By: Abigail L. Perdue
So often I hear first-year law students admit to allocating less time to Legal Writing because it “matters less” than other “substantive” courses. Nothing could be further from the truth.
After all, Legal Writing is a substantive course. “Substantive” is defined as “possessing substance, having practical importance, value, or effect.” Doesn’t Legal Writing clearly meet this definition? For example, in my first-year Legal Writing course, students emerge with a deep understanding of key concepts in employment discrimination law from disparate impact to hostile environment sexual harassment. But as in the practice, they don’t just acquire substantive knowledge; they apply it in a practical way.
So too must a competent attorney bridge the intellectual gap between substance and skill. An attorney must not only intimately understand the nuances of the relevant legal doctrine but also be able to effectively apply that knowledge in practical ways and communicate it effectively, both orally and in writing, to legal and non-legal audiences. Thus, Legal Writing matters because it empowers students to do just that. Continue reading “Bridging the Gap Between Substance and Skill”
By: Abigail Perdue
“I feel the need . . . the need for speed.” – Top Gun
Apparently fictional fighter pilots and forward-thinking Jewish rabbis have that in common. The widespread modern phenomenon of speed dating purportedly began in the late nineties when an innovative Jewish rabbi organized the first speed dating event as an efficacious way for busy Jewish young professionals to meet and mingle (Kennedy 2013).
Speed dating soon became so popular that its model was exported to the business world. Speed mentoring events sprang up across the country, and after attending a particularly impactful one, I brainstormed how to implement “speed editing” in my writing classes. Speed editing simultaneously achieves multiple learning goals from encouraging collaboration to demonstrating how to work effectively under tight time constraints. It teaches students how to thoughtfully give and receive constructive feedback and further hones their editing and oral communication skills. Here’s how it works.
As our time on an assignment module draws to a close, I provide a brief overview of the effective editing techniques we have already discussed and then dedicate the remainder of our 1.5 hour session to speed editing. This generally occurs in one of two ways, each of which I will discuss below.
Continue reading “Speed Editing”
By: Steve Garland, Wake Forest University School of Law
The professor that had the most important effect on my teaching just won a Nobel Prize. Out of full disclosure, I’ve never met him or taken a class from him. Still, Richard Thaler taught me that sometimes you may have to use psychological tricks to insure that your students focus on what matters most.
As we all know, in teaching legal writing and reasoning, leading the students to focus on the learning rather than the grade can be a challenge, particularly since our grades are most often the first grades the students receive. From my own experience in law school, I recalled that the grades we received in Legal Writing (at the time the only grades prior to the end of first semester exams) often had a disproportionate effect on our confidence going forward. This anecdotal intuition was reinforced by a study that my colleagues at Wake Forest University School of Law – Professors Laura Graham and Miki Felsenburg – undertook. They found that high-achieving college graduates lose confidence when they find that their hard-won skills in college may not immediately translate to their new law school community.
Continue reading “How Thaler’s Misbehaving Grades Helped Me Teach Law Better”
One of the best ways to teach law better is to learn about the creative approaches that our seasoned colleagues are using with success across the globe and then to implement those great ideas in our own classrooms. That’s why I encourage you to check out the Fall 2017 issue of The Second Draft, a biennial publication of The Legal Writing Institute. The issue — Rethinking Research — showcases exciting, new approaches to teaching legal research and features thoughtful articles from expert teachers like Professors Kathy Vinson, Kristen Murray, Ellie Margolis, Sarah Morath, Sabrina DeFabritiis, Liz Johnson, and many more!