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Deans Roundtable: Law Schools Still Don't Teach Writing

If only every law student could simply read "Making Your Case," by Justice Scalia and legal writing guru Bryan Garner, and magically be imbued with the ability to write concise, persuasive briefs that don't drive judges and their clerks to drink.

Alas, it doesn't seem to be. As the Legal Writing Prof Blog reported yesterday, Chicago Lawyer magazine's recent Deans' Roundtable discussion revealed that some of the participants -- the current deans of the law schools at John Marshall, Chicago-Kent, the University of Chicago, DePaul, and Loyola -- still believe, based on feedback from practicing lawyers and their own personal experience, that students are graduating without having acquired the writing skills they'll need.

From Legal Prof:

Dean John Corkery of The John Marshall Law School in Chicago said that law firms would like to see more (rather than less) emphasis on legal writing, training to improve analytical skills, and training that would require lawyers to work together well.  That kind of an answer, I believe, shows a good sense of what law firms want law schools to do and the important role that a good legal writing program can play in a law school.

Dean Howard Krent of Chicago-Kent College of Law said that law firms were putting more of a premium on having new hires "get it quickly."  Whereas firms in the past might give associates three years or so before deciding how they were doing in the law firm, now that period may be as short as six months.

And the money quote from Judge Warren Wolfson, late of the Illinois Court of Appeals, who is currently interim dean at DePaul:

I'd like to figure out some way to teach students how to write.  I was on the appellate court for 15 years, and the state of writing among new lawyers and young lawyers is deplorable.  It just seems that legal writing, every time I've run across it in law school, is the crazy uncle in the closet.  No one wants to get in there.  The students hate it.  They don't come out learning how to write.  I would like to see that somehow change.

Mark Wojcik, writing at Legal Prof, is puzzled by the "crazy uncle" reference. And though he's put out a call for thoughts on its meaning, it has so far gone unheeded. Maybe he needs to talk to this guy.

Posted by Eric Lipman on September 17, 2010 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)


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