Why Legal Writing is ‘Doctrinal’ and, More Importantly, Profound

By: Professor Hal Lloyd 

So as long as we must use the questionable term “doctrinal” when referring to law school courses, I challenge everyone (including law professors who teach legal writing) to stop directly and indirectly referring to legal writing as a “non-doctrinal” course. Use of “non-doctrinal” can be code for “lesser” thereby suggesting that legal writing has lesser import than other law school courses. Erroneously so marking legal writing as “lesser” damages legal education across the board. It damages students and law professors not teaching legal writing by suggesting that legal writing and the theory, skills and insights taught by legal writing merit less of their time, which in turn increases the odds that both students and other faculty will remain ignorant of the critical knowledge and skills that legal writing teaches. It also damages law professors teaching legal writing because it invites disparate treatment such as lack of tenure, lower pay, and lack of equal respect. As a result, law professors teaching legal writing encounter greater difficulties in publishing scholarship, difficulties which deprive us all of the scholarship so silenced or deterred. Such erroneous code also ignores the profound subject matters addressed in legal writing courses today.

Such erroneous code further ignores fundamental principles of semantics and fundamental insights of modern cognitive psychology embraced by legal writing courses today. For all of these reasons, the term “doctrinal” should be replaced with “meaningful” when referring to courses and “proper subject matter” when referring to course content.

To learn more about this issue, read the full article.

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