How to get an A in Legal Research & Writing

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choochoo
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Re: How to get an A in Legal Research & Writing

Postby choochoo » Mon Aug 27, 2012 1:51 am

I agree with the posts above. Also, make sure you aren't writing in passive voice. I had no idea how much I did this until law school.

071816
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Re: How to get an A in Legal Research & Writing

Postby 071816 » Fri Aug 31, 2012 6:47 pm

write drunk; edit sober.

NotMyRealName09
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Re: How to get an A in Legal Research & Writing

Postby NotMyRealName09 » Sun Sep 02, 2012 5:33 pm

choochoo wrote:I agree with the posts above. Also, make sure you aren't writing in passive voice. I had no idea how much I did this until law school.


MSWord's grammar checker can highlight this - look up how to set it up, but its very good at it and will find every time you do it. Just write your paper like normal - don't worry about passive language - then go back with the grammar checker, note where you used passive language, and edit it out. For me, its natural to write in passive language (and, not to 1get ahead of myself, but using it is FINE in normal writing if you know when its ok). But, for LRW, take it out to stand out.

henry flower
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Re: How to get an A in Legal Research & Writing

Postby henry flower » Sun Sep 02, 2012 10:50 pm

I think the key is pay attention to your professor. For whatever reason, LRW professors grade very idiosyncratically, and A-earning LRW-writing does not have much to do with good legal writing at all. Your summer employer will laugh at you when you try to write your first assignment LRW-style.

DO NOT read other books on legal writing and DO NOT pay too much attention to your textbook, unless your professor wrote it.

DO NOT try to write fancily, wittily, or stylishly at all. Use short, declarative sentences.

DO go to office hours and try to force the professor to give you specific feedback. If you come in with an agenda of two things you want to discuss about your memo/brief, and keep asking about it, the professor will be forced to go beyond platitudes and tell you what the professor really wants.

DO read the sample "best briefs" or "best memos" and copy them pretty much exactly for the final.

My professor wanted:

A) Paragraphs that were 40% topic sentence. Seriously, the same topic sentence repeated at least once in the beginning and then once, word-juggled, at the end, and maybe again in the middle if you could fit it in without it sounding TOO dumb.
B) Clear rule statements. This actually is very important in legal writing. So, yeah, not all of it is dumb.
B) Two case comparisons for each point, with precise factual comparisons, i.e., why it is like this case and not like this case, and how that should affect the results.

I would suggest minimal time investment until the final, as long as you feel you can copy the structure of the example briefs almost exactly.

lawyerwannabe
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Re: How to get an A in Legal Research & Writing

Postby lawyerwannabe » Sun Sep 02, 2012 10:56 pm

1- Pay attention in-class
2- Start writing early
3- Go to all your professor's office hours so they can read what you have written
4- Put in a ton of effort and finish early
5 - Edit, edit, edit (especially citations)
6 - ???
7 - Profit.

Everyone is going to write something incredibly similar on pretty much every assignment. The people who get the best grades are knit-picky and have spent the most time with the professor.

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mattviphky
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Re: How to get an A in Legal Research & Writing

Postby mattviphky » Mon Sep 03, 2012 4:36 pm

do schools typically grade lrw?

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northwood
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Re: How to get an A in Legal Research & Writing

Postby northwood » Mon Sep 03, 2012 6:38 pm

Mine did.. But only one grade for the year. First semester was pass fail second semester was letter grade. But assignments from the firat semester accounted for half of the yearly grade.

sparty99
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Re: How to get an A in Legal Research & Writing

Postby sparty99 » Mon Sep 03, 2012 7:10 pm

I think reading actual-real-life case briefs filed in the court and dissenting opinions can be useful for arguments/analysis ideas.

henry flower
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Re: How to get an A in Legal Research & Writing

Postby henry flower » Mon Sep 03, 2012 9:12 pm

sparty99 wrote:I think reading actual-real-life case briefs filed in the court and dissenting opinions can be useful for arguments/analysis ideas.


I have to disagree here. Just read the examples your professor gives you and stick to those religiously. Reading briefs and (to a lesser extent) dissenting opinions is a great way to improve your real-life legal writing, but LRW writing and real-life legal writing are very different creatures.

acirilli1722
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Re: How to get an A in Legal Research & Writing

Postby acirilli1722 » Mon Sep 03, 2012 9:25 pm

tag

sparty99
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Re: How to get an A in Legal Research & Writing

Postby sparty99 » Tue Sep 04, 2012 12:10 am

henry flower wrote:
sparty99 wrote:I think reading actual-real-life case briefs filed in the court and dissenting opinions can be useful for arguments/analysis ideas.


I have to disagree here. Just read the examples your professor gives you and stick to those religiously. Reading briefs and (to a lesser extent) dissenting opinions is a great way to improve your real-life legal writing, but LRW writing and real-life legal writing are very different creatures.


The memos and briefs that I wrote in school were no different than what I wrote at the firm.

henry flower
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Re: How to get an A in Legal Research & Writing

Postby henry flower » Tue Sep 04, 2012 6:06 pm

sparty99 wrote:
henry flower wrote:
sparty99 wrote:I think reading actual-real-life case briefs filed in the court and dissenting opinions can be useful for arguments/analysis ideas.


I have to disagree here. Just read the examples your professor gives you and stick to those religiously. Reading briefs and (to a lesser extent) dissenting opinions is a great way to improve your real-life legal writing, but LRW writing and real-life legal writing are very different creatures.


The memos and briefs that I wrote in school were no different than what I wrote at the firm.


Some schools have really solid legal writing programs. Most do not. You got lucky. If OP is similarly lucky, than your advice might be credited. But whether she is or is not, OP can't lose by doing exactly what the teacher says and closely following the examples she gives. She can, however, lose by taking her cues from a bunch of random briefs and dissenting opinions that the professor could very well dislike.

Believe me, I know. I had a mediocre first semester in LRW because I paid close attention to Garner's advice (which is generally great), tried to emulate the briefs that Roberts wrote as SG and while at Hogan (some of the best briefs you will ever read), etc. and got heavily penalized for it. I didn't do a poor job, either. My TA said she thought my writing was quite good. It just wan't what the professor wanted. She was grading according to a sheet, and the stuff that I did was not checking her boxes.

Second semester I did exactly what the professor said. I went to office hours religiously. I copied the structure and style of the professor's posted examples (which I thought were awful, just awful) very closely. With all of that I ended up with an A- for the year. Since the first semester (although technically ungraded it was worth 40% of the yearlong grade) was close to a B-, this meant my second semester was a tremendous leap forward.

sparty99
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Re: How to get an A in Legal Research & Writing

Postby sparty99 » Tue Sep 04, 2012 11:54 pm

henry flower wrote:
sparty99 wrote:
henry flower wrote:
sparty99 wrote:I think reading actual-real-life case briefs filed in the court and dissenting opinions can be useful for arguments/analysis ideas.


I have to disagree here. Just read the examples your professor gives you and stick to those religiously. Reading briefs and (to a lesser extent) dissenting opinions is a great way to improve your real-life legal writing, but LRW writing and real-life legal writing are very different creatures.


The memos and briefs that I wrote in school were no different than what I wrote at the firm.


Some schools have really solid legal writing programs. Most do not. You got lucky. If OP is similarly lucky, than your advice might be credited. But whether she is or is not, OP can't lose by doing exactly what the teacher says and closely following the examples she gives. She can, however, lose by taking her cues from a bunch of random briefs and dissenting opinions that the professor could very well dislike.

Believe me, I know. I had a mediocre first semester in LRW because I paid close attention to Garner's advice (which is generally great), tried to emulate the briefs that Roberts wrote as SG and while at Hogan (some of the best briefs you will ever read), etc. and got heavily penalized for it. I didn't do a poor job, either. My TA said she thought my writing was quite good. It just wan't what the professor wanted. She was grading according to a sheet, and the stuff that I did was not checking her boxes.

Second semester I did exactly what the professor said. I went to office hours religiously. I copied the structure and style of the professor's posted examples (which I thought were awful, just awful) very closely. With all of that I ended up with an A- for the year. Since the first semester (although technically ungraded it was worth 40% of the yearlong grade) was close to a B-, this meant my second semester was a tremendous leap forward.


Getting arguments/analysis ideas from real things is not structure/style. It is arguments/analysis which is part of legal writing - academic or non-academic. You can insert arguments/analysis into whatever structure/style a professor wants.

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fatduck
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Re: How to get an A in Legal Research & Writing

Postby fatduck » Wed Sep 05, 2012 12:43 am

look, reading some supreme court briefs isn't going to ruin you for LRW forever or anything. the point is not to forget that LRW, like all law school classes, is a game of "put the right things on the exam (or paper)" to get the most points/best grade.

you wouldn't tell someone studying for crim to "read a bunch of real-life criminal cases, that way you can learn how to make persuasive arguments in different fact situations," even though that might be a great way to learn more about criminal law. writing smart/clever/well-reasoned answers, in and of itself, gets you nothing. it's all about figuring out what the professor considers A material and submitting it.

not saying your advice is necessarily bad, but it might lead unsuspecting 1Ls into the common trap of treating LRW differently than other 1L classes.

henry flower
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Re: How to get an A in Legal Research & Writing

Postby henry flower » Thu Sep 06, 2012 3:00 am

First of all, you can't really separate "structure" from "arguments" as I am using the terms, because I am talking about, you guessed it, the structure of your arguments. That is what you should be precisely copying from the examples your LRW professor gives you. In LRW, trust me, they want really simple arguments. They will take basically two forms.

This is like this, so the result should be this.
This is not like this, so the result should not be this.

Aside from that, you might have a sliding scale/TOC argument, where you basically use variations on those two arguments to set up the respective ends of the sliding scale/TOC and then argue using precise factual (This is like this, so this. This is not like this, so not that.) comparisons to argue exactly where your case fits.

That's as complicated as it will get. Reading Supreme Court briefs will not help you with that. In fact, it will confuse you, because SCOTUS briefs are filled with policy arguments and slippery slopes that you will generally want to avoid in LRW in favor of your most basic syllogisms. Chances are there are no points on LRW professor's rubric's for "sophisticated" arguments or policy. However, there is plenty of room for the most basic of basic legal arguments on that rubric.

Like I said earlier, there is a chance your approach could help, if you have a super-appellate oriented LRW professor or one who emphasizes creativity, but there is also a huge chance it could result in a very poor grade. I know from experience. Do exactly what your professor tells you. Make basic legal arguments, but make them as airtight as possible.

Importantly, just figure out whatever other weird things the professor wants. If you figure out she wants you to pretend like yer a Taney, Taft, Fortas, Bork, Miers, or another similar jurisprudential luminary, go for the gold and try your approach multiplied by ten-thousand like Rocky's training regimen in IV. But that's not gonna happen. Keep it so so so basic. Children's literature is probably a better starting point than something Scalia wrote.

You can win at LRW. Don't think too hard about it. Make love not to your professor, but to his/her ideas about legal writing.

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drmguy
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Re: How to get an A in Legal Research & Writing

Postby drmguy » Thu Sep 06, 2012 3:03 am

Luck

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northwood
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Re: How to get an A in Legal Research & Writing

Postby northwood » Thu Sep 06, 2012 7:16 am

dont try to be a supreme court justice, unless you are explicitly told to do so. ( which you most likely won't be). Prof's love ot teach you how to write to a managing partner, which is very different than a supreme court justice

sparty99
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Re: How to get an A in Legal Research & Writing

Postby sparty99 » Tue Sep 11, 2012 5:39 pm

If there is a case that I want to cite, I read other cases that cite to it and then I copy how that court laid out the facts or introduced the case that I want to cite. Sometimes just cut and paste.




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