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Legal Storytelling: The Theory and the Practice - Reflective Writing Across the Curriculum


Nancy Levit


University of Missouri at Kansas City - School of Law

May 12, 2009

Journal of the Legal Writing Institute, Vol. 15, p. 259, 2009

Abstract:     
This article concentrates on the theory of narrative or storytelling and addresses the reasons it is vital to encourage in law schools in non-clinical or primarily doctrinal courses. Section I traces the advent of storytelling in legal theory and practice: while lawyers have long recognized that part of their job is to tell their clients' stories, the legal academy was, for many years, resistant to narrative methodologies. Section II examines the current applications of Writing Across the Curriculum in law schools. Most exploratory writing tasks in law school come in clinical courses, although a few adventurous professors are adding reflective and narrative assignments in doctrinal classes. This section explores the value of narrative writing in encouraging students to sharpen their legal analysis and to reflect on their ethical responsibilities. Section III considers three interrelated advantages of teaching students to encode legal information in story form. First, emerging evidence from neuroscience indicates that people remember stories much better than they recall snippets of fact. Second, narratives pay attention to humans - and this emphasis on identity, voice, perspectives, and lived experiences offers more accurate representations of human conditions than legal doctrines can capture. Third, narrative writing is a particular type of advocacy that appears in legal briefs and opinions. Use of storytelling as a persuasive technique may encourage courts and academics to probe more deeply for criteria of narrative truths. Finally, Section IV concludes by urging attention to the stories told in legal practice and at law firms.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 25

Keywords: Storytelling, Stories, Narrative, Writing Across the Curriculum, Legal writing, Exploratory writing, Clinical, Doctrinal, Legal information, Memory, Advocacy, Persuasive, Practice, Pedagogy, Legal theory, Reflective writing, neuroscience

JEL Classification: D80, D83, K10, K41

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Date posted: June 16, 2008 ; Last revised: June 1, 2009

Suggested Citation

Levit, Nancy, Legal Storytelling: The Theory and the Practice - Reflective Writing Across the Curriculum (May 12, 2009). Journal of the Legal Writing Institute, Vol. 15, p. 259, 2009. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1144797

Contact Information

Nancy Levit (Contact Author)
University of Missouri at Kansas City - School of Law ( email )
5100 Rockhill Road
Kansas City, MO 64110-2499
United States
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