Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Legal Writing Resources Update
My friend Ed Good, the author of Oops Me: A Grammar Book for You and I ... Oops Me!, has created Lawmanac, a software package available to law students (as well as lawyers). With one click, Lawmanac allows you to retrieve from your hard drive rules on legal citation, punctuation, abbreviations, capitalization, typeface, sample legal citations, a 4700-word legal dictionary, the full text of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Criminal Procedure, Appellate Procedure, Bankruptcy Procedure, Evidence, and the U.S. Constitution. Lawmanac also provides a 20-lesson, online training program in legal citation and style. Whew! Many legal writing faculty have already downloaded Lawmanac. See what they think. Some law schools have already made this comprehensive software package available to law students. Although Lawmanac is not interactive (i.e., with a press of a button it won't globally change or replace your text or citation), the idea of an on-screen icon providing resources like these is overdue.

Thursday, July 31, 2003

Qualifying My Advice
The last thing I want to do through this Blog is to come off as a prolific blowhard on legal writing. Please hold me to that. In fact, spend some time reading law student blogs and you'll find a consensus among them that advice from lawyers on studying, exam taking and workplace should be taken with a grain of salt. One law student commented on the frustration he felt after receiving multiple answers to the same question about studying. Apparently, many law students expect some sort of comformity from lawyers and law professors regarding how they can succeed. I doubt there is one particular way to approach law school work. But that may be the point. Develop your own ideas of what works for you (and what doesn't) by approaching as many lawyers, professors and 3-L's as you can. The fact is that the "lone wolf" or solitary student rarely rises to the head of the pack in law school. This is particularly true in your legal writing class which is unlike your substantive law courses (i.e., you can't really "look it up"). While the honor code usually prevents you from working with fellow students on pending writing assignments, there is no bar to meeting with your classmates, instructor, and his or her former students to avoid confusion and meet (and exceed) expectations by way of general discussions. Similarly, there's no bar to sharing your graded writing assignment with those same individuals for comment. Consider them your legal writing study group.

Bar Exam -- One Day Later
The bar exam ended yesterday. I wish all who took it the best of luck. For the past month I've been fielding questions from students preparing for the bar about how to "write" for the exam. As if there was a particular way to write state essays or the Multistate Performance Test. There isn't. What does work is finding a format, sticking with it and not "reinventing" the wheel for writing assignments. Every legal writing assignment -- whether a memo, motion, brief or exam -- has more in common than you realize. Each generally contains a legal proposition, an exception, and a comparison/contrast with your facts. You have better things to do (e.g., learning the substantive law) than creating a new format for each writing assignment. Find out what works for you. And that's good advice for students entering law school this fall. I've found that law students who achieve in law school and pass the bar exam generally have a good understanding of the format of legal writing.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Here goes nothing. In the ensuing weeks I plan to post legal research and writing links, news and commentaries of interest to law students (and beyond).

I am a Philadelphia-area lawyer. My practice includes class actions, commercial litigation, catastrophic loss and appeals.

For over ten years I have taught legal writing to several hundred hardworking, funny, manipulative and sarcastic law students. Some of my students have become editor-in-chief of law review, federal and state law clerks, and associates at some of the country’s largest law firms. Some never graduated.

In addition to teaching law students, I frequently lecture on legal writing to lawyers and bar associations, and am on the legal writing faculty of the country's largest continuing legal education provider. I am also a legal writing columnist for lexisONE and the Los Angeles Daily Journal. What I have learned from teaching practicing lawyers is that there’s a considerable amount of legal writing education they didn’t receive in law school.

And one more thing. I am the founder and president of Legal Writing Success, a company that provides legal research, writing and consulting to lawyers and, well, law students. What started as a diversion to my law practice has pretty much taken over my life the past two years. There’s a lot that I’ve learned about legal writing, especially from my law students. I enjoy reading law students' blogs and hope they enjoy mine. So, this blog is as good a place as any to keep my thoughts in order and, maybe, educate law students about first year legal writing, exam writing, writing for legal employers, law review, clerkships, the bar and beyond. Thanks for visiting.

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