, I haven't mentioned it all. So she writes "X was not mentioned at all" despite it being exhaustively defined, analyzed, and exemplified. Then, there is "imprecise language"---well I don't know many other interpretations for saying client guilty of having Xed.

I honestly am up to my eyeballs in frustration with this class. Any advice is appreciated.

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monkey85
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Re: Legal Writing woes

Postby monkey85 » Mon Nov 14, 2011 2:50 pm

Do you have a writing center or writing fellows? go see them

Know any upperclassmen who had the prof. or a 1L mentor to help you? go see them

Otherwise, not too sure how to help you with your professor/school/writing program specific questions. Good luck, though.

target
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Re: Legal Writing woes

Postby target » Mon Nov 14, 2011 3:10 pm

monkey85 wrote:Do you have a writing center or writing fellows? go see them

Know any upperclassmen who had the prof. or a 1L mentor to help you? go see them

Otherwise, not too sure how to help you with your professor/school/writing program specific questions. Good luck, though.


+1 to this.

Did you make a detailed outline before writing? Sometimes I find a good outline helps with concise and not missing key words. What is your memo on btw?

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ggocat
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Re: Legal Writing woes

Postby ggocat » Mon Nov 14, 2011 3:14 pm

Go chat with prof to discuss ways you can improve.

Seminole_305
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Re: Legal Writing woes

Postby Seminole_305 » Mon Nov 14, 2011 4:23 pm

Cali Lessons for Legal Writing.

I am almost positive I did way better on my Open Memo.

03121202698008
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Re: Legal Writing woes

Postby 03121202698008 » Mon Nov 14, 2011 5:17 pm

What was the keyword? Is it a well-known phrase like actual malice or something that has legal significance?

waxecstatic
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Re: Legal Writing woes

Postby waxecstatic » Mon Nov 14, 2011 6:55 pm

blowhard wrote:What was the keyword? Is it a well-known phrase like actual malice or something that has legal significance?



Apparent ability with respect to credible threat, which is an ingredient for stalking. I demonstrated how something is/isn't a credible threat exhaustively yet not saying "apparent ability" I guess nullified all that.

Guilty of harassment, necessary yet insufficient for stalking, was seen as imprecise.

adonai
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Re: Legal Writing woes

Postby adonai » Mon Nov 14, 2011 7:12 pm

waxecstatic wrote:For example, one element of a statute could be described fully and comprehensively, but apparently not explicit mentioning some key word she is looking for, for all practical purposes, I haven't mentioned it all.

This is exactly the problem I had starting out. You can't expect anyone to take the extra step of inferring from your words. You really have to be straightforward and on point. That is the purpose of the memo. Someone presumably later on is going to be reading it and needs to get the quick points and understand it easily. That is why they make you even do the memo so they don't have to go through the extra step of processing everything and making connections. I am a 1L but I got good feedback after fixing this major error. I attribute it to not being able to shake off the undergrad way of writing.

For class purposes, you just have to really get into your prof's brain and prod for what she's looking for. In practice this may be different, but for grade purposes I realized you need to do this even if it means reevaluating the style/writing process you've done your whole life.
Last edited by adonai on Mon Nov 14, 2011 7:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Extension_Cord
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Re: Legal Writing woes

Postby Extension_Cord » Mon Nov 14, 2011 7:14 pm

waxecstatic wrote:
blowhard wrote:What was the keyword? Is it a well-known phrase like actual malice or something that has legal significance?



Apparent ability with respect to credible threat, which is an ingredient for stalking. I demonstrated how something is/isn't a credible threat exhaustively yet not saying "apparent ability" I guess nullified all that.

Guilty of harassment, necessary yet insufficient for stalking, was seen as imprecise.


I don't think its a huge error, but its definately counted against you. If you got C on that alone then you now know exactly what your professor wants. Dont sweat it much, its only 10% of your grade and you have some guidance on what to change. You'll be alright. I got median on my draft memo (C range) and ended up with an A on the final version.

Also, are you sure its a C? You dont go off the raw score, but the class average.

03121202698008
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Re: Legal Writing woes

Postby 03121202698008 » Mon Nov 14, 2011 7:52 pm

Extension_Cord wrote:
waxecstatic wrote:
blowhard wrote:What was the keyword? Is it a well-known phrase like actual malice or something that has legal significance?



Apparent ability with respect to credible threat, which is an ingredient for stalking. I demonstrated how something is/isn't a credible threat exhaustively yet not saying "apparent ability" I guess nullified all that.

Guilty of harassment, necessary yet insufficient for stalking, was seen as imprecise.


I don't think its a huge error, but its definately counted against you. If you got C on that alone then you now know exactly what your professor wants. Dont sweat it much, its only 10% of your grade and you have some guidance on what to change. You'll be alright. I got median on my draft memo (C range) and ended up with an A on the final version.

Also, are you sure its a C? You dont go off the raw score, but the class average.


Uh, that is definitely a key word. In a real brief, the court would be looking for it and you to address it. You really need to pay attention to terms of art you see over and over again. Especially something descriptive like apparent ability. That term alone connotes some of the standard of what is a credible threat. All of the cases you cite are then about what is apparent ability.

In some cases, not using these key words can have big results. E.g. over the summer I wrote an opinion where they failed to plead malicious prosecution. They alleged a bunch of things that suggested they meant to, like false imprisonment and allegations of racial motive, but they never stated this very specific claim...which the supreme court has said means something different. Not pleading it meant they were barred by the statute of limitations. (In reality, all of their claims were barred on their own...but that one would have survived.) We definitely saw a lot of questionable briefs but the court wouldn't go out of its way to read in a claim or element that was omitted.

Also, OPs prof may curve at the end of the class and therefore the curve wouldn't matter on each assignment. My Com Trans professor does this with quizes we take. They aren't curve but the final grade is obviously curved.

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Extension_Cord
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Re: Legal Writing woes

Postby Extension_Cord » Mon Nov 14, 2011 8:01 pm

blowhard wrote:
Extension_Cord wrote:
waxecstatic wrote:
blowhard wrote:What was the keyword? Is it a well-known phrase like actual malice or something that has legal significance?



Apparent ability with respect to credible threat, which is an ingredient for stalking. I demonstrated how something is/isn't a credible threat exhaustively yet not saying "apparent ability" I guess nullified all that.

Guilty of harassment, necessary yet insufficient for stalking, was seen as imprecise.


I don't think its a huge error, but its definately counted against you. If you got C on that alone then you now know exactly what your professor wants. Dont sweat it much, its only 10% of your grade and you have some guidance on what to change. You'll be alright. I got median on my draft memo (C range) and ended up with an A on the final version.

Also, are you sure its a C? You dont go off the raw score, but the class average.


Uh, that is definitely a key word. In a real brief, the court would be looking for it and you to address it. You really need to pay attention to terms of art you see over and over again. Especially something descriptive like apparent ability. That term alone connotes some of the standard of what is a credible threat. All of the cases you cite are then about what is apparent ability.

In some cases, not using these key words can have big results. E.g. over the summer I wrote an opinion where they failed to plead malicious prosecution. They alleged a bunch of things that suggested they meant to, like false imprisonment and allegations of racial motive, but they never stated this very specific claim...which the supreme court has said means something different. Not pleading it meant they were barred by the statute of limitations. (In reality, all of their claims were barred on their own...but that one would have survived.) We definitely saw a lot of questionable briefs but the court wouldn't go out of its way to read in a claim or element that was omitted.

Also, OPs prof may curve at the end of the class and therefore the curve wouldn't matter on each assignment. My Com Trans professor does this with quizes we take. They aren't curve but the final grade is obviously curved.


I know its a keyword, but I was being optimistic that its an easy thing to fix. Better to learn these things on your draft memo than the real deal.

random5483
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Re: Legal Writing woes

Postby random5483 » Mon Nov 14, 2011 8:26 pm

Talk to your professor. Find out what she wants. Tailor your paper to your professor.

Each professor wants something different. My LRW professor last year and the law clerk I worked with over the summer had different ideas of what constitutes good writing. In each case, I conformed my writing to what THEY want.

In law school exams you study for the class and for the professor. Some professors like policy arguments, others want straight black letter law, yet others like tons of case cites. Similarly, in an LRW memo, you tailor your memo to the person grading your paper. This is a draft memo only worth 10% of your grade. Work with her, talk to your school's academic advisor or writing center or whatever you have and get their input too. If you want to excel even more find your professor's law review/journal articles and read them and emulate her writing style.

Also, there is no excuse for bluebook or grammatical errors. You should have few to none. Bluebooking for LRW classes is very easy. Keep it simple and precise.

Good luck.




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