Are you stressed out about taking Legal Writing? We have all been there! The Law School Toolbox experts share their tips for conquering Legal Writing.
How Did You Conquer Legal Writing?
“Legal writing can be the most frustrating for people who already consider themselves good writers. Why? Because legal writing often requires you to abandon your own writing style and adopt a more formulaic (and sometimes boring) approach to writing. If you don’t pick up on this in the early days of your legal writing class, legal writing can be very perplexing. I think students also oftentimes ignore the fact that legal writingrequires a high level of attention to detail, especially as it pertains to citations. You cannot leave citations to the last moment! You must spend significant time drafting and checking the citations. If you have incorrect citations, many legal writing professors will dock significant points which can really hurt your grade. So, save time to work on citations and get all the points possible on your legal writing assignment.”
“For me, the most important thing was to talk to my instructor and try to get inside her head and figure out what she was looking for. If you’re pleasant and go to office hours regularly, legal writing instructors tend to be very helpful (most are there because they like to teach) so you can get a lot of good information about what they’re looking for. The most critical thing to remember is that this class isn’t a judgment about YOU as a writer or thinker. You’re learning a new set of skills, and a new way of writing. Just because you’re not immediately great at it doesn’t mean you’re not capable of learning it, with sufficient time and effort. Stick with it!”
“Take every practice assignment and citation as seriously as if it were your real final exam. Learn from these from day one. Even if you think you understand your professor’s comments on your writing, go to office hours and confirm that you actually know what they’re telling you to do differently. When you go to turn in a new assignment, go through your professor’s comments on your old assignments and make sure you’re not repeating any of the same mistakes. Check each comment off one-by-one with a highlighter so you don’t miss any of them. Learn to cut the wording of an argument without cutting its content.”
“Yes, legal writing takes a lot longer than you’d think. This is especially the case if you majored in some sort of discipline that required a lot of writing in college. Legal writing is completely different and will be a new beast to tame. In terms of time, probably the most time consuming aspect of legal writing at the beginning is figuring out the Bluebook. Many students spend a lot of time wandering through the Bluebook lost and confused. Without going into this in too much depth, there are basically three things you need to know about the Bluebook to make it easier to manage, so you don’t get lost. 1) The inside covers contain common citation examples for every type of citation. The front contains these citations in law review article format (unlikely to be useful to you until you’re writing a note in 2L year), while the back uses memo and court document format (for things like briefs, motions, etc.). 2) There is a brief table of contents on the outside back cover that will tell you which rule of the Bluebook to refer to for each type of citation if the inside covers aren’t answering your questions. 3) There is a detailed table of contents in the front that will refer you to the appropriate page number within the rule to answer your exact question. Using these three parts will save you hours of flipping through the Bluebook lost and make Bluebooking a far less stressful experience.”
“Your legal writing assignments will take more time than you expect. Don’t leave them to the last minute, when you can’t do your best work and you’re likely to make sloppy mistakes. Read the syllabus and all assignment directions very carefully. Follow all rules regarding collaboration, plagiarism, etc., as well as rules for formatting your assignment (font, table of authorities, page limit, etc.). Don’t be afraid of the Bluebook: master it. Proofread! Don’t submit an assignment late, unless your professor has granted an extension due to individual circumstances. This is the easy stuff. Don’t hurt your grade by making mistakes here.”
Meet The Law School Toolbox Experts
Lee Burgess is the co-founder of Law School Toolbox. She graduated cum laude from the University of San Francisco School of Law, was a TA for Contracts and Torts, and was the Managing Editor of the USF Law Review. Lee left her law firm job and became a private California bar exam tutor and law school tutor when she realized her passion for helping students succeed in law school and pass the bar.
Alison Monahan is the co-founder of Law School Toolbox. She graduated from Columbia Law School in 2006 as a Kent Scholar, a Stone Scholar, and a member of the Columbia Law Review. She was also a Civ Pro TA. After law school, Alison clerked for a federal District Court judge and worked as a patent litigator in a large law firm in San Francisco. She eventually left to start The Girl’s Guide to Law School®, which is a leading resource for individuals embarking on a legal career.
Ariel Salzer is a law school and California bar exam tutor for Law School Toolbox and Bar Exam Toolbox. She has taught everything from conjunctions to calculus on four different continents. As a student at the University of San Francisco School of Law, Ariel tutored Torts and led 1L workshops on time management, exam preparation, legal writing, and outlining. After practicing law as a product liability litigator in California for a number of years, Ariel found her way back to teaching and now enjoys helping students find success in their law school classes and on the bar exam.
Ben Nelson is a law school tutor and California and Oregon bar exam tutor for Law School Toolbox and Bar Exam Toolbox. As the oldest child of two professors, he realized from an early age that he wanted to strike out on his own. He eventually settled on law school and graduated from Columbia in 2014 as a Kent Scholar and a Stone Scholar. When he is not tutoring, Ben is a legal fellow for Earthjustice in Denver, CO where he works to protect the iconic American Southwest and Rocky Mountains from overuse.
Doretta McGinnis is a law school tutor for Law School Toolbox. After graduating from Harvard, she worked in academic publishing until a friend dared her to go to law school. Doretta earned her JD at Penn Law, where she was an editor of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review and a legal writing instructor. Eager to pay off her student loans, she practiced labor and employment law at a major Philadelphia law firm, but soon left Biglaw to pursue her interest in legal education. Doretta joined the faculty at Widener University Delaware Law School, where, over the course of nearly 20 years, she served as Associate Director of the legal writing program and taught labor law, employment discrimination, and bar exam prep. She is the co-founder of Admission Logic, LLC, an independent educational consulting practice focused on college admissions.
_ _ __
Want more law school tips? Sign up for our free mailing list today.
Other helpful Legal Writing posts:
- Embrace The Difference of Legal Writing
- 5 Tips for a Great Legal Writing Assignment
- Legal Writing Tip: Imagine You Are Talking To Your Grandma
- Podcast Episode 11: Legal Writing 101
Looking for some help to do your best in law school? Find out about our law school tutoring options.