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Putting the 'I' in Wr*t*ng: Drafting an A/Effective Personal Statement to Tell a Winning Refugee Story

Stacy Caplow

Brooklyn Law School

March 9, 2008

Brooklyn Law School, Legal Studies Paper No. 94

For lawyers representing asylum seekers, a narrative told in the first person is the central evidence in the case. That affidavit, like an opening statement, creates a lasting first impression that previews the facts, establishes the case theory, introduces the client, and sets the stage for all subsequent proceedings. Despite the crucial, recurrent, if unheralded, role of the personal statement in legal practice, it receives little or no attention in legal writing texts. Although materials written by asylum law advocates and immigration lawyers are slightly more helpful, largely because they understand and address the specific needs of these cases, few offer much more than general guidance about how to draft an affidavit. The usual fall-back is an exemplar. The dearth of written materials authored by legal writing experts available to assign students to teach them the skill and the rhetoric of affidavit-drafting is especially frustrating in a clinic where this document plays such a leading role in the advocacy. This essay attempts to fill this void in legal writing texts and to amplify the usually wise, but often too superficial advice of asylum advocates. After introducing briefly the asylum process and the role of the affidavit in it, and reviewing certain theories of writing, I offer a model for teaching affidavit drafting in this admittedly rarified and even idiosyncratic practice area.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 46

Keywords: Immigration, asylum, refugee, affidavit, legal writing, legal drafting, storytelling, clinic, clinical education

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Date posted: March 10, 2008  

Suggested Citation

Caplow, Stacy, Putting the 'I' in Wr*t*ng: Drafting an A/Effective Personal Statement to Tell a Winning Refugee Story (March 9, 2008). Brooklyn Law School, Legal Studies Paper No. 94. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1104535 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1104535

Contact Information

Stacy Caplow (Contact Author)
Brooklyn Law School ( email )
250 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
United States

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