Toward a Pedagogy for Teaching Legal Writing in Law School Clinics

Clinical Law Review, Vol. 17, No. 1, Fall 2010

104 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2010 Last revised: 14 Dec 2012

See all articles by Tonya Kowalski

Tonya Kowalski

Washburn University School of Law

Date Written: May 12, 2010


One of the major legal skills students use in almost every law school clinic is advanced legal writing. Clinicians spend many hours every week triaging student writing and coaching their students to produce practice-worthy documents. Yet advanced legal writing is not routinely addressed in clinic seminars and there is no clear methodology for teaching advanced legal writing through clinical supervision. This Article is among the first to propose a comprehensive pedagogy for teaching and supervising legal writing in clinic.

Moreover, clinicians commonly experience the frustration that students seem to come to the clinic deficient in many legal writing skills. This Article identifies one of the causes as the "transfer of learning" phenomenon, in which the mind does not recognize applications for previous learning in new situations due to the change in context. One major premise of this transfer theory is that students need to be taught how to connect their clinical legal writing experiences to their previous legal writing instruction. Accordingly, this Article is also the first not only to introduce "transfer-friendly" teaching methods in the proposed pedagogy, but is also the first to detail a comprehensive, step-by-step model for collaboration between the clinic and legal writing programs.

By discussing and practicing the methods described here, clinical programs can craft approaches that work for the unique needs of their clinics,students, and individual teaching philosophies, resulting in an educational experience that leaves students better-prepared for clinical and professional law practice.

Keywords: clinic, clinical, transfer of learning, legal writing, pedagogy, curriculum, legal skills, legal education

Suggested Citation

Kowalski, Tonya, Toward a Pedagogy for Teaching Legal Writing in Law School Clinics (May 12, 2010). Clinical Law Review, Vol. 17, No. 1, Fall 2010, Available at SSRN:

Tonya Kowalski (Contact Author)

Washburn University School of Law ( email )

1700 College Avenue
Topeka, KS 66621
United States


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