Insights from Clinical Teaching: Learning About Teaching Legal Writing from Working on Real Cases

3 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2009

See all articles by Helen A. Anderson

Helen A. Anderson

University of Washington - School of Law

Date Written: 2008


I began teaching legal writing in 1994, but I've since had the occasional foray into practice through supervising students who represented clients in our state's appellate courts. I directed an appellate clinic for two years, and most recently I supervised two students who briefed and argued a case in the Washington State Supreme Court. These experiences have taught me some important lessons that I have brought back to my legal writing classes. The clinical cases have not only reminded me what writing for practice really entails, and how hard it is to follow our sage writing advice, but they have given me key insights into aspects of writing that we (or at least I) don't always address in first-year legal writing classes.

In supervising students who are writing for a client, ethical dilemmas come up immediately, deadlines matter, and the faculty member has to be product-oriented. The final product is important in a way that the final product of a legal writing assignment is not. We are forced to follow a piece of writing all the way through to the end and make sure it is right. Collaboration has to work. And in the end, when we realize the outcome of our efforts, we come face-to-face with our limitations. This last lesson, the limitations of “good” writing, is one of the most important lessons I learned from directing a clinic.

Keywords: Legal Education, Clinical Education, Legal Writing

Suggested Citation

Anderson, Helen A., Insights from Clinical Teaching: Learning About Teaching Legal Writing from Working on Real Cases (2008). Available at SSRN: or

Helen A. Anderson (Contact Author)

University of Washington - School of Law ( email )

William H. Gates Hall
Box 353020
Seattle, WA 98105-3020
United States


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