A Methodology for Mentoring Writing in Law Practice: Using Textual Clues to Provide Effective and Efficient Feedback
57 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2008 Last revised: 11 Dec 2012
Date Written: September 6, 2008
Becoming a successful legal writer is a process that begins in law school and continues intensively during the beginning years of a lawyer's career. Throughout this process, in both contexts, a writer benefits enormously from feedback on his analysis, and how that analysis is conveyed, from those more experienced. Much has been written about how legal educators should respond to student written work, yet little addresses the role that supervising attorneys can play in mentoring the writing of less experienced colleagues. This article therefore proposes a methodology to help supervisor-mentors provide, in an efficient manner, effective feedback on junior lawyers' writing.
The article begins by discussing why a mentor should focus her feedback initially on the analytical foundation of a piece of writing and put off until later copy-editing and commenting on basic clarity of expression. It goes on to recommend a methodology by which a mentor can draw on her experience as a lawyer to identify, from the face of a document, a range of textual and structural clues that likely indicate analytical problems, even when time pressures prevent her from gaining an independent understanding of the document's substance. The article explains how, based on these clues, a mentor can provide feedback that will help a junior lawyer revise a current piece of writing and develop skills to write more successfully in the future. The article concludes by applying this methodology to a hypothetical problem to illustrate this process and to provide the reader with a hands-on practicum using the suggested methodology.
Keywords: mentors in law practice, mentoring legal writing, feedback, critique, analytical feedback, analytical critique, legal writing, law practice writing, writing coach, coaching writing
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